November 13, 2014

Live from the Living Room, November 12


Back in the downstairs “living room” of the Pride Center with our host Don Levy.

Tonight’s featured poet was Elizabeth Gordon/Elizag who began her reading with a new piece “White Privilege” done from memory. Then from her book of poems Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2014) “If Gay Marriage Had Been Legal For Me I’d Be Divorced Twice, at Least, & I’d Have A House,” then a revised, Slam version “I Do” written in response to workshop comments; we agreed that what she has is 2 poems on the same theme. Then she read a section from her earlier non-fiction memoir Walk With Us: Triplet Boys, Their Teen Parents, & Two White Women Who Tagged Along (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2007) about being in family court. She ended with a poem spun out of this book, a commentary about being in a cross-cultural community. As always with Elizag it was a good, entertaining, engaged reading.

I was the 1st poet in the open mic, read my ever-expanding “The Communion of Saints” & a peace poem from Poeming the Prompt “Fast & Slow.” Leslie Gerber has a brand-new chapbook of poems out from Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, NY Lies of the Poets, so new he hasn’t had the book release party yet. He read the chilling “Hot Line” then the often funny title poem “Lies of the Poets.” Bob Sharkey read an old poem “Anticipation” based on a dream about a poetry reading/party at the former Lemily Gallery on Washington Ave., then a poem from a longer piece about an encounter with a ghost of an ancestor “Cathy Gives Me a Good Scolding.”

Sally Rhoades read a “very new” piece, “On a Night with a Poet,” in which the poet in the title is herself, a long weaving of words like a stream. Jaida Samudra was here with her father, Leslie Gerber, & began with a poem from memory to Lucky, a trans-sexual friend, then on to “A Letter from Singapore” full of word play in multiple languages. Don Levy ended the night, as he does here, with a couple poems, the first titled simply “G.B.” about a boy he had a crush on in 9th grade, then another high school memoir “Climbing the Rope.”

Live from the Living Room happens each 2nd Wednesday of the month with a featured poet followed by an open mic at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY 7:30 PM $3.00 donation.

November 12, 2014

Fall Book & Author Event, November 8


Paul Pines has been filling up my bookshelves. At last count I have copies of 10 of his books, which doesn’t count my old copy of the original paperback of the novel The Tin Angel that I gave away. His most recent collection is Fishing On the Pole Star (Dos Madres Press, 2014). I even have a copy of his 1972 Onion (with drawings by Basil King) (Mulch Press). In addition to his poetry & being a practicing psychotherapist he runs the annual Lake George Jazz Weekend. Today the Friends of the Albany Public Library honored him for his literary work & contributions to the larger arts community with a lunch at the University Club, then Paul gave a lecture at the Albany Public Library Main Branch.

Titled “Voco, Vocatus — Who Calls? Tracking the Voice & the Vision” the presentation was about the sources & nature of the poetic imagination. He began with reading a couple of poems from his Divine Madness (March Hawk Press, 2012), one about Vulcan, the other about Citizen Tom Paine. From there to images projected on the screen behind him by painters Joan Mitchell, Mike Goldberg, Larry Rivers & Robert Indiana who had been patrons (as I had) in Paul’s bar The Tin Palace at the corner of Bowery & 2nd St. in NYC. On to a discussion of the work of upstate poet William Bronk, some poems from Paul’s New Orleans Variations & Paris Ourobouros (Dos Madres Press, 2013), to the Popl Vuh & the “submerged center,” to Rimbaud, Plato from the Phaedrus on divine madness, the poet as visionary with reference to Blake, Black Elk & Walt Whitman. On to Wolfgang Pauli, finishing with a discussion of an essay by Thomas de Zengotita, “Naming of the American Mind, Culture as Anesthetic.” Phew, a whirlwind of references, enough for a semester of study at the University of the Self.

The Friends of the Albany Public Library also sponsors weekly book-reviews at the Main Branch, 161 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12:15PM, free — & free refreshments.

November 10, 2014

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, November 7


The last of the season here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, until the thaw in April, with featured poets Joe Krausman & Me (DWx). Alan Casline was the host.

Brian Dorn was the first of the open mic poets, beginning with “Changing Ways” (of seasons, of life), then a poem he said he has not read out before “Under & Over.” Alan Catlin’s poems were from a series of animal poems, “Armadillos at the Ball Park,” “Guide Dogs with Lead Harness Consider Trench Warfare,” “Elephants at Low Tide” which is the title poem of a new collection. Paul Amidon began with “School Concert” & “Report Card” (his grandfather’s) & one in a “Diner.” Mike Connors read Archibald MacLeish’s poem “Ars Poetica” then a funny “Cranberry Day,” & a poem written yesterday about a maple tree “Forlorn Women of Autumn.” The genius behind the Pine Hallow Arboretum, the planter of trees, John Abbuhl always reads in the open mic & tonight read 2 short poems, “Clearing” & “The Fog Will Clear” then a short, concise essay written recently “The Unity of Reality.”

Don Levy is known to his FaceBook Friends as having a, shall we say, rich, detailed life on FB, so his funny poem “Life Without FaceBook” becomes quite hysterical in context, then he read a stream-of-consciousness “Googling Rain Poems.” Frank Robinson has been piling up poetic “firsts” all week: 1st time reading at Caffè Lena on Wednesday night, 1st time “solo flight” here without his wife Thérèse at a poetry reading, with 2 interesting poems, “When I Was a Kid America Was Like Africa” & “Ce n’est pas un poème.” Mark W. O’Brien first read a poem by W.W. Christman (1865 - 1937) then one by an Irish poet Gene Barry, & on into a long introduction that could have been a long poem in itself before he read the poem itself "I've Heard the Beautiful Message."  Dennis Sulllivan, on the other hand, read only one poem, a characteristically philosophical piece, “Are You Sitting Alone Tonight?” inspired by the Woody Allen flick, “Broadway Danny Rose.”

Photo by Don Levy
Joe Krausman & I were the featured poets. I had met Joe when I moved back to this area in the late 1980’s when we were in a poetry workshop with the Poet Laureate of All Ireland, John Montague, & would often meet on the way as we walked to work each morning for the State of New York. I began with a poem about meeting Joe one morning on a street corner as he read the The New York Times, & we went on from there with poems about Death & Love, done as an interlocking set, weaving our poems in & out of each other's, a technique I had learned from performing with the poetry performance group 3 Guys from Albany. Joe is a constant presence in the poetry scene as well as the literary/art scene in general here in the Capital District — not to mention a great friend. We had a lot of fun bouncing our poems off each other.

After a break our host Alan Casline returned with a piece about a leaf falling inspired by “Michael McClure Line I Find Climbing 10 Mountains.” Adam Wells was a new poet here who eschewed the mic to do 2 pieces from memory in hip-hop rhythms & rhymes, “Turkey” & “Perfect for Me.” Howard Kogan’s poem was too late for either Joe or me, titled “Advice to Poets” it contained such gems as “we have to become musicians…” & “never use the word ’Truth,’ or ‘Love’ either.” Tom Corrado proclaimed it “a great night for a screen dump” & read #138. Edie Abrams' poem described “10 Days in Utah.” Susan Riback read what she called an “inner song” “The Good Place to Be,” then a piece on internet dating. Barbara Garro was “an Arboretum virgin” & read “The Curio Cabinet” that went from the figurines inside to animal myths. Megan Gillespie ended the night with a poem about talking to her neighbor in the backyard titled “Insulin Shock” & we hope to see her at more open mics soon.

This was the final reading in the series until the Spring. But the Arboretum is still there throughout the Winter (trees don’t migrate very quickly, you know). Watch for more readings here sometime in April, 2015.

November 9, 2014

Frequency North, November 6


When I arrived in the rain there seemed to be some confusion about where the reading by Marc Spitz would be. The publicity was clear: the St. Joseph Hall Auditorium, but for some reason we were led to the Standish Room (where other Frequency North readings had been held). In fact, next to the sign for the Standish Room there was a poster announcing Marc Spitz’s reading in St. Joseph Hall Auditorium. Then we were lead back to the St. Joseph Hall Auditorium where other listeners were already chatting, waiting, & the book table was set up. Go figure.

Daniel Nester (right) introduces Marc Spitz
But the experience showed the truth of the old axiom “if you are going to have a poetry reading, hold it in a small room, that way it looks crowded.” This wasn’t a poetry reading, but it holds true for prose. The audience in St. Joseph Hall Auditorium looked small, spread out, but they would have looked cosy & packed in if held in the less cavernous Standish Room.

Marc Spitz, writing about rock’n’roll & pop culture, is the author of a couple novels, rock star biographies & a memoir Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the 90’s (Da Capo Press, 2013). His most recent book is Twee: A History (It Books, 2014). He read from the introduction as an explanation of what “twee” is, a dizzying list of movie & book titles & other recent pop culture references, then on to a description of the scene in Brooklyn, stating “everyone is young & most of the young are twee.” At the end I was beginning to draw the conclusion that “twee” was simply an extension of “twit.”

He also read a couple of brief sections from Poseur. The sections he read actually dated from the late 1980s, about getting a room at the legendary Chelsea Hotel & an encounter with Allen Ginsberg at the Poetry Project’s New Years Day Marathon reading. Those sections as memoir & story-telling were much more satisfying than the pop-culture anthropology.

Frequency North is a series of readings at the College of St. Rose by young writers. Check out their schedule here.

November 8, 2014

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 5


I hadn’t been here since the September reading, but wanted very much to hear new work from one of my favorite of the local poets, Mary Kathryn Jablonski. Carol Graser started us off with reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, & announced that this series is now being supported by Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, then on to the open mic.

Alan Catlin was first up with a “bus stop poem” titled “Home Schooled,” then a poem about a fight in a bar “Last Man Standing.” Tim Sneider read a poem inspired by his car’s odometer “242,242,” then a poem about his motorcycle “Winter Sleeping.” Dave Jakes came over from Great Barrington & read 2 short pieces, “The President of Spring” & “Wave Rider,” then imagined snowflakes with bar codes in “Chicago Snow.” Todd Fabozzi’s poem “The Couple” described a bitter scene in a coffee shop, while “Hey So-Called Conservative” was a preachy political rant. Rodney Parrott read a poem from a set of pieces on flying.


The first featured poet was Richard Levine, from Brooklyn. He began with a poem in many parts about a conversation in the bar, that he read for Veterans Day, “Disturbing the Peace.” Next he read the title poem from his new book The Cadence of Mercy, then a poem inspired by the writer William Least Heat Moon “Spirit,” & 3 poems inspired by growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, "These Are the Generations,” “Out of Light’s Reach,” & “Saturday Night Fights.” “Autumn Burn” was from an earlier book, while “Picket Fences” was from his 2012 book of poems A Tide of a Hundred Mountains from Bright Hills Press. He ended with a poem about Troy, NY “The Drowned River” from The Cadence of Mercy. His work was often narrative, discursive, & he had asked the audience, after reading his first poem, not to clap for each poem, as the appreciative crowd here usually does, which made for a strangely quiet reading.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski laid down no such rules & the audience showed its appreciation for each poem. Many of her poems were childhood memories from growing up on a farm — “Stone,” “World of Two” (about dressing up a pet cat), “Girls Washing Eggs,” & “Elderberries.” She also read one poem, “Mare Vaporum,” from her collection To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008) (full disclosure, I am the publisher of A.P.D.). Other, newer poems, were “For the Russian Space Dog,” “Mis-remembered,” “Under-Rated Bird” (on the Robin), “A Feathered Thing,” & “Train” in which a bird makes still another appearance.  Good work as ever (I did say up front I am a fan, didn't I?).

After a short break for book sales & bathroom, our host Carol Graser returned with one of her own poems on ice & snow. Anthony Bernini read a couple of nature-inspired poems “The Scent of the Earth” & “Wind Above the Tree Line.” Both of “Storm Cat”’s poems were inspired by solitude, the first, “a blues art-rock fusion” he sang & read, then the short “Circular Reasoning” on solitude v. companionship.

Ellen Finn read a Harry Potter dream poem, wondered “what does it mean?” & also had the wildest shoes of the night. Sally Rhoades’ poem “The Sky is My Witness” was about her father, while “A Silence,” which she dedicated to the poet Maurice Kenny, was about paddling a canoe. Barbara Garro read a poem titled “Lost Days” then a series of 6 Haiku, mostly containing bugs. Thérèse Broderick read about being the “Friday Babysitter” & about taking her mother to the bank, “Please Remove Hats & Dark Glasses.” Frank Robinson, Thérèse’s husband, announced he was a “Caffè Lena virgin” read the very funny “Migration” (of body parts) & the equally funny love poem “Thérèse 5.1.” Rachael, who had read here in the open mic in years past, was back with a couple of untitled notebook entries, pondering war & peace & beautiful ideas.

Joe Bruchac has been a featured poet on this stage & it was great to see him as an open mic poet; he had brought the gladiolas that sat in a jar-vase on stage, & read a poem he had just written about them, then a couple pieces up out of his Abenaki culture, a poem on fireflies, & the freshly written warning “Deer Woman’s Eyes.” Jay Rogoff was another past featured poet; he read 2 love sonnets “The Fountain” on menstruation, & “The Table” the Annunciation from the Angel’s point of view.

Carl writes funny rhyming poems & read one on a New Year’s resolution to ogle minds rather than behinds, then a somewhat related piece on Viagra “On Golden Years.” Susan Riback said she had been reading Pablo Neruda’s A Book of Questions & read to us a sample of these gnomic couplets, then her own versions, then a poem about “The Alphabet Psychic.” Jesse Muse, who the night before had been at The Low Beat in Albany, free-styled a couple of Slam pieces both relating to being at work & not titling his poems. Lynn (also from Great Barrington), the night’s final poet, hadn’t intended to read when she first got here, but was inspired by what she heard,  & read “November Bath Night” & “Communion” based on the question, “what kind of wine is she?”

There is always a great variety of poets here which makes the trip worth it, to Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs on the 1st Wednesday of each month, $5, 7:30PM.

November 6, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #81, November 4


I’ve missed a few of these gatherings, but found my way back to The Low Beat in time to hang out & catch the open mic, with Kevin Peterson as host.

Josh started off with “Disassembly” which sounded like a youthful memoir about breathing fumes. I followed, & since it was Election Day in the USA performed “Put Down the Government Rag.” Jessie read a poem in which he talked about “folding 1000 paper cranes for serenity.” L-Majesty's poem “With Dignity & Justice For All” was for Brittany Maynard.

Ainsley’s poem was titled (I think) “Cojones” but it was about cooking. Brian Dorn’s poem was about looking for cooperation (in spite of its title, “Politics”). Mojavi read a new piece, from his phone, inspired by a student of his who was recently arrested — twice — “You Never Had A Chance.” Tenesha Smith did a very short piece that she dedicated to L-Majesty, then a more substantial poem, “Hands Up,” dedicated to black men who have been beaten by the police. The last open mic poet, Casey Fisk, performed “Do Not Bring Me Flowers” from memory, a clever poem playing with the names of flowers.

el presidente, Thom Francis took over hosting the Slam & I almost choked when he announced it would be a 12-4-2 Slam. The sacrificial poet, Brandon (from the Buffalo Slam team), set a high standard scoring 27.3. But with that many slamming in the 1st round there had to be variety & few pushed the 3 minute limit, including P.V. coming in at a shockingly short 1.2 minutes stringing positive phrases together free-form. Stephen rhymed, Mojavi read from his phone, L-Majesty sounded like he’d been to P.V.’s Church of the Positively Positive, Amani showed that Slam clichés get you 10’s (she got 3, but of course only 2 counted *); others included Anna, Josh Kent (talking to God from his phone), Jesse, Elizag, K.P., Jimmy (fighting a Civil War video game), & Shannon believing in happy endings.

Round 2 boiled down to K.P., Elizag, Amani & L-Majesty, with both Elizag & L-Majesty scoring 3 10’s. And when that dust settled, Amani ended up in the 3rd spot while Elizag & L-Majesty battled it out. Elizag scored 4 10’s with an outrageous “I” piece, so of course 3 10’s counted for a perfect 30.0, with L-Majesty scoring close behind with 29.5 reading about slaves & racial struggle “The Shade of Our Struggles.”

The Slams continue every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at the Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY — with an open mic for the rest of us.

*  (In the Slam there are 5 judges; each performance is judged on a scale of 0 to 10, with the high & low scores dropped so only the middle scores are counted, so 1 10 is as good as a 0, you need at least 2 10’s for it to matter.)

November 2, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, October 27


I was having dinner at the bar, eyeing the pretty staff at McGeary’s when the poets started coming in, heading to the backroom, so I followed them. Mary Panza was the host for yet another Poets Speak Loud!, tonight featuring poet Mike Jurkovic from down the Hudson.

Photo by Don Levy
Everyone had left the #1 spot blank so I signed up & read a couple of pieces I’ve read before, “October Land” based on the opening of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” & a poem I first read many years ago at the QE2, the scandalous “Prayer.” Joe Krausman followed with a couple of food poems, “Food for Thought” & a poem about thinking about lions while fancy dining. Sylvia Barnard’s 2 poems were about her mother, first “Learning Greek” then “Last Farewell” after she had died.

Shannon Shoemaker read a new poem she hadn’t read out before with the tentative title “Phone Booth” & then was about to sit down, but Mary Panza called her back & she attempted to perform “Tongue in Cheek” but had to abandon it — great opening likes just the same. Thérèse Broderick was really tempting fate (& me) with, first, a poem about the death of her cat, then a lyric about a dead puppy — again, no comment. Frank Robinson followed with a trio of poems from his chapbook Love Poems (Verity Press International, 2014), “No Jive” (Thérèse at 50), then a poem for Mother’s Day, & a poem, “Genesis,” about how they met.

Mike Jurkovic has been reading around a lot lately, promoting his new chapbook Eve’s Venom (Post Traumatic Press, 2014), which I’d already bought, but it is always fun to hear Mike read. He began with some poems not in the book with minimal introduction, because his poems often tell a story, cynically pondering the world around him, such as a poems about being stopped at a traffic light next to “the dwarf Morpheus,” or “Crows Gathering at the Grey Sky,” or “Andy Martin’s American Letter.” Then to poems from Eve’s Venom, some read without the titles, “New Frictions,” the hysterical “Bio-Hazard,” “Yearbook,” “The Girl and Her Parachute” (another encounter along the road of life), “It Was a Nice Day,” & “Curator.” He finished with another cluster of new poems, many very short, but I particularly liked one about a girl with a broken doll. Appropriately enough he ended with “Close.” In the past Mike would wander the room performing his poems, tonight he stuck pretty close to the mic, his poems doing the wandering.

Pat Irish got us back into the open mic with a poem by someone else titled “The Foxholes of Hollywood,” then read his own poem about creatures from the movies “A Halloween Party.” Don Levy imagined the (for him) unimaginable, “Life Without FaceBook,” then a fantasy of picking up a Bible student, “Gaytheist.” Cheryl A. Rice began with a poem about “Dioramas” then on to a stirring poem about hearing about the death of “Paul Newman at the Dodge.” Adam Tedesco managed to mention Hoffman’s Playland in a poem about death & defiance “I’m Only Going to Show You This Once,” then another grim piece, with a playful title, “Games.”

I hadn’t seen Ed Yetto before, & he began with a stream-of-consciousness dated journal entry mixing demons & blue curaçao, then to a defiant night-time monster poem “Dear Door-Sucker.” Sally Rhoades began with a poem about a native chief at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, then a poem to her husband “Old Love” & she said the title in Turkish, then a poem to her daughter who just got married. Brian Dorn ended the night with a poem written for the (yet-to-happen) roast of Mary Panza, “Reality Bites,” with Mary (as actress Jeanane Garofalo) & Thom Francis as movie characters — aren’t they?

Poets Speak Loud! is in McGeary’s backroom each last Monday of the month, in Albany, NY 7:30PM (or thereabouts) — come early & enjoy the food & excellent service from the lovely wait-staff. See AlbanyPoets.com for details.