May 24, 2016

Sunday Four Poetry, May 22

A Sunday afternoon for poetry up in Voorheesville, with a cluster of open mic poets & a featured poet, Judith Saunders. But first the open mic, with me as the first reader; I read an old poem of break-up angst “This Feels So Bad It’s Got to Be the Blues,” then a new piece about old books “Decomposition.” Bob Sharkey shared a couple of scary poems, the first about reading with his granddaughter “Scary People,” then “Things” about what lurked in the back of Woolworth’s & library stacks. Dennis Sullivan was our singular host for the afternoon (his often co-hosts MIA) & read a trio of poems philosophizing on dreams & life & death, “A Lesson of Life, for Jennifer” (a student from years ago), “Desert Face,” & the aphoristic “What I’m Doing Monday.”

Terry Rooney was next & he began with a vividly descriptive poem about the sights & smells of a town in Central America, then a new piece “Do Large Primitives Need to Be Drunk to Have Sex?” & “Directions.” Lloyd Barnhart read a poem in dialect about being “Lost on a Backroad” then challenged us to figure out what he was talking about in his poem “The Green Box” (I couldn’t), &, like Bob Sharkey, a poem about reading to his 3 year-old grandchild, “Small Prices.”

Not only was Peter Boudreaux back among us, but he was considerably taller & straighter; he read a poem about Winter in his hill town “Inside the Womb,” then a poem about having to stop to pee while driving (been there). Tom Corrado had copies of his latest collection of “Screen Dumps,” this #201 to #250, bringing us (almost) up-to-date; he read #204, then went beyond the book with #292. Jonathan Bright tried to explain to us the various phases he has gone through — nihilist, agnostic, atheist, etc. —& his first poem was from his nihilist phase “Neil is Trying to Write a Love Note,” then considered the universes in the cells of an acorn “Beneath the Hoof,” then a poem titled “Perceived Obsolescence.”

This afternoon’s featured poet, Judith Saunders, teaches at Marist College & had 2 collections of poems for sale, Seizing This Chance (Kattywompus Press, 2014) & Lost Partners (Futurecycle Press, 2015). She said she likes to write poems about animals & plants & began with “Echidna” (an Australian egg-laying mammal), “What’s for Dinner” (alligator meat at the supermarket), “Mid-Hudson Moose,” & one about the star-nosed mole. Then on to plants: “Escaped Daffodils” & a poem about woodbine. She introduced us to the “3-way poem,” a form invented by British poet Charles Tomlinson (1927 - 2015), & read her try at it “Fishkill Sunset.” Her poem “The Philosopher” was about her father saving fortunes from fortune cookies, then on to a poem based on a tabloid headline about attempts to turn hamburger back to a cow. Lost Partners is a collection of ekphrastic poems & she ended her reading with a selection from the book, the title piece (which is about orphaned earrings set in grout), “Goddesses,” “Buddha and Cave” & “Photocollage.” Her poems are richly descriptive, vivid, discursive, & the range of interesting topics kept us attentive & rapt.

Sunday Four Poetry happens at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY on most 4th Sundays of the month (the series takes the months of July & August off).

May 21, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 19

I like to start each of these events with an invocation of the Muse, some gone poet who could not be here with us, & this year the newly dead poets are piling up way too fast. Tonight our Muse was Upstate New York’s own Maurice Kenny (1929 - 2016). I read “Molly” from his 1992 history-in-poetry, Tekonwatonti/Molly Brant (1735 - 1795): Poems of War.

On to the open mic, Alan Catlin was first with the last thing he wrote, a grim cocktail poem, “Blue Bottles for a Blue Lady” (a "Phillip’s Screwdriver)". Philomena Moriarty was next with a poem now titled “Flip-Flopping Joe” so she could enter it in a contest on poems about “Joe.” Bob Sharkey also read the last thing he wrote, “800 Meters,” appropriately enough for tonight’s Corporate Run, about runners.

The first of the night’s new voices was Prinze Divine Allah, “a divine rapper,” who did his piece “Divine Inspiration” accompanied by a neat, little wireless speaker. Don Levy’s poetic social commentary tonight was about intolerance within the gay community “No Fats No Fems.”

Tonight’s featured poet was the Hudson Valley’s own Mike Jurkovic, who has a new book of poetry out, smitten by harpies (Lion Autumn Music Publishers, 2016), complete with photos from Occupy Wall St. & an introduction by “Miss” Cheryl A. Rice. He began with a free-flowing ramble on music, then on to a couple of new poems “Still Life with Mandolin” (the first of a number about being stoned), & “Don’t Kick the Buddha.” Then on to poems from smitten by harpies, starting with the opening poem “Two Wives Ago,” then “Two Doors Down” a collaboration with Will Nixon, “Screaming Jay Hawkins and Me in Our Prime” his reading of this, & most of his other poems as well, as over-the-top as Hawkins himself. One of his “greatest hits” was the traffic-jam poem “Tell Them, My Love,” then another stoner piece about a quality control guy for medicinal marijuana, & a poem about “Half Shitty Days.” “Yearbook” was about sex with Robert Frost’s granddaughter (perhaps), & some poems read without titles, like “irony,” & “Neighbor of Alleged Bomber.” “My Fifth Minute” was an open mic poem, then a poem on meditation “The Great Movie Begins.” He ended with 2, a new piece “Breathing Machine,” & a stoner fantasy memoir from the book, “the halos in her glasses.” His poems are gritty, read with energy, & humor. During the break he sold a bunch a books & pledged to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

After the break, I took us back to the open mic with a recent poem, “Another Holy Thursday.”

Carole Rossi talked about having her hear broken “really bad” & put together a lament with a melody to make “a country song” which she sang in her saddest Nashville voice. Sylvia Barnard read a new poem about her travels, from 70 years ago to now, with a reference to a rumble-seat in her mother’s car. Next month’s featured poet, Karen Fabiane, gave us a taste with a 1973 poem, “Editorial” with its references to newspapers & other anachronisms. Our last poet was also one of the night’s new voices, “Bear” also known as George, read “Star Salvation” then slipped in another piece of philosophizing “The Moon in the Night.”

The Third Thursday Poetry Night happens each month on (duh!) the third Thursday, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM — a featured poet & an open mic for a modest (or extravagant) donation that supports the featured poet, the SJC & poetry events in the community.

May 18, 2016

Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest Reading, May 15

The Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest was inaugurated this year by Albany poet Bob Sharkey & his family. It was started as a modest project to offer cash prizes to poets & to support & encourage those who are active in the open mic community. According to Bob, he received 302 entries from 37 states & 10 countries. There were 27 finalists, with prizes ranging from $700 for the First Place (Dawn Marar’s poem “Beyond the Naupaka Hedge”), with 2nd, 3rd & 4th place winners, a “Special Founder’s Award” (to Karen Fabiane for “Now, morning…”), then 9 Honorable Mentions ($65 each), & 13 “Other Finalists” with bragging rights.

The reading was for those Finalists who were able to make it to the Albany Public Library Washington Ave. Branch, with other poems read by local community poets, a total of 22 represented in the reading. Mary Panza read a number of poems by women Finalists, including “I Loved You Long Before I Even Met You” by Kirsten Textor from Denmark. Mary also read the 4th place poem “On the Rising Price of Corn at Festivals” by Michelle Chen, & the 2nd place “The Resolution of Neglect Syndrome” by Jen Karentnick. I was pleased to read the 3rd place poem “Plantation’s Corn” by Paul Weidknecht, as well as my own poem “Richard Nixon Must Die,” which has had quite a track record of publications over the years since it was written.

First place winner Dawn Marar read her winning poem “Beyond the Naupaka Hedge” (which is set in Hawaii), a 2 others “Lateral Inhibitions” & “Family Monuments. Bob Sharkey read early on his poem “Why Stephen” to explain the name of the contest. Stephen A. DiBiase was a friend of Bob’s in Maine, who was a US Army vet who died of drowning in 1973, one might say another victim of the war.

The following is a complete list of the Finalists & their poems:

First Place, bonus for community poet, bonus for local poet, $700: Beyond the Naupaka Hedge---Dawn Marar of Delmar NY
Second Place, $250: The Resolution of Neglect Syndrome---Jen Karetnick of Miami Shores FL
Third Place, $125: Plantation’s Corn---Paul Weidknecht of Phillipsburg NJ
Fourth Place, $100: On the Rising Prices of Corn at Festivals---Michelle Chen of Whitestone NY
Special Founder’s Award, $90: Now, morning…---Karen Fabiane of Troy NY

Honorable Mentions (9), $65:
  • Stopping By The Columbarium---Jackie Craven of Schenectady NY
  • Siobhan In Washington Park (age 46)---Sylvia Barnard of Albany NY
  • Argiope Aurantia---Pat Tompkins of San Mateo CA
  • American Woman---Lucia Cherciu of Poughkeepsie NY
  • Don’t Read This One Out Loud---Merisa Dion of Derry NH
  • A Brief History of Fun---Howard Kogan of Stephentown NY
  • Shipwreck---Joe Krausman of Menands NY
  • Earthquakes in Oklahoma---Lauren Elizabeth Delucchi of Washington DC
  • Nondescript---Ashley Hyun of Tenafly NJ

Other Finalists:

  • I loved you long before I even met you---Kirsten Textor of Lyngby, Denmark
  • To a Child at Enlightenment---J.C. Elkin of Annapolis MD
  • Winter Walk---Francis DiClemente of Syracuse NY
  • Let Me View Life-The Way the Heart Feels…---Jennifer Circosta of Campbell Hall NY
  • “all told”---Joel Best of Niskayuna NY
  • Inside the Picture Frame-For Aiyana Stanley-Jones---Keli Osborn of Eugene OR
  • Missing you---Carol Kloskowski of Christmas MI
  • Sad Nymph---Betsy Butcher of Iowa City IA
  • Richard Nixon Must Die (for all the victims of the War)---Dan Wilcox of Albany NY
  • Salt Is The Spice Of Life---Philip Good of East Nassau NY
  • modie badanov---Canon Pau of Los Angeles CA
  • On a Night With a Poet---Sally Rhoades of Albany NY
  • Meaning of Man---Erin Gillett of Los Angeles CA

May 17, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, May 11

This was my first time at this monthly series in Schenectady because on the 2nd Wednesday of each month I was at the open mic at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, run by Albany poet Don Levy. But in March he had called it quits (check out my Blog on his last open mic here). But tonight I gave Don a ride to Arthur’s Market for the open mic, not the least because we could, but also because the featured poet was Carolee Bennett. The usual host is Catherine Norr, but tonight Ginny Folger filled in for Catherine, & began by reading “Hyacinth” by poet Barbara Hill.

Don had gone in while I parked the car & signed me up first; I did an old poem, an imagining of who was on “The Noon Train,” then my new driving directions “How to Find Clit Court” (a real street in Colonie, NY). Margaret Bryant read a poem titled “To Know” set it 1971 on the death of her father, then “Pearl” from her 2010 book Aligning Stems (The Troy Book Makers). Paul Bryant announced he was “not a poet” but one does not have to be a “poet” to appreciate Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s great poem “Constantly Risking Absurdity” which he did by reading it for us.

Tonight’s featured poet, Carolee Bennett, hadn’t read out much lately — too busy writing poems & living the life that is a poem. But many of us remember her readings from a few years back & were glad to hear her read her new work (& some older pieces too). Her poems tonight had in them fish, birds, sex, grief, death, her boys & her boyfriend, sometimes many in the same poem. For example, “Insatiable” was a poem about grief & sex & had fish in it, as did “Fish in the Aquarium Always Want to be Fed” & “Let It Be.” “Night Jar” had in it images of death, including a dead bird, as did the oddly rhyming “The Mortality Rate of Birds” (& also the wonderfully titled “Sex-Starved Fruit Flies Have Shorter Lives”). There was also “Ode to the Dart Board at Cafe Hollywood” for Chris, “Prettier When You Smile” a poem written with Jill Crammond  (it applies to both), & a poem sampling phrases from nursery rhymes “On Not Shielding Young Minds from the Dark.” Her ending poems took us to outer space, one using the International Space Station for a metaphor, the other the speed of light (& her son with a broken arm in the ER). Not that my opinion matters, but I think we need to hear her read such poems more often, again.

Our host Ginny Folger brought us back to the open mic with one of her own poems “The Gin Rickey” which was about a boat, not the drink. Don Levy took on the trans-gender restroom issue with 2 poems, “Onward Christian Bigots” & the Whitmanesque “#I’llGoWithYou”. Bob Sharkey read a spooky poem “Things” about what was in the back of Woolworth’s.

Jackie Craven read a couple pieces from her “A Guide to Alien Languages” series, “Travel Advisory” & “Without Umbrellas” (on perception & communication). Carol Graser read a tender “Mary Cotter” then a piece on her children leaving home “A Goodbye Under a Snow-wet Cover."  J.J. Johnson read a baseball poem, in rhyme, about the Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard (knick-named Thor), “Serving on the Mound.”

This poetry open mic is held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady’s Stockade Section, at 7:30PM — a featured poet & an open mic.

May 15, 2016

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 8

It was Mothers’ Day, for all the mothers out there. As always here you can read whatever you want, but the day seemed to set the theme, with my co-host, Nancy Klepsch, starting off with a list poem “Questions for My Mother.” Peggy LeGee followed suit with “To Mothers & All Women” mixing her estranged family with the historical, the political.

K.A. Laity’s little story of motherhood of sorts, “Fur Baby” can be found online.  Cathy Abbott started with a poem written by her daughter when she was 16, the to the strangely titled “Micro-Womb Mother.”  Bob Sharkey read a piece paying tribute to the recently deceased Dan Berrigan, “Avoiding the Draft.” Pat Berger had a short memoir about her own shadow side, & a guy she dated for a time.

Mike Conner’s poem “In a Mirror in a Frame” was about a time of grief & change, then a poem from 10 years ago “The Floor” as a letter to his son about sharing what they have in common. Matt Ryan read a sad rhyme “Here I Do As I Please,” then a poem about his grandmother & watching the changes of life. Dan Curley read a lament for a dead musician friend “Jean Jacket” followed by a poem from a trip to Rome with students “La Pieta.” Karen Fabiane read poems from her 2 poetry chapbooks, “Fawn” from Dancing Bears & “Flesh is All That Holds Me Now” from Seeing You Again.

Continuing the Mothers Day theme Dave DeVries read “The Impeccable Life” about his perfectionist mother, then a poem that considered the various uses of horses, for racing, for work, “Equine Diversity.” I was the last on the list & read an old political piece harking back to the origins of Mothers Day as a Peace Holiday “Mothers Day Meditation.”

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose is a free open mic held at the Arts Center of the Capital Region each month, except the months of July & August, your hosts are Nancy Klepsch & me, Dan Wilcox.

May 11, 2016

Gloucester Writers Center Reading, May 4

What could be more natural than to read from my chapbook of poems, Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing, 2015), at the Gloucester Writers Center, along with fellow Albany poet Alan Casline, another student of the work of Charles Olson?  I was pleased to see so many of my friends from Cape Ann & beyond gathered in the poet Vincent Ferrini’s former home, backed by his library. Amanda Cook told us about the ongoing programs at the Center, then introduced Henry Ferrini who introduced me by reading my poem “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes,” based on Helen Stein’s painting (also mentioned by Olson in The Maximus Poems (Letter 7, Max. I, 30).

Photo by Jean Dugan
I began with a poem to introduce my Gloucester friends to the Albany poetry scene with “Where Were the Professors?” (I pointed out that Albany & Gloucester are at almost the exact same Latitude, Albany at 42.6525 N, Gloucester at 42.6158 N.) Then, since it was the anniversary of the murders at Kent State in 1970, I read my poem for the student victims “44,000.” On to the Gloucester poems with a piece I wrote, “Angels,” based on Jane Robbins’ drawing in Vincent Ferrini’s book of poems Deluxe Daring (Bliss Publications, 1994), then a old poem referencing Olson’s mornings with a dictionary, “Alba.” I turned to Gloucester Notes varying my set list because I had planned to read “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes” so read instead “The Hopper Painting” (which Peter Anastas had recently published on the Blog Enduring Gloucester — has he had “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes” earlier). I ended, appropriately enough, with poems on ending, the recent “Decomposition” about the smell of old books & a poem from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt “At the End.”

Alan Casline had published what I consider my “greatest hits” Boundless Abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press, 2010); he is the founder/director of the Rootdrinker Institute & coordinates the reading series “Poets of the Earth, Water, Tree & Sky” at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY. He began with a poem from his book 64 Changes (FootHills Publishing, 2015), based on the I Ching, a hexagram he cast today for himself, #27 “Spirit to Serve Alone Helps the World.” What he read tonight was all connected in some way to the work of Charles Olson, or Gloucester, including a poem “Sea Raven” dedicated to Linda Parker (1945 - 2000), who lived briefly with Olson at the end of his life, & a poem she had written “Where Does the Crane Step, for Alan & Me.” Alan included readings from Olson’s Maximus Poems, including the re-telling of Alqonguin myths, which let to Alan reading some of his own retelling of myths & stories. There was even an amusing piece imaging Charles Olson doing email. He ended, as he had started, with the hexagrams he cast this morning, these for the Gloucester Writers Center, #62 ("Preponderance of the Small") & #15 (“Modest Journey Through”) with its reference to the ocean & to Gaia.

The Gloucester Writers Center has a schedule of ongoing events which you can find at its website — check it out.

May 9, 2016

Singing in the Dark: Poetry of Courage & Witness, April 30

Dawn Marar, Linda Sonia Miller
A fitting end to National Poetry Month was this last reading in the Rensselaerville Library’s 11th Annual Celebration of Poetry Month, held at the Carey Center for Global Good. There were 30 (!) readers scheduled, with a few no-shows, each reading 1 or 2 poems each. With minimal-to-no introductions the afternoon moved right along. Poets Dawn Marar & Linda Miller welcomed us, then a traditional native acknowledgment of the Earth & space by Dianne Sefcik.

Part One began with Daniel Summerhill, the first of the 4 “featured poets,” with “I, Too, Sing America (after Langston Hughes)", & his moving take on a nephew’s autism “Ode to Elijah.” Marianne Rahn-Erikson “How Gary Got Loose.” Leland Kinsey’s graphic poem “Shoveling Fish” was set in Tanganyika.

Jamaluddin Aram
Jamaluddin Aram is a young poet from Kabul, Afghanistan who is currently studying at Union College & stunned us with a poem titled “Annihilation,” then one about the visiting the site of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Then there were a series of regional poets reading one poem each. Some read the work of others, such as Tim Miller reading Claudia Rankine, Zeva Greendale reading Langston Hughes, Jeanne Finley reading Yassin Aref, Diana Dietrich reading Jimmy Santiago Baca, & Tony Guadagno & Pat Frik reading C.P. Cavafy.

Poets reading their own work were Charlie Burgess (“The Madman”), Dawn Marar (“Manna from Heaven”), Linda Sonia Miller (“We Walked”), Christian Matthew Harris (“Soul”), & Marilyn McCabe (“One Coat”).

Dianne Sefcik
After a pleasant break with snacks, & a cash bar, Part Two began with Victorio Reyes with “Rant (this is not a poem)” & “Rant Part 2.” I followed with my take on the invasion of Iraq in 2003 “Baghdad/Albany.” Nancy Klepsch read “The Invisible Lesbian” then I joined her for a 2-voice “The Negro Travelers’ Motorist Green Book.”

Karen Greendale read a poem by Adam Zagajewski, John Arrighi a poem by Michael Robinson, Richard Ronconi & Joanna Bull one by Juan Felipe Herrera in both Spanish & English, & Sharon Costello a poem by the recently gone C.D. Wright.

(Photo by Petra Marar)
Poets reading their own work were Dianne Sefcik, Lynda Wisdo (an intense piece on sex abuse), Robert Nied (“My Mother Knew Cruelty”), Curtis Flach (“Friends”), Claire North (“The Place to be From”, with a long epigraph), & Philomena Moriarty (a poem to the victims of Hurricane Katrina).

This program was the finale of a month-long series of readings & workshops, including a reading of Cowboy Poetry & a reading of Nature Poetry, up in the hilltown of Rensselareville, sponsored by the community Library, & run by volunteers from the town.