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.

November 23, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 20


Tonight I invoked the Muse by reading 2 poems by Jim Spurr from his chapbook Open Mike Thursday Night (Village Books Press, 2010), “Patriotism” & “Lady Across the Way,” one of the great Oklahoma poets who left us for that open mic in the Sky in September.

Here the first open mic poet was Alan Catlin, who said he thinks he met Jim Spurr on line, began with a bartender poem about New Year’s Eve, “The Conga Line from Hell.” Joe Krausman read a piece titled “King of the Free Lance Writers” about the prolific American author Richard Gehman (1921 - 1972). Sylvia Barnard read a short, new poem about her father’s trip as a young man with a herd of cattle on a train to “North Dakota.” Frank Robinson’s poem “The Second of May” is from his charming chapbook Love Poems (Verity Press International, 2014) & was a funny piece in rhyme about the day he met his wife. & that wife was the next poet up, Thérèse Broderick, with a poem about a “butterfly zoo,” “Within the Mariposario,” weaving in English & Spanish phrases.

The next poet will be the featured poet here next month, Adam Tedesco, who gave us a preview with a poem of colors & San Francisco “Yellow.” Jessica Rae read a bus poem, a little love poem to Albany, “Central Ave.” Chad Lowther read from his Airbook a poem constructed from phrases heard in a lecture on Moby Dick from a University course on Herman Melville, “Staring at Rolling Seas.” I was the last poet in the open mic with “The Night Sky,” a poem recently published in the online journal Pine Hills Review.

I’d met tonight’s featured poet, Karen Skolfield, at this past year’s Split This Rock Poetry Festival & when I found out she lived in neighboring Western Massachusetts, I invited her to read in this series. She began with the first 3 poems from Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013), “Where Babies Come From,” “Homunculus” & “Art Project: Earth.”  Also from the book “Lost Mountain” & “Rumors of Her Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” (“dancing around” her military experience), then on to another poem (not in the book) from a series based on Army training manuals, “Army SMART Book: M-18A1 Claymore Mine” (on the limits of the imagination). Other new poems were “Double Arm Transplant,” & the new, never read out “On Veterans Day My Daughter Wishes Me Happy Veterinarian’s Day.” She ended with 2 poems from the book, “Chiromancy” & “Frost in the Low Areas” (because she likes to end with weather poems). A relaxed, playful reading full of description, laughter, often with family members as bit players, taking an idea & playing it out in a conversational tone.

Every third Thursday we gather at the Social Justice Center for a featured poet & an open mic for community poets, 7:30PM, $3.00 donation, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY.  Join us.

November 13, 2014

Live from the Living Room, November 12


Back in the downstairs “living room” of the Pride Center with our host Don Levy.

Tonight’s featured poet was Elizabeth Gordon/Elizag who began her reading with a new piece “White Privilege” done from memory. Then from her book of poems Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2014) “If Gay Marriage Had Been Legal For Me I’d Be Divorced Twice, at Least, & I’d Have A House,” then a revised, Slam version “I Do” written in response to workshop comments; we agreed that what she has is 2 poems on the same theme. Then she read a section from her earlier non-fiction memoir Walk With Us: Triplet Boys, Their Teen Parents, & Two White Women Who Tagged Along (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2007) about being in family court. She ended with a poem spun out of this book, a commentary about being in a cross-cultural community. As always with Elizag it was a good, entertaining, engaged reading.

I was the 1st poet in the open mic, read my ever-expanding “The Communion of Saints” & a peace poem from Poeming the Prompt “Fast & Slow.” Leslie Gerber has a brand-new chapbook of poems out from Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, NY Lies of the Poets, so new he hasn’t had the book release party yet. He read the chilling “Hot Line” then the often funny title poem “Lies of the Poets.” Bob Sharkey read an old poem “Anticipation” based on a dream about a poetry reading/party at the former Lemily Gallery on Washington Ave., then a poem from a longer piece about an encounter with a ghost of an ancestor “Cathy Gives Me a Good Scolding.”

Sally Rhoades read a “very new” piece, “On a Night with a Poet,” in which the poet in the title is herself, a long weaving of words like a stream. Jaida Samudra was here with her father, Leslie Gerber, & began with a poem from memory to Lucky, a trans-sexual friend, then on to “A Letter from Singapore” full of word play in multiple languages. Don Levy ended the night, as he does here, with a couple poems, the first titled simply “G.B.” about a boy he had a crush on in 9th grade, then another high school memoir “Climbing the Rope.”

Live from the Living Room happens each 2nd Wednesday of the month with a featured poet followed by an open mic at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY 7:30 PM $3.00 donation.

November 12, 2014

Fall Book & Author Event, November 8


Paul Pines has been filling up my bookshelves. At last count I have copies of 10 of his books, which doesn’t count my old copy of the original paperback of the novel The Tin Angel that I gave away. His most recent collection is Fishing On the Pole Star (Dos Madres Press, 2014). I even have a copy of his 1972 Onion (with drawings by Basil King) (Mulch Press). In addition to his poetry & being a practicing psychotherapist he runs the annual Lake George Jazz Weekend. Today the Friends of the Albany Public Library honored him for his literary work & contributions to the larger arts community with a lunch at the University Club, then Paul gave a lecture at the Albany Public Library Main Branch.

Titled “Voco, Vocatus — Who Calls? Tracking the Voice & the Vision” the presentation was about the sources & nature of the poetic imagination. He began with reading a couple of poems from his Divine Madness (March Hawk Press, 2012), one about Vulcan, the other about Citizen Tom Paine. From there to images projected on the screen behind him by painters Joan Mitchell, Mike Goldberg, Larry Rivers & Robert Indiana who had been patrons (as I had) in Paul’s bar The Tin Palace at the corner of Bowery & 2nd St. in NYC. On to a discussion of the work of upstate poet William Bronk, some poems from Paul’s New Orleans Variations & Paris Ourobouros (Dos Madres Press, 2013), to the Popl Vuh & the “submerged center,” to Rimbaud, Plato from the Phaedrus on divine madness, the poet as visionary with reference to Blake, Black Elk & Walt Whitman. On to Wolfgang Pauli, finishing with a discussion of an essay by Thomas de Zengotita, “Naming of the American Mind, Culture as Anesthetic.” Phew, a whirlwind of references, enough for a semester of study at the University of the Self.

The Friends of the Albany Public Library also sponsors weekly book-reviews at the Main Branch, 161 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12:15PM, free — & free refreshments.

November 10, 2014

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, November 7


The last of the season here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, until the thaw in April, with featured poets Joe Krausman & Me (DWx). Alan Casline was the host.

Brian Dorn was the first of the open mic poets, beginning with “Changing Ways” (of seasons, of life), then a poem he said he has not read out before “Under & Over.” Alan Catlin’s poems were from a series of animal poems, “Armadillos at the Ball Park,” “Guide Dogs with Lead Harness Consider Trench Warfare,” “Elephants at Low Tide” which is the title poem of a new collection. Paul Amidon began with “School Concert” & “Report Card” (his grandfather’s) & one in a “Diner.” Mike Connors read Archibald MacLeish’s poem “Ars Poetica” then a funny “Cranberry Day,” & a poem written yesterday about a maple tree “Forlorn Women of Autumn.” The genius behind the Pine Hallow Arboretum, the planter of trees, John Abbuhl always reads in the open mic & tonight read 2 short poems, “Clearing” & “The Fog Will Clear” then a short, concise essay written recently “The Unity of Reality.”

Don Levy is known to his FaceBook Friends as having a, shall we say, rich, detailed life on FB, so his funny poem “Life Without FaceBook” becomes quite hysterical in context, then he read a stream-of-consciousness “Googling Rain Poems.” Frank Robinson has been piling up poetic “firsts” all week: 1st time reading at Caffè Lena on Wednesday night, 1st time “solo flight” here without his wife Thérèse at a poetry reading, with 2 interesting poems, “When I Was a Kid America Was Like Africa” & “Ce n’est pas un poème.” Mark W. O’Brien first read a poem by W.W. Christman (1865 - 1937) then one by an Irish poet Gene Barry, & on into a long introduction that could have been a long poem in itself before he read the poem itself "I've Heard the Beautiful Message."  Dennis Sulllivan, on the other hand, read only one poem, a characteristically philosophical piece, “Are You Sitting Alone Tonight?” inspired by the Woody Allen flick, “Broadway Danny Rose.”

Photo by Don Levy
Joe Krausman & I were the featured poets. I had met Joe when I moved back to this area in the late 1980’s when we were in a poetry workshop with the Poet Laureate of All Ireland, John Montague, & would often meet on the way as we walked to work each morning for the State of New York. I began with a poem about meeting Joe one morning on a street corner as he read the The New York Times, & we went on from there with poems about Death & Love, done as an interlocking set, weaving our poems in & out of each other's, a technique I had learned from performing with the poetry performance group 3 Guys from Albany. Joe is a constant presence in the poetry scene as well as the literary/art scene in general here in the Capital District — not to mention a great friend. We had a lot of fun bouncing our poems off each other.

After a break our host Alan Casline returned with a piece about a leaf falling inspired by “Michael McClure Line I Find Climbing 10 Mountains.” Adam Wells was a new poet here who eschewed the mic to do 2 pieces from memory in hip-hop rhythms & rhymes, “Turkey” & “Perfect for Me.” Howard Kogan’s poem was too late for either Joe or me, titled “Advice to Poets” it contained such gems as “we have to become musicians…” & “never use the word ’Truth,’ or ‘Love’ either.” Tom Corrado proclaimed it “a great night for a screen dump” & read #138. Edie Abrams' poem described “10 Days in Utah.” Susan Riback read what she called an “inner song” “The Good Place to Be,” then a piece on internet dating. Barbara Garro was “an Arboretum virgin” & read “The Curio Cabinet” that went from the figurines inside to animal myths. Megan Gillespie ended the night with a poem about talking to her neighbor in the backyard titled “Insulin Shock” & we hope to see her at more open mics soon.

This was the final reading in the series until the Spring. But the Arboretum is still there throughout the Winter (trees don’t migrate very quickly, you know). Watch for more readings here sometime in April, 2015.

November 9, 2014

Frequency North, November 6


When I arrived in the rain there seemed to be some confusion about where the reading by Marc Spitz would be. The publicity was clear: the St. Joseph Hall Auditorium, but for some reason we were led to the Standish Room (where other Frequency North readings had been held). In fact, next to the sign for the Standish Room there was a poster announcing Marc Spitz’s reading in St. Joseph Hall Auditorium. Then we were lead back to the St. Joseph Hall Auditorium where other listeners were already chatting, waiting, & the book table was set up. Go figure.

Daniel Nester (right) introduces Marc Spitz
But the experience showed the truth of the old axiom “if you are going to have a poetry reading, hold it in a small room, that way it looks crowded.” This wasn’t a poetry reading, but it holds true for prose. The audience in St. Joseph Hall Auditorium looked small, spread out, but they would have looked cosy & packed in if held in the less cavernous Standish Room.

Marc Spitz, writing about rock’n’roll & pop culture, is the author of a couple novels, rock star biographies & a memoir Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the 90’s (Da Capo Press, 2013). His most recent book is Twee: A History (It Books, 2014). He read from the introduction as an explanation of what “twee” is, a dizzying list of movie & book titles & other recent pop culture references, then on to a description of the scene in Brooklyn, stating “everyone is young & most of the young are twee.” At the end I was beginning to draw the conclusion that “twee” was simply an extension of “twit.”

He also read a couple of brief sections from Poseur. The sections he read actually dated from the late 1980s, about getting a room at the legendary Chelsea Hotel & an encounter with Allen Ginsberg at the Poetry Project’s New Years Day Marathon reading. Those sections as memoir & story-telling were much more satisfying than the pop-culture anthropology.

Frequency North is a series of readings at the College of St. Rose by young writers. Check out their schedule here.

November 8, 2014

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 5


I hadn’t been here since the September reading, but wanted very much to hear new work from one of my favorite of the local poets, Mary Kathryn Jablonski. Carol Graser started us off with reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, & announced that this series is now being supported by Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, then on to the open mic.

Alan Catlin was first up with a “bus stop poem” titled “Home Schooled,” then a poem about a fight in a bar “Last Man Standing.” Tim Sneider read a poem inspired by his car’s odometer “242,242,” then a poem about his motorcycle “Winter Sleeping.” Dave Jakes came over from Great Barrington & read 2 short pieces, “The President of Spring” & “Wave Rider,” then imagined snowflakes with bar codes in “Chicago Snow.” Todd Fabozzi’s poem “The Couple” described a bitter scene in a coffee shop, while “Hey So-Called Conservative” was a preachy political rant. Rodney Parrott read a poem from a set of pieces on flying.


The first featured poet was Richard Levine, from Brooklyn. He began with a poem in many parts about a conversation in the bar, that he read for Veterans Day, “Disturbing the Peace.” Next he read the title poem from his new book The Cadence of Mercy, then a poem inspired by the writer William Least Heat Moon “Spirit,” & 3 poems inspired by growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, "These Are the Generations,” “Out of Light’s Reach,” & “Saturday Night Fights.” “Autumn Burn” was from an earlier book, while “Picket Fences” was from his 2012 book of poems A Tide of a Hundred Mountains from Bright Hills Press. He ended with a poem about Troy, NY “The Drowned River” from The Cadence of Mercy. His work was often narrative, discursive, & he had asked the audience, after reading his first poem, not to clap for each poem, as the appreciative crowd here usually does, which made for a strangely quiet reading.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski laid down no such rules & the audience showed its appreciation for each poem. Many of her poems were childhood memories from growing up on a farm — “Stone,” “World of Two” (about dressing up a pet cat), “Girls Washing Eggs,” & “Elderberries.” She also read one poem, “Mare Vaporum,” from her collection To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008) (full disclosure, I am the publisher of A.P.D.). Other, newer poems, were “For the Russian Space Dog,” “Mis-remembered,” “Under-Rated Bird” (on the Robin), “A Feathered Thing,” & “Train” in which a bird makes still another appearance.  Good work as ever (I did say up front I am a fan, didn't I?).

After a short break for book sales & bathroom, our host Carol Graser returned with one of her own poems on ice & snow. Anthony Bernini read a couple of nature-inspired poems “The Scent of the Earth” & “Wind Above the Tree Line.” Both of “Storm Cat”’s poems were inspired by solitude, the first, “a blues art-rock fusion” he sang & read, then the short “Circular Reasoning” on solitude v. companionship.

Ellen Finn read a Harry Potter dream poem, wondered “what does it mean?” & also had the wildest shoes of the night. Sally Rhoades’ poem “The Sky is My Witness” was about her father, while “A Silence,” which she dedicated to the poet Maurice Kenny, was about paddling a canoe. Barbara Garro read a poem titled “Lost Days” then a series of 6 Haiku, mostly containing bugs. Thérèse Broderick read about being the “Friday Babysitter” & about taking her mother to the bank, “Please Remove Hats & Dark Glasses.” Frank Robinson, Thérèse’s husband, announced he was a “Caffè Lena virgin” read the very funny “Migration” (of body parts) & the equally funny love poem “Thérèse 5.1.” Rachael, who had read here in the open mic in years past, was back with a couple of untitled notebook entries, pondering war & peace & beautiful ideas.

Joe Bruchac has been a featured poet on this stage & it was great to see him as an open mic poet; he had brought the gladiolas that sat in a jar-vase on stage, & read a poem he had just written about them, then a couple pieces up out of his Abenaki culture, a poem on fireflies, & the freshly written warning “Deer Woman’s Eyes.” Jay Rogoff was another past featured poet; he read 2 love sonnets “The Fountain” on menstruation, & “The Table” the Annunciation from the Angel’s point of view.

Carl writes funny rhyming poems & read one on a New Year’s resolution to ogle minds rather than behinds, then a somewhat related piece on Viagra “On Golden Years.” Susan Riback said she had been reading Pablo Neruda’s A Book of Questions & read to us a sample of these gnomic couplets, then her own versions, then a poem about “The Alphabet Psychic.” Jesse Muse, who the night before had been at The Low Beat in Albany, free-styled a couple of Slam pieces both relating to being at work & not titling his poems. Lynn (also from Great Barrington), the night’s final poet, hadn’t intended to read when she first got here, but was inspired by what she heard,  & read “November Bath Night” & “Communion” based on the question, “what kind of wine is she?”

There is always a great variety of poets here which makes the trip worth it, to Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs on the 1st Wednesday of each month, $5, 7:30PM.