December 16, 2014

Sunday/Funday, December 14

It was a poetry double-header — after leaving Troy & the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic I made it into Albany to The Low Beat just in time to catch most of the first reader’s set & everyone else. Samson Dikeman served as the afternoon’s relaxed host.

Adam Tedesco was reading when I walked in. I caught 2 poems, “Day of the Dead” & a grim tale with a long title of a dysfunctional family during the holidays.

Joe Hesch talked about growing up in Albany not far from The Low Beat & read a cluster of poems mostly about Albany. But he began with a poem about a late night in the suburbs from his book Penumbra: The Space Between. Then on to a series of true stories/memoirs about Albany, including “Empties,” “Keys,” a bit of prose “The Best Gift Ever,” & “Silent Night in Arbor Hill.”

Sari Botton is from New York City. She read a memoir-sounding short story of mistaken identity at a Thanksgiving dinner with strangers in 1994.

The final 2 readers/performers were what could be characterized as “The Goofy Silly Guy Segment.” Douglas Rothschild, dressed for Albany Winter (on a pleasant, balmy day), complete with scarf, gloves & a snow shovel, did a rambling routine in the raconteur style of Jean Shepherd on that tedious Xmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy” mixing in Greco-Roman mythology with Xtian myths.

Sparrow has built his career on being a Goofy Silly Guy. He began by telling us we shouldn’t clap (but we did anyway) & by playing the tonette. His stand-up routine mixes rambling chatter with very, very short musings on palindromes, things overheard on the subway & a list of new words (without definitions, of course).

This series has been going on this past semester on the 2nd Sunday of the month, but Samson expressed at the end some doubt as to whether they would continue. I suggest you check the poetry calendar at for information about this & many other poetry events in the region.

December 15, 2014

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 14

It was great to be back again together with my co-host Nancy Klepsch here at the Arts Center — I was absent last month & she the month before. Today, we had 12 readers.

Peggy LeGee was the first up with a defiant piece titled “I Am Peggy Love Swimming in a Sea of Hate.” Howard Kogan’s first poem, “They Took the Wife,” was from his new chapbook, General Store Poems (Benevolent Bird Press, 2014), poetry meeting oral history, then to a poem about the funeral of a colleague “Burying Paula.” Nancy Klepsch read 2 new pieces, “the most unfinished poems” she has ever read, on the killing of Michael Brown & Eric Garner, “New” & “And I Can’t Breathe.” A new voice Patrice Malatestinle read a couple of rhyming poems, “Mother Issues” & one about an invasive squirrel “Occupied.” Bob Sharkey continued one of the afternoon’s themes introduced by Nancy with a thoughtful essay on race, flowering up from his experience in the ‘70s working at Albany Medical Center, beginning “I am not color blind…”

Karen Fabiane read a poem from her Bright Hills Press chapbook Dancing Bears involving gang violence in New York City, then on to another poem “Be Gone” about the memory of past loves & the flashes of things we see from the corner of our eyes. William Robert Foltin’s poems “Crows in the Snow” & “Christmas Snow” were both written in December in years past. I read 2 new poems “TV - Fire” & the evolving “Didn’t Shoot” following up on Nancy & Bob's pieces.  Kate Laity read a tantalizing excerpt from her prose fiction “30 Versions of ‘Warm Leatherette’,” an exploration of obsession & seduction; find the complete piece online.

Another new voice, Taylor Parganon, unfolded a sheet of paper from his pocket & read the thoughtful poem “The Man at the Door,” imaging kids on their way to a concert & the life of the ticket-taker afterwards. Sandra Rouse said both of her poems had something to do with color, a political piece linking the invasion of Iraq with Springtime in Atlanta “Yellow Rain,” & another, set in 1968, from a longer, 5-part piece. Sally Rhoades was last with an excerpt from her memoir “Broadened by Laughter,” this emotional section about being raised in foster homes.

2nd Sunday @ 2 is an open mic for writers of poetry & prose, held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM (Duh!) at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free!

December 8, 2014

Frequency North, December 5

This was the last of the semester’s series, a semester of prose, with a reading by visiting professor & novelist Dave King. He was introduced by Frequency North director & coordinator Prof. Daniel Nester. Nester introduced Prof. Barbara Ungar who introduced student Josh Sheridan who introduced the evening’s reader.

Dave King began by talking about how writing poetry helped his novel writing, & read his poem “My Heart Disappears Among the Trees.” It was originally published in Big City Lit, an early webzine I remember fondly. He read 2 sections from the middle of his novel The Ha-Ha (Little, Brown & Co. & Back Bay Books). It is the first-person story of an aphasic Viet Nam veteran, told in the present, with flashbacks to family memories before he went to Viet Nam.

The reading was well attended by faculty, students & community folks in the St. Rose library.

Frequency North is a series of readings held at the College of St. Rose, Albany, NY. Check their website for the schedule of upcoming readings.

December 5, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #83, December 2

It turned out to be quite a night of poetry, performance & Slam at The Low Beat. Kevin Peterson (aka K.P.) was the host for the open mic & el presidente Thom Francis was the host for the Slam.

The first reader on the short list of open mic poets was Brian Dorn who read about what inspires his poetry, “Her Attributes.” Jess S., whom I hadn’t seen before, did 2 short pieces (& later participated in the Slam), “Another Rainy Tuesday in the Trailer Park,” & “Noodling the Noodler.” Amani began her untitled piece on lovemaking versus homemaking with singing a bit of Joni Mitchell’s “Little Yellow Taxi.” Avery, finishing off the open mic, performed “Coming Together” (which wasn’t about sex, I don’t think).

The feature was NYC Slam poet Thomas Fucaloro, who had performed up the block at The Linda in the WordFest Invitational Slam back in April, doing a piece he also did tonight about moving from being a cocaine addict to earning an MFA literary degree (hmm?!). Few of his pieces were introduced with titles, but moved from such topics as being at his sister’s dance recital, to about finding our own ways to god (“No Experience Necessary”), to used books, to having babies, to rape recidivism, to the Dead Poet’s Society. His delivery, while eschewing Slam clichés, was energetic, modeled on stand-up comics, &, yes, Robin Williams. His book It Starts from the Belly and Blooms is available from Three Rooms Press.

el presidente brought us back into the Slam with 7 competitors, ranging from Jimmy on Hobbits, Stephen Roberts’ “The Year the Grinch Struck Back,” K.P. with a tribute to his high school science teacher, Jeff S. “On the Road,” Eliza Ryan reprising (from Poets Speak Loud) “Instagram,” & Algorhythm on experience. I achieved a respectable score of 24 for my commentary on religion “The Lady Bishop,” just enough to beat K.P. & to get me into Round 2.

Eliza Ryan, Me, Algorhythm (Photo by Thom Francis)
From there I squeaked by — barely — into 3rd place behind Algorhythm & Eliza Ryan with an excerpt from “Richard Nixon Must Die” that timed out at 3 minutes, 9.8 seconds, as Jeff S. went over time & lost points despite scoring 3 10s (I had scored 2 10s!) with  a piece titled “Scooping Granola” about working in a diner.

So I was “in the money” & could sit back & watch Algorhythm & Eliza battle it out, with the visiting poet coming out on top, a good position for her to be, shall we say.

So, should I keep at this, become a member of the Slam team, delivering real poems to a bunch of punk poseurs, show them what poetry, not performance, is really about? Heck, I’m an old white straight guy in good health. What are the odds? At least I’m not a Republican.

Nitty Gritty Slam, a production of is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month at The Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY. If you are a student (with an I.D. for other than “Student of Life,” etc.) it’s only $3.00, otherwise us old guys have to pay $5.00 (still cheap).

November 30, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, November 24

& we really had to this night in the back room of McGeary’s as the bar was filled with football fans for the snow-delayed Bills v. Jets game. Of course, Mary Panza has no problem with being loud, she was our host.

Sylvia Barnard was the first poet up with the new poem “North Dakota” about her father that she had tried out at the Third Thursday open mic, then a poem from her book Trees “To My Father on his 110th Birthday.” Joe Krausman read about a “Scene in a Subway Car” where a couple texts while making out, then a lesson on where babies come from “Gratitude.” I followed with 2 new poems, “Garrison Keilor” & the Halloween inspired “The Move.”

Lexee had been waiting patiently for the poets to gather & the open mic to begin, did a piece from memory “Like Tinted Diamonds” accompanied by cheers from the bar & encouragement from the audience. Tess Lecuyer has been spending too much time outside in the North Country, saw “Bears” in her kitchen, & a poem from February “Ice Bloom.”

The featured poet/poets was/were "the Pilot Light Collective," 4 poets from Western Massachusetts. First to the mic was Eliza Ryan, who had read here a few months ago in the open mic. Her first poem was about fighting dragons in divorce court, “The Unburnt,” then a poem addressed to “Instagram.”

Stan Spencer ranged from an intro about a tattered cape, to a funny, rhymed piece on farts, another on gender transition, & an angry piece about a triple murder in Pittsfield.

Melissa Quirk Cairns had also been here for the open mic (with Eliza). She began with “Finding Forgiveness at a Funeral Mass, an Open Letter to a Priest,” then a rhymed piece on science & what it means to be human “Even Seuss Was a Doctor.” Her last poem was “new shit” on belief & magic, taking off from a childhood Xmas memory.

Gabriel Squailia read a cluster of poems from a mss. titled 31 Sonnets For January, “Roller Skates,” the funny rant “Best Buy,” “Newborn,” “Snow” (a prophecy?), “Lists” & “The Moment I Decided to Marry My Wife.”

Back to the open mic, Pat Irish read a sonnet “written years ago” about a sunrise over Columbia County. Sally Rhoades proclaimed “I Want to be Swathed in Beauty” & also read an anti-war poem “Between Hope & Despair.” Adam Tedesco’s poem “Parallel Construction” began with an epigraph from Leonard Cohen, was like a letter, while “The Artist as a Paranormal Romantic Comedy” was based on a twisted childhood dream of women on a conveyor belt. Shannon Shoemaker read a poem about looking for happy endings “Phone Booth,” then another, untitled leaving love poem. Kevin Peterson’s “Vice” was a drive-by made up of 2 very short vignettes. & appropriately enough Julie Lomoe ended the night with “11 Ways of Looking at November.”

We took the cheers from the bar as a credit to the fine poetry we heard tonight, which also inspired the Bills to victory. Join us at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany every last Monday of the month, about 7:30 — bring poems for the open mic, have dinner, a drink or 2 & speak loud!

Community of Writers, November 23

The Hudson Valley Writers Guild has sponsored the The Community of Writers program at the Schenectady County Public Library for about 12 years. The event presents local writers in various genres reading their work & (hopefully) selling their books. This year’s reading included writers of young adult fiction, adult fiction & poetry. The MC was me, Dan Wilcox, President of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

Rose Kent first talked about her experience in bringing her books into schools & the kinds of questions the young students asked. She read a section from her most recent novel Rock Road (Knopf Publishers), the narrator a young girl with her brother & mother moving from Texas to Schenectady. She is also the author of an earlier novel Kimchi & Calamari (Harper Collins).

Thérèse Broderick is well-known in the poetry community as a reader, teacher, & former Poet Laureate of Smith’s Tavern. Today she read poems linked by memory & family, -- poems about her childhood, her husband (“Blue Pinto”), baby-sitting & as a recent tourist in the Holy Land. She also read from & offered for sale her poetry “favors,” each a poem written on coffee filters & bound into a fan-shaped chapbook.

Bunkong Tuon has recently been reading his poems at area open mics. He teaches in the English Department at Union College. His poems were about growing up as a refugee from Cambodia, about being educated in the US, & about his family, & confronting racism. A full-length collection of his poems, Gruel, is forthcoming from NYQ Books.

James Pavoldi had the best book display: a full-size suit of armor holding copies of his self-published novel No Fat Knights. It is the story of the adventures of a woman who travels from Brooklyn to England to attend a seminar by on weight loss run by a knighted physician. More information about the book can be found on his website.

Steve Swartz is the first Poet Laureate of Schenectady County & a former host of the Community of Writers reading. He read a selection of his poems, which were often humorous, full of wordplay & rhyme. He began & ended his reading, appropriately enough, with the word “Schenectady.”

This is an annual event at the Schenectady County Public Library, so watch for it again next year at this time. But both the Library & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild has programming throughout the year. Check their websites for more information.

November 24, 2014

Yes! Reading Series, November 22

This series, curated by poets James Belflower & Matthew Klane, is held at the Albany Center Gallery, 39 Columbia St., Albany, NY & they characteristically mix the reading of poetry with other art forms. Tonight’s readers Michael Ruby & Marthe Reed was joined by dancer (& poet) Sally Rhoades. In addition the gallery was filled with the sculpture of Mary Pat Wagner adding a further aesthetic dimension to the evening’s performance.

James Belflower introduced Michael Ruby first & he read from his American Songbook (Ugly Duckling Press, 2013). Although he has nicely melodic reading voice, he barely moved except to turn the pages & look up. The poems used the words & phrases from pop songs that he then fills in with his words. It worked best with songs that I knew, like the Door’s “People Are Strange,” & where I was not familiar with the song’s lyrics it was hard, on only 1 hearing, to know where the poems were going. Some of the other songs he used were “Cigarettes & Coffee,” “You Know I Know,” & “Little Girl Blues,” among others.

He remained in his spot as James introduced Marthe Reed, then Michael & Marthe did a collaborative reading of a piece from her new book Nights Reading Lavender Ink, 2014), the poem having something to do with a talking knot. The rest of the reading she did solo, explaining that the book is based on The 1000 & One Nights translated by Richard Burton, the poems using stories, Burton’s commentary & her own analysis, many dealing with gender issues. Again, I was left wondering how the poems were put together, though I frequently got carried along by the music of the language. The poem “The Room” contained a line that made it into my notes, “narrative dancing in its own embrace.” There were also frequent quotes from poet/translator/scholar Rosemarie Waldrop.

Co-host Matthew Klane read short tribute poems to Michael Ruby & Marthe Reed in his signature cut-up method, then went on to introduce Sally Rhoades. She entered the darkened room with a candle that she placed on a small table containing a notebook & iPhone, then danced as she recited a poem “My Mother was a Mohawk…” about exploring her native ancestry traced back through both her mother & father’s familes, who had suppressed these roots when she was young. Her control of her memorized words & of her expressive movement was impressive. She then sat on a chair next to the small table & read 3 poems also referencing her native roots, “I Can’t Hear You,” “The Sky is My Witness” (about her father) & “A Silence.”

Yes! Reading Series can be found on FaceBook, as can the Albany Center Gallery — a community-based and community supported non-profit art space dedicated to exhibiting skillful contemporary art of the Mohawk Hudson region.