June 14, 2018
This was an odd day at the Arts Center, starting off in the Black Box theater where we are most 2nd Sundays, but then in the middle they moved us upstairs to the Dance Studio. In the past we have occasionally been re-located to a studio on the 2nd floor, but this was the first time we were moved in the middle of our event. Whatever.
There was a long (16 writers) sign-up sheet, with a number of poets who have not been here in a while, to pay tribute to Howard Kogan who will be moving with his wife Libby to Worcester, MA. Howard has been an integral part of our community of poets & his poetry is much admired & enjoyed. First up was Tom Bonville with a memoir of what many of us experienced “Hide & Seek.”
Sometimes I can’t always understand Karen Fabiane so I think the title of her stream-of-conciousness piece that began with dogs & ended up in Brooklyn was “Me Fingers,” then a piece read previously but now re-written “Ain’t Like That.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a just-written poem “Cook” composed of the language of food & cooking ending with the name “Bourdain,” then the untitled poem “Untitled” from her 2017 book god must be a boogie man that begins “I am shaped by dreams…”
Sally Rhoades rushed in for Howard, read a poem about the night sky in Oklahoma “Missing the Starlight,” then one about a World War II memorial in Europe for American soldiers “White Crosses.” The last poet was also a new voice & face, John Teevan who read a short prose story titled “A Melancholy Euphoria” set in 1917, lovers parting, with a consideration of the possibilities, from a book titled Afternoons and Evenings in Vienna.
From there, many of us, Howard & Libby’s friends, adjourned to Brown’s for food, libations, conversations & a toast to one of the poets who added so much to our local poetry scene, so much to our community, a good poet & a fine gentleman. It ain’t over until it’s over, as another Brooklynite once said, we’ll see Howard again.
But you won’t see 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose again until September, we’re off for July & August, just like school. Otherwise, we’ll be at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY the rest of the year on, you know, 2nd Sunday @ 2. It’s free & open to all writers.
June 12, 2018
I like to say, “if your friends & relatives don’t come to your readings, who will?” & tonight’s featured poet, Katrinka Moore, certainly followed that axiom packing the house with acquaintances, including one whom signed up to read for the first time here, in addition to some of the regular open mic-ers. But first I invoked our Muse, the gone poet Joanne Kyger (1934 - 2017), & read her poem “It’s Been a Long Time.” Then on to the open mic.
First up was Alan Catlin with a grim litany of war wounds, “Walt Whitman’s Bitter Angel,” culled from his Civil War poems. Tom Bonville was here for the 1st time with a descriptive poem titled “Mother’s Day,” his mother at 74. Self-styled "country-girl" Dianne Sefcik read from her recent book Red Ochre, “Pipe,” also her first time here, a poem of social justice.
After a break we returned to the open mic, with me reading my new poem, “Buttons Not Bombs.”
Joe Krausman read a humorous, social commentary “The Magic of the Answering Machine,” a message that someone left behind before he died. Clarese Portofino read a poem, like a series of notes, describing a shameless party & its aftermath “The Last Brazier.” Brianna Kehrer’s poem, “Peter Paul & Amy,” describes a sad cook in a restaurant in Schenectady & finding a moment of compassion.
But with any luck the Earth will not be dead on future Third Thursdays so we can gather at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us to read a poem too.
June 5, 2018
This week we got bounced upstairs but it doesn’t matter, the words still flow up. Nancy Klepsch & I play tag-team hosts here at the Arts Center each month.
Harvey Havel is often in the audience at open mics, but rarely reads; today he read the first 4 pages of a new novel of a love story for a crack addict told by an upper-class hockey player. Karen Fabiane’s first piece was titled “Navigating the Space Bar” then another portrait of a woman at a bar “Corner Spot.” Peggy LeGee read her newest chapbook Enter the Shopping Kart Man (Transgirl Press 2018) in the continuing graphics art saga of Moochie the Dumpster Kat (art & lettering by Raymond Lowell).
Co-host Nancy Klepsch wrote a poem this morning celebrating the color “Green” & tried it out. Jil Hanifan started with the short “Poem in the Overcast” then a piece on urban sounds “Presences.” Bob Sharkey read 2 poems inspired by entries in the recent Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, “Siege” about the Battle of Malawi in the Philippines in May 2017, then a Cento titled “We Are Delivered by Wonder” composed of lines of poems from entries in the contest. Christian Ortega has just moved to Troy from the mid-Hudson area & read from his book Red Poems (Hispanic Paradox Press, 2014) the poems “My Name & Yours” & “Miami.”
Each 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region we gather for a wide-open literary open mic of poetry & prose — bring your pages to read, free & open to the public.
June 1, 2018
First on the open mic sign-up was Mark O’Brien who read “The Vocabulary Kiln” from The Rootdrinker Anthology, then a memoir poem about his mother. Paul Amidon’s poems are richly descriptive, he read “Old Dog” & “Roadside Memorial.” Mike Conner read the post-breakup “It May,” & a piece about a thunder storm “Storm Stranger.”
After a break, Bob Sharkey led off the open mic poets with a cento composed of lines from entries to the Stephen A. DiBiase contest, titled “We Are Delivered of Wonders.”
Michale Czarnecki read from his newest book You (FootHills Publishing, 2018) a untitled piece on the ocean, then from another collection, “I’m a 46er!” Ron Pavoldi read a new poem for the 1st time, “When All is Right with the World.” Our host, Alan Casline, ended the night with the strangely titled poem “Give to Vitamin Angels.org,” then one of his poems based on the I Ching “Breakthrough” (Hexagram 43).
We’ll just have to see what the future brings for this reading series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum. Meanwhile, the Arboretum is still there & they trees are still growing — stop by sometime & visit.
May 29, 2018
It was a grand gathering of mostly local poets, with notable exceptions, Martin Willitts Jr. who drove over from Syracuse to read his First Place poem “Open Wounds,” about the trauma of war & its aftermath, & Hannah Bleier, a Finalist, who came up from Brooklyn to read her poem “The Word” & said she hoping to find the kind of experience that she did indeed find here.
I’ve included graphics of both the list of Contest Awards and Finalists, & the program of the reading itself, but will mention some of the highlights. Howard Kogan read “The Selective Lad” by Okere Godsent of Lagos, Nigeria which won the “Kogan/Wilcox International Award;” when Bob was telling us about the entries he was receiving from around the world, sometime after President Trump talked about “shit-hole countries,” both Howard & I, separately, suggested that Bob have a separate award for a poet from one of Trump’s disparaged countries/continents, thus the award for Okere Godsent.
Maroula Blades from Berlin, Germany was so thrilled by her High Honorable Mention for her poem “Thembi’s Initiation” that she sent a recording of her reading the poem which Bob played, a grim pantoum on female genital mutilation. Bob Sharkey read Olivia McKee’s “Antimony” & Mary Panza read Rebecca Schumejda’s 3rd place poem “Then He Begged Me to Go Back with Him and Rescue the Others,” both poets were at paid readings elsewhere. Mary also read her own Honorable Mention “I want you to know/ I was raped.” Nancy Klepsch read a couple of Honorable Mention poems, Chidinma Opaigbeogu’s “Afternoon” about the war in Biafra, & Lani O’Hanlon’s (from Waterford, Ireland) “Until the Young are Reared.”
I had the honor of reading with Bob Sharkey the 2nd Place poem by Richard Foerster, “The Hours,” a description of a usual work day using the monk’s canonical hours as a structure (originally published in Poetry).
Some poets who made rare appearances reading in Albany were Ken Holland reading “Boom Times at the Shake Shanty,” Jodi Ackerman Frank who read “I Survived,” & Mary Kathryn Jablonski with a revised version of a moving, whimsical poem I’d heard her read at Caffè Lena “On Hearing that Crayola is Retiring Dandelion.”
Speaking of poems I’ve heard previously at open mics, there was Paul Amidon with “The Three Kings” about schoolmates going off to war, Kathleen Smith reading “Rhapsody in Blue, Playing at the Egg in Albany,” & Sylvia Barnard read an archeological poem “Cat Print.” Mimi Moriarty read her poem about a poet struggling with immortality “A Poet Who Cannot Support Himself Takes a Job Pouring Cement.”
Bob introduced each poet & poem by reading the bios the poets submitted & their statement about their influences, poetic & otherwise. He also shared with us his memory of knowing Stephen A. DiBiase, & ended the reading with excerpts from the longest entry to the contest, a poem by Sylvia Anne Telfer from Scotland “Warp Wolves.”
All us, winners & other entrants, are most grateful to Bob Sharkey & his coterie of judges who made such a reading possible -- & we are looking forward to once again entering out "best" poem to this now annual event.
May 22, 2018
There is a new regime at the NYS Writers’ Institute & while they continue to bring world-class writers to UAlbany they are reaching deeper into our own writing community to bring the talents there to the audiences that attend these free events. Tonight’s reading by prize-winning poet David Tomas Martinez was the next-to-last in the semester’s (& season’s) impressive lineup.
I for one am looking forward to the new season of the NYS Writers Institute, particularly if they continue under the Directorship of Paul Grondahl to bring in local writers to share the stage with the A-list writers that the Writers Institute is renowned for bringing in to our community. Check out their website & support the good work they do.
[Note: I recognize that I may not have gotten the spelling correct for all the names of the student readers; corrections are welcome & may be noted in the comments section of this Blog, from which I will make corrections to the text.]
Fresh from the poetic intensity of Split This Rock I was glad to be back at the poetry venues I am used to, among the poets I enjoy, hearing their poems, & back at McGeary’s on the last Monday with Mary Panza keeping it real, or thereabouts.
I was first up for the open mic & read my homage “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock,” then, still on the poetry theme, “Dot Dot Dot” (the ellipsis poem). Joe Krausman’s poems were inspired by what he read in the morning papers, “Sunny Side Up” & “Lawrence Pope” about a former bank president who became a bank robber. Bob Sharkey read about the fairies on “Surrey Hill,” then a poem, “Siege,” influenced by one submitted to the DiBiase Contest reading.
on her website. Robb Smith read one of his salacious grannie-porn stories, this about retirees partying at a casino.
Back to the open mic, stalwart Sylvia Barnard read John Keat’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” to introduce her own poem based on a text from ancient Greek that she teaches, “The Owl on the Water Jug.” Shannon Shoemaker tried out a poem-in-progress (isn’t that what open mic are for?) “Straight Girl Blues.”
As so often happens when Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on the last Monday of the month, a wonderful mixed bag of poets & poetry.