July 19, 2016
The second in the 2016 Poets in the Park featured Mary Eliza Crane & Victorio Reyes. There was a wonderfully attentive, diverse audience of over 25 listeners. This series has been going on since, depending how you configure the beginning, 1988 or 1990; it was the dream-child of Albany poet & activist Tom Nattell & continued by me since 2005 after Tom’s passing.
Poets in the Park will continue with one more event this year, on July 30, See you at the Robert Burns statue, 7:00PM.
July 14, 2016
Back up to the Stockade section of Schenectady for this monthly open mic, hosted by Catherine Norr. There already was an long list of open mic readers when Don & I arrived, & we ended up on the tail-end of the list. Poet Barbara Ungar was the featured reader.
There is usually a bevy of students gathered before the open mic for a workshop & they are frequently the first to sign up. Shayla Clark was first with a list of the mundane tasks on a typical day “Not Again,” then a piece titled “Theatrical Romance.” Samuel DeSaintis read an untitled descriptive piece about a storm. Sydney Lussier began with a poem about her own insomnia, then read abut her brother caring for his daughter with CP. Kate McNairy has a new book, Light to Light, coming out in the Fall from Finishing Line Press, read a poem titled “Mother” & another, short piece about a someone dressing up a dog. C.J. read “Formally Familiar.” Richard Jerin introduced himself as being new to the area, & has been only writing poetry for about 4 years; both of his pieces, “Promises” & “Keeping My Innocence” used repetition to hang together. Victor Negren Cerettini’s poem “Anxiety” was much too abstract, particularly for this subject.
After a break to buy Barbara’s books, Catherine Norr started off the 2nd half of the open mic with a piece read in her version of a New York accent “Table-top Microphone,” then a look back to cooler days “Whiling Away Snow Days.” Malcolm Willison began with what he called “an old train poem,” the richly descriptive “Envoie,” then a memoir about a hike in the woods for a deceased friend. Leslie Neustadt does not read at open mics anywhere near often enough, tonight read 2 poems from prompts, one about her mother from a workshop run by Barbara Ungar, the other from a workshop with Jil Hanifan, mixing Hebrew & English, “Trembling at the Threshold of Jerusalem.” Ginny Folger also read a poem from one of Barbara’s workshops, the elegy “To His Ashes.” Jackie Craven described the intricate assignment for a poem for an upcoming workshop with Henri Cole & her attempt to fulfill it, “Why I Throw Stones.” Her friend Susan Jewell responded to the same assignment with “Territorial Prompt.”
Alan Catlin read, for Barbara Ungar, “My Dream Date with the Brontë Sisters” from his new book from FutureCycle Press American Odyssey, then a poem written yesterday, about jury duty, “Excused.” Bunkong Tuon did not read any of his fine poems, but instead paid tribute to his friend, the poet April Selley, who died this morning, by reading April’s poem “For Once the Dwarf Gets the Girl.”
Don Levy had gone to San Francisco recently & read an almost abstract-expressionist poem “SFMOMA,” then one of his more characteristic pieces responding to comments online & on Face Book, this from someone wanting a parade for straight people, “Straight Pride Day is Everyday.” I ended up as the last reader, first with a poem about what happens to books when they age, “Decomposition,” & a short, instructional poem, “Metaphor.”
This series, which has been going on for about 2 years, has a good following & is well-attended. It happens on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7:30PM at Arthur’s Market, 35 N. Ferry St., Schenectady, NY.
July 12, 2016
The first of the 2016 Poets in the Park was, alas, not in the Park, but in the Social Justice Center due to rain & predictions of thunderstorms. But even without the statue of Robert Burns looming behind us, it was a most poetic event.
She started with a selection from Slamming & Splitting, the poem “She Says” where the conflict starts, then a clever bit of metaphor, “Traffic,” about exiting a tight parking space & a marriage, then the title poem mixing science with poetry, & “Married but Separated Prayer” on the death of her mother, her mother’s ashes & trees. As a transition she read an amusing poem from her first year of teaching 7th grade “Transparent Pants” about responding to a student's boner & learning how to teach.
Then on to some love poems from Loving from the Backbones. “Sustenance” was filled with images from the stuff of daily living, while “When He Comes” was a wonderfully explicit erotic poem, as was the title poem in a more subtle, reptilian way. Her newer poems included observations about Florida such as the poem in character “God’s Waiting Room” & the descriptive “Water Aerobics.” She ended with her most recent poem “From the Bowl Like Mercy Itself” a meditation on the small & large disasters of life. Catherine's poems are sexy, filled with images from the life we know &, did I say sexy?
Warrior Writers, & Combat Papers, describing the work of Eli Wright making art with barbed wire & with masks. Back in 1972 he co-edited with W.D. Ehrhart Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, the title ironic because that was the U.S. government’s term for the campaign in Vietnam. It was the earliest collection of such writing by veterans of that war.
He began his reading with a song lyric/poem by Darden Smith from a song-writing workshop that Jay said had inspired him to think about a new book of poems. His own poems began with a series on holidays, “Memorial Day” thinking of parades & gardening, “Memorial holidays,”& “Commemorating Peace” on Armistice Day & Arbor Day. “Saving Art” was set at a “monsoon” at the Clearwater Festival, & “Early Warning” was about another storm, this an October snow storm. He often travels across country & read a series of short descriptive pieces poems from that: “California Traffic,” “Wild Life Signs” (set in Arizona), “Route 50 Across Nevada”, “Home on the Range” (about his Aunt in West Texas now in a nursing home), “Grand Lands” pondering landscapes of America ruined by industry, & the last poem in the planned book “Utah” about it’s beauty. A book I already want to buy before it is even done.
It is Summer in the great Northeast so we are never certain what the weather will be. Poets in the Park has 2 more events, July 16 with Mary Crane & Victorio Reyes, & July 30 with Sarah Browning & Bunkong Tuon. The readings are planned to be at the Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park at 7:00PM on each of those dates, & you will need to bring a chair or blanket to sit on. But if it is raining we will be at the Social Justice Center at 33 Central Ave. instead. It’s free, brought to you by the Poetry Motel Foundation & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.
July 8, 2016
The historic Caffè Lena building on Phila St. is undergoing renovations this Summer so the reading & open mic series has moved to Northshire Bookstore on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. I got there a little late, missed the first reader or so, & didn’t get to sign up. But there were lots of folks filling the 2nd floor children’s book section & reading space, many of whom I’d not seen over on Phila St. As always, Carol Graser was our host as usual.
I arrived as Suzanne Rancourt was introduced & she read the richly descriptive memoir “Pastries on Lark St.” & a poem titled “When She Sings Birds Fly.” Dawn Marar made a rare appearance at an open mic with 2 poems about dancers, one about childhood dance lessons. Philomena Moriarty read 2 piece not in her recent book, one a memoir of a family house in Kerry “On Being Irish,” & “Starships” (on great minds).
a panel discussion on the poet/activist Pat Parker that I had attended.
Wanda Birch said this was her first open mic, & read from a series of poems based on letters written during the Civil War. Tim Snider, who usually reads rhyming pieces, read a prose piece on hate, titled “And More.”
W.D. Clarke stayed on theme with “The Collector” a piece in rhyme about the theft of woman’s “bloomers.” Jeanine Lafferty read 2 poems about working on a CSA farm. Another regular, Barbara Garro, read a poem about one of her paintings, then a piece titled “Memento Mori” (which reminded me of Patti Smith’s line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”). Jan Tramontano made a surprise appearance in the Northeast & got away with reading 3 poems, all about waiting for her new grandson — such a proud grandma!
The Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic continues for the Summer, at least, at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY still on the 1st Wednesday of the month — note the earlier start time: 6:30PM signup, 7:00PM start, no cover while at the bookstore, but donations for the cafe gratefully accepted.
Amani did a mix of her own pieces, some read, some recited, & a skit with Jay about a phone call from a school about a child who is rebellious, just like his mom raised him. Early on I did my “love version” of “Labels & Names”, & “Going Postal;” later, did “One Poem.”
A couple of young women did single pieces from memory. Esha (? spelling) did a song/poem, linking images & rhyme, either from memory or free form, a good performance nonetheless.
Cleo also gave a good, energetic performance, also involving song, “to the kings of algorithm.”
At one point Jay & Amani read the audience-composed poem, the exquisite corpse — hope they saved the copy. As at other events where such works are created I wish the organizers would post the results somewhere online — here, perhaps?
Amani & Jay ended the night with another audience participation piece, this a reading of quotes from Frederick Douglass, followed by the call-&-response, “Freedom — Now!” Now this is the way to celebrate “Independence Day.”
Nitty Gritty Slam is held each 1st & 3rd Tuesday, open mic, sometimes a Slam, sometimes a featured poet, at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, $3/$5, starts about 7:30. Have a beer & read some poetry.
July 4, 2016
This was the latest of the quarterly(?) readings coordinated & hosted by Harvey Havel at the Hudson River Coffee House. Tonight there were 4 readers, in addition to Harvey himself, a variety of prose fiction, essays, poetry, both rhymed & unrhymed.
Harvey Havel read first, a short story titled “The Sleeper Cell,” a story of a pre-9/11 terrorist underground in New Jersey, waiting for the day of the mission.
Thérèse Broderick read from a new series of poems, “Idylls on Cutting the Grass with Scissors” (I’m not kidding about the scissor landscaping!), descriptive, even conversational (with the plants she is cutting), & a haiku. She also read from Albany-born poet Gregory Orr (check out his poems in the latest issue of American Poetry Review).
Joe Krausman described the poems he read tonight as mostly about desire, with a bit of aging thrown in. His poems ranged from being turned on by young beauties, to Mary Baker Eddy, to Hollywood script writers, & the women’s magazines at the supermarket. All told with humor & the occasional rhyme.
Brian Dorn, who has been a regular fixture in this series, read from his collection of poems From My Poems to Yours: the Live Version. His poems are rhymed expressions of love & a positive outlook on life, & like Joe, knows the value of a little humor in rhymes & to how write positive poems without being preachy or maudlin.
You just have to stay tuned to messages from the poetry world to find out when the next reading in this series will take place, & who will be reading, but it will most likely take place at the Hudson River Coffee House on Quail Street in Albany, NY.
June 30, 2016
On the last Monday of the month, after the weekly peace vigil in Delmar, I like to drive back into Albany to McGeary’s, have a drink & dinner at the bar, then head to the back room for the monthly reading & open mic. Tonight’s featured poet was the ever-more-lovely Carrie Czawkiel. But first, the open mic, hosted by Mary Panza.
Sylvia Barnard was the first reader with a memory piece, slightly revised, “Travel,” then a new piece for the assassinated British member of Parliament, “Tribute to Jo Cox.” I was next with an older poem about an experience in an airport “Southwest Flight 2095, Seat 8A” (Hot pants!) & poem about writing a poem on my break at work (from back in the day), “Those Big APR Poems.” Annie Sauter read “Cable Fever Word Fail,” then a fantasy ramble “Sleeping with Spider Man’s Flannel Sheets.”
Poets Speak Loud! happens on the last Monday of the month at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, 7:30PM (or thereabouts), with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, sponsored by AlbanyPoets.com. See you there.