February 8, 2016

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, February 3

Back to Caffè Lena for the first time in 2016, & the place was a-buzz with questions about the recently-reported up-coming remodeling of the historic folk music center. We will have to wait & see. In the meantime our host, Carol Graser, started off the night with a poem by the new US Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, then on to the open mic.

Brian Dorn read his funny & self-deprecating “23 Reasons Why This Poem Doesn’t Rhyme.”Eric Krantz was new to me, & he began with a poem titled “Red Wing Blackbirds,” then a funny, rhyming poem to a fiancee, “Why Not Take All of Me.”

Carol Shupp Star was a volunteer here tonight & signed up to read a Winter poem, “Moon Silouettes” then “Life, the Boy Becomes a Man” (about an infatuation over time). Joe Bruchac read a couple of poems from his books, one titled “Seasons End” about looking to the generations in the future & then the descriptive “When Sky Clears;” when he finished he passed one of the books to Barbara Garro in the audience for a birthday present. Charles Straney read 2 thoughtful pieces, the first titled “What Defeats a Man,” & “Skunks.”

The first of the night’s featured poets was Stephen Lewandowski, who began appropriately enough with “My Name” from Under Foot (Mayapple Press, 2014), then to “Who Am I?” about researching his father’s family. A couple poems were set in the outdoors, one about an old hunter lost in the woods, another about geese, & “Night & Day” was dedicated to the Wisconsin poet Antler. “Hidden” was another poem from Under Foot, & he ended with 2 poems from a new book, Last Settler in the Finger Lakes, one on the science of the study of lakes, & the last, “Embodied,” on the erotic. A nice sampling of work.

Alan Casline of the Rootdrinker Institute, Benevolent Bird Press & the poetry series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum was the other featured poet. He read mostly from his 2015 book from FootHills Publishing, 64 Changes. But he started with a poem on the many poetry open mics he has attended, “The Unlikely Train Wreck."  64 Changes is based on the I Ching & Alan favors the Richard Wilhelm/Cary F. Baynes edition so sometimes during his reading he used the titles from his own book & sometimes from Wilhelm, leaving this recorder flumoxed. After a brief intro about the I Ching he explained that he had cast hexagrams this morning for himself, for the Casline family, for Caffè Lena, for Stephen Lewandowski & for the USA & read the poems from his book for the corresponding hexagrams, or the one resulting from the changing lines (#57, “The Gentle (The Penetrating Wind)” came up a few times). Then he ended with a new poem “Flower of Day.”

After a break, our host Carol Graser returned to the open mic with her poem “House” who is a woman apparently. Wyler Graham got away with 3 poems because his first one was only a 2-liner, then a funny, sometimes rhyming piece “10-Year College Reunion,” then another rhyming piece from his college days “Up in Arms.” Mark W. O’Brien read one of his poems from the 2013 Rootdrinker Poetry Anthology Prometheus Chair, then a poem from his tablet I think was titled “Phrases from Aware.” In honor of Alan’s 64 Changes I read an old, but refurbished poem “Hexagram 13.” Rodney Parrott read a couple of pieces on love, the first more like an essay with images of horses, candles, tongues, another on going, but wanting to stay forever.

Jodi Davis brought her father here tonight so read a poem about learning to ride a bike without training wheels, then from memory “Anticipation of Killing a Fly” written in high school. Lee Gooden read “Prefaces,” social/political commentary inspired by the writings of Hannah Arendt & a conversation heard in a McDonalds. It was Barbara Garro’s 83rd birthday (I may be wrong about that) & had received a number of best wishes throughout the night, read a poem based on a painting “The Heart of Darkness” then a preachy piece titled “Open Space.” Angela was a virgin reader & read a rhyming piece on Jesus & faith “Life’s Memory & Love.” Sally Rhoades shared my table, was the last reader, read about wanting to be outdoors & on the water “This One Night I Awaken,” then a morning poem “Sitting with Joy Harjo” (her book of memoir, not the poet herself).

The poetry open mic at the historic Caffè Lena continues each month on the 1st Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, with an open mic & featured poets, all for $5.00 — cheap coffee & cookies too!

February 2, 2016

Karl Gluck/Altan Ogniedov (1964 - 2016)

Albany Art Gallery, 2/26/93
That great open mic poetry reading in the sky is getting mighty crowded. I was saddened to hear of the death of Karl D. Gluck, who also wrote as Altan Ogniedov. Karl was an active member of the Albany, NY poetry scene in the very earliest days of the late 1980s, when he was a student a the University at Albany studying Russian language & literature. I used to greet him with the faux Russian I had learned from the Marx Brothers, “Pissanya.”

He was one of the editors of Open Mic: The Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994) which included 2 of his poems, “So What We All Wear Black” & “Untitled: for Kevin Factor & Mary Ann Murray.” I have a fat file of many poems & correspondence dating from 1988, including a poem he read at the QE2 in Albany (10/22/88) then crumpled up & threw it on the floor. I retrieved it, & others that he gave the same treatment to at other open mics. At a Halloween open mic at the QE2 in 1989 he stripped to his long underwear & a Mayakovsky tee shirt, then to just his underpants, to read a poem about being an exhibitionist; the picture of him in his long underwear was the one used in Open Mic & also appears on my Flickr! site.

Later on he gave me copies of his poems, including an early typed version of Phantasmagoria, with “Altan Ogniedov” as the author. A later version was photocopied, dated 1990, with author(s) as Karl D. Gluck “with Altan Ogniedov.” Eventually this was published as a more conventional poetry chapbook in 1993, by R.E.M. Press with the author as Altan Ogniedgov. In the earliest typed version there was an author’s bio stating Ogniedov was born in Russia in 1964. In the 1993 book version there is this note:
Altan Ogniedov is the alter ego of Karl D. Gluck.
Alton Ogniedov was born after Mr. Gluck’s disastrous love affair and subsequent failed engagement to a certain woman who resides in Moscow. It was this experience that brought about the poems in Phantasmagoria.
Mr. Ogniedov occasionally makes his presence known in Mr. Gluck’s life, forcing him to break into tears at work (as a translator for Russian immigrants and social workers) and other inopportune moments, as well as occasionally writing a poem in Russian for Mr. Gluck who, by the way, has entirely recovered from the “Moscow Incident.”
Albany Art Gallery, 12/7/89
He was the featured reader at the Albany Art Gallery series on Jefferson St., run by Don Levy, in December 1989 & he included in the reading 2 poems in Russian, with English translations, that he gave as hand-outs. His poems were melancholy, angst-ridden (he was in his mid-20s after all), but spiced with sardonic humor & often with references to Russian literature.

In 1991 he self-published a small chapbook of 8 poems, Brooklyn: Brutal Poems from Exile by Altan Ogniedov. Around 1990, after finishing at UAlbany he moved to Brooklyn, but was a frequent visitor to Albany & the poetry readings here. We exchanged a number of letters at that time as he struggled to make his mark on the New York scene. We met & went to a couple readings in the City on my visits there for my job. The most recent poems I have from him are from 2002, after he had married. He & his wife Lan had a daughter, Vivian, then divorced.  In October 2002 he returned to Albany for “7-Year Itch,” a reunion reading at Valentines (the QE2 gone by then) with many of his old friends.

It only seems just that I should end this brief tribute with a poem by Karl (or Altan as he would have it). This is the introductory poem from Phantasmagoria.

Statement of Purpose

I am a poet.
I write.
I know nothing
of computers —
never take the easy
way out.

I am a poet.
I write.
By hand.
In Gothic Blackletter.
On stone.
By candlelight.

I am a fraud.
I scribble in margins
of library books.
In pen.
I avoid bill collectors
and keep my good name
with close collegues
who always have something
“new” to say.
Voice activated IBM’s.

Late at night,
after a hard day
of selling matchsticks
or pencils
from a cup
on street corners
in the rain
I write.
By hand.
In Gothic Blackletter.
On stone.
By candlelight.
And I have
this stolen slogan:

Quality, not quantity.

We chisel a name
for ourselves
the old-fashioned way:

one crack
at a time.

Hey Karl, Pissanya!

January 31, 2016

Poets Speak Loud! & etc., January 25

The last Monday in January is always a special — & busy — night. It is the night that we celebrate the memory of Tom Nattell, Albany poet & peace/environmental/social justice activist. Tom died on the morning of January 31, 2005 & had been scheduled to read that night at the very first Poets Speak Loud! at the Lark Tavern, & the open mic turned into a poetic wake. Since then we remember him on the last Monday in January with a ceremonial beret toss at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park & then I host Poets Speak Loud!, now held at McGeary’s.

Tonight’s gathering in the Park included Thom Francis & Molly, Tess Lecuryer, Mary Panza & Nick Bisanz, & Sally Rhoades. Tess’ very first toss landed the beret by Robert Burns’ arm, which held his sculpted tam as well. Someone pointed out it was also Robert Burns’ birthday. We left the flowers & some candles & proceeded down to McGeary’s.

Mary Panza is the usual host on the last Monday, but I was the guest host tonight & had invited my friend & publisher Dayl Wise to read & to promote Poems for Peace Poems for Justice (Post Traumatic Press, Woodstock, NY 2015), an anthology of poems by military veterans Jay Wenk, Larry Winters, Dayl & me. I began the readings invoking Tom Nattell with my poem “Theology 101” & a Tibetan bell.

 But first the open mic, & despite how many times I practiced it, I still mis-pronounced Carrie Czawkiel’s last name; she read a poem from saved text messages whose message was to be herself, then one titled “Coffee is the Devil.” K.P. (Kevin Peterson) read a poem he found on the internet, not one of his own (too bad). Joe Krausman read a poem about “experts” then one he called “an old man’s poem” (he should know); something he didn’t say was that he has a new chapbook of poems out from Benevolent Bird Press, Monkeyshines; ask him about it when you see him. Julie Lomoe read a new poem just written this afternoon, referencing Sylvia Plath, “Sylvia & the Squirrel.”

Dayl Wise & I read together, alternating poems. Dayl began with section 6 (on eating lima beans) from a series of childhood memoir poems “My Mother’s Pantry” then section 7 about lusting after the Morton salt girl. I had noticed Sally Rhoades in the audience so I read a poem in the collection dedicated to her & Ken Hada “Didn’t We Do This In Saratoga?” Dayl read a dream poem, then the innocently titled “Woman Gardener” (with grim images of death in Vietnam).
 I read one of Jay Wenk’s poems from the collection, “Wounded Knee” (because Tom Nattell had also written a piece with the same title). Dayl read one of Larry Winter’s poems, “Vietnam” (cemetery worker at Viet Cong memorial), then a series of short pieces that he called “unfinished poems.” I read my poem from the collection dedicated to Ed Bloch “A.J. Muste.” Dayl’s last pieces were 2 Vietnam-themed poems, “I Was A Dancer Once” & “Ho Che Minh Requests My Friendship on Facebook.” I ended the set with a poem I like to read each year here, “Chasing Tom.”

Mary Panza doesn’t read when she hosts the open mic, so tonight she felt she could & began with a bit of characteristic social commentary on “she,” then to the wonderfully titled “Free Balling in Work Pants” (& you can guess the tone of both poems); she also brought a birthday cake for me, with the inappropriately appropriate inscription “69 + 1”. In Tom’s honor Sally Rhoades read the poem she had read the first time she read at the open mic Tom ran at the QE2 in March 1990, “On that Moonlit Night,” then a memoir of her mother’s 2nd wedding “My Mother Used to Pray.” Karen Fabiane read a poem she had recently revised, “Ellipses,” then a party poem written in Seattle, WA in 1978.

We bookended the night with a recording of Tom (from the 3 Guys from Albany CD) performing “Save It” twirling his whistling plastic tubes. Then we ate cake (thanks Mary — & AlbanyPoets for helping to help celebrate the legacy of Tom Nattell).

Tonight’s donations, & the proceeds from the sale of Poems for Peace Poems for Justice, were donated to the Homeless Action Committee, $81.00 worth — thank you poets of Albany!

Come back on the last Monday of the month to McGeary’s for more Poets Speak Loud!, 7:30, a featured poet (usually) & an open mic for everyone else. Check out the calendar at AlbanyPoets.com.

[An interesting note: I stopped by the Robert Burns statue the next morning & the flowers & candles were still there & the beret had fallen off the statue, so I was able to save it to recycle it for next January.  Tom would have liked that.]

January 28, 2016

Sunday Four Poetry, January 24

I’d missed these readings in the last few months of 2015 so was glad to be back in the early days of the new year. As always we began with the open mic, with the esteemed & venerable Dennis Sullivan as our pastoral host.

Although signed up as #2 I read as the 1st reader my bar poem “Joe the Bartender,” then a poem from 10 years ago, allegedly written by me & found by Pierre Joris on the way to my birthday celebration, so they say. Our host, Dennis Sullivan followed me with 3 poems, a poem for the poet Thomas Merton “The Visitation,” then one based on a poem by the Latin poet Horace “Beatus Ille,” & one dedicated to local poet Howard Kogan “The Exegesis of Emptiness.” Appropriately enough, Howard Kogan was the next reader with a childhood memoir about hanging out at the the local “pigeon store.” Joe Krausman gave us “The Key to Life” which was based on Freud’s description of love & work, then read “Legitimate Theater” on dreams, & another poem on secrets.

Mark W. O’Brien read poems from his various books he said, the first on hearing voices on the banks of the street in his backyard (too much Irish?), then “And Is It You Are Weary Then?” & “The Sound of Moonlight in Your Hair” (a love poem). Philomena Moriarty said she was reading “old ones,” a poem on transformation “Turning the Corner,” “Adaptation,” & the true-story “Fuck-Me Pumps.”

Linda Sonia Miller’s 3 poems were of a quieter nature, beginning with “Delivery” a meditation in images, then a description of watching a child in a puddle, & “Full Circle” prompted by a painting. Tom Corrado is continuing his random mash-ups he calls “Screen Dumps,” today he read #260 mixing images from movies with Lord Byron, then #259 which, I think, was about Art. Peter Bourdreaux’s untitled piece was a conversation with a woman while doing Xmas cards.

It was time for the featured poet, Perry S. Nicholas, who teaches in Buffalo. He began with 2 poems about his father, “Aura,” recalling his paint & cigarette smell, & “December 28” recalling his father’s death. His mother made an appearance in “Baking Greek Cookies” which he followed up with a poem about a pleasant hotel in Greece. “God Doesn’t Mind” was a whimsical Xmas poem, “Wish by a Waterfall” was the first of a number of love poems to his wife, & he took on Moby Dick in “I’ve Never Seen a White Whale” about writing & art. He described how he had read recently in Woodstock & read 2 poems related to that, “Please Lord Don’t Let me Die in a Hotel in Woodstock” & “The Last Night We Heard Bob Dylan Play.” Confronting his mortality in the poems “Matthew’s Casket” & “Thoughts During an Emergency Room Visit to Buffalo General,” he also talked about his first sight of death & other childhood images in “And I Was Just a Boy.” He ended his reading with some newer, short poems “I Want to Say” (on the Xmas moon), “Rules for a Greek Wake,” & one about his drum “Djembe.”

Nicholas's poems were mostly short, & easily accessible on first-hearing, based on vivid images from life, touched with humor & with that poetic “leaping” that turns stories into poetry. You can find out more about Perry Nicholas on his website.

This series continues each 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY (there’s only one), with a featured poet & an open mic.

January 23, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 21

The first third Thursday for the new year here at the Social Justice Center. But the year has started off with the loss of a number of music artists & poets, particularly the deaths of Amiri Baraka & C.D Wright, so tonight I invoked the Muse of Amiri Baraka (once known as Leroi Jones) & read his jazz poem “The Rare Birds.”

First up for the open mic as he often is was Alan Casline to read a poem about one of 2015’s gone poets, Paul Weinman on his softball prowess, “Hall of Famer,” from Alan’s latest collection, Last Man Standing (Lummox Press). Sylvia Barnard read a poem she had read at Don Levy’s open mic about seeing Picasso’s “Guernica” in Spain on a visit there recently with her daughter. Brian Dorn will be the featured poet here next month & tonight read “23 Reasons Why this Poem Doesn’t Rhyme” along with his editorial comments/verbal footnotes. Carole Rossi had come here last month to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap but came back again to read a poem from an ongoing series, “120 Days of Dreaming” & the rhyming poem “Dreaming Day 16: The Captain of Evermore.”

Our featured poet was Bunkong Tuon, whom I’d heard read at a “Community of Writers” Reading in Schenectady & knew immediately I would have to have him read here. In 2015 New York Quarterly Books published his collection Gruel about his experience as a young child as a refugee from Cambodia, & the experience of his family adjusting to life in America. Tonight he read mostly from this book, beginning with “The House of Many Voices,” then to the title poem (which ends the book). On to the poems in between, “First Snow,” then a poem about immigrants & refugees going back to their lifestyle, “Fishing for Trey Platoo.” In between his poems he spoke about dropping out of school & discovering the poetry of Charles Bukowski, about the importance of the humanities in our lives, as he talks about in “How Everything Changed.” The poem “Inheritance” returned to his family’s time in Cambodia & the death of his mother. His book is dedicated to his grandmother Yoeum Preng, who raised him & who died this year; he ended with a new poem not in the book about a walk with her in which they are confronted by racism but find “Still Water.” I had only to hear a few poems by B.K. in Schenectady when I knew he would be a wonderful featured poet here at the Social Justice Center & his reading tonight was moving & a quiet reminder of how what makes America great is the diversity & strength of its people.

After a short break to pass the hat, I followed with a new memoir poem “Joe the Bartender.” Don Levy read his new hilarious & pointed poem “Ammosexuals at the Bird Sanctuary.” It was great that Anthony Bernini was here again tonight to read, with a poem titled “Pause at Day Break” about being up early with nothing going on (or is it?). Karen Fabiane was our last poet for the night with a piece she said she had not read before, a version of an earlier poem, “Brain Storming,” twisting & turning.

Join us each third Thursday here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30 for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us, for a modest (or extravagant) donation.

January 22, 2016

Winter Fest, January 16

This was not a literary event per se, but a party at the home of Jennifer Pearce & Alan Casline that so many local poets & writers were invited to that naturally there had to be round-robin open mic. There was a table full of hors d’oeuvres when we arrived, beer, wine & a wonderful spread of roast turkey, root-veggies, various salads — & an over-flowing dessert table.

Charlie the dog reading from Alan's book
In between & amongst the eating & drinking there were 2 sessions of readings of a mix of prose & poetry. I read my poem “A.J. Muste” & later a “Birthday Poem” I had allegedly written for my birthday in 2006 & that was “found” by Pierre Joris on his way to my surprise party. There were a couple poems by Joe Krausman, “Ted William’s Head” & “Tattoo,” a troilet by Therese Broderick for her mother’s funeral, a “numismatic poem” (the first I can recall) by Frank Robinson, & a couple of pieces by Tim Verhaegen, “Summer Sounds in Amagansett” & his friendship poem “My Buddy James.”

Donna Williams read a poem, “Pantum” by her late husband, Jim Williams, that I had found in my files because he had dedicated the poem to me; later she recited a poem by Emily Dickinson. Joyce hadn’t expected to read but found some poems on her laptop, an anti-war piece, & another about hunting, “Male Rituals.” Someone read from a longer prose piece titled “Happy Hour,” set in Florida, while Mimi Moriarty’s poems were both about birds, “Pigeons on Cornice” & “Crows.”

Adam Tedesco read the seasonal “The Weatherman Gut Checks” & a section from his “Heart Sutra,” Paul Amidon read of a more pleasant season “Summer at Lake Abenaki,” Obeeduid wore his Irish hat for a funeral piece (I did say “Irish,” right?), & another about an old house in Voorheesville & its animals, & our host, Alan Casline read a couple poems from the end of his book 64 Changes (FootHills Publishing), “On a Cold Morning Walk” (#64) & “The Spaces of the World” (#63).

The sharing of food, drink, warmth, & words is an ancient tradition, they say — & this was a most enjoyable evening in that tradition, with thanks to Alan & Jennifer.

January 17, 2016

Live from the Living Room, January 13

This was the ante-penultimate reading in this long-running series at the Pride Center (& that hasn’t been in the living room of the Pride Center for a long time). Characteristically it is an intimate gathering of friends & poets & friends of poetry. Tonight there were 6 of us gathered including the featured poet, Noah Kucij, who had traveled by bus to Albany from Schenectady.

Noah Kucij had read here a few years ago & responded recently to Don’s call for poets. He read a pleasant mix of carefully crafted poems, beginning with the philosophical “Another Essay on Man,” then on to a couple poems from his experience working with refugees, “English” & “The Substitutes.” Then a couple of more personal poems, the longing poem “Assignment” & “Prescribed Burn” a relationship poem titled from a sign he'd seen in the woods. “Radio Pantoum” & “Ode to Cassettes” were what could be best described as “technology nostalgia.” Speaking of nostalgia, but of a more conventional type, the poem “To the Girls who Pour Coffee” was about growing up in Schenectady, & he ended with a gentle poem to his infant daughter, “The Philologist’s Daughter.”

Then on to an open mic. This being January I read a couple of my “Birthday Poems,” 2013 & 2015. Sally Rhoades responded to Noah’s waitress poem with her own “My Mother was a Waitress,” then a poem she said she had forgotten she had written (isn’t that gift?) on the night “It Quakes at Midnight.” Sylvia Barnard read a revised “Grandchester” combining her own experience being a student at Cambridge with references to Sylvia Plath & Rupert Brooke, then read a new poem for the first time, “Guernica,” about seeing the great Picasso mural in Spain (but remembering it as in colors, from when she saw it in NYC). Sue Oringel will be the featured poet here in March & tonight read a Winter poem “Solstice” then a grieving poem “New York City Without You.” Our host, Don Levy, finished off the night with a very new poem, a tribute to the recently-gone David Bowie, “Starman,” then a funny piece about the stand-off in Oregon, “Ammosexuals at the Bird Sanctuary.”

Live from the Living Room is held each 2nd Wednesday (for the next 2 months only!) at 7:30PM in the downstairs Garden Room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY — a featured poet followed by an open mic, with our straight-friendly host, Don Levy.