October 17, 2016

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

The open mic series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, with "the Bird," Alan Casline, as our host.

The first reader was Linda Miller with a poem about her grandmother “Disappearance,” then a poem, “Once,” in an invented form that she didn’t explain but seemed to be based on repetition. Bob Sharkey read Bob Dylan lyrics in a nod to the announcement of Dylan’s receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, then his own poem “Holy Mother of God” on the proliferation of “Marys” in an Irish family, & his annual cento based on poems in the Best American Poetry 2016 “Plunder.” Mark O’Brien began with a poem based on a prompt for an appropriation, then one with a nod to the end of the baseball season, & another influenced by the poem Ed Hirsch. Alifair Skebe read a piece titled “A White Cast Iron Bathtub” something you’ve seen on TV advertising.

Diane Sefcik read “Hoodoos,” a poem responding to a prompt with a list of unusual words. A.C. Everson read 2 poems she had not read out before, “Plans” & “Symbiotic Summer” about her relationship with mosquitos.

Tonight’s featured poet was Dawn Marar who does not read out much so it was a treat to get a big chunk of her work. She began provocatively enough with a poem on sex & love, writing in the heat & bugs of Summer “Late Summer Missive,” then to a haibun, “Sparkles,” about early romance.
Dawn Marar & Alifair Skebe
With Alifair Skebe joining her, they read a piece built on 2 interlaced texts, 2 voices. Then a couple poems referencing the Middle East, first Jordan (& the UAlbany campus) & then one set in Istanbul, Medusa spooking the Christians. Speaking of which “Mystical Experience of a Modern American Woman” is poem in 11 parts, filled with Christian images, & “Ode to a Paper Clip” was about the writer’s dilemma. She ended, appropriately enough, with a poem titled “Endgame”, a ghazal on marriage & honeymoon & an escape from politics. We really need to hear her read her poems more often.

After a break (during which we lost a noticeable chunk of the audience, a characteristic of the Woodstock readers, but rare here), the next open mic reader, Marian DeGennaro read a simple, moving piece titled “Life” remembering a child leaving & the losses of a long life. Julie Lomoe’s piece, “The Angry Author,” was a screed against those who haven’t/won’t buy her books (but like I say, if you’re in the writing business to make money you’re in the wrong business). Joe Krausman began with a poem about the heart that is a drum & the spin & dance of the Earth, then pondered “What Kind of Death Will You Have?” in what season, & onto a piece about Spring cleaning & throwing things out.

Speaking of seasons, I followed with 2 seasonal poems, so-to-speak, “Baseball in Palestine” & “When Donald Trump Farts.” Our host, Alan Casline talked about his recent vacationing in Yosemite & Sequoia National Parks, & read some impressions inspired by Chinese poets, then a poem titled “Fig Trees” based on the Gospel story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, & a romantic poem for his wife, “One Day of Morning Rain.”

There is only one more session next month to this season’s reading series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, but we hope & expect that it will return when the snow is gone in the Spring.

October 16, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, October 12

Back in Schenectady’s Stockade Section with our host, Catherine Norr, for another open mic & a reading by featured poet Stuart Bartow.

First up on the open mic list was Richard Jaren who read a couple poems, “Song Bird” & “Ode to James" from his 1979(!) collection of poems Chronicles & Ice Cream. Alan Catlin read from his new collection of poems in-progress the poems “Home of the Brave” about misfit anarchist patriots, & “Finding Mr. Goodbar” (in all the wrong bars). I read seasonal piece, my baseball version of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” “Octoberland” & the Schenectady based-&-inspired “Zombie Gourd.”

Ginny Folger read “90” a poem that had just been accepted for publication & is in the voice of a woman in a nursing home. Similarly, Jackie Craven read a poem that is in the latest issue of Nimrod, “The Temperature Reaches 102.” This was the first time here for Sarah Provost who read an old poem, “Obie,” in the voice of a country singer, & “No Accident” about bad things done on purpose.

Tonight’s featured poet, Stuart Bartow, read from his recent books. He began with a poem titled “Bill’s Houses,” an elegy for a friend who made blue-bird houses, then one about a finicky radio “Aeolian Harp,” about sparrow’s in the Home Depot “To Ghost a Human Shape,” the wonderfully playful “Fishing with Cows,” & another about the magic colors in an attic window. From his latest book, Einstein’s Lawn (Dos Madres Press, 2015), he read “St. Francis in the Suburbs,” another fishing tale “Satyr,” “Moon Lust” (William Blake & Li Po), “Einstein’s Homework,” “Einstein’s Desk,” & “Ode to Buster Keaton.” A fascinating book that I just had to bring home with me.

Catherine Norr returned us to the open mic with a couple of her poems, a piece about a place in the Adirondacks “New World,” & a story of a confrontation with a spider in her garden, “Territories.” Susan Kress ended the night with a memoir of her family dying off “Using Things Up.”

This friendly, warm open mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month at Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry St., Schenectady, NY, 7:30PM with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

October 13, 2016

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, October 9

Troy’s Chowder Fest was only a bait-&-switch to this monthly open mic for all writers, but we had to move upstairs, not in our usual spot in the Black Box Theater — didn’t matter, we had 14 readers signed up.

Brian Dorn was first, reading from his collection of poems, From My Poems to Yours (The Live Version), “Changing Ways” (rhymes on love) & “Lessons.” I followed with 2 poems of the season, “Baseball in Palestine” & the political rant “When Donald Trump Farts.”

Dan Curly, who brought us a bottle of wine to share, read a romantic piece about making the bed “6 over 1” then “Be Prepared.” Kate Laity, the “prose interloper,” read the introduction from How to be Dull: Standing Out Next to Genius (by “Mr. Basil Morley, Esq.”) in which she cites Geoffrey Chaucer (& inspired a suggestion for an epigraph for my poem about Donald Trump’s farts). Mike Conner likes to stick to the seasons & read 2 Autumn poems, “That One Perfect Day” from the past, & “This Fall I Regret Nothing” written yesterday. Don Levy’s poem “Hate Crime” was about a gay-bashing incident in Brooklyn & was written as if a letter to one of the attackers, while “Adventures at Port Authority,” was bizarre, & all true.

Peggy Legee mashed together the tasks of picking political leaders & football players in her piece “Game” — & prompted discussion on a variation on football where the players were also cheer-leaders. Dave DeVries also read a piece about games “The Draw” then one about a dream of a day in which there was nothing to report in the news. Joe Krausman talked about the myriad topics he has used in poems, then read 2 poems on fences & walls, including notes left at the Temple Wall in Jerusalem.

Karen Fabiane has been busy, read 2 new poems (but said the 2nd one she is “not sure of…”), “Good Boy” on religion in the modern world, & “Sometimes People” a complicated piece of recollection. Howard Kogan read a poem in rhyme “The Warden” a theological piece about Adam & Eve. Sally Rhoades read about her reaction to the Republican National Convention, then an excerpt from her ongoing memoir, this about moving out in high school & going to Albany to study journalism.

Jil Hanifan read an old poem, a funny & exquisite pastiche of Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” her piece titled “A Botanica on Lark St.” R.M. Englehardt made a rare appearance here being the “serious poet” read “A Poem for Ben Lerner” responding to the article, “Why Do People Hate Poetry?” then in uncertain rhyme read about a Troy ghost, “The Legend of Johnny the Pumpkin Fucker” (& Jil suggested a title change to “Donald the …”). An uproarious note to end on.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose takes place on, well, you get it, at the Arts Center in Troy, usually in the black box theater, but not always.

October 9, 2016

Caffè Lena Open Mic, October 5

Banned Books Week display at Northshire Bookstore
This night at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, as the historic location of Caffè Lena is renovated. Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with a poem from the anthology Joe Bruchac tossed to her at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change a couple weeks ago. Then on to the open mic for a while before the featured poets, Judith Kerman & Adam Tedesco.

Kat was first with 2 short pieces, “You Say” & the related “I Speak.” I was next on the list & read for the Jewish holidays “Tashlich” from my chapbook Gloucester Notes, then a piece from my modernization of poems from Han Shan, the bitter “Open Mic.” Kate McNairy read her short poems “A Cup of Rum Tea” & “What Bodies.”

Dineen Carta confessed that this was her 1st open mic, but she was here with her self-published full-length collection of her poems & essays Loving the Ache, & read about being at a Summer festival alone (“Neon Summer”) & “Her” a sad poem at Christmas (She is the latest in a new phenomena of poets who publish a collection of poems before they even try their work out in the open mic world).

The 1st of the featured poets, Judith Kerman, read mostly from her new collection Aleph, broken - Poems from My Diaspora (Broadstone Books), appropriate poems during the Jewish high holy days, beginning with a Rosh Hashanah poem “Cholent” (a stew). Then to “From Pictures at an Exhibition,” “Learning the Haftorah,” & a memoir poem for her mother. She read from a series of poems as definitions, “Grief,” “Israel,” & “Pumpernicklel” (another childhood memoir). The poems “Erev Yom Kippur” & “Imagining Sukkot” returned to the season theme. “Global Positioning” & “Salad” both contained tomatoes, while “The Woman Who Buys Her Own Diamonds” had a dose of defiant humor. She ended with 2 pieces that she sang, “Star Nosed Mole” & “Deep Sea Diver” (not in the book). Good poems from a book worth having.

Adam Tedesco is an Albany poet, editor, publisher whose work intrigues & perplexes me. He began with a couple poems filled with burning & dreams, then one with ducks & geese, “The Fowlers.” He described his poems from his chapbook Heart Sutra (Reality Beach, 2016) as his attempt to “explode the heart,” in which his heart is a character/persona. Then a couple of poems playing on the visual, “Natural Light” & what is perhaps a love poem, on our aquatic place in the world, & a poem for fans of Guns ’n’ Roses. He included a couple of haibuns which would have surprised Basho, then read the lush “My Mushroom Poem.” He ended with what he called “a special poem” written on the 4th of July with help from his wife Lisa.

Back to the open mic with the return of Nancy Denofio who read an old poem “On Echo Mountain” a narrative with Heineken.

Margo Mensing talked about her work from his life series “Dead at My Age,” parts of which are currently at the Art Gallery at the Albany Airport, & her current subject, the poetry of Denise Levertov, & read 2 cut-ups from Levertov's collected poems “Not So Much Anymore” & a poem composed of only verbs “Mark Change.” Jackie Craven announced that her new book Our Lives Become Unmanageable was just published by Omnidawn, but read a poem from a recent workshop with Henri Cole, “In the Matter of Mies van der Rohe.”

Rodney Parrott read a poem in 4 parts about play, ironically delivered in his usual serious, thoughtful & decidedly un-playful manner. Avery, on the other hand, is characteristically playful, beginning with a nod to Adam’s chapbook with “What Is that Subtle Background Buzz” based on the Prajnaparamita Sutra (the Heart Sutra), then the enthusiastic “We Are the Sky.” Barbara Garro frequently ends up as the last reader, tonight read “Life Train” & a poem about walking “Nature Plays.”

This open mic series takes place on the 1st Wednesday of each month in Saratoga Springs, NY, & while the historic Caffè Lena location on Phila St. is undergoing renovation the readings had been held at the Northshire Bookstore on Broadway — but next month will be held elsewhere so stay tuned so you know where to go.

October 6, 2016

Nitty Gritty Slam — Open Mic Night, October 4

I finally made it back to one of the twice-monthly Nitty Gritty Slam poetry nights at The Low Beat. Tonight it was an open mic & I got there just as our host, Amani, was performing one of her pieces.

Poetik followed with a piece about being an outsider, then on to the enthusiastic “Hair Story.” One of Dina’s poems was titled “The Great Disillusionment” about the need to come back to ourselves, another, “Our Lady of Victory I Hear the Warrior Cry” was inspired by a visit to a church in Hudson. Claire read a trio of short pieces from a couple of big notebooks, about apples, potatoes & getting distracted. Illiptical, former member of the Nitty Gritty Slam team, was one of the only 2 guys to read tonight (the other was me), read 2 political rants full of noise & spit & spirit, “Consciousness Conformity” & a piece in solidarity with native people “Spirit of Kin.”

Leneea was uncertain about her titles, the first maybe titled “Death by Life,” then the not-so-sad “Love,” & the self-affirmative (maybe titled) “Trees.” I followed with an old piece from 3 Guys from Albany performances “I Thought I Saw Elvis” then a poem with a (hopefully) short expiration date “When Donald Trump Farts.” Marea did an a cappella song on racism.

The featured poet tonight, Olivia McKee, is a Slam performer with many of the signature slam mannerisms & phrasings, as in her first piece, “Drink” written for a friend. From there to a poem written today about a waterfall in her hometown, seen as a mother figure, then a piece on the New Age contradiction of a racist “hippy-man.” A piece on Israel’s “Birth Right” program was her most political piece, then she ended with 2 pieces on sisterhood, oppresion & speaking out as a woman, including her singing a bit of a hymn. A good performer with good material, not constrained by Slam conventions.

During the reading there were a couple, maybe 3, group poems/“exquisite corpses” circulating among the audience, readers & non-readers, to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was adding a line to a poem that I’d already written on. At the end Amani read one, then called up other poets to read the others. As the Surrealists of the 1920s found out, the randomness spinning on thin lines of connectivity are elements that many great poems are woven from.

The Nitty Gritty Slam takes place at The Low Beat on Central Ave. in Albany, NY on the 1st Tuesday (open mic) & 3rd Tuesday (Slam) of each month — pick your poison, or overdose on both.

September 28, 2016

Poets Speak Loud!, September 26

It was really no choice at all — the TV debate between Trump & Clinton, or poetry at McGeary’s — duh! But it seems some other poets made the other choice (‘though at least 1 was reportedly sighted in Portugal). But there were some poets on the sign-up sheet & even some spectator souls who wandered in & stayed. Our host, Mary Panza, said we could read up to 3 poems if we wanted.

I was up first to read “Ordering Lunch” (from boundless abodes of Albany), “I’m Doing my Best to Preserve the Adirondacks” &, for the night, “When Donald Trump Farts.”

The 3 poems that Bob Sharkey read are among my favorites among his work, “Scarey People,” “Things,” & “There But for Fortune” (re-written fortune cookies). Adam Tedesco read a fictional narrative, “Bales of Hay,” by his friend Dan Majors, then selections from his new chapbook of his long poem Heart Sutra, in which “my heart” is a character.

Tonight’s featured poet, Ian Macks, did what any good featured poet does: brought a bunch of friends to his reading. He began with a ruminative poem started by his father’s hug. He said he had published a chapbook, but I didn’t catch the title, & he said he couldn’t find a copy (but an instantaneous internet search later revealed a chapbook titled A Loss and Gain of Comfort from Bottlecap Press). He read “Now This” about a poem, “Violations Volition” about parking tickets, & the first of urban poems, as was “Manic Machines.” “Never Regret Never Forget” was a political piece on the anniversary of 9/11, & he ended with a love poem “Half-Hearted.” But not quite yet — his poems were short & he was being conscientious about not reading too long, so Mary called him back for an encore, which he read from his phone, beginning with more urban dystopia, then a poem exploring doubt, then another on disappointed love.

There were just 2 open mic poets left, both former features here. J.L. Weeks did her poems, untitled, from memory, the first a portrait of one trapped in a room while the birds are free, the 2nd, a hate rant about the “umbrella man” — her use of rhyme relaxed, unforced. Karen Fabiane did 3 of her breathless, mumbled poems, the 1st “kind of new” with an undercurrent of sex “Unsing,” then one inspired & titled from an Alison Bechdel cartoon “Andalusian Girls,” then visited by the dead in “Makes a Great Shake.”

The millions of people who watched the debate tonight would have done better to have heard these poets. But then there are more last Mondays coming up for Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY. Check AlbanyPoets.com for details.

100 Thousand Poets for Change, September 24

Faculty & Area Poets

Once again SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, NY hosted a reading by community poets & a featured reading by equally community poet Joseph Bruchac. Kathleen McCoy served as our coordinator & host. This is an inter-national event initiated by West Coast poet Michael Rothenberg, intended to engage poets in the larger world of social justice issues promoting peace & sustainability. A number of us had read here last year, & this was the 4th year that Kathleen had organized the event.

I was first on the list & read yet again “When Donald Trump Farts.” Carol Graser was less confrontational with a tender tribute to her recently deceased mother. Tina Garvin Curtis read 3 short poems, “Apotheosis of a Carthusian Monk,” “Grasshopper” (to her son?), & “Bush Meat 2016.”

Pat Leonard introduced herself by saying she was born in 1924, grew up in a small town in California where, at that time, everyone rode horses, read a memoir of that time “The Land of My Childhood.” Lee Gooden had read last year, began with “an angry young man poem” a political piece, then a more gentle piece for his daughter’s 12th birthday “Mooing at Ducks.” Neal Herr was another returning performer, with his guitar, to perform a song based on, he said, a true story in which “life is a zig-zag.”

Stu Bartow read from one of his books, & even brought a show-&-tell-prop, for the poem “Whelks” which he likened to the code-breaking “enigma machines.” Lucyna Prostko read “For All My Saints,” a rich imagistic poem inspired by the Sigismund Bell in the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków in her native Poland. Steven Johnson seemed to be a last minute add, had left his poems at home, but read a wonderful little piece “Time of Your Life.” Paul Pines had also arrived late, began with “Andrew Wyeth Enters Heaven 2” from his book Message from the Memoirist (Dos Madres Press, 2015), then he did something he said he hadn’t done before, read from his iphone a recent poem about aging & walking his dog, “Twice Around the Block.”

Kathleen McCoy, who has organized this & past 110 Thousand Poets events, read from her recent book Green and Burning (Glas Agus a Dhó) (WordTech Editions, 2016) “Otzi” about the ancient mummy discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps, a questioning, descriptive poem.

Joseph Bruchac Reading

Joe Bruchac is well-know in the area as a poet, activist for the environment & native peoples, & a prolific author. In addition, his readings are a model for young performers about connecting to an audience, with warmth, & information & feeling; one can learn a lot about native history, culture & language from a Bruchac reading. He began with a melody from his cedar flute, then read poems from recent anthologies that had included his poems, offering (i.e., tossing) the books to members of the audience.

One of the fascinating, for me if not for the rest of the audience, was Joe’s use of the Abenaki language. He read Spring-time poem, “Let’s Go,” first in Abenaki then in English from a bi-lingual book he did with his son Jesse Bruchac, Nisnol Siboal/Two Rivers. Joe also read a Abenaki story of 7 wise men from one of the many children’s books he has done. However, he said that when he writes for children he is also writing for adults, for everyone.

Joe’ newest book of poems is Four Directions from Mongrel Empire Press in Norman, OK & he read 4 poems from that. Then on to some new, unpublished poems, “Black Hills,” “Wind Thanks,” “Old Caller” (at a square dance), “Carolina Walking Bird,” & a compelling eco-poem with audience participation (“water is life”) about the pipeline opposition in Standing Rock. Then he returned to the new book for 2 more, “Deer Pond” & “South Branch.”

He left some time for questions, even a request for another poem, from the audience, then ended as he began with the rich, resonant tones of the cedar flute.