June 24, 2016

Albany Poets Presents: Mary Panza, June 15

This is a bi-monthly continuing series held since last December at Restaurant Navrona in Albany (NY). Tonight’s presentee was Albany poet, vice-(emphasis on vice) president of Albany Poets, bar-tender, masseuse, mother & bitch-on-wheels Mary Panza. El presidente Thom Francis began by talking about the first open mic he ever attended at Borders with Mary as host, & how terrified he was. He then turned the mic over to Mary for a reading of her poems, including recent ones, & a couple of her “Housewife Tuesday” Blogs from AlbanyPoets.com.

Mary began with a poem about her daughter, “The Little Blond,” then on to a funny (as she often is) Housewife Tuesday about family & grocery shopping. A poem for poet Chris Rizzo was based on Charles Olson’s famous statement from his essay Projective Verse, “Form is never more than an extension of content.” She wrote about hope in “Prisoners of a Cardboard Story,” & about herself & self-realization in a piece set in a club “I Want You To Know.” She ended with a Housewife Tuesday piece from a recent trip to Hawaii that brought her back to forgiveness & her roots as a Catholic through a Buddhist monk’s chanting.

The reading was followed by a series of questions, from host Thom Francis & various audience members. “You are so creepy,” was Mary’s response to Thom’s questions about favorite/least-favorite words & what turns her on (vodka, by the way), but she did admit that Nick Bisanz was her favorite harmonica player, & that she regretted being “mean.” She said what got her started was soap opera, the QE2 & the open mic she ran at Borders on Wolf Rd. Now, she finds the poetry scene different, the “family” spread apart, but that it keeps on going. As for herself, she likes reading other people’s stuff, appreciates their sensibility, & has grown to like editing.

I have seen Mary Panza grow & mature from her (& my own) tentative early days at the QE2 open mics, to become the confident, hard-working writer & Mom who is one of the Elders of the Albany poetry scene. & it is a credit to Thom Francis for presenting this series every-other month about & for the poets who keep active in the area writing & spoken-word scene.

June 21, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, June 8

A new pattern to my 2nd Wednesday of the month — to Schenectady’s Stockade Section for poetry. Our host, Catherine Norr, began the night with an original song that asked (& answered) the question, “Why would you take an artist?”

Shayla C. began with “Chill” playing on words, then a piece prompted by going through her mother’s things “Not Welcome.” Alan Catlin also read about memories, but this from his student days at the time of the Kent State killings in 1970, then from his latest book of poems American Odyssey (FutureCycle Press, 2016) “Our Lady of the Appliances.” B-K Tuon read a poem about his daughter at 9-months dancing to music & into her imagined future “Bieber Fever.”

The venerable Malcolm Willison began with a discussion about the poet Elizabeth Bishop, how he is reading all of her work, & about her house in Brazil, read his own poem about that house, “Casa Mariana,” then “Elizabeth Bishop Takes Another Trip.” Donna Lagone’s first piece “Puzzles” was based on pictures of the dead in Viet Nam, while her second poem was less grim, about a conversation with a loon (named Margot). J.J. Johnson read 2 poems addressed to his “muse,” “Thunder Rumbles in Space Silently” & a poem in which he rhymed “lofty” with “poetry” titled “Metaphorically Inking.”

Catherine Norr described the featured poet Donna Dakota (aka Donna Wojcik) as an enthusiastic member of the local poetry community, an avid workshop member & leader. She began with a poem for her daughter, another titled “Come Hell or Hygiene,” others written while driving (she says she writes on her windshield with a washable marker, but that’s a stretch too), a poem titled “Zen Doodle,” & another from a series of love poems to a person she has not met. But her form of choice, suited to her short, pithy style, is what she calls “bargain basement Haiku,” improvised poems written on postcards to other poets, some philosophical, some just plain silly, & she read a representative cluster, with often amusing titles, such as "God Sets the Bar."

After a short break, Catherine Norr read a couple of her own poems, one styled after ancient Chinese poetry “To a Friend,” then the descriptive “Deck Overlooking the Fish Pond.” Sydney Lussier read a poem about hugging her younger brother “Jacob,” then an untitled piece on insomnia.

Felicia O’Neal said this was her first time reading, but she performed well a self-assertive piece about this girl, herself. I followed with a poem/essay “Believe, Believe” about Bob Kaufman’s poem with the same title. Jackie Craven read what might be described as an eco-poem, or what she called “a strange weather poem” that was about remembering her mother. Jonathan Col√≥n read an illusive poem about god & rain. Raph, who got inserted into the list at the last moment, read an untitled notebook jotting. Colleen Wygal, who serves as a mentor to some of the younger writers, played on words in “Your Honor.” And that was it for this 2nd Wednesday in Schenectady.

But this open mic, with a featured poet, takes place each 2nd Wednesday at 7:30PM in Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry St., Schenectady — check it out.

June 10, 2016

Poetic Vibe, May 23

I finally made it over to Troy for this weekly series at Troy Kitchen, which in itself is worth the trip. A large, open space, set up like a food court. There were 3 stalls open this night, not counting the ever-tempting bakery & candy counter, & a beer & wine bar. The seating is communal/mixed at black, stylish tables with fixed benches, like up-scale picnic tables, but, sadly, no bar-stools at the bar. The series’ host is poet D. Colin (Danielle), who began the night with a couple of her own poems, a free write hanging on the phrase “do you see me?” & a poem from her book Dreaming in Kreyol for her grandmother whom she never met.

The sign-up sheet for the open mic was a mix of some of the area’s experienced readers & first-timers. And #1 on the list was the night’s first virgin (pretty bold to sign up first), Michelle, with a piece about how she used to hate being black.

She was followed by Siobhan with a relationship poem “Plateau.” Ainsley’s first poem was on boys & the blood moon, then a poem about the presence of another in her life as a reminder of love & lost love. Joshua’s love poem was read way too fast, as was his free style performance. I followed with a poem-in-a-poem from last year, “McDonald’s with Love.” Somewhere along the line D. Colin started an “exquisite corpse” circulating among the poets & listeners who wanted to participate. Morgan Hayward was another virgin, with a piece titled “Dear Stan.”

The poet signed up as Arthur “Agony” began with a play on a Doors song “Writers of the Storm,” then “Almost a 1000 Words” which I think was. Slam-Mistress Amani did a piece she called a “coffee cup doodle” that was a meditation on black history & fantasy romance inspired by a subway ride. Croilot read a meditation on self-hatred, on being Haitian, light-skinned. Daniel Summerhill read 2 from his book Crafted, “Bastard Boy” & (from memory) “Ain’t We” (what do you mean you don’t have his book yet?). I hadn’t seen Bless Wize Words in a long time & miss his well-crafted poems in his deep bass voice; tonight a lush piece on soul food & its degradation in the market place.

Following the open mic there were 2 featured poets. The first, a local poet, Daniela Toosie Watson, who performed & read a series of moving poems springing directly from her growing up mixed Puerto Rican & Iranian, beginning with being in school not knowing English, “The Linguistics of Broken English.” Another piece was about her mother, then one on depression & redemption “Love Found Me.” She ended with an intense, personal poem on rape & sexual assault, “Name It Say It Any Way You Can.” A brave & moving performance, that moved Danielle to do a poem “in solidarity” before bringing up the 2nd featured reader.

The Slam performer “Rainmaker” (Peter Charles Seaton) has read in this area in the past, & he performs most of his work from memory. After a struggle with his first piece he did one about his Jamaican grandmother, then on to on war & politics, arms sales & fathers. Other poems included “To the Men Who Want to Make Love to My Woman,” an eco-/love poem, a narrative about groupies at a poetry reading (!), an affirmation poem from a workshop he gave, & a love poem about love as action.

Then, as a closing statement, Danielle read the collective poem, the exquisite corpse created by the audience & poets — wished I had a copy to share with you. Anyway, Poetic Vibe takes place each Monday in Troy, NY at Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress St., 7PM — poetry, food, beer, wine, chocolates, beautiful people, all the good things in life.

May 24, 2016

Sunday Four Poetry, May 22

A Sunday afternoon for poetry up in Voorheesville, with a cluster of open mic poets & a featured poet, Judith Saunders. But first the open mic, with me as the first reader; I read an old poem of break-up angst “This Feels So Bad It’s Got to Be the Blues,” then a new piece about old books “Decomposition.” Bob Sharkey shared a couple of scary poems, the first about reading with his granddaughter “Scary People,” then “Things” about what lurked in the back of Woolworth’s & library stacks. Dennis Sullivan was our singular host for the afternoon (his often co-hosts MIA) & read a trio of poems philosophizing on dreams & life & death, “A Lesson of Life, for Jennifer” (a student from years ago), “Desert Face,” & the aphoristic “What I’m Doing Monday.”

Terry Rooney was next & he began with a vividly descriptive poem about the sights & smells of a town in Central America, then a new piece “Do Large Primitives Need to Be Drunk to Have Sex?” & “Directions.” Lloyd Barnhart read a poem in dialect about being “Lost on a Backroad” then challenged us to figure out what he was talking about in his poem “The Green Box” (I couldn’t), &, like Bob Sharkey, a poem about reading to his 3 year-old grandchild, “Small Prices.”

Not only was Peter Boudreaux back among us, but he was considerably taller & straighter; he read a poem about Winter in his hill town “Inside the Womb,” then a poem about having to stop to pee while driving (been there). Tom Corrado had copies of his latest collection of “Screen Dumps,” this #201 to #250, bringing us (almost) up-to-date; he read #204, then went beyond the book with #292. Jonathan Bright tried to explain to us the various phases he has gone through — nihilist, agnostic, atheist, etc. —& his first poem was from his nihilist phase “Neil is Trying to Write a Love Note,” then considered the universes in the cells of an acorn “Beneath the Hoof,” then a poem titled “Perceived Obsolescence.”

This afternoon’s featured poet, Judith Saunders, teaches at Marist College & had 2 collections of poems for sale, Seizing This Chance (Kattywompus Press, 2014) & Lost Partners (Futurecycle Press, 2015). She said she likes to write poems about animals & plants & began with “Echidna” (an Australian egg-laying mammal), “What’s for Dinner” (alligator meat at the supermarket), “Mid-Hudson Moose,” & one about the star-nosed mole. Then on to plants: “Escaped Daffodils” & a poem about woodbine. She introduced us to the “3-way poem,” a form invented by British poet Charles Tomlinson (1927 - 2015), & read her try at it “Fishkill Sunset.” Her poem “The Philosopher” was about her father saving fortunes from fortune cookies, then on to a poem based on a tabloid headline about attempts to turn hamburger back to a cow. Lost Partners is a collection of ekphrastic poems & she ended her reading with a selection from the book, the title piece (which is about orphaned earrings set in grout), “Goddesses,” “Buddha and Cave” & “Photocollage.” Her poems are richly descriptive, vivid, discursive, & the range of interesting topics kept us attentive & rapt.

Sunday Four Poetry happens at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY on most 4th Sundays of the month (the series takes the months of July & August off).

May 21, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 19

I like to start each of these events with an invocation of the Muse, some gone poet who could not be here with us, & this year the newly dead poets are piling up way too fast. Tonight our Muse was Upstate New York’s own Maurice Kenny (1929 - 2016). I read “Molly” from his 1992 history-in-poetry, Tekonwatonti/Molly Brant (1735 - 1795): Poems of War.

On to the open mic, Alan Catlin was first with the last thing he wrote, a grim cocktail poem, “Blue Bottles for a Blue Lady” (a "Phillip’s Screwdriver)". Philomena Moriarty was next with a poem now titled “Flip-Flopping Joe” so she could enter it in a contest on poems about “Joe.” Bob Sharkey also read the last thing he wrote, “800 Meters,” appropriately enough for tonight’s Corporate Run, about runners.

The first of the night’s new voices was Prinze Divine Allah, “a divine rapper,” who did his piece “Divine Inspiration” accompanied by a neat, little wireless speaker. Don Levy’s poetic social commentary tonight was about intolerance within the gay community “No Fats No Fems.”

Tonight’s featured poet was the Hudson Valley’s own Mike Jurkovic, who has a new book of poetry out, smitten by harpies (Lion Autumn Music Publishers, 2016), complete with photos from Occupy Wall St. & an introduction by “Miss” Cheryl A. Rice. He began with a free-flowing ramble on music, then on to a couple of new poems “Still Life with Mandolin” (the first of a number about being stoned), & “Don’t Kick the Buddha.” Then on to poems from smitten by harpies, starting with the opening poem “Two Wives Ago,” then “Two Doors Down” a collaboration with Will Nixon, “Screaming Jay Hawkins and Me in Our Prime” his reading of this, & most of his other poems as well, as over-the-top as Hawkins himself. One of his “greatest hits” was the traffic-jam poem “Tell Them, My Love,” then another stoner piece about a quality control guy for medicinal marijuana, & a poem about “Half Shitty Days.” “Yearbook” was about sex with Robert Frost’s granddaughter (perhaps), & some poems read without titles, like “irony,” & “Neighbor of Alleged Bomber.” “My Fifth Minute” was an open mic poem, then a poem on meditation “The Great Movie Begins.” He ended with 2, a new piece “Breathing Machine,” & a stoner fantasy memoir from the book, “the halos in her glasses.” His poems are gritty, read with energy, & humor. During the break he sold a bunch a books & pledged to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

After the break, I took us back to the open mic with a recent poem, “Another Holy Thursday.”

Carole Rossi talked about having her hear broken “really bad” & put together a lament with a melody to make “a country song” which she sang in her saddest Nashville voice. Sylvia Barnard read a new poem about her travels, from 70 years ago to now, with a reference to a rumble-seat in her mother’s car. Next month’s featured poet, Karen Fabiane, gave us a taste with a 1973 poem, “Editorial” with its references to newspapers & other anachronisms. Our last poet was also one of the night’s new voices, “Bear” also known as George, read “Star Salvation” then slipped in another piece of philosophizing “The Moon in the Night.”

The Third Thursday Poetry Night happens each month on (duh!) the third Thursday, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM — a featured poet & an open mic for a modest (or extravagant) donation that supports the featured poet, the SJC & poetry events in the community.

May 18, 2016

Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest Reading, May 15

The Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest was inaugurated this year by Albany poet Bob Sharkey & his family. It was started as a modest project to offer cash prizes to poets & to support & encourage those who are active in the open mic community. According to Bob, he received 302 entries from 37 states & 10 countries. There were 27 finalists, with prizes ranging from $700 for the First Place (Dawn Marar’s poem “Beyond the Naupaka Hedge”), with 2nd, 3rd & 4th place winners, a “Special Founder’s Award” (to Karen Fabiane for “Now, morning…”), then 9 Honorable Mentions ($65 each), & 13 “Other Finalists” with bragging rights.

The reading was for those Finalists who were able to make it to the Albany Public Library Washington Ave. Branch, with other poems read by local community poets, a total of 22 represented in the reading. Mary Panza read a number of poems by women Finalists, including “I Loved You Long Before I Even Met You” by Kirsten Textor from Denmark. Mary also read the 4th place poem “On the Rising Price of Corn at Festivals” by Michelle Chen, & the 2nd place “The Resolution of Neglect Syndrome” by Jen Karentnick. I was pleased to read the 3rd place poem “Plantation’s Corn” by Paul Weidknecht, as well as my own poem “Richard Nixon Must Die,” which has had quite a track record of publications over the years since it was written.

First place winner Dawn Marar read her winning poem “Beyond the Naupaka Hedge” (which is set in Hawaii), a 2 others “Lateral Inhibitions” & “Family Monuments. Bob Sharkey read early on his poem “Why Stephen” to explain the name of the contest. Stephen A. DiBiase was a friend of Bob’s in Maine, who was a US Army vet who died of drowning in 1973, one might say another victim of the war.

The following is a complete list of the Finalists & their poems:

First Place, bonus for community poet, bonus for local poet, $700: Beyond the Naupaka Hedge---Dawn Marar of Delmar NY
Second Place, $250: The Resolution of Neglect Syndrome---Jen Karetnick of Miami Shores FL
Third Place, $125: Plantation’s Corn---Paul Weidknecht of Phillipsburg NJ
Fourth Place, $100: On the Rising Prices of Corn at Festivals---Michelle Chen of Whitestone NY
Special Founder’s Award, $90: Now, morning…---Karen Fabiane of Troy NY

Honorable Mentions (9), $65:
  • Stopping By The Columbarium---Jackie Craven of Schenectady NY
  • Siobhan In Washington Park (age 46)---Sylvia Barnard of Albany NY
  • Argiope Aurantia---Pat Tompkins of San Mateo CA
  • American Woman---Lucia Cherciu of Poughkeepsie NY
  • Don’t Read This One Out Loud---Merisa Dion of Derry NH
  • A Brief History of Fun---Howard Kogan of Stephentown NY
  • Shipwreck---Joe Krausman of Menands NY
  • Earthquakes in Oklahoma---Lauren Elizabeth Delucchi of Washington DC
  • Nondescript---Ashley Hyun of Tenafly NJ

Other Finalists:

  • I loved you long before I even met you---Kirsten Textor of Lyngby, Denmark
  • To a Child at Enlightenment---J.C. Elkin of Annapolis MD
  • Winter Walk---Francis DiClemente of Syracuse NY
  • Let Me View Life-The Way the Heart Feels…---Jennifer Circosta of Campbell Hall NY
  • “all told”---Joel Best of Niskayuna NY
  • Inside the Picture Frame-For Aiyana Stanley-Jones---Keli Osborn of Eugene OR
  • Missing you---Carol Kloskowski of Christmas MI
  • Sad Nymph---Betsy Butcher of Iowa City IA
  • Richard Nixon Must Die (for all the victims of the War)---Dan Wilcox of Albany NY
  • Salt Is The Spice Of Life---Philip Good of East Nassau NY
  • modie badanov---Canon Pau of Los Angeles CA
  • On a Night With a Poet---Sally Rhoades of Albany NY
  • Meaning of Man---Erin Gillett of Los Angeles CA

May 17, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, May 11

This was my first time at this monthly series in Schenectady because on the 2nd Wednesday of each month I was at the open mic at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, run by Albany poet Don Levy. But in March he had called it quits (check out my Blog on his last open mic here). But tonight I gave Don a ride to Arthur’s Market for the open mic, not the least because we could, but also because the featured poet was Carolee Bennett. The usual host is Catherine Norr, but tonight Ginny Folger filled in for Catherine, & began by reading “Hyacinth” by poet Barbara Hill.

Don had gone in while I parked the car & signed me up first; I did an old poem, an imagining of who was on “The Noon Train,” then my new driving directions “How to Find Clit Court” (a real street in Colonie, NY). Margaret Bryant read a poem titled “To Know” set it 1971 on the death of her father, then “Pearl” from her 2010 book Aligning Stems (The Troy Book Makers). Paul Bryant announced he was “not a poet” but one does not have to be a “poet” to appreciate Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s great poem “Constantly Risking Absurdity” which he did by reading it for us.

Tonight’s featured poet, Carolee Bennett, hadn’t read out much lately — too busy writing poems & living the life that is a poem. But many of us remember her readings from a few years back & were glad to hear her read her new work (& some older pieces too). Her poems tonight had in them fish, birds, sex, grief, death, her boys & her boyfriend, sometimes many in the same poem. For example, “Insatiable” was a poem about grief & sex & had fish in it, as did “Fish in the Aquarium Always Want to be Fed” & “Let It Be.” “Night Jar” had in it images of death, including a dead bird, as did the oddly rhyming “The Mortality Rate of Birds” (& also the wonderfully titled “Sex-Starved Fruit Flies Have Shorter Lives”). There was also “Ode to the Dart Board at Cafe Hollywood” for Chris, “Prettier When You Smile” a poem written with Jill Crammond  (it applies to both), & a poem sampling phrases from nursery rhymes “On Not Shielding Young Minds from the Dark.” Her ending poems took us to outer space, one using the International Space Station for a metaphor, the other the speed of light (& her son with a broken arm in the ER). Not that my opinion matters, but I think we need to hear her read such poems more often, again.

Our host Ginny Folger brought us back to the open mic with one of her own poems “The Gin Rickey” which was about a boat, not the drink. Don Levy took on the trans-gender restroom issue with 2 poems, “Onward Christian Bigots” & the Whitmanesque “#I’llGoWithYou”. Bob Sharkey read a spooky poem “Things” about what was in the back of Woolworth’s.

Jackie Craven read a couple pieces from her “A Guide to Alien Languages” series, “Travel Advisory” & “Without Umbrellas” (on perception & communication). Carol Graser read a tender “Mary Cotter” then a piece on her children leaving home “A Goodbye Under a Snow-wet Cover."  J.J. Johnson read a baseball poem, in rhyme, about the Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard (knick-named Thor), “Serving on the Mound.”

This poetry open mic is held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady’s Stockade Section, at 7:30PM — a featured poet & an open mic.