October 4, 2015

Olson Lecture: Michael McClure, October 3

This reading was part of an annual series held at the Cape Ann Museum, a series that started with the Charles Olson celebration in 2010. Poet & performer Michael McClure was today’s guest lecturer to a full house of Gloucesterites, visitors & a poetic luminaries.

James Cook, Gloucester poet & teacher introduced Michael McClure with a tale of his discovery of McClure’s work, & a litany of other San Francisco Renaissance writers.

Backed by projected slides of black & white images of Song dynasty landscape paintings, McClure titled his lecture “Greatness of Olson,” ranging from his personal connections to Charles Olson, to his own poems, from his earliest work, to new work. He talked about heading West in his youth with the intent to study with the abstract painters Mark Rothko & Clyfford Still, but missed them & ended up connecting with the poet Robert Duncan & his partner the painter Jess Collins, & from them into the 1950s poetry/art scene in San Francisco. He read his early work (“my first projective poem”) “For the Death of 100 Whales,” that he read at the (in)famous 6 Gallery reading in San Francisco in 1955, his first reading. It is an early example of what is now being called "eco-poetry."  He continues to write in this vein & read a poem from Ghost Tantras which he once read to a lion in a zoo; at one point he said, “biology is politics”. He included a number of poems from this book, written in a mix of English & sounds/syllables in made up languages, which had some heads in the audience shaking. He didn’t give titles for of his poems that he read throughout his hour lecture, which is fine, except for an archivist/note-taker like myself.

As for Olson, McClure read his own early poem “For Charles,” talked of his correspondence with Olson, publishing Olson’s “The Librarian” in 1956 in an early zine, & walking thru Dogtown with him, described by Olson in Maximus II, 37.

At the end he looked for some haiku in his new volume, couldn’t find them & ended with a marvelous poem, what he called “a plum song,” a descriptive piece beginning with fog, to the colors of plums, a mudra, circling back through the images again to fog.

Michael McClure has a new book out of new & selected poems, City Lights has reprinted his early book Dark Brown; also currently available are the above-mentioned Ghost Tantras, & one of my favorites, Scratching the Beat Surface.

September 26, 2015

An Evening of Poetry & Music at Lekker, September 18

How could I not go to this reading? — on the bill Cheryl A. Rice & 3 other women poets! It was a good choice. Lekker is a laid-back restaurant/cafe on Main St. in Stone Ridge, with an eclectic menu with beer & wine.

It was an informal program with each poet introducing the next reader, a format fraught with disaster, but each poet tonight did her duty clearly announcing the next reader. First up, introducing herself, was Albany’s favorite Cheryl A. Rice who began with a 9/11 poem “Blue,” then on to a new piece “Alone” a touching love poem to Michael & her home. She read the title poems from My Minnesota Boyhood (Post Traumatic Press, 2012) & from Moses Parts the Tulips (A.P.D., 2013). “A Shoe Drops” was a discursive piece filled with memories of childhood inspired by watching The Last Waltz, & she ended with a fear-of-flying poem “Coast to Coast.”

Lisa Mullenneaux curates the ekphrastic website Painters & Poets  so it is not surprising that her poems were filled with lush visual images. She began with poems from her chapbook Painters and Poets (Penington Press, 2012) “Shadow” (a photo of Matisse), “Caller to the Moon” (Georgia O’Keefe) & “Ars Poetica.” Then on to a poem for her mother on her 91st birthday, imagining her conception “Star Shower,” the musical “Listening Ravi Coltrane,” & one about being on a cruise ship “At Sea.” She ended with an evocative piece about a man on a tractor, & his dead son, then “The War After the War” from a series in letter form.

Tina Barry did something I don’t think I’d see anyone do: read from a script that included not only her poems but also her introductions. Obviously she had prepared for her reading & didn’t have to ask “how much time do I have left?” She has a new book coming out Mall Flowers, from which she gave us a tantalizing selection, some short prose, some poems, many memories from high school, such as a funny piece about making out in the basement. “One Bag of Popcorn” was about a visit to a Mall movie describing “Dad is a dick.” There was a tender piece about a deceased Aunt, “No Word for Enchantment,” & “Wool & Spool” mixing a poetry workshop & an orgy. She ended with the funny & randy “Party at My Place” about her vagina. & you wonder why I drove all this way?

The night wasn’t over & Catherine Arra who organized the event kept the fever up. She said that the poems she was reading were all from writers workshops. She began with the title poem from her chapbook Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press) mixing Niels Bohr & poetry. Next a couple of very toasty poems from her chapbook of love poems Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press) (which I took home to take to bed with), “His Offer” & the post-coital “Submission.” Then a couple pieces from the latest issue of Timberline Review, a memoir about story-telling & her Italian grandmother, then a poem “Leaving Sicily.”

I was more enthralled leaving than I had been when I arrived, a wonderful night of poetry & stories & lovely women. Oh, I forgot to mention the sole male on the ticket, the vocalist & acoustic guitar player Bret Scott, mixing rock & jazz. Folks seemed to enjoy the food here at Lekker, & the wine & beer list was imaginative, just enough.

September 22, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, September 17

at the Social Justice Center, but tonight without a featured poet, thus the open mic poets were allowed to read 2 poems each. And there was a good list of poets to read, with even a couple of new poets on the list.

Robert Nied

& the new poets were 1st & 2nd on the list, first Robert Nied, with rhyming poems “Talking” & “The Ride Home,” conversations with his son. Then Owen Nied, the son Robert’s poems were about, his poem “The Kitchen Was a Glowing Fireball” about party, then a poem about listening to LPs “Between the Speakers,” accompanied by his finger-snapping.

Owen Nied
  Joe Krausman read a poem he just wrote this morning, in 3 sections: women, art, life each beginning “where did I put…” then read about a visit to the cardiologist “I Got Arthymia.” Don Levy’s poem “St. Kim of Rowan County” was ripped from the pages of the news, then a poem from his trip to Paris this Summer “City of Love & Smoke.”

The second of the familial groups began with Frank Robinson introducing a new chapbook, not of poetry, but about coins, then read a new poem never read before, on the best things about America, good enough for a campaign speech. He was followed by his wife Thérèse Broderick with poems from her childhood, “The Breath Debt” about playing music with her Dad, & “Armful After Armful.” Karen Fabiane’s first poem was from the East Village 40 years ago, “Outdoor Cafe,” followed by a newer piece “Makes A Great Shake.”

Sylvia Barnard reprised 2 poems from her recent trip to Ireland, the first about actually reading a page of “The Book of Kells,” then about the “Giants’ Causeway” in Northern Ireland. Brian Dorn read about the game of Chess in the 21st Century, “My Queen & I,” then “Out of the Shadows,” both from his book From My Poems to Yours (The Live Versions). Kwesi returned with a new poem, “Bullets,” powerful images of racism in America. I finished off the night with a new poem “Naming the Parakeets,” then a snippet from my new book Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing).

The Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place each, well, third Thursday of the month, at 7:30PM, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY usually a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, for a modest (or not) donation.

September 18, 2015

Community of Writers Reading, September 13

This reading by Elizabeth Gordon, Julie Lomoe & James Schlett was one of a continuing series by local authors, the series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. [Full disclosure: I am President of HVWG & organized this reading.] It was held at the East Greenbush (NY) Community Library.

Julie Lomoe talked about the history of the writing, publication & marketing of her 3 mystery novels, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders (2006), Eldercide (2008), & the just-published Hope Dawns Eternal (Norse Crone Press, 2015), a vampire/soap opera/murder mystery. She said her new book has the potential of being the first in a series, using many of the same characters. To give us a taste, she read the Prologue which sets up what takes place in the novel 10 years later.

James Schlett started out in the Albany poetry scene a number of years ago, but his work as a journalist let him to the story of Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz, William James Stillman & others, & their stay at “the Philosophers’ Camps” in 1858, that he tells in A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks (Cornell University Press, 2015). He began with reciting from Emerson’s poem “The Adirondacs,” & read fascinating excerpts from the book, as well as anecdotes from his research. His book has been selling well enough to warrant a second printing.

Elizabeth Gordon began by talking about & reading from her memoir Walk With Us, Triplet Boy, Their Teen Parents, & Two White Women Who Tagged Along (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2007), then read a poem based on the experiences in the book. Her book of poems Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2014) is a collection of poems that describe, evoke, & celebrate that city by the Falls. She read the rhapsodic “The Clotheslines of Cohoes,” & “Adult Low-Dose” a “black-out poem” which let to a discussion of the technique & more examples using dictionary definitions.

3 writers representing only a sample of the of the great variety of writing personalities, styles & genres in this rich & arts-vibrant region. For more information about the Hudson Valley Writers Guild check out the website.

September 17, 2015

Yes! a Reading Series, September 12

Another sure sign of Autumn, along with cooler nights & the leaves turning colors, is the return of this eclectic reading/performance/art series. For the season opener there were no out-of-towners, just 3 locals, Diana Alvarez, Olivia Dunn, & Adam Tedesco.

Diana Alvarez, who is currently a PhD student in Electronic Arts at RPI, already has an impressive resume as an interdisciplinary artist.  Tonight she stayed behind the mic, reading & singing. She began with some short, mostly anaphoric poems, then some pieces from a chapbook, Consultations with Bruja Juana, poems around Sor Inés de la Cruz (1651 - 1695), & a nervous poem “You Are Still Here.” Then she charmed us with 2 beautifully sung poems by Mexican poets, “Sabor a Mi” by Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón & “Usted” by Gabriel Ruiz Galindo. She ended with a marvelous poem filled with the influences of Hispanic surrealism, “To Heal the Way in Which I Walk.”

Adam Tedesco was the only one of the 3 readers whose work I had heard before; he is a frequent reader on the local open mic scene, usually accompanied, as he was tonight, by his lovely cheer-leader wife, Lisa. His poems are edgy, complex & his reading had a trajectory from just provocative to philosophical, starting with “This Is My Mushroom Poem,” “Stuffed Crust” (“my heart is a Pizza Hut…”) to the chant “Come Let Go.” The poem “Future False” was a meditation on power & religion that started with an image of his son’s baptism, while the next poem ranged from compartmentalization to fucking to writing a poem. Then to a long piece “The Open House Has Been Cancelled.” “Birthday Walking Storm King…” was linked to the more gentle “Clouds” by, well, clouds. “Say Something…” merged word play to image play, then to the surrealistic social commentary of “How to Tell If You Are Dreaming,” winding up thinking about the end in “Change Me.” Nice to hear more than a couple of poems from Adam.

Olivia Dunn has returned home after graduating from the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She’s currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of writing at Skidmore College, & blogs at http://okdunn.com. She began with some vignettes about walking around the Empire State Plaza, descriptive, humorous, somewhat self-deprecating. Then on to a series of memoir pieces, one on Winter in Middle School in Albany, another on the 3 Albany Price-Choppers, where a discussion of the Delaware Ave. store, known to all as “the ghetto Chopper,” led to a thoughts on racism & being one of the minority white students at Philip Livingston Middle School. Check out her Blog for samples of her work.

Yes! continues on a monthly basis at the Albany Center Gallery, 39 Columbia St., Albany, 7PM, a donation helps keep the series going. Find them on Facebook to see when the next readings are.

September 14, 2015

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, September 11

The poets packed the house for Tom Corrado & for the open mic. For over 25 years, since the open mic at the QE2 I have arrived to sign up after 5, or 6, or more poets have signed up & the #1 slot is still blank, so I have appropriated that slot for myself, & once again, tonight.

The sub theme for the night was, informally, today’s date & its moment(s) in history, so I read my poem written in 2012 “Another Tuesday,” conflating the September 11 Tuesdays of 1973 & 2001 (& 2012). Tim Verhaegen followed with a ironic/humorous short essay on the workplace “Lying Herds.” Mark W. O’Brien read a philosophical piece on death & love, “It’s A Long Road that Has No Turning.” Our host, Alan Casline, read next 3 short poems, “Paddle Song,” “Bell’s Butterflies” & a consideration of the great spirit, “They Are the Salt of the Earth.” Always philosophical John Abbhul read poems in rhyme, beginning with “Biophilia” (wondering what flowers might feel), “Contentment” (about a field of hummingbirds), & “The Meaning of Truth.” Joan Gran’s poem was about a family in conflict, “Trouble in the Kitchen” done in images of food & cooking. Paul Amidon looked to the past for an image of his parents holding hands “Parking Lot Image” & “Poseur.” This was Sue Oringel’s first time here & she read about “Dirt” & golf (“Links”). Jessica Rae read parts of her poem “Magical Great Blue Heron”, then a poem on things overheard in the park & a meditation on love & healing.

The featured performer was Tom Corrado, who began by playing the flugelhorn, riffling on 2 jazz standards, “Autumn Leaves” & “My Funny Valentine,” sounding like a white Miles Davis, with the ever-limber Sally Rhoades dancing. Then on to a reading from a new chapbook, Excavations (mining my and others’ words), including Samuel Beckett, Philip Roth, the Beach Boys, Mark Twain, Bela Lugosi, Guy Davenport, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, & others, including an open mic, reading nearly the entire chapbook, except for section #12. The sections ranged from the profound to the whimsical, always with his characteristic non sequitur & word play.

After a break we continued with the open mic, with Howard Kogan returning to a theme of the night, “September 11, 2001: 3 Memories.” Philomena Moriarty’s poem remembering Autumns in the past, “One Falls Over Laughing,” was inspired by a display of Teddy Bears in Starbucks, then a poem on the fallibility of memory “The Unmeeting of Minds.”

Katrinka Moore read from her book, Thief (BlazeVOX [books], 2009), the poem "Light Moth" about the smoke of 9/11. Joe Krausman gave an enthusiastically negative review of Woody Allen’s new movie & read an old piece on Allen “Does the Big Apple Have a New Worm,” then “Waiting For My Ship to Come In.” Sally Rhoades changed back into her street clothes to end the night with “On a Night with a Poet” (for Maurice Kenny), then a poem from the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, OK, “I Can’t Hear You…” & ended with a poem for the Equinox.

This series continues on a monthly basis on Fridays at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 29 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, 6:30PM (earlier for food), logistics by the Rootdrinker Institute.

September 11, 2015

Live from the Living Room, September 9

Another quiet night in the Garden Room of the Pride Center for the open mic, just me, Sylvia Barnard & our host Don Levy; no featured poet scheduled. So we agreed to do a round-robin reading of 3 poems each.

I was first in each round, began with a new poem, not yet typed out, “Naming the Parakeets,” then an old one from my brand-new poetry chapbook, Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing), “The Cold Clean Sea,” & my last poem was a recent one “Hidden Cafe Table Poem.”

Sylvia Barnard has been on a tour of Ireland, mainly the North, & has missed a few of the recent open mics. Her first two, brief poems were from her trip “The Book of Kells” & “The Giant Causeway.” Her last poem was one I’ve heard her read before, but enjoy it a lot, about the poets listening & reading in the July Poets in the Park series.

Our host, Don Levy, had 2 new poems, fresh from the week’s news, “St. Kim of Rowan County” with county clerk Kim Davis as a ironically mis-guided Joan of Arc figure done up in Don’s signature humor, as was his description of “Homophobic Heaven.” He ended with a poem from his recent trip to Paris, on writers’ block & other stoppages “Constipation.”

Often there is a featured poet who reads first, followed by an open mic for the rest of us, each 2nd Wednesday, 7:30PM at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY — a modest donation to pay the feature.