March 23, 2015

Nitty Gritty Slam #90, March 17


The “St. Paddy’s Day Edition” of this ongoing Slam/open mic event, tonight hosted by Kevin Peterson, who began with a St. Patrick’s Day “prayer,” based on the Our Father, of course on drinking.

First up for the open mic was a new voice/face, practicing her public-speaking skills, Diana Dana who read a poem, fittingly enough, by William Butler Yeats. Brian Dorn read a love/sex poem, in his signature rhymes, “Inside of You.” Elizag read from her book Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostle, & Douglass Books, 2014) the poem “The Spinner’s Prayer” spoken by an Irish immigrant. Steven Roberts continued the Irish theme with a poem from his trip to Dublin, “Finding Gold.” I’m not interested in St. Paddy’s Day, more interested in promoting (i.e., selling) my new chapbook from A.P.D. Coyote: poems of Suburban Living, so I read “Coyote 4.” Tom followed with 3 limericks, which I guess qualify as “Irish” poems. L-Majesty got us down to basics with a poem titled “For Sloppy Erotic Poets” a sex-word stew.

Judging the Slam
Then on to the Slam, tonight with 7 1st round contenders. But first there was the need to “calibrate” the judges scoring (& I was one of them tonight), so our host Kevin did a drinking song with audience participation (of course during the Slam the use of a prop, like a pint glass of beer, is strictly forbidden).

The Slam pieces were varied, starting with Ainsley’s “Open Letter from a Female Geek,” to Eliza Ryan talking about her tattoo, Elizag’s strident “Dear Young People,” L-Majesty on childhood, to “The Writer of Darkness” (Stephen) poem “Fighting Irish,” Illiptical on doing Slams, & Jimmy’s “St. Patrick’s Day” in rhyme.

Eliza, K.P., L-Majesty, Elizag
The survivors who went on to the 2nd round were, not surprisingly, Slammers Eliza, Elizag, L-Majesty & Illiptical. When the dust settled from that hot round it was L-Majesty & Elizag going head-to-head for #1, with L-Majesty taking it with his piece about losing his imaginary friends to rely on himself, over Elizag’s “The Poetry of Profanity.” Visiting Slammer Eliza Ryan took home 3rd place money.

The Nitty Gritty Slam happens on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, with an open mic first at 7:30PM — $5.00, less with a student ID (not one from your 1980s undergraduate days). A production of AlbanyPoets.com.

March 17, 2015

Live from the Living Room, March 11


Down in the Garden Room of the Pride Center Don Levy was upset that his featured poet had cancelled at the last minute, so it ended up being a small intimate group, just Don, Jessica Rae who had walked over, & me. Don suggested we do a “round robin” & we even traded comments between poems.

Don Levy's hat & poems
Jessica was first with what she called “a therapy rant” titled “It’s Permanent” & the repeating lines “you’re fucked up…” Don recounted the horrors of high school gym class in his poem “Climbing the Rope.” I followed with the up-to-date “What I Found at the Bust Stop When the Snowbank Melted.”

Back to Jessica with more therapy, “Disbelief.” Don’s poem was from May 2014, “Drunk College Kid on Quail.” & I read from my new chapbook, Coyote, the poems “Coyote 2.”

For the final round, Jessica couldn’t decide what she should read so handed me her folder of poems & I picked one for her, “From My Window,” a nice urban piece. Don’s last poem was based on pictures on Instagram, a wonderful bit of urban fantasizing on the bus, “Hot Dudes Reading.” I ended with my poem “Prophylactic” from the chapbook Poeming the Prompt.

It doesn’t matter how many, or who shows up, Live from the Living Room is about sharing poetry, & a pleasant time together, each 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, at the Pride Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY. Join us for an open mic with, usually, a featured poet.

March 15, 2015

Open Mic at Justin’s, March 10


This is a new series started about a month ago by Sarah Sherman & Samson Dikeman at Justin’s on Lark St., but it was only the first one I’ve been able to get to. It is billed as an open mic for anything — music, comedy as well as poetry — but tonight there were only poets in the house (& some rowdy, obnoxious guys at the bar). The poets who read were a combination of folks who read regularly at the Nitty Gritty Slam & some others who have read at my Third Thursday series at the Social Justice Center.

Samson Dikeman served as host & brought up first Steven Roberts, one of the regulars at the Nitty Gritty Slam, with a couple of his signature rhyming pieces, these on the theme of St. Patrick’s Day, “Irish Gold” & “Fighting Irish.” Lori Snay read with the support of Jimmy a tribute piece to Elvis’s movies & the Beatles. Then Jimmy Snay followed on his own with a new piece that bordered on the porn (not that I care) a graphic description of a “Perfect Date,” then a piece for St. Patrick’s Day.

Our kindly host, Samson, was next with a poem by Charles Bukowski, then one of his own, “In Austin,” about a rule in an Austin bar (“no cocks on the bar”) & dueling pianos. Avery followed with one of his “commercials” about “Heaven in a Sandwich.” Adam Tedesco read 3 poems, his own “Sister” (cool as ice) & “Amen” (that he described as “a poem brought to a boil…”) & in between read “The Lilac Field” by poet Dorothea Lasky.

Jacky K. started with a poem written on a plane from San Francisco “Flight #77” then an untitled piece with her daughter in the backseat of her car — but she was really incensed by the obnoxious assholes at the end of bar who were totally clueless that anything else was going on outside their own small world, so she said. I followed (& got right on the mic to be LOUD) with “What I Found At the Bus Stop When the Snowbanks Melted” then, to hype my new chapbook, “Coyote 2.” Danielle, who had been at the last Third Thursday Poetry Night, ended this round with a descriptive note-book piece about someone she knows (Lawrence) & his accident at work.

Samson proposed a break to replenish our beers & keep Sarah busy, then another round of poems for anyone who wanted to stick around. But it was getting late for this old guy so I cut out. What I saw & heard was fun, particularly sitting next to Jacky. Check it out on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays of the month at Justin’s on Lark St. — bring poems, a kazoo, harmonica, guitar, & if you bring jokes make sure they are funny.

March 14, 2015

Second Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, March 8


My co-host Nancy Klepsch & were pleased with the turnout of writers today, both regulars & some new faces.

I read first to promote my new chapbook Coyote: poems of suburban living (A.P.D.) & even sold one later. Tim Verhaegen read another of his wonderful cranky pieces, this on the noticing of differences among people & not being able to talk about them. Peggy LeGee’s piece “A Convenient Life” was about all the poisons & addictions (e.g., cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets) available a convenient stores.


Michael Avella was the first of the afternoon’s new faces/voices, read Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” then a piece of his own about doing the laundry & about loss. Bob Sharkey read “a prosy piece” he said, about a shooting in Troy, “The Incident.” then the recently-gone Philip Levine’s poem “Snow.”

This was Jessica Rae’s first time here, although she has frequented open mics in Albany & Voorheesville; she read an amusing prose memoir about competing in a talent show at age 14 lip-syncing to Cyndi Lauper’s pop tune “She Bop” then finding out years later that the song was about masturbation. Cathy Abbott was back here again with a poem to Winter in which she wished “will you please die…,” then a piece to “Ireland,” ending by talking about some books she has read. Kate Laity read a couple pieces by international women poets, such as Chloe Yates & her piece “The Moon Would Sing a Sad Song,” both connected it seems to Kate’s new anthology Drag Noir, etc. Howard Kogan said he was reading poems on “neglected topics,” the first on littering & our common ability to bio-degrade, then a poem on the various words for “poop,” for lack of a better word. Nancy Klepsch read the latest version of her poem “The Complication of Biggy” about the rapper Biggy Small, which I thought I saw on her FB page a while back.

Karen Fabiane’s poem “Seeing You Again” is the title poem of her second chapbook, then on to a morning poem of sorts, stringing together rich, detailed images as she is wont to do. Joe Krausman read a poem on death titled “Spring Cleaning” (it’s all the same, right?), then a take on Andrew Marvel’s famous poem “This Coy Mistress Spins a Web.” William Robert Foltin followed with 2 poems each with long rambling introductions, the first poem to his mother “A Very Capable Woman” then another on dreams. The last reader of the afternoon slipped in late, another new voice, Opal Ingraham, with a poem on pride & being homeless “Where I Slept” & a piece like heading out “Towards the East.”

We are at the Arts Center in Troy each 2nd Sunday at 2PM for an open mic for writers of either poetry or prose, it’s free.

March 12, 2015

Calling All Poets, March 6


I was pleased & honored to be one of the featured poets at this ongoing poetry event down in Beacon. The series had previously been at the Howland Center, now has moved across Main Street to the community storefront/performance space at the Center for Creative Education. I read with Matthew J. Spireng & Judith Kerman who was “streamed.” I had previously read at the Howland Center a few years back & have been a streamed poet (which has special meaning for an old poet with a huge prostate).

Matthew Spireng read first & began with a the title poem of his book What Focus Is, then read “The Crows” dedicated to his partner. These were like the poems I remember hearing Matt do, where the poet confronts the natural world of hares & birds. The next few were different, “The Pen” was set at a car dealership, “Water Based Lubricant” at the pharmacy (with his fly open), & “What Follows” about dinner after work. He returned to his Nature poems with “Winter Morning Walk,” a bit longer than his typical poems & a take on Little Red Riding Hood. Then on to “For the Girl Waiting for the School Bus” & a poem about the computer “Take Over.” Matt then told us the sweet story of finding his extended biological family, that he is writing a non-fiction account of it, as well as poems. “Annabelle Birdcall Croft” was about learning his birth mother’s name, while “For Those Who Dwell in the Mountains” was to his new-found siblings, after being brought up an only child by his adoptive parents, & “Family History” about interviewing others about it. “The Last Poem of the Century” was not quite the last poem he read, as he finished with one about a cat he “never met,” “Truffault’s Porn.”

I read next, pleased to have such an attentive & numerous audience. I began with a couple birthday poems, “This Birthday is Not Divisible by 10” & “Birthday Poem 2015,” then invited Brian Dorn up to read the poem he had written for January’s Poets Speak Loud  “Sixty-Nine.” I returned with a political piece on the shooting of Tamir Rice “Hands Up Don’t Shoot.” Just this week I had published a small (cheap) chapbook Coyote: poems of suburban living (A.P.D.)  & read the title poem, then “Looking for Cougars” from Poeming the Prompt as a way to hype the books.  My ex-wife & mother of my oldest son, Blake, Babs Brindisi Wilcox was in the audience with her partner, Ellen Youssef, so I read for Babs a poem I’d written in 1970, “Making the Cottage Ready for You.” When I read my poem “Kadinsky’s Red Spot” & its variations I asked if anyone could read Russian (Inna Erlich had translated this poem into Russian) & Valeria Likora volunteered to give the audience a sense of what the Russian sounded like (she read later in the open mic). Then on to the more recent “The Sestina Sestina,” “McDonalds with Love,” &, for the up-coming season, I ended with “What Passover Has Taught Me.”

After the break we were treated to a live streaming of poet Judith Kerman reading her poems. As often happens with this technology, her reading unfortunately got interrupted part way through, but they were able to get her back. Her reading included some haiku early on, a poem about New York City “Pop Culture,” an interesting Dadaist exquisite corpse done with Will Nixon “Instructions for the War Room” then what she described as some old prose poems that actually sounded like parts of a novel.

After Robert Milby recapped some of the up-coming poetry events, they went on to the open mic. Jim Eve noted that this was the 16th year of the CAPs reading series & read a cluster of haiku. Christopher P. Gazeent read 2 poems from his phone, “Energy” & a love poem “Crossing Astoria Blvd.” Glenn Werner is another of the stalwarts of the mid-Hudson area poetry scene, tonight he invoked Spring with his poem “What the Cherry Tree Said,” then a poem titled “Wings.”

Raphael Kozek was a new name/face to me, read a poem titled “Wild West Dirge” & another referencing the photographer Dorothea Lange “Prophet.” Steven Coyle was another new voice to me; he read about cats in his basement, then a tribute to tonight’s sound man (who read later in the open mic) “There is a Man Here Larry Sansone.” Hayden Wayne read a long, dramatic piece from Neon (a street opera), which is described online as fiction, but you could almost hear the lines centered on the page.

Marina Mati read a city poem from 1984 “Survival” then “Teachings” about her mother, father & her brother. Maseo Whitaker read 2 playfully titled poems “Shakespeare Doing the Hump” & “The Robert Frost Kickball Club.” Mona Toscano read a bragging poem for Women’s History month titled “The Phoenix.”

Valeria Likora, who had helped me out with the Russian read an untitled piece written today, beginning “Hello Grace…” Christopher Wheeling (who is the resident photographer here) read a couple of untitled pieces from his notebook. Larry Sansone’s first poem “The Great Fly Over” sounded like a commercial for an airline, then read “Banana Split” from a series of poems he’s been writing about the city of Beacon. Robert Milby cited some dead poets & read Edmund Walker’s “Go Lovely Rose,” then his own “Slamming Doors Around Mozart.” Mike Jurkovic brought us all back home with a couple of his poems & that was it.

Calling All Poets happens on the 1st Friday of the month, now at the Center for Creative Education, 464 Main St., Beacon, NY, doors open at 7:30 PM, reading begins at 8:00, $5.00 — featured poets & an open mic, supported by Poets&Writers.

March 10, 2015

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, March 4


The sun was on the other side of the Earth when I was last here — it’s been a rough Winter. Still Winter, and in spite of the traffic on the Northway I was able to get here tonight, for the open mic & the featured poet, Marilyn McCabe.

Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with a poem by Claudia Rankine from her book Citizen: an American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014), then on to the open mic. Walt started us off with “Dominance & Submission” a rant in short line rhymes, then “Mr. Frank” in the same form but more humorous, about paying his town taxes in change. Rodney Parrott read 2 pieces from the "Looking" section of his forthcoming chapbook Looking & Flying, “Things You See With Your Eyes When You Are Looking” & “Please Relax.” Jesse Mews performed a piece in a faux black hip-hop accent about running out of anger, & dirt.

I was surprised & pleased when I arrived to see James Schlett, who had been a regular in area open mics a few years back, then disappeared; tonight he re-surfaced to read several haiku (James told me that he has written a book of non-fiction, A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks, to be published by Cornell University Press soon).  Tom said he was here for the first time & read a rhymed ballad in the style of Robert Service “A Card Game with the Devil.”

Then on to our featured poet, Marilyn McCabe, whom I was pleased to have featured at the Social Justice Center in 2012. She has 2 books out, Rugged Means of Grace (Finishing Line Press, 2011) & Perpetual Motion (The Word Works, 2012). Tonight she read new work, beginning with the image of a skull of a bird in the ground “Incarnate,” then on to “The Dark is Shifting Imperceptibly,” & “Home Away” to her 90+ year old mother. “Blizzard” was for the Season & “Remember Me” was for the German choreographer & modern dance performer Pina Bausch.  The title of the poem “I Awake the Night with Dread” says it all. Then some poems set firmly in place, “Stone Church Road” with images of Nature & Time & a deer set in Middle Grove, “Hadley” about a spot on a trail that is her spot, & the more abstract, philosophical “On Hearing the Call to Prayer over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning.” The poem “Bell” was ironically about silence, “At Dusk” described a swallow, & she ended with a quiet poem about sitting on a café’s veranda “New Years Menu.”

After a break, Carol read one of her own poems, this about her chickens & a stalking fox “Alarm at Dawn.” Marcella read a narrative piece (she described is as “a sestina meets a prose poem”) “What We Learn to Make” about a pre-teen girl on a family trip to Florida. Jodi Johnson said it was her first time (!), her poem “A Ponderence” was a conversation with a kite, & more. Carl Shipstar read a Winter poem “Moon Silhouette.” Brian Dorn read his Winter revision of his poem “Whatever Will Be.” Stuart Bartow, who has featured here in the past, read 2 new poems, “Marooned” which was perhaps a combination of childhood memory & imagination, then a piece constructed from an entry in the Audubon bird book “Caroline, A Wren.” I followed with my 2 most recent poems “McDonald’s With Love” & “Birthday Poem 2015.”


I don’t often enough see Charles Straney reading his poems, tonight he read the descriptive “Winter Woods” then his “Poetics” in which writing is patience. Speaking of patience, W.D. Clarke had been waiting to be the last poet to read, another of his ballad style poems, this about being the keeper of “The Family Tree.”

This monthly open mic (1st Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, $5.00) is your best shot if you are a poet in Saratoga county, also featuring fine local & regional writers — Caffè Lena, Phila St., Saratoga Spring.

March 8, 2015

Community of Writers, March 1


[Full Disclosure: I organized this event & I am the President of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.]

This program was part of an on-going series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. There were 3 local writers on the program this afternoon in the main auditorium of the Albany Public Library’s Washington Ave. Branch, Keith W. Willis, Mark W. O’Brien & K. A. Laity. Each writer read a selection of their work, then answered questions from the audience.

Keith W. Willis is a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, the Mythopoeic Society, and the Latham/Albany/Schenectady/Troy Science Fiction Association, and his debut fantasy novel Traitor Knight will be released in July 2015 by Champagne Book Group’s Burst SFF imprint. He described his work as a fantasy novel that is not afraid to use humor. He read the first 2 chapters of Traitor Knight, filled with an antique, hiccuping dragon, a maiden in distress & a hero with a sword. Look for announcements in July when it is published.

Mark W. O’Brien (Marcas W. O’ Briain) is well-known around the open-mic poetry scene & in 2014 launched his book of poems Lenticular Memories: (Benevolent Bird Press) at the Fermoy International Poetry Festival in Ireland. Today he read a selection of poems from Lenticular Memories: as well as other poems, often dealing with his parents & siblings, including the just-published (Benevolent Bird Press) poem to his brothers Cowboy Planet. He also paid tribute to the recently gone Voorheesville village character Roger Spencer with a poem intertwined with a the folk tune “Tom Dooley” performed by Gail Allen on guitar.

K.A. Laity teaches at the College of St. Rose & has a raft of publications you can find out about at her website www.kalaity.com, including the forthcoming anthology Drag Noir. She read a short story “30 Versions of Warm Leatherette,” about teenage obsession, sex & murder, built around the rock song “Warm Leatherette,” originally by The Normal, which in turn is based on J.G. Ballard’s classic novel Crash. A punk-noir tour-de-force.

For more information about the Hudson Valley Writers Guild check out the website www.hvwg.org.