October 17, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, October 11


I was glad I could get to this night’s reading & open mic, after missing the last couple, to hear one of my favorite poets, Annie Christain, & gave a ride to my poetry buddy, Don Levy. We had heard that the historic building had been sold, but we found out tonight that the owner of the business, long-time supporter of the music & spoken word arts, Richard Genest had a lease with lime left, so this 2nd Wednesday series will continue, for now. Tonight’s host was local poet Jackie Craven, who didn't spell out any rules, but most poets read only 1 poem, & those who did more were brief anyway.

First up was Phil Williamson with what he called a “poem for our time” & the man of the time, Trump, a good political rant. Brian Dorn was timely with baseball history of the area in rhyme, “Dog Days of Summer.” Alan Catlin read one of the movie poems from his new book, Blue Velvet, the Slipstream 30th Annual Poetry Chapbook Competition winner, “The Mind Parasites.” Ginny Folger’s poem “Traveling with Friends” was about the familiar mutual problems we/they endure when traveling with others. Carol Graser read a poem of made up words (I’m guessing from a Bernadette Mayer workshop) “I Have No Words.”

I admit to being fascinated by the poetry of Annie Christain & have been to many of her readings, including having her as a feature at my Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany. Tonight she read exclusively from her 2016 collection Tall As You Are Tall Between Them (C&R Press), most of the poems I have heard her read previously. But that is a good thing, increasing my understanding of what she is doing in her poems, & tonight she went a long way getting the audience into the poems by explaining that what she read were persona poems (i.e., not the poet speaking), & explaining the genesis & background of the poems, a number growing out of her experience living in China. What she read were “The Sect Which Pulls the Sinews: I’ve seen You Handle Cocoons,” “We Must Kill All Rats Before We Can Kill Your Rats,” “I Took to Walking Down the Middle of Highways to Avoid Getting Shot,” “Pretending to Go and Come from Heaven by Fire” (from a workshop exercise), “MK-Ultra 2 (Montauk): Return Me to Houyhnhnms,” “A Maple Gets Red.” I’ll go to her next reading if I can.

After a break Susan Carol Jewell read a linked haiku & sonnet, each titled separately. I read my take on the Great American Eclipse “Spathe is the Plathe.”   Don Levy read his meditation on the history of “coming out,” a conversation between a young & an old gay man “Louis & Percy.” Scott Morehouse reacted to Don’s poem by saying, “I came out in 1976 but there was no place to go;” he read, or rather performed, “You’ve Got Mail” & “A Brief History of Telecommunication …” Of course Betty Zerbst was way down the sign-up sheet, & she read 2 short rhyming poems, “Everyday People” & “Hard to Let Go.” Malcolm Willison was more ethereal with “Moon Lost.” Jackie Craven read a poem similar to Carol’s & acknowledged that it was written for Bernadette’s workshop, “In Which I Try to Leave My Husband but Cannot Find the Words.”

So the good news is that this open mic will continue on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry, Schenectady, NY, 7:30PM, for the next year of so — the bad news we got last November.

October 16, 2017

2nd Tuesday Open Mic, October 10


Charlie Rossiter is a veteran host of readings, open mics, cable TV interviews, online podcasts, & other literary & arts events. After years in Chicago Charlie is back in the Northeast & recently coordinated the 100 Thousand Poets for Change in Bennington, VT.  Tonight was the first of a planned monthly poetry open mic on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at the Tap House in Bennington, VT. I decided to drive over & support my comrade-in-poems on the inaugural reading.

The Tap House is an informal brew pub with a menu of pub food to go with a variety of beers on tap & in bottles. We were set up in a back room that seems to have housed bands & music open mics. It turns out I wasn’t the only Albany poet to make the trip, Anthony Bernini & Mary Ann Cleaves drove over from Troy, NY to check it out as well.

As often happens, I signed up first & read selections from my chapbooks from A.P.D. Poeming the Prompt & Coyote. Sabrina Melendez came down off the hill from Bennington College to perform a slam-style piece riffing off the opening lines of Ginsberg’s "Howl."

Anthony Bernini read a poem about a man & a child caught in a tornado “Held in Place.” Our host Charlie Rossiter began with a list poem “Things to Know About Bear,” then the classic “The Ex,” & from All Over America: Road Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2009) “Outside Taos.”

Maggie is a local; she read jottings from her nightstand, many in rhymes & half-rhymes, on taking things for granted, on hope, on a friend with dementia, & on waiting.

It was a good start for open mic poetry in Bennington. Check it on the next 2nd Tuesday of the month, 7:00 sign up, 7:15 start, at the Tap House, 309 County St., Bennington, VT (across the street from Bennington Pottery).

October 15, 2017

2nd Sunday @ 2, October 8


Today we were upstairs in the “Dance Studio” with barely enough chairs, & Nancy’s sound system from home, & plenty of writers for Poetry + Prose. Nancy Klepsch & I did our tag-team hosting.

Bob Sharkey gets the annual anthology Best American Poetry every year & every year writes a cento using lines that grab him from different poems, this year a sonnet-cento “Window,” then a piece pondering the lost languages “Things Lost.” Kate Laity read the opening from a novel about murder in Academe, something to do with Dead Idiots (?). Peggy LeGee read a string of notes on memories “Kindergarten of the Mind” with a reference to herself as “the tranny Christ.”

Kathy Smith read a meditation on names inspired by a roomful of Kathies, “Dear Walt Whitman My Name is Kathy.” Mike Conner began with o(ther) (p)eople’s (p)oetry, an ekphrastic poem, then one of his own, a moving, heartfelt piece about a relative dying “Life Mountain.” Dan Curley read a poem about a road trip gone bad “Abilene,” the one based on a conversation with a friend “Discovery.”

Nancy Klepsch a fanciful list “29 Questions.” Howard Kogan’s poem “Auto Bio” contained the line “life has no back space…” Nancy Dunlop read tale of a storm while on a sailboat with her father “A Mast Broke,” then another storm poem, this about a neighbor’s downed tree “Morning Joe.” & somewhere in there I read but have no idea what poem(s) it was — glad there were so many other good, memorable poems here today.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose is at the Arts Center on River St. in Troy, NY, at 2PM on the 2nd Sunday of the month (just to be redundant again).

October 12, 2017

Calling All Poets!, October 6


CAPS is the long-running series, formerly in Beacon, currently in New Paltz at the Roost Studios on Main St. This night the featured poets were Bertha Rogers & me, Dan Wilcox, plus an open mic. Our MC & host was Mike Jurkovic.

Bertha Rogers, the doyen of the Bright Hills Literary Center in Treadwell, NY, flanked by her dogs, began with sections from her marvelous translation of Beowulf (Birch Brook Press, 2000) — even if you’ve read Beowulf before, this is a translation that makes more sense of the story. Then to selections from her collection Heart Turned Back (Salmon Poetry, 2010), “Black Rock Forest,” the high school memoir of sex in a car “Rhomboid,” “The Cat in the Diner,” & “To the Starling in the Winter Raspberry Patch.” Then to newer poems, “Fisher Cat in the Maple” (in the fisher’s words), “Hawk’s Reason,” & “The Old Dog’s Lament.” A well put-together reading by a professional.

Photo by Christopher Wheeling
I read mostly newer poems, but began with “The Lesson” from my 2011 chapbook Poeming the Prompt, then alternated poems from my series of true stories from the Trump era, “What Makes America Great,” with some pieces from Inauguration Raga (A.P.D., 2017), & “At the Silarian Cafe,” “The Day God Invented Wine,” “Spathe is the Plathe,” & “Amitabha.”

After a break, we were on to the open mic, with Greg Correll reading a memoir about his daughter at age 2. Kate Reese Hurd performed John Keats’ “Ode to Autumn” with her own sound exercises, accented by traffic sounds from the street.

Kate Hymes read 2 poems about buses, the first about growing up in the segregated South “Back of the Bus.” Ken Holland began with a political piece “Hard Left Hard Right,” then one on climate change “Water & Wine.” Jeffrey Seitz’s poem “Escaping the Sting” was an abecedarian, & on to the architectural “To a Steeple in Poughkeepsie.” Tim Brennan read a couple of intricate poems “Manifest” on the patterns in Life, & “Is Landing.” Our host, Mike Jurkovic, read a poem about firearms on the Wallkill Rail Trail “No Discharge,” then a “Trumpian” piece “Scholars Hence.”

Jim Eve, also one of the CAPS organizers, read about still another cop shooting “Where Is the Outrage?” then a jazz poem work-in-progress “Blues Speak.”

Calling All Poets! is worth a trip from anywhere, on the 1st Friday of the month at Roost Studios, 69 Main St., New Paltz, NY, 8:00PM, featured poets, open mic for $5.00, discount for CAPS members, Roost members, students & seniors.

October 11, 2017

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, October 4


Tonight’s scheduled poets were April Bernard & Jay Rogoff, both on the faculty of Skidmore College, but, sadly, April was ill, but happily Jay was here. Our host, Carol Graser, got us started by reading “Ars Poetica” by the late North Country poet Maurice Kenny.

In a switch, Barbara Garro was first on the list & read about where she grew up in New Jersey “Maple Shade.” Kate McNairy was her usual quirky self with the funny “Her Coat” & the sexy “Shoot Some Pool.” Caffè Lena volunteer Debbie Bogosian read a couple of autobiographical pieces “Perspective” & “Copper Nails.” Susan Kubert was here in August & brave enough to come back to read a couple poems, the first title "They Speak," the second, “The Test,” about replanting a tulip. Susan Kress read a poem that has been published in the journal New Letters, “Call Back.”

So 1 out of 2 featured poets is not bad, particularly when the 1 is poet Jay Rogoff. He read a tantalizing bouquet of poems from his new book Enamel Eyes: A Fantasia on Paris, 1870 (LSU Press), historical fiction in poems, set around the ballet Coppélia, or the Girl with Enamel Eyes, & the chaos of the Franco-Prussian War. He read the poems “War & Peace,” “Guiseppina Gets a Lesson in Courtship,” “Votive Offerings,” “Travesty,” “Just Looking,” “A Debate about Realism,” & “Fever Dreams.” Just enough to make me anxious to read the book. He finished off with new poems from “The Penny Poems,” “All the Same,” the villanelle “Witness,” & “Wear” (about what matters & what souls wear).

After the break, Carol Graser read one of her own poems, “Ghost of Ambitions,” then on to finish off the open mic list. Leslie Sittner read a poem about a Halloween party “Papel Power,” then a dead dog poem. Jackie Craven read a couple poems from her forthcoming book Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters about her mother’s paintings.

David Graham also had a poem about painting, “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings,” then read the short poem “Love.” Nancy White also read from a new book of poems on Biblical subjects, the first poem “Free Will” in the voice of God, the second about Lilith a bit more personal. Mary Kathryn Jablonski began with an ekphrastic poem “Mirror,” then a piece of memoir about playing in the barn “Minor Mishap.”

The first of some younger poets on the list, Alyssa Benaro, read a poem, much like a painting, titled “Imagine” about what you can think of while riding in a car. Certainly not a younger poet, Thomas Dimopolous, read a funny piece playing on “Tony,” the award, the name & whatever else. Another young poet, Suzanne Mori-Stranton, read a school assignment about beginnings. I also only had one poem, my pastiche on Eliot’s The Wast Land “Octoberland.” I hadn’t seen Effie Redman here in a while, she has had another piece published in the New York Times & tonight read a new poem “September 26, 2017" about adjusting to her new apartment.

Anthony Bernini read 2 poems about libraries & children, the first “Hart Memorial Field Trip” & the other “Providence Atheneum.” The last of the night’s young poets was Kaela Ellis who read a dream-like “Never Go Back Into the Forest.” & the last of the night’s poets, young or old, was Karen Fabiane with a brand-new piece, on the Las Vegas shootings “Guns For Free,” & a slightly different piece “Nuttin’ She Said.”

By now you should know that the Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic is on the first Monday of the month at historical (& now renovated) Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs at 7:30PM, $5.00 for a featured poet or 2 & a fabulous open mic.

October 9, 2017

100 Thousand Poets for Change, September 30


100 Thousand Poets for Change was started in 2011 by poets Michael Rothenberg & Terri Carrion as “a grassroots organization that brings communities together to call for environmental, social, and political change within the framework of peace and sustainability.” Events are held all over the world. In recent years readings in upstate New York have been held at SUNY Adirondack, as they were this year. But since my co-conspirator in 3 Guys from Albany, Charlie Rossiter moved from Chicago to Bennington, VT he has begun to put together poetry events there, so I took the trip over to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington. In addition to the performers there was a bevy of volunteers to fill the audience, with Charlie as our host.

The first performer was dancer Barbara Roan who performed an impressionistic Kaddish piece, unfortunately without the music by Ravel it was based on.

Jerry Byrd said his poem was the first he’d written in a long time, thinking about America “We the People,” then read a poem by Mark Nepo. I was up next with selections from my 2017 chapbook Inauguration Raga (A.P.D.). Tracey Forest sang & played a guitar with a song about “waking up/standing up.” Another Albany (actually Voorheesville) poet, Mimi Moriarty, read a trio of anti-war poems, “Vets Reading Poetry,” “I Have Come to Know America,” & “Pigeons on a Cornice” which begins with images at a street fair in Troy, NY.  Local storyteller Forest Byrd told a tale of rats in a house he is restoring.

Host Charlie Rossiter started off solo with his signature piece “Snake Black Solo,” then a duet with his son Jack Rossiter-Munley doing a faux CW song titled “Country Eastern.” Bill Thcoing did a trio of rhyming poems, on water, on hope & one titled “I Had a Dream.” Stephen had shown up with studio full of instruments, did a long trio of pieces (with harmonica, flute, then drums) & a rambling commentary on the Heavenly Gate cult. Jack Rossiter-Munley was back solo with a rocking cover of “You Can Love But You Better Not Touch.”

Steve & Cindy are a local folk duo who did a funny song about taking other people’s money. Lynn Mazza said she hadn’t written a poem in a long time, but was inspired by this event to write “Euphemism” a funny piece on news spins. The night ended with an unusual & entertaining act from an improv group, Playback Theater (Cindy, Janet & Desiree) who acted out feelings called out from the audience: humanitarian love, admiration, lust, anger, shock, & awe/confusion/disgust.

Folks here seemed to have a good time & plans were pondered for another event in the Spring, but for now were part of the international 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

October 8, 2017

Troy Poetry Mission, September 27


This was the 1st Anniversary of this monthly open mic (last Wednesday) run by R.M. Englehardt & James Duncan. Tonight there were 3 ! featured poets, Don Levy, Thom Francis & Mary Panza & our host was James Duncan & who began with a piece from his new book, “We’re All Terrorists But …”

Brian Dorn read a piece about the history of minor league baseball in the Capital Region “Dog Days of Summer.” I read the 2 poems published in 2: An Anthology of Poets & Writers from the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic for Poetry & Prose (2016) “Garrison Keilor” & “Trailer Park.” Eveline Augusto was new to me, sat down on the stool & began with an announcement & a lecture, then a series of poems, the first on what she doesn’t like, then “What’s Left” about what she does like starting with a tavern, & a couple more poems, all mostly lists. Julie Lomoe also availed herself of the stool & read a piece about her age, “Sunny & 75.” Karen Fabiane read 2 fuck poems from her book Seeing You Again (2014) “Fuck the Wind” & “I Fucked St. Joan.”

On to the night’s featured poets, with Don Levy up first, & he began with a poem about a character from the QE2 days “I’m a Fucking Poet.” Then on to more recent poems & times, “Hopper Hotel” & “Ode to South Main Ave.” both about his move earlier this year, & a couple of pieces fresh from the headlines “Just Say No to Nazis” & “Hetero Nonsense.”

Thom Francis read “new poems,” at least that's what he said, & who am I to contradict el presidente? Maybe they were new versions of older pieces, like “Paper Messiah” (a “martyr with a pen”), or the piece about mouthwash covering up parents’ drinking &/or infidelities. Then there was “Aftermath” about Hurricane Katrina, then some favorites “Radio Man,” & “Trucker.” All new poems, if he says so.

Speaking of saying so, Mary Panza said I could save some work on my Blog by just saying “see last Saturday’s reading” so here is the link but she also included tonight “Swingset Memories” responding to a poem by Howard Kogan.

Too bad Rob missed this, it was a good one, & we thank him for starting this unique series at O’Brien’s Public House on 3rd St. in Troy, last Wednesday, 7:30PM, or later -- onward into the 2nd year.