June 14, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, June 10

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.”

Edie Abrams hasn’t been here in quite some time & we’ve missed her; she read a piece that I’m sure Howard could appreciate, about acquiring too much stuff, "except…” Dianne Sefcik began with a descriptive piece titled “Thunder,” then a poem for Howard about the gifts from his garden. Tim Verhaegen read a long, lush, Whitmanesque memoir prose poem “I Am the Sea.”

One of the day’s new voices to show up today  was Kendall Hoeft who is new to the area, but jumped right in seeking out the poetry open mic, her first poem was a portrait of a street guy on a bench “God Who Bloodies Knuckles,” then “Poem I Didn’t Write” in response to her mother’s “don’t write a poem about me.” Joe Krausman read a poem by his uncle, originally written in Yiddish, on hating, & paid tribute to help with his translation by Barnett Zumoff, MD, endocrinologist & poet. I followed Joe with 2 new poems, a description of an imagined room from a photograph “Lily White,” & a political rant “Buttons Not Bombs.” Tom Corrado’s poem “Becoming Ocean” mentioning the suicides of Virgina Woolf & Anthony Bourdain was inspired by the music of the American composer John Luther Adams.

Our honoree, Howard Kogan, began with a poem celebrating unions “Blue Collar,” then one written for a workshop with Bernadette Mayer the assignment to write on Syria, it began “Seriously…”. Bob Sharkey read a childhood memoir “Cave” then another of his humorous, quirky re-writes of Chinese fortune cookies that he knows Howard likes, this one titled “Feckless Fortunes.” Alan Casline writes poems about being in the woods & read such a piece with birds, then a poem for Howard “Road Salt from a Previous Journey.”

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

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 17

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.

Joshua RA Dundas said his mission was “to bring light to people’s minds” & did his poem “Dark Glimpses,” as dark as its title. Don Levy is certainly not here for the first time, read a new poem, a FaceBook warning, “Do Not Feed the Trolls!” Carol H. Jewell’s pantoum is titled “Pre-Occupied or, How the Princess of Pantoums Passes Her Time.” I messed up the next poet’s name while announcing him, then G. Douglas Davis IV struggled with an Arabic word in his new poem for Palestine, delving into history.

Katrinka Moore had many fans in the audience & perhaps made more. She read from her new book Wayfarers (Pelekinesis, 2018). She explained that each of the poems in the book is a different tale by a different speaker. She began, appropriately enough, with the Big Bang, “Cosmogony,” then on to “Remnants,” “The Rolling World,” & a poem apparently not in the book “Visiting the Hermit Finding No One Home.” The poem titled “Parting” is actually the first poem in the book, & “Luna Lura,” a short poem, she described as a postcard from a butterfly visiting the Moon (& perhaps my favorite in the book).  The second section of her book, “A Crossing,” is about her grandparents migration in a model T from Texas to California, from which she read “Crow,” "The isle is full of noises” (which comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”), the lushly descriptive “Sea Road,” & “Wind Road.” She ended with 2 poems about her mother’s death, “Falling Sometimes” & “Scatter.” Wayfarers not only contains these & other fine poems, but also a number of nearly abstract black & white photos.

After a break we returned to the open mic, with me reading my new poem, “Buttons Not Bombs.”

A special treat was a reading of a poem for 2 voices, “Fusion Approach to Gathering,” by Dawn & Hani Marar from Dawn’s new book Efflorescence (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Howard Kogan announced that he had sold his house & would be moving to Massachusetts, but said the poem he read was not about him, titled “Over.” Betty Zerbst’s poem is titled “Looking Back” memories about her family in rhyme. Tom Corrado moved out of his comfort zone to read the grim “Notes from the Belly of the Beast” — he has published his “Screen Dumps” in a collection of 365 A Dump a Day. Philomena Moriarty read the first in a series of poems, written from notes of what comes up from sitting in a present moment, “Snapshot.”

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.

The final reader was also a first timer here, Jeannette Rice, has read other people’s poetry, read her own poem from 1956, from elementary school bomb drills, imaging the bombs had exploded & the Earth is dead.

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

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 13

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.

& I ended up first on the open mic sign-up, & read 2 new pieces, “Buttons Not Bombs,” & a poem-joke dedicated to Peggy LeGee “A Traney Story.” Rena Ehrlich adds an international flavor, like vodka, to the readings here with her translations of Russian poets, today it was Evgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Here is What’s Happening” (translated by Andrey Kneller), & her own translation of “April” by Bulat Okudzhava. Mike Conner likes to read his seasonal poems, & appropriately enough his first was “May First,” then the descriptive “Summer Calls.”

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

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

This was the beginning of what will be a truncated season at the Pine Hollow Arboretum which is going through some changes affecting the visitors center after the death of its founder John Abbuhl. For tonight the featured performer was poet & musician Mộng-Lan. Alan Casline was our host.

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.”

Tom Bonville’s poem “Why Jake Went” was about a school valedictorian who was killed in Viet Nam. Tim Verhaegen’s piece was humorous & nostalgic, about the first time in 1986 he heard the name of the-love-of-his-life. Mimi Moriarty read 2 political pieces, “Where is the Portrait of Peace Hanging, Which Wall?” & one written last year before he re-surfaced, “I Love You John Bolton.” Frank Robinson read what he said was the 1st poem he ever wrote, “We,” about the ocean & our brains & the start of civilization. Therese Broderick said they were just back from Ireland & read a persona poem “The Daughter on Sunday Display.” Joan Gran has not read out in a while so it was good to hear her again with a nostalgic poem about the Albany bar Mike’s Log Cabin, & a piece titled “Independence at 70.”

Mộng-Lan began her reading with a poem “Field” from her first book about seeing her ancestor’s graveyard in Viet Nam, then from her 2014 book One Thousand Minds Brimming: Poems & Art (Valiant Press) a poem titled “Saigon,” & “Love” in fish sauce. Then a section from Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art (Valiant Press, 2008), & on to poems from her latest book, Dusk Aflame: Poems & Art (Valiant Press, 2018), excerpts from the long title poem, then “Love Poem to Curry,” & excerpts from a long poem “Tone of Water in a Half-Filled Glass,” & “New Orleans Pillow Book.” She concluded with the playing on the guitar 2 Tangos, for a lush & varied performance.

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.”

Caroline Bardwell has been playing with forms & started off with a rondo, “Death of a Dream” including a quote from Ezekiel, then a free verse poem for the Arboretum “The Deep Forest.” Alifair Skebe read 2 poems from Thin Matter (FootHills Publishing, 2017) “Desire” & “Persevere.” Joe Krausman read about insomnia “Four” & a poem titled “No Day without a Line.” Peter Boudreaux’s poem “At Odds with the World” was recently written. Tom Corrado read the 18-part (some only a few words, others longer) “Notes from the Belly of the Beast” a grim portrait of dysfunctions, binging, purging, cutting, Walmart, group therapy.

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

Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest Reading, May 6

This is the reading many of us have been waiting for since last October when it was opened up for submissions, or at least since March when the winners were announced. This is the 3rd year local poet Bob Sharkey & his family have run this unique event to remember a Viet Nam vet & friend of Bob’s, who died in 1973 at the age of 27. What makes this unique is that the contest asks for only 1 poem from each contestant, but that poem can be any length, any style, published or unpublished. This year there were 255 entries from 33 countries, including 41 from Ireland & 10 from Nigeria; 86 New York State poets entered.

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

NYS Writers Institute: David Tomas Martinez, May 1

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.

Courtney Galligan
Mark Koplik, the Writers Institute’s Assistant Director, introduced a string of Albany students to perform their own spoken word poetry before introducing the featured poet. The student readers were Alicia Bonnard reading the autobiographical “Stardust;” Maggie Gorman with the memoir “Grandpa;” Fetuma Diello read “Sin;” Ivy Portes' piece was the grim “Maggots;” Courtney Galligan, the managing editor of Compendium, read “The Pain of Childbirth;” Destiny Brown’s untitled piece quotes the murdered Eric Garner “I can’t breathe;” Amy Savage was invited up from the audience to read an excerpt from a story on bonobos in a lab experiment; & Laurin Jefferson said she introduced using her “government name,” her writing name is Laurin DeChae, & read “That Black Light is So Cliché.”

Under most circumstances that in itself would have been a excellent program, but the featured poet David Tomas Martinez was next, introduced by UAlbany professor Michael Leung. Martinez started with 2 pieces from his 2014 book Hustle, reading a section from the poem “Calaveras” a childhood story from when he was in school, & “The Only Mexican” about “baby-sitting” his Grandpa. Then on to his just-published Post Traumatic Hood Disorder, “They Call Him Scarface Because He’s Sad” with gang members reading Nietzsche, “Fractal” on marriage & drinking, selections from “Found Fragment on Ambition,” & “And Three” on minorities in lit class, a dictionary as a Bible, & becoming a poet. From there he went on to read 2 new poems: “Distract” which he said was the first time he had read it out, with intricate wordplay on the names of rappers, & a “A Letter from DTM for Matthew Oldman” a friend.

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.]

Poets Speak Loud!, April 30

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.

The next poet has been reading out as G. Douglas Davis IV but was introduced as we once knew him D. Alexander Holiday; his first poem was a series of questions allegedly put before Donald Trump before he was President, them a poem on the trial of Bill Crosby as a long letter, “Poem for Camille Following the Conviction.” Julie Lomoe’s poem “Jigsaw Puzzles” can be found online on her website. Robb Smith read one of his salacious grannie-porn stories, this about retirees partying at a casino.

The night’s featured poet was Melody Davis who began with her latest book One Ground Beetle: A Year in Haiku (Bad Cat Press, 2017), with prints by Harold Lohner. It was Show & Tell with Melody reading a haiku or two, then holding up the book to show the colorful print on the facing page. There were haiku on, of course, trees, clouds, birds, round stones, but also on Albany & on meetings. Then on to her 2013 collection of poems Holding the Curve (Broadstone Books), reading the ekphrastic “Caillebotte’s Laundry,” “Walter, the Lawyer,” the villanelle “It Only Starts,” & “Jasmine Boy, Cairo.” She finished up with a “new/old poem” about having hors d’oeuvres at the top of the World Trade Center, & a poem for a trapeze artist, “8 Different Ways to Fall.” A pleasant reading of richly varied poems.

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.”

Annie Sauter read a couple of poems from a recent run of 30/30 (30 poems in 30 days), the first an alliterative hippie fantasy/portrait of a girl on a bus, then a poem about rain “Late Night in Central New York.” Next a trio of new readers, the first “virgin” Meghan who read a sad love story “Answers to the Question You Were Afraid to Ask.” Ava read a description of herself in images of food “Lemon Juice.”

Olivia read a short piece that could have been an response to Meghan's poem, “Questions I Wanted to Ask.” Sally Rhoades, no stranger to the local open mics, read a birthday poem “I Blew Out the Candles” a childhood memoir, then one about a memorial to World War II dead in the Netherlands. Karen Fabiane had also recently done a 30/30, read a poem to a musician friend “Wise Beyond Her Years,” & “Even This.” Tim Verhaegen read a story in progress, a sad autobiographical piece about the love of is life.

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.