August 22, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, July 31


For the last Monday (& the last day) in July we were at McGeary’s for the monthly open mic hosted by Mary Panza. The featured poet, Dawn Marar, helped to pack the house for her reading, but first part of the open mic sign up list.

Sylvia Barnard was first up with a “rabbit poem” with Roman references, then another animal poem “2 Blind Mice.”

Carol Graser had 2 poems from prompts, the first “Cleaning Out My Mother’s Closet,” then one from Bernadette Mayer’s workshop “What If.” Mark W. O’Brien opted to read a poem by next month’s feature here, the Irish poet Gene Barry. Nancy Dunlop read 2 poems from her series about patients at Four Winds, one tragic, “The Woman in the Grey Sweater,” one funny “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."  Linda Boulette returned with a new poem “The Funeral, Fantasy 192,” then an anti-Trump piece “Legacy.” Joe Krausman’s poem “In the Parking Lot” was a meditation on getting old(er), then he read a piece on dying & on being born.

Tonight’s featured poet, Dawn Marar, did just what every featured poet needs to do: bring their family & friends to their readings. Dawn’s poems are a fertile mix of the personal & the political (which many would say is the same thing). Her first poem was on the dredging of the Hudson River, “Post-Modern Tom & Huck, followed by the poem “Sparkles” set in a bar, mixing Green Island & Baghdad, then on to a poem about a niece, & others, who died too young, “Only This.” She also shared a poem from a series-in-progress currently titled “Race in the White Imagination,” “Whining & Writers” on pop culture & melanin & a family gathering in the kitchen. Her poem “You Citizen” on the burial of a Civil War soldier has her thinking of family members who were veterans. She ended with what she called “a curse & a blessing” with a leaf blower making her think of military drones bringing death.

Dawn’s husband Hani made his debut at a poetry open mic reading a poem someone else had written, “Efflorescence” a tribute to Dawn’s forthcoming chapbook of poetry. I read an older poem, “Obliteration,” a meditation on forms of burial, & the somewhat newer “Traveling America.”

Another virgin here tonight was Emma Collins who read a short piece of self-affirmation “A Female Revolution,” followed by the similar “Original.” Amanda McDowell read a piece about the frustration of filing a police report after an assault, then the cosmic “Ocean Speaks.” Carrie Czwakiel read a long prose memoir about a lech of a boss on her first job, then a more tender “prayer for an autistic child.” Carol Jewell, the master pantoumist, read “Route 20 Pantoum,” & a puppy poem “1st Bug Poem.” Former-feature here, Brooke, read a poem in Dr. Seuss rhyme, “My Roommate,” then, using images & languages from classic stories, a poem of advice for a way out of depression “Fairy Tale.”

Bob Sharkey has been collecting fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies & writing poems from them, & he read the latest, “It’s Fortune or Fame…” Karen Fabiane read a new poem written today, “Karen’s Steaks & Chops.” Julie Lomoe was celebrating a birthday (somewhere between 25 & 100), a country song & her garden “Sunny & 75.”

It’s always dark & wordy, with the smell of booze, here at Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY on the last Monday of most months, 7:30PM — an open mic surrounding a featured poet, spurred on by Mary Panza.

SPATHE IS THE PLATHE


It looked more fake than the real thing.
                                    — Andy Warhol

The eclipse is on TV
the Great American Eclipse
they say. I listen to Sun Ra
“Space is the Place” of course
where else is there?

I like the New Moon best
because I have to believe
it is there each month
just as the clouds challenge
my belief that it is the Moon
blocking the Sun, not
just storm clouds rolling in.

On TV the 8-year old says,
“I’ve never seen anything like it!”
she has yet to see Prom night
the back seat of that Honda
a missed period, throwing up
in the last pew of church.

TV repeats the eclipse in places
no one goes to, instant reruns
the Sun & I have a Corona.

Watching the Great American Eclipse
on my computer is internet porn:
much better than the real thing.

In Carhenge Nebraska
200 miles from Nothing
239,000 miles from the Moon
who smiles to be so far away
93 million miles from the Sun
Someone says, “It’s like
watching Day turn into Night”
which I do each & every Day.

In my backyard, even the birds
think it’s just another cloudy day.

August 19, 2017

Poets in the Park, July 2017


Carrying on the series started by Albany poet & activist Tom Nattell back in 1989, the poetry readings at the Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park were held this year on July 15, July 22 & July 29. While there were a few sprinkles of rain on July 22, that ended before the poets read, the evenings were mostly clear, the weather pleasant, the poets inspiring.

On July 15 Karen Skolfield & Jay Wenk opted to read in alternating half-sets, giving a bit of back-&-forth to the program. Karen began with a poem about the necklace of “skulls” she was wearing, imagining what they remembered & talked about, then a poem based on the curious fact that there are only 2 escalators in Wyoming, “Upward Mobility,” in which they talk to each other; continuing the conversation theme, the new poem “Vectors” was about a conversation with a neighbor. Another conversation of sorts was “I Ask My Son to Send a Word for a Poem & He Sends Nothing,” filled with Biblical references.

Jay also had a whimsical beginning, “When I Get to Stonehenge,” then read the historically descriptive “Wounded Knee.”  “Christmas 1914” was set in the trenches of World War I, the soldiers singing carols in German & English & French. Then to a poem from "his war" (World War II), at the end going home & the political aftermath, his war never ended.

In her second set Karen read some poems from her military experience, many looking at the origin of words used in the military, such the poem “Enlist” on recruitment, “Kevlar” (invented by a woman) built on her memories of basic training, & “Discharge” on getting out. The short poem “The Army Smart Book: Inspirational Quotes” has a drill sergeant pondering the “breaking” of female recruits. She also included poems about war in other eras — an ekphrastic poem based on a woodcut “The Great Sacrifice of the Romans on Undertaking a War,” & the related poems “Civil War Reenactment” with her kids at a playground, a meditation on war, & “Sailor’s Creek Battlefield,” hummingbirds at a civil war battlefield.

Jay returned with “Pluck that Pregnant Dandelion” a philosophical piece about scattering seeds to the wind, the unfinished & untitled poem on the myth of Cassandra & Apollo as told in the Iliad combined with images from the Gettysburg museum, the timely & moving “Thank You For Your Service” on military suicides, & concluded with “The Clowns” considering comedy from ancient Greeks to modern times, enough to make you pee in your pants (or toga).

* * *

The second of the three events, on July 22, featured 2 local poets Ian Macks & Liv McKee.

Ian began with a piece about a friend & an abusive relationship, a theme he returned to throughout his reading, this one with the Albany skyline as a backdrop. Others on that theme included “When You Can’t Restrain Yourself” (written today), one based on A Streetcar Named Desire, another set in Troy overhearing a police encounter. There were other poems set in Troy, or Brooklyn (a descriptive piece set in a dive bar), one a meditation on the homeless. His poems were personal, such as one about an infatuation, or about the consolation of his art on leaving home. They were mostly short, mostly untitled, many read from his journal, with rhymes & half-rhymes popping up at times. There were even a few poems about Pittsburgh, of all places, filled with angst & introspection. He ended as he began with a poem critical of his friend’s abusive relationship.

Liv’s work was quite different coming from the Slam tradition of public, performative pieces around the 3-minute length. She began with a welcoming poem inspired by Shel Silverstein, with an opening call-&-response with the audience “I will speak” & accompanied by her brother Elijah McKee on alto sax. He joined her later in the program for an homage to her grandmother “Poem for Her Anecdotes.” Of course, a number of her pieces were political/social commentary, such as “My Friend Who Called Herself a Great & Dark Irony” inspired by her travels in Israel & Palestine, the cutting “Letter to the Easy Riding Earth Mama Hippie Man who is Still Racist,” & a piece combining her reaction to the UAlbany women convicted of falsely reporting an incident with a dream. These were punctuated by some haikus on politics, love & satire, including "Haiku for Mike Pence."  She ended appropriately enough with piece on her early ballet training then learning to dance free.
* * *

The final Poets in the Park reading on July 29 once again featured 2 US military veterans, Suzanne Rancourt & Richard Levine. I had had the pleasure of reading with both Suzanne & Richard last Fall at the Bright Hills Literary Center in Treadwell, NY for a program of readings by veterans, “Writing War & Peace.”

Suzanne began with reading some poems from Billboard in the Clouds (Curbstone Books, 2004), first “Whose Mouth Do I Speak With?” a tale of her Dad bringing them “spruce gum,” the sap of trees to chew on, then “A Light Wind Beyond Temple” for Denise Levertov who lived down the road from Suzanne’s family home in Temple, Maine. Suzanne’s introductions helped set the stage for her poems, giving us a context. She then read from a manuscript currently making the rounds of publishers, “Murmurs at the Gate,” memories of her upbringing in a poor, hard-working rural environment, including “The Viewing” a memory of a men killing bears, then “Opening” where a box contains memories of a relationship, & a magical portrait of Raven “The Darkest Spot is Light.” She ended with a poem on her obsession with fabric, weaving as an image & metaphor for time & for love.

The city sounds of sirens, traffic, even helicopters heading for Albany Med are a part of the ambiance of Poets in the Park, but worked especially well for Richard, who began with a cluster of city poem set in Brooklyn, “Bread” a memoir of his grandfather, then the early TV “Saturday Night Fights” (sponsored by Gillette) about his father as a boxer & Richard’s own fight, then a tribute to musician Tito Puente, “Para Ti, Tito,” & a descriptive piece late night in the City “Quiet the Way.” Then on to some love poems: “Ever Guilty,” “Portraits of Unrequited Love,” & “Without Angles.” He followed that up with a few war poems: the grim “Field Bandage,” “Just Sleeping,” & one of my favorites “Convoys” a chilling tale of being out drinking in Brooklyn with buddies mixed in with memories of VN ghost soldiers. He ended with the short love poem “Fall,” & “Harvest” a family poem, raking his garden.

More photos from Poets in the Park can be found at my Flickr! site.

Poets in the Park was sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & the Poetry Motel Foundation, both ultimately supported by the generosity of local writers & readers — “Give us your tired dollars, your millions crying for poetry.”

August 3, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 20


Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center in the Summer — had to crank up the sound system a bit because the door was open letting in the sounds of The Street. Our Muse tonight was, sadly, the recently-gone local poet, Cathy Anderson; I read her poem “Hornswoggled” from the 2006 collection of poems from The Every Other Thursday Night Poets of Voorheesville, NY Poetry Don’t Pump Gas.  A couple other poets from that group & in that anthology were in the audience.

In fact, one of them was the first up to read, Alan Casline, with a love poem about walking in the woods. Mark W. O’Brien was the other poet from that same collection, tonight he read a poem from a prompt in Bernadette Mayer’ workshop, a haibun memoir of catching a baseball hit by Yadier Molina. Samuel Weinstein was back with a long poem he said was written in the style of Allen Ginsberg. Our resident Andre Breton, John Thomas Allen, joined us with a poem titled “Behind the Green Door.”

Douglas Rothschild (who signed up as “Rth;chld, Dgls N.”) used the music stand to make a show of hanging up his jacket which he had just put on before stepping up to read the mythic “Artemisian the Moon’s Children.”

Tonight’s featured poet was Anna Kreienberg, a young poet with an experienced voice. She began with “Message for Rachel” which was like a letter with tea & pet names, then a shorter poem titled “Margaret Atwood,” then, as she said, “banged-out” a longer poem, “Seattle,” about her poetry, like others addressed to a “you” perhaps friends, in images with private import. Similarly a poem titled “Chrome Phobia” & then “Odyssey,” another long piece also addressed to someone, like a defensive sarcastic thank-you note filled daily details of life in NYC, which ended suddenly. What added to the difficulty is that there were no personal/spatial introductions before the poems, dropping the listener into a place we needed to quickly orient ourselves to.

After the break & the passing of the poet’s hat, we continued on with the open mic, & I read my entry to the New York State Fair Poetry Contest, “At the Silarian Cafe: Summer’s Best in Show.” Richard Jerin followed with his intro & then the poem. Jay Gaunt was a new name, read an untitled love poem. Rhymer Betty Zerbst was next with a poem about becoming a poet “Spreading My Wings.”

Aimee Harrison was a new voice, jumped right in to read about neighbors & family fighting, & her own turmoil, turning into a poem of longing. Adam Tedesco, who is well-known on the poetry scene & a former feature here, read a intensely woven piece of river & water. Karen Fabiane, also a former feature here & elsewhere, read her piece about a vacant lot on the Lower East Side, “Outdoor Cafe.” One of my favorites, who hasn’t been here in awhile, Jill Crammond, was back to read her mashup of Joyce Carol Oates’s Blackwater “Thoughts While Drowning.” Kevin McLellan, a new voice, read a love/breakup poem “From the Inside Out” to bring us to an end for tonight.

Every third Thursday there is a poetry open mic with a featured reader at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY. We start at 7:30PM & your donations support the SJC, the Poetry Motel Foundation & helps pay the featured poet.

July 23, 2017

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, July 14


Back among the trees, with our host Alan Casline to warm up the space with a little open mic before the featured poet, the Venerable Dennis Sullivan.

Joe Krausman got the #1 spot on the sign-up sheet & began with a poem about playing the silence “Cello Lesson,” then recited a short rhyme on Love. Paul Amidon read a descriptive memoir “Spring at Lake Abenaki” then a poem on aging & death “Double Down.” John Abuhl read his most recent poem “Repetition” (in Nature), then one on death written in May “Salvation,” & a short philosophical essay “We Seek the Everlasting.” Howard Kogan’s 2 poem were on related themes, “Reading as Writing” & “Poets at the Open Mic.”

Don Levy made a rare appearance here, began with one of his own “#CoffeHouseReads” about taking pictures of books, then a poem by mid-20th Century poet Weldon Kees, “Aspects of Robinson.” A.C. Everson’s poem was a tasty one about the chutney & creamed cheese she brought tonight from “Joan’s Kitchen.” Mike Conner read pieces on a variety of topics, “Green Tea” after the death of a friend, “Mid-Summer Night Dream” on the heat, & a political essay “Civility & Diversity.” Dianne Sercik’s poem “Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Moon” included the fertility deity Kokopelli, then read a piece considering “original sin” “Fortress of Innocence.”

Dennis Sullivan is one of the former hosts of the former “Sunday Four Poetry” in Voorheesville. His poetry is usually in the pensive, mediative mode, as were the poems he read tonight, beginning with “Recapitulation Theory,” then a poem for Gregory Corso “The Sweet & Endless Season. Even his titles are philosophical: “Exegesis of the Heart,” “Complexity It Is,” & “When Life is No Longer a Hobby.” The love poem titled “I Can Think of Nothing Else” was to his wife Georgia Gray, & he ended with “Elegy Upon the Death of a Public House” for the now-shuttered Smith’s Tavern in Voorheesville, sorely missed by poets & other drinkers.

After a convivial break, Tom Bonville brought us back to poetry with 2 memoirs of Troy & his Grandfather, “The Pull of the Water,” & “Fire on the River, Troy 1959.” Tim Verhaegen also read a memoir piece, this from 1994 dating black guys.

Mike Burke, another former host of “Sunday Four Poetry,” began with a descriptive piece of the grandstand at the Saratoga race track, then a poem about the last days of “Suzie the Good Dog,” & read Cathy Anderson’s poem “Ocean in Winter” to honor this recently-gone local poet. Frank Robinson waxed philosophical with “The Hard Problem” considering the question “what’s it like to be me?” Hey, I always tell people “be you.” My poems were “Obliteration,” “That Apparition” (which responds to a poem by Dennis Sullivan), & the very brief “Amitabha.” Alan Casline also read a poem by Cathy Anderson “The Last Good Day” about sex & dinner in the afternoon, then his own poem for Cathy “Whirl on the Dance Floor,” & the ironically titled “Recipe for Disaster.” Tom Corrado read from a new series of 14 line poems “Butt-Dialing Uber & Other Sanitized Shorts,” he read Season 4 & Season 15 (but they sounded like his “Screen Dumps”). Julie Lomoe was the last reader on the list & talked to us apropos of nothing about her new website, & then read a piece of prose “Eclipse of the Super Bowl Moon.”

This series continues into November on either the 1st or 2nd Friday of the month, at 6:30 PM in the guest house/visitor center of the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands — come early for the pot luck.

July 20, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, July 12


Back to Schenectady again & this welcoming reading series with our host, chanteuse Catherine Norr. First, some of the open mic before the scheduled featured poet, with Alan Catlin reading 2 poems with the same title “Last Night I Dreamed This Would Happen” both posted on the Blog 36 View of Ononta’kahrhon.  Richard Jerin read 2 poems, like letters written to others, the first titled “Rebel Heart” with its images of Winter, the 2nd addressed to his daughter.

Paul Amidon read a memoir of childhood “Playpen,” then one about himself & his poetry “Minor League Poet.” Ginny Folger told us about “What the Birds Know.” Scott Morehouse did a performance, from a novel set in the 1920s, as Red Hot Momma & sang “The Dinner Pail Blues.” Scott Hicks said he was reading 2 poems from his Wester heritage, “Woman on the Edge of a Field” & “Day Cloud” as a youth, railing against loneliness & emptiness.

The featured poet, Sandra Manchester, was new to me, but well-known to Catherine & others as a long-time member of a Schenectady poetry group. She began with a poem remembering watching fog as a child & her family’s poverty, then a couple more poems about her mother, “Morning to Dusk” & “A Month Since Mom’s Passing” filled with the details of everyday life. From a poetry workshop she read another memoir piece, written 3 different ways. Other poems from the everyday included the verbatim “What I Overheard at the Laundromat,” “4th of July Parade Cobleskill,” & “Lemon Pie.” Other poems from a workshop were a bouquet of Nature/rural poems, then she ended with a poem about her first memory — in Kindergarten.

After a break, Catherine Norr returned with a couple poems of her own, one the story of her partner Dave’s Dad in Montana going off to war, the other a praise litany that she said was a “gratitude poem.” Susan Jewell read “The Myth of the Wild Oyster,” inspired by Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. Jackie Craven read a persona poem in which a wife complained of her ill husband. Betty Zerbst read 2 poems inspired by the suicide of a young person, “Why, Michael?” & a sort of answer to that question “Deep Despair.”

Angelina J. squeezed in 3 poems, “Mother,” “Strawberries” (a provocative mix of gardening & sex), & a piece about “Bridal Barbie,” childhood & marriage, “The Beauty in the Box.” Rich Frieberg did a quick piece from memory. I ended up as the last poet of the night & in honor of the anniversary of the birth (& death) in July of Frida Kahlo, I read 2 poems from my series on Frida & her affair with Leon Trotsky, “Distributing Arms” & “Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky: Between the Curtains.”

This is the place to be on the 2nd Wednesday of each month in Schenectady: Arthur’s Market by the monument in the Stockade Section, 7:30PM — featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

July 18, 2017

Poetic Vibe, July 10


It’s been months since I’ve been able to get to this weekly word scene at the Troy Kitchen, Monday’s are a busy night for me. But I always have good intentions to go & tonight I put the action with the intention. I was pleased to see that Ian Macks was the featured poet, who will be reading at Poets in the Park July 22 with Liv McKee. But first the open mic.

Our lovely poetic host D. (for Danielle) Colin got the words flowing with her poems, the first celebrating the color of her skin, black & beautiful, another on her quiet pen & listening to the other sounds around. I ended up first on the list (which gradually filled as the night wore on) & did my jazz “Saturday Hawk” & “What Makes America Great #20” from my series of True Stories of the Trump Era. Mz Tu performed her outrageous “Balls & Bitches” then a piece on anger “Poison & Venom” (one does not want to piss off this lady).  Dawn Howard was visiting the area from the South & read 2 poems, both like religious or self-help preaching, “Flawless” & “Love Is.”

Hope said this was her first time (a Virgin!), began with a love poem, then another titled “I Want To” envisioning what love should be like. Kwesi had shown up a few times at the Social Justice Center, recited “A 70s Love Story,” started to introduce another piece but abandoned it. Jay began with a short piece titled “Living Room” then one titled “Real World” a critical piece about social media that, ironically, he read from his smart phone.  Elizag did a 3-minute Slam piece on Muhammad Ali & racism.

Tyler read a poem to his sister “Don’t Kid.” Dachele was here for the 1st time & did another piece on social media (& being lonely). Kaylie was also a virgin 1st timer & read a relationship rant. Poetik is an experienced reader/performer on the scene & I hope I got the title of her piece correct because it was marvelous “Education Dirty Poem.” Still another 1st timer, Jordyn, read a love poem just written today. Allie read a journal entry, then a poem based on it that she just wrote at the bar, a bit of self-affirmation.

Shed, another 1st timer, was also into self-affirmation, read a piece on the importance of loving yourself. His daughter, Mariah (Barber), a familiar voice from other venues, returned us to the social media theme (also read from her phone), then a tender piece on her father & his advice. Katelynn, who is obviously used to performing & coached, did a piece “Free Falling” then “Midnight Blue GT500” as she slips into a Slam accent.

The night’s featured poet was Troy-native Ian Macks; he began with a poem about being yourself, not trusting idols, then other personal poems about relationship gone bad, & others about a good friend messing up his life. He read a couple of short poems from a 2014 book, “Dr. Manhattan” & “Cradle.” Some poems about Troy included “When Machinery Engulfs Everything” based on a street mural, another on the 4th of July in Troy, & a grim picture of a guy living under a tarp behind a Troy strip mall. & there there more about relationships & about couch surfing during hard times.

One feature of this venue is the “group poem” created during the reading, an exquisite corpse, that Danielle read at the end — & against the call from one of the food vendors “69, number 69!” as if it were a part of the poem, or at least an invitation. It’s a wonderful venue, but Danielle has the annoying pattern of asking us to applause as she reads the name of the next reader, which often overwhelms the announcement making the name inaudible.

Poetic Vibe is every Monday at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St., 7:30PM, for a donation that helps pay the featured poet.