October 15, 2014

Sunday Funday Reading Series, October 12


This day turned out to be a poetry double-header for me. The open mic in Troy (reported in my Blog) ended early enough & this reading at The Low Beat started late enough for me to be at both. I even had time to socialize & hug Susan Brennan, former Albany poet now in Brooklyn. This series is run by the folks at Pine Hills Review, faculty & students at the College of St. Rose. Today’s theme was “Learn to Read,” authors reading from works that inspired them, & at times their own work as well. Poet Samson Dikeman served as Master of Ceremony (& he was too).

Lucyna Prostko was the 1st reader, with poem by Czeslaw Milosz (1911 - 2004) read in Polish, then in English translation, then her own tribute poem “After Milosz.” She also talked about the poet Denise Levertov (1923 - 1997), then read a dream poem inspired by her reading, “Two Friends with the Landscape of the Imagination.”

Jessie Serfilippi talked about being inspired by the poetry of Gretchen Primack to write animal-rights poems & read one by Primack. I’ve seen Jessie perform her work at poetry open mics in town & wished she had read one of her own poems too!

Jesse Calhoun followed with a long, dense, tedious reading from the 1850 book The Law by Frederic Bastiat, no time, apparently, for his own work.

By contrast Shira Dentz read only her own work from the recently released door of thin skins (Cavan Kerry Press), described as “A hybrid of poetry, prose, and visual elements, … a tale that unfolds in a psychotherapist’s and a state prosecutor’s office and the mind of the poet regarding it all.” She read a couple sections, “The Porch,” “Hands,” others, the text often deconstructing along the way. She said this was her first reading in Albany in a bar setting — she needs to get out more.

Susan Brennan also has a new book out, numinous (Finishing Line Press),  which I had purchased a few weeks ago & like a lot — urban &, well, numinous. She began by reading Frederico Garcia Lorca’s “Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne)” then on to section 7, a long prose poem, from her poem “Night Walk.”

Daniel Summerhill is another young poet who has made appearances on the local poetry scene. He read from a notebook a high school teacher gave him to inspire him to write, then from a poem inspired by the work of Langston Hughes. He ended with a recent poem, inspired by the music of Santana, “Bennie’s Blues.”

Barbara Ungar’s inspirations were many. She began with “My First Address,” then the title poem from Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life (The Word Works, 2011), as well as “Only Emily” (Charlotte’s equally talented sister), & “Midsommer.” She ended with a crowd-pleaser from her forth-coming book Immortal Medusa “Athena’s Blowjob.”

The final poet, Jackie Craven, said she is inspired by reading Charles Simic, read his “In the Library,” then her own library poem “Priority Mail.” Then broadening the theme she read a poem about learning to read as a late-bloomer, & a piece (“Auto-corrected”) using the errors of auto-correct to write a poem any Dadaist would be proud of.

This mini-series continues for a couple more Sundays at The Low Beat — check it out at The Pine Hills Review.

2nd Sunday @ 2, October 12


Fighting my way through the crowds in Troy for the Chowder Festival I made it to The Arts Center to host the Poetry + Prose open mic, my other-half host, Nancy Klepsch, partying it up at a wedding somewhere. It was a day of return of poets who have read here previously, both recent & in the past.

First up was Peggy LeGee with the accurately titled “Asperger’s Rant,” on “the blame game” & on being labeled. Faye, who had been here last month, was back with a long, tender piece to a friend, “I remember…” Mike Connor followed with a seasonal walk on Peeble’s Island “Past Peak,” then performed a slam poem by Buddy Wakefield “Pretend.” Bob Sharkey read what he described as a combination of poetry & prose, “Winter,” in which his characters Mary Bean & Earl read the obituaries, then a cento on death & colors based on lines from the 2014 Best American Poetry “The Velvety Heart.” I was next with my new poem “A.J. Muste.”


Jessica Stephansen returned to read a richly detailed descriptive piece about a trip to Mexico. Howard Kogan read a poem “for the season,” the philosophical “Canada Geese.” We were pleased to see Kate Laity back after a long absence & she read an excerpt from prose thriller, “Smallbany,” that’s included in a new anthology she has edited, Drag Noir.


William Robert Foltin made an appearance as the “265 year-old CC Rider” doing a meandering monologue in the guise of Christopher Columbus with a bad imitation of Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci. Anything can happen here in the Black Box theater.

& it does, each 2nd Sunday @ 2 — 2 poems or prose no longer than 5 minutes — Free! — at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY.

October 13, 2014

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, October 10


Among the trees at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, our words like seeds. Alan Casline, celebrating a wedding anniversary with his wife Jennifer, was our host.

Joe Krausman was the first of the open mic poets, with a trio of poems on mortality, beginning with a trip to the doctor’s office “The World to Come,” then another poem on aging & then “Misfits” with the line “some day you’ll die forever.” Tim Verhaegen followed with a characteristically outrageous piece, “Timmy Trouble,” about gossiping & how he gets in trouble for it. Mike Connor read a poem on divorce by Tony Hoagland, then a piece from an early Blog years ago about this time of year, then “Inner Ink” a poem pondering the nature of tattoos. AC Everson began talking about being “over-exposed” on the pages of Metroland, then a piece about a trick-or-treat papier-maché family, then “Lisa Bitch the Reluctant Witch” & “Ode to a Smeared Spider.” John Abbuhl, the proprietor here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, read some philosophical musing from his pocket notebook, ranging from the nature of “reality” to living forever through out work.


The night’s featured poet, Paul Doty, came here all the way from Canton, NY. Many of his poems reflected this rural environment, such as “Riding Mower,” the expansive, Kerouac-inspired “Driving in Northern NY” & the more diminutive poem about walking with his sons “Salamanders.” Other poems about his sons were “Box Kite” & “American Primitive” (together in a diner). He ended with a supermarket poem “Girls Need Pistachios” & another combining the Latin poet Horace & his father “Ars Poetica on a Barber Chair.”


After the break John Abbuhl showed us what the fruit of the Pawpaw tree looks like.

Howard Kogan read an intricate poem, “Petit Madeleine,” inspired by Proust, taking us through his new medication, memories of his mother, a Ferris wheel, death & how to spell “nauseous.” Mark W. O’Brien read about life among farmers “Good Shit When I See It,” the minuscule “Thru the Trees” & “Into a Small Dark Space” on the mystery of sardines. Alan Casline has been writing poems based on the I Ching for years, read from his forth-coming collection 64 Changes, “Duration” (on hexagram 32) & “On the Lake Following Thunder” (hexagram 17), & a poem from memory about hitchhiking in the Adirondacks. I read a recently unearthed piece written in 1997 responding to a prompt to write about the soundtrack of February 2, then my newest poem “A.J. Muste.” Bob Sharkey has been writing quirky pieces involving Mary Bean (& Earl) for some time, read about taking her to a wake, then a cento based on a 2-year project recording references & phrases about “race”, “I Don’t Know What Race Card She’s Talking About.”

The evening ended with 2 new voices trying out the open mic scene. Lauren Brown read a couple pieces in rhyme, the first written last night “Make It Real” (at a lake) then “I Am the Call.” Mickie began with “Anniversary” about a hike & remembering her father’s death, then she read a couple of what she calls her “parking lot poems,” written on the backs of grocery receipts, etc. (a quiet place to escape from her family), one a letter to her father after he died, then “Let It Go.”

The season is ending for this series, with one more meeting in November before the snow flies, sponsored by the Rootdrinker Institute.

October 10, 2014

Frequency North, October 9


The first of the semester’s series of readings, all prose this time around.


Professor Daniel Nester welcomed the audience, which filled the Standish Room to standing-room-only & introduced the reader, Chloe Caldwell.

Caldwell read from the essay collection Legs Get Led Astray (Future Tense Books, 2012) & from a new novella Women (SF/LD Books, 2014). Although she said “That Was Called Love” (from Legs Get Led Astray) was an essay, it sounded more like a memoir, or a lightly fictional auto-biographical story, listing the apartments she/the narrative lived in from Brooklyn to Seattle, addressed to her girl-friend like a love letter. Then it just ends.

She followed that with a selection of pages from her novella about a relationship between 2 women & their breakup & the narrator’s various dating experiences afterwards. Back to Legs Get Led Astray she read “My Mother Wanted to Be Betty Boop,” with her mother in the audience. It was also a memoir, with stark, personal details that characterized all the pieces she read.

When I first saw the schedule of Frequency North readings I wondered, “where are the poets?” Caldwell’s writing, while certainly “prose” often contained sections that could be read as poems, her preferred style being anaphoric lists, such as what friends in NYC were texting her in Seattle, or the segment from her last piece, each sentence beginning, “My mother…”

Check out the schedule of the remaining readings at the St. Rose website.

October 9, 2014

Live from the Living Room, October 8


Our genial, straight-friendly host Don Levy welcomed our featured poet, Catherine Norr — who strangely enough is the host of another reading & open mic on the 2nd Wednesday of the month (& this is the 2nd Wednesday) up in Schenectady. I’m sure her co-host, Jackie Craven, ably held down the fort, so to speak (it’s held at Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry St., Schenectady).

Catherine described her book, Return to Ground (Finishing Line Press, 2014) as “half memoir, half the noise of life.” She began with a descriptive childhood memoir about growing up in New Orleans “Mississippi Riverside Chat,” then another memory, of playing marbles, “Recess,” from an earlier Benevolent Bird chapbook. The other poems were the marvelously rebellious “Color Barrier,” “Differentiation” (a pantoum about her twin brother), “La Belle France,” “Hospital Rooms,” the title poem, “Return to Ground,” & “Awakening and All That Jazz” about the Lake George Jazz Weekend. A nice set of poems that inspired some conversation about life & poetry & the places we have been from the other poets here in the Garden Room.

Sylvia Barnard read a trilogy of poems, from her collection Trees, about her grandmother, “Pilgrimage to Vermont,” then a poem describing a photo taken in her grandmother’s store, & the graveyard “My Grandmother’s Bones.” I followed with a poem from a couple years ago about an open mic in Provincetown “Imagining the Mews,” then my newest piece “A.J. Muste.”

Luis Pabon started with a poem on domestic violence from an abused son’s point of view “Internal Bleeding,” then a gay love/sex poem with references to Emma Lazarus “The Newer Colossus.” Bob Sharkey read what he called a “silly” poem “Dream of 9/11/14” about being part of the 1%, then a piece from his continuing saga of Earl, Mary Beam & other recurring characters “Bad Times.” Our host, Don Levy, concluded the evening with a couple of his recent poems, the intense “I Want To Understand” about a gay-bashing in Philadelphia, then the hysterical (“he makes my cheeks hurt from laughing” said Luis) poem about finding crappy poems on the internet “Googling Rain Poems.”

I always try to get to this reading, & even with only a few of us there we have a great time listening to poetry, talking about the poems & how they impact on our lives — the 2nd Wednesday of each month, in the Garden Room (downstairs) at the Pride Center of the Capital District on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY, 7:30PM.

Harmony Cafe Open Mic, October 6


A weekly open mic is something I don’t think I’d ever attempt, but Michael Platsky has been doing it for some time now at the Harmony Cafe on Mill Hill Road in Woodstock; he is my kind of host — he uses a kitchen timer to keep his poets in Time. I’ve read there in the past as a feature, as part of reading with military veterans Dayl Wise & Jay Wenk, & in the open mic. Tonight I was the featured poet, & pleased to see so many of my poetry buds there to cheer me on — Dayl, Jay, Alison Koffler-Wise, Cheryl Rice, Shiv Mirabito, Leslie Gerber. Sadly, Donald Lev was not feeling well & stayed home.

Our host, Michael, started off the open mic with a couple of his poems, “The Golden Thread” about holding it all together, & one from a continuing series about his obsession with Sarah Palin as a hot woman from the cold “Ramba on My Mind” — hysterical satire. Tom Romeo began with a poem about Black Holes & girls who like bad boys “Event Horizon,” then a seasonal poem of sorts in rhyme “Harvest of Souls.” Leslie Gerber read a couple of his “travelogues,” a poem, “Landscapes,” listening to the jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell, & ended with “X-Rated.” Donald Lev always reads as the 4th open mic poet, just before the feature, so tonight Michael read 3 of Donald’s poems — hey, what are friends for?

Photo by Dayl Wise
I read a mix of pieces, mostly recent, that I hadn’t read here before, starting off with a recitation of Bob Kaufman’s poem “Believe, Believe,” then my poem with the same title, an appreciation of Kaufman’s poem for the Poetry Unites project. Then on to “Trailer Park,” & the series of iterations of “Kandinsky’s Red Spot” (based on Inna Erlich’s translation into Russian), “Medicine Buddha,” “The Sestina Sestina” & the poem I read at the Upper Hudson Peace Action Awards Dinner last week “A.J. Muste.” I had a great time & the audience seemed to stay awake.

I was doubly honored when the open mic continued & Alison Koffler-Wise read her poem “Baghdad/Woodstock” that was a response to my challenge to poets to write their own versions of my poem “Baghdad/Albany.” Teresa Costa, who has been running a reading series/open mic at the Bohemian Book Bin in Kingston, announced she has found a new venue for her series, which will re-start in March, then read a poem from 1995 & the more recent “True Indian Summer.”  I missed the title of Pamela’s Twining’s poem, but it as an expansive piece in 2 parts, an homage to Jack Kerouac & thinking about if he was alive now.

Gary Siegel began with a poem titled “Dominion” then to “Profusion” about the colors & beers of Autumn, then another poem on light “Shimmer.” Then began a segment that can best be labelled as “Random Woodstock Characters” with Tom Fletcher doing a rhyming piece from memory “Time To Be Good To Me,” then Bob (“not a poet, a singer, a musician, a lyricist…” he said) with 2 lyrics from childhood, one to his mother, the other to his father, then Sylvia with “a stream-of-consciousness thing” that rambled from fixing a fence, to Johnny Cash, to Rumi. Lenny came up with a poem written today based on the tune “Autumn Leaves” (which is actually a poem by Jacques Prévert), then a poem by Emily Dickinson.

A poet calling herself “Anonymous Me” read an old poem then a new poem from different little books, & ended with a preachy piece about how women are the hope of the future (perhaps a reference back to Platsky’s Sarah Palin piece?). “Filip” (Philip Guareni) read a random rant mixing history & word play. Andy Clausen ended the night reading 2 pieces that had been published in New Directions 37 back in 1978.

It’s every Monday here at the Harmony Cafe 52 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock, NY, 8PM -- open mic, featured poet. It can be noisy place, depending who is sitting at the bar, but then that only adds “character” & after all it is Woodstock, isn’t it?

October 2, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, September 29



— again, in the backroom of McGeary’s, with Mary Panza the host.

Before the featured poet there was a quartet of open mic poets to get it started. AC Everson was up 1st with a ghost story in rhyme “Jack’s Song.” I followed with a couple of vacation poems, “Imagining the Mews” & “Summer in California.” Kevin Peterson read a very short untitled piece, with spiders. Nick Bisanz made a rare appearance without a guitar to read a couple pieces from a 20-year old notebook, a bit of angst in rhyme “Failing Life,” then “Davey at the Dokken Show” about a character he knew.


Jay Renzi, the featured poet, is one of those poets who were unknown on the scene until they appeared on Metroland’s Best Poet list. Since then he has shown up at a few venues as the featured poet. He began with an anaphoric piece (“time to…”) like the famous passage in Ecclesiastes. He read from his published collections as well as from a forth-coming one, explaining that he is inspired by medieval literature. All of his poems are rhymed & many were very short, no more than a couplet or a quatrain. One of his collections is titled The Thorn & Thistle, the name of a made up pub, each chapter a character, like a Canterbury Tales; he read short excerpts from a chapter titled “The Old Miller.” From his new book head read a selection, including “Edward III,” “Wasteland” (a political, piece he said) & others. It was odd, anachronistic poetry, the kind that makes young students avoid poetry & take up Medieval sword-fighting video games instead.

Tess Lecuyer brought us back to the 21st Century with her sonnet “Autumn Equinox 2010.” Brian Dorn, who is also a practitioner of rhyme, read an excerpt from his collage piece he wrote for his performance at Caffè Lena, “Hallowed Ground.” Julie Lomoe read a biographical piece of childhood memories & beyond that she wrote for her brother’s funeral. Adam Tedesco finished off the night with a spooky horror movie set-up “The Terra Cotta Sonnet” & a intricate piece “In Defense of Cults,” reading from his phone since he left the printed poems on his desk at work -- uh oh!

This series started out 9 years ago at the Lark Tavern, then moved to McGeary’s Irish Tavern on Clinton Square in Albany, NY, on the last Monday of each month, starting at 7:30/8:00 or so. Come for dinner & drinks too.