January 20, 2017

Albany Poets Presents: Don Levy, January 18

Don Levy, May, 1988, QE2, Albany, NY
This long-awaited event at the Restaurant Navona had been delayed due to the end-of-the-year holidays but here we were to listen to & to interrogate long-time Albany poet, Don Levy. I had first met Don at the monthly open mic at the QE2 (not yet settled in to the last Monday slot) in May, 1988. My notes indicate that he read after me & before Karl Gluck, but the notes don’t indicate what he read.

But tonight he included some older poems from earlier chapbooks, “He Wasn’t Always Such a Reluctant Astronaut” (from How Small Was My Big Eden) & a poem about the Wizard of Oz, “Begone Before Someone Drops a House on You” (from Super Queer Poet Saves the Day). Then on to a cluster of poems written in the last year, beginning with “Divers” about watching “Wide World of Sports” with his Dad, then to the even more direct “2 Men Kissing,” & “To the Victims of the Pulse Shooting."  Don spends a lot of time on social media & wrote about the “Death of a Digital Friend.” On to more directly political pieces, “Mike Pence Goes to Hamilton,” & a response to a FaceBook post, “Straight Pride Day is Every Day.” He ended with a couple pieces read from his phone, the meditative “Hopper Motel” & a poem that looked back to the poetry days of the QE2 “I’m a FuckingPoet!”

As good as the reading was, his interview by Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets.com, was even more fun. Thom asked, as he traditionally does, about how Don became a poet & Don explained that he started writing poet after high school when he was a student at HVCC. He went on to talk about his introduction to poetry open mics at the QE2, even reciting his notorious “Condom Poem.” He also gave a brief history of the reading series that he started at the Albany Art Gallery on Jefferson St., run by art impresario Bill Lemily, in November of 1989, & how it morphed thru the Fuzz Box & Lemily’s other gallery on Washington Ave., to the series at the Pride Center.

About his being a host Don said, “I’m a jukebox & I give people dimes to put in the jukebox."  Mary Panza, who had been the subject of one of these Albany Poets Presents events this past year, amusingly asked Don about the time he “came out” at the QE2 & remarked about what a ho-hum, un-Earth-shaking event that it had been. It’s always fun to have a conversation with Don Levy.

This series is usually held every other month, on the even-numbered months, on the third Wednesday, at the Restaurant Navona on New Scotland Ave., in Albany, NY. Check out AlbanyPoets.com for more information.


This Donald anon leet fle a fart.
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent…
— from “The Miller’s Tale“ by Geoffrey Chaucer

When Donald Trump farts it is like he is delivering a message of Freedom to the oppressed of the Aleutian Islands

When he farts in his limo or private corporate jet the farts get circulated until completely absorbed by the other passengers, his driver, his pilot

His children, Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric, even Tiffany & Baron have been hearing his farts for years
& like all children they got used to them, & now ignore his farts.

Ivana left him because when he farted he didn’t say “excuse me,” Marla because his farts were loud, violent
but Melania rather enjoys them & likes to say she doesn’t fart except in the bathroom & when she does they are “melodious”
but then she likes to copy what other people say.

Donald Trump says that he is for law & order but he lets his farts fly free without restriction

He says he wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out while he lets his farts migrate wherever he goes

Donald Trump says that he wants Muslims to wear a badge, this stinks even worse than his farts.

When Donald Trump becomes President it would be in the World’s best interest to make sure his diet avoids beans, beef, &, of course, beer
Because when Donald Trump farts, Vladimir Putin farts too

But when Donald Trump farts in the White House the whole World does not have to listen & all Americans should be buying anti-fascist air fresheners.

January 15, 2017

2nd Sunday @ 2 — Poetry + Prose, January 8

The first of the new year of poetry back at the Arts Center in Troy, but my co-host, Nancy Klepsch, on sick-leave, so I had to go it on my own. A great afternoon of poetry with regular readers & returning old-timers. Dianne Sefcik started us off with a poems invoking her native heritage, a meditation on our origin in the stars “Portal,” then a different sort of origin story, “When You Were Born.” Don Levy’s first poem was about an exchange on FaceBook “I’m a Fucking Poet,” then one on yet still another dead pop star “George” (Michaels).

Kathy Smith gave a performance of a monologue on the Biblical story of Sarah & Abraham. Mike Conner’s poem was on “Winter’s Wolf,” then read Billy Collins’ “The Death of Allegory.” Bob Sharkey pondered the arc of 20th Century American history, from the protests against the Viet Nam war to more recent drones & the CIA in his poem “My America,” then a cento of sorts composed of real & imagined fortunes from Chinese cookies “Let Us Marry Our Fortunes Together.” I read a recent Gloucester piece “The Maud/Olson Library,” then the much older “Shaker Hymn.”

Tim Verhaegen’s first piece was about his first ever, recent, trip to the hospital “Virgin Voyage,” then a poem looking back to his mother & to his favorite singer Joni Mitchell, “Joan & Joni.” Dave DeVries poem “There Is There” was full of anaphora, alliteration & rhyme, then on to a more free verse about “Footprints” in Winter & Summer. Peggy LeGee was wonderfully rambling, & confrontational reading her notebook pages “To Fight or Flight.”

Dan Curley began reading a poem by Faith Shearin, then one of his own on the closing of the mills in Corinth, NY. Karen Fabiane’s first poem was an old one, “Someone Laughed,” then “La La …” a poem filled with personal allusions. Trojan Ed Rinaldi read a couple poems about the Hudson River, “Winter Is A Tug of War” & “On the Night the Green Island Bridge Collapsed” (in the 1970s).

Nancy Dunlop said the last time she had read at an open mic was when she read “I Want to Be Nancy Sinatra…” in 2004 at the Lark Street Bookshop; today, back on the scene, she read a poem about the copy editor of your book-of-life “The Sentence Snatcher,” then a nautical piece about her father’s sail boat “In the Keep.” Anthony Bernini read what he said was an old poem that demanded revision “Lao Tse Comes to Grand St.,” then a recent poem “After Election Day on 5th Ave.” R.M. Englehardt ended the day with a poem spoken by the Grim Reaper “Death is Open for Business,” & the quasi-political “American Signs.”

We are at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY on the 2nd Sunday of each month, an open mic for all writers, & it’s free.

January 6, 2017

Nitty Gritty Slam, January 3

This was the 1st poetry event of the year for me & it was a great omen that it was a packed house with great words from near & far. Amani & Jayton served as hosts for the open mic; the Slam is held on the 3rd Tuesday. There was also food being served & game tables set up, even a confused guy in a plaid shirt & rain jacket who wandered in looking for comedy night. Amani set the tone with a reading of the poem “Ode to Existence” by former Albany poet Daniel Summerhill.

Avery was the first up with a performance of his piece based on the Heart Sutra, “What is that Subtle Background Hum?” On a slightly different sound, I read the latest version of “When Donald Trump Farts.” Ainsley performed from her smart phone the anaphoric “Live is like…”

Poetik, who was running one of the gaming tables, read an instructional (& self-affirmation) piece “To the Next Person Who Will Be the Love of My Life.” Apparently Elizag had gotten a traffic ticket because her piece was “To the Philmont Traffic Court.” D. Colin read 2 poems for Haiti’s Independence Day (January 1), “Souvenir” from her book Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015), & a piece beginning “We Are Beyond This…,” both celebrating Haiti’s history & culture.

Slim” said this was her first time reading & read a 3-part poem on the different stages of a relationship. Gabriel said he had no poems but did a short stand-up with jokes & stories about Xmas with his family.  Jayton, with Amani as back-up singer, did a free-style on audience-provided words “chocolate” & “magic.” Poetess did a dual piece dedicated to her parents. Amanda B. read 2 love poems, the first titled “In Dreams,” the second an early, untitled piece not read out before.

Ronnie was visiting from San Diego & performed a couple of slam pieces, “Daddy Issues” & “Identity.” Sakea was with Ronnie & also did pieces from memory, one that posed the question “I am Afra-Latina…what are you?” the other addressed to guys who hit on her, telling them “my face is not an invitation…” Sweetz read from her phone what she called an “old, untitled, romantic” piece.

It is great to see that Amani & Jayton are not only keeping the Nitty Gritty Slam going, but drawing in a good, diverse audience. It’s at The Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM each 1st & 3rd Tuesday — catch it.

December 29, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 15

It was a cold & blustery night. In past years when Sanity Clause visits the Social Justice Center at the December third Thursday, there are often more men than women to sit on his lap to say how bad they have been throughout the year before receiving a gift of poetry. But ah, this year, the women braved the cold & only 1 guy signed up on the open mic list. In addition the featured poet was Philomena Moriarty. It was a good night for Sanity Clause — & for all those who showed up to listen & to read. Continuing a tradition from the last few years, the Muse I invoked was the gone poet Enid Dame (1943 - 2003) & I read her moving “Holiday Poem.”

A bonus gift for Sanity Clause was the arrival from Florida of poet & novelist Jan Tramontano, back in the area with her husband Ron for a family visit. & eager to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap she signed up 2nd (which became 1st). Since there was only of hand-full of poets on the list, each were permitted to read 2 (!) poems if they desired. Jan read a piece about her father titled “Atlantic City,” & “My Mother’s Silk Scarf” combining her mother & her mother-in-law.

Dineen Carta returned to the open mic to read from her book Loving the Ache: a Woman’s Journey an effusive, hopeful poem “Letter to the Universe,” then a sensuous poem, “The Real You.”

Our next reader, Dawn Marar, also brought her husband, Hanni, along & it was a good thing because between the 2 of them they took all the photos of the readers on the lap of Sanity Clause. She began with a poem she just happened to have with her “Bartender” a story of a violent attack at a piano in a bar, then a poem re-written after the election, about meeting & marrying her husband & the conflicts in the Middle East, “Endgame.”

That was the last of the women poets, & Alan Casline was the next open mic poet, who read just one poem, a descriptive piece about a statue at a cabin in the woods “Contemplation of a Buddha Looking Out.” I ended the open mic with 2 poems, beginning with a new poem “Lew Welch in Albany” (for Jordan Smith), then an older, more seasonal piece “Christmas Eve, 1945.” Of course I made no attempt to verify veracity of the Zen koan, “The joy of Xmas is the sitting upon one’s own lap.”

Tonight’s featured reader, Philomena Moriarty, is the author of My Moon Self: a spiritual memoir through poetry & I had been honored to have been asked by Philomena to look over an early stage of the manuscript. Her reading tonight began with some words from the Irish poet, Michael Longley, on the “uselessness” of poetry, but that it can us “tune-up,” then on to one of her own Irish poems, a childhood memoir, “Shape Shifting” & an older poem, “Deep Down,” that ponders what is real. She read a couple poems about suffering, “Corpses,” inspired by Hurricane Katrina, & “Calculations” on war & surviving. The next poems were more light, including the Buddhist inspired poems “The Thief Could Not Steal the Moon” & “Still Here” mixing in a Gospel story. On to her book & the section on feminism & the poem titled “St. Philomena.” Other poems included “Starships” & a poem inspired by a trip to Florida “Fish,” & she ended with “If Poems Were Wishes…” from her book. On this December third Thursday Philomena, in the spirit of the season, blessed us with the gift of her poetry.

We read poetry here, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday of the month, starting about 7:30PM, with an open mic for community poets, & a local or regional featured poet. Your donation supports poetry events in the area & the work of the SJC.

December 14, 2016

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 11

After a couple months subbing for each other, Nancy Klepsch, my co-host, & I were back together again doing our tag-team hosting act. It was a word-filled afternoon with 15 signed up on the open mic list — new voices & the stalwart regulars.

We started off with a reader new to this venue, Diane Sefcik, with a poem inspired by browsing in a bookstore “Grabbing a Line,” then one delving into her native roots “Quest (for Crazy Horse). Dan Curley, a classicist by trade, read a poem parsing the Latin expression “Carpe Diem,” then “Our Father” on his father’s passing.

Howard Kogan read the dream poem “Imagination” from his brand new poetry collection A Chill in the Air (Square Circle Press), a book that contains many of Howard’s fine poems I’ve been hearing him read at open mics in recent months. Dave DeVries read a poem inspired by a visit to a Canadian basilica, “The Oratory.” Mike Conner began with a poem by Rod McEwan on football, then to his own poem “Street Politics” inspired by the the street names in Troy.

Jil Hanifan read 2 poems she said were actually not from her own experiences but from that of Nancy, inspired by phone conversations, “Cat Attack,” & “Write #3 Girl Friend #2” a poem that begins & ends with actual text messages. I had to follow that & read 2 new poems “Lew Welch in Albany” & the brief “What Makes America Great.” Kate Laity read a piece of flash fiction, the sexy & violent “Repetition.” Karen Fabiane began with a love poem from the 1980s “Poet to a Sleeper,” then another relationship piece “Stealing from You.” Nancy Klepsch said she has been trying to not make sense (unsuccessfully it seems) & read a political piece perhaps titled “Grot Groat Great,” & another that dipped into politics with images of mushrooms “Schroom.” Bob Sharkey unfolded his poems from his pocket & read first a narrative about finding a place to pee “Between the Blue Lands” & a descriptive birthday poem “69.”

This was Charlie Rossiter’s first time here since returning to the Northeast from many years in Chicago & he read a Haibun “Picking Up the Pieces” (earrings & the leftovers of a champagne party in a Saratoga park), then from his collection of poems with Albert DeGenova Back Beat (Cross Roads Press, 2001) a poem from the 1960s “Campus Politics.” Peggy LeGee read a funny & political seasonal piece “The Trannie Claus.” Samuel Weinstein read for the first time anywhere, a true poetry virgin, the theatrical “Beautiful Madness the Super Sane,” then “The World is my Self-Reflection” mixing in Nietzsche & Abby Hoffman. & we ended the afternoon with still another new voice, Lana Harvey who read a family story addressed to the city “New York New York,” & a narrative of a break-up “Goodbyes.”

Lots of good poetry & prose again on this 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY. Join us the next time.

December 8, 2016

Thin Matter Book Launch & Signing, December 3

A packed house in The Cheese Traveler to celebrate Alifair Skebe’s new book & to hear her read a selection of her poems. If one is to have a poetry reading, better to have it in a small space as opposed to some huge stadium, better to say “the place was packed” than “there were a lot of empty seats.”

I had already been enjoying the book, having ordered my copy directly from Foothills Publishing. She began with poems from 2 other chapbooks, “Poppies” from Love Letters: Les Cartes Portales/Post Card: Les Lettres d’Armour (Basilisk Press, 2004), a maddeningly laid-out flip book, & “Kiva” from El Agua Es la Sangre de la Tierra (Finishing Line Press, 2008).

She then read from Thin Matter what she called “a labyrinth of poems,” suggesting we let her reading wash over us, mixing her metaphors, & beginning with the poem “Halo.” The poem “Desire” was originally a broadside & she said the poem could be read differently each time, which gave sense to the page-layout in the book. Others read included a dream-like “Spinning Paper,” another that was a piece of a multi-part poem, & the almost obligatory “Hudson.” I’m continuing to read through these intriguing, sensuous poems, enjoying the wash of images & ideas.

The advantage of having this reading at The Cheese Traveler, 540 Delaware Ave., Albany, NY is the fine selection of refreshments served before & after the poems, the cheese, olives & wine that were as poetic as Alifair's words.