September 19, 2017

An Epic Poetry Reading, September 13

at the Collar Works Gallery, 621 River St., Troy, NY, with Daniel Nester, Susan Comninos & David Lehman, general editor of the annual anthology Best American Poetry (Simon & Schuster). Fortunately, “Epic” was the title of the exhibit in the gallery, not a description of the reading itself — no Homers or Virgils here.

Daniel Nester, Associate Professor at the College of St. Rose, read all the introductions for the 3 poets at once, then was the first reader, beginning with 2 poems based on the disaster movie, “Airport,” & “Gimli’s Lament” in response to, as he said, “the Trump thing.” Continuing the movie theme/subject-matter, he read a moving & deeply  personal essay about his fascination with the movie Caddy Shack (he said he has seen it over 100 times) & his struggles with depression.

Susan Comninos is also a local poet & a University Lecturer at Siena College. She began with a couple of animal poems, “At the Dog Park Late” & “Bear Spotted in Delmar.” Her poem, “Suddenly,” a dream of a funeral, she described, without explanation, as “the most careerist poem” that she’s written. She continued with a poem mimicing the poetry of Rae Armantrout, “Daylight,” a departure from her usual narrative poems, then a ghazal titled “Creative Still Life,” & ended with a couple of untitled pieces.

David Lehman, whom Nester had described as a mentor & friend, was not quite so serious. He began by explaining he would be reading from his books, as well as reading some new pieces, starting with a humorous piece “Rejection Slip,” then a translation of Goethe’s poem “Night Song,” a poem titled “Radio,” then one written in Albany from a poem-a-day project “April 15.” From his most recent book, Poems in the Manner of (Simon & Schuster, 2017) “To a Critic” in the manner of Catullus. On to new poems, “Room Key” mentions Troy, then the humorous “Correspondences,” & “2nd Honeymoon.” “Hip versus Square” quotes from Norman Mailer’s classic piece “The Hip and the Square - Notes for an Essay” & takes off on Mailer himself. “Poem” is dated August 17 & mentions the late John Ashbery, & a poem mentioning another dead poet “Poem in the Manner of a Poem by Frank O’Hara” replaces Lana Turner with Hilary Clinton. His series of “Freud Quizzes” are funny takes on psychiatry & everything else it seems. He ended with one of the best translations I have heard of Mayakofsky’s classic poem “Brooklyn Bridge.”

A note on Best American Poetry: the 2017 edition was recently released, with guest editor Natasha Trethewey. I am reviewing it for the September 26 Noon Book Talk at the Albany Public Library, Washington Ave., Albany, NY, 12:15PM, sponsored by Friends of the Albany Public Library.

September 16, 2017

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

Back at the Arts Center of the Capital Region for our 8th Season, with my co-host Nancy Klepsch & 10 on the sign-up sheet, beginning with me. I read my “award-winning” poem “At the Silarian Cafe” & a poem in reaction to watching TV coverage of the solar eclipse “Spathe is the Plathe.”

Bob Sharkey read a poem & asked us to name the author: no one guessed that it was the late John Ashbery; then Bob read a poem titled “Peak’s Island” about a summer job he had 50 years ago in Maine. Rick Harrienger began with a piece, “Query,” about his writing process, with the telling phrase “here in a safe place,” then what he described as an “even more introspective” poem “The Breaking of Dawn.” Howard Kogan read about a cousin “Jonathan” who was retarded, then a poem on modern poetry “Reading is Writing.” Mike Conner began with a poem titled “A Bell Rings Gently” about the recent death of a relative, then a piece on straight out of the news “Maple Blight.”

Inna Erlich has translated Russian poets into English & American poets (including me) into Russian; today she read poems she had translated into English by Russian poets Igor Gubeman & David Samoylov. Peggy LeGee read a piece filled with classical references about her job as a cleaner in Troy schools “Prometheus of the 3rd Floor Burning.” Dan Curley also read a classically based piece, a retelling of the Odyssey, in a sestina-like form. My partner in hosting here, Nancy Klepsch, read her Haibun written for Mark W. O’Brien’s Blog 36 Views of Ononta’kahrhon, “The Met Their First Resistance Here” on the rent-wars in the hill towns of Albany County, then a spoken word piece on the July 2016 shooting of Philando Castile.

Host of the Troy Poetry Mission reading/open mic series right here in Troy, R.M. Engelhardt, read a couple of old serious poems, “Now Traveler,” &, from the days of the QE2 rock club in Albany, “Bless.” Karen Fabiane ended the afternoon with a couple poems with sugar in them in some way, one about an encounter at a Fair “Spun Sugar” & the other a fantasy restaurant “Karen’s Steaks & Chops.”

Join us on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2:00PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy NY — 2 poems, or 5 minutes of prose (max.) — free!

September 13, 2017

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky: 3 Guys from Albany, September 8

This reading series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum runs from April to November & each September features “performance poetry.” 3 Guys from Albany (Tom Nattell, Charlie Rossiter & Dan Wilcox) has been performing their poetry locally, regionally & in the Albanys of the United States since 1993.

But before the performance the open mic began with Alan Catlin, wearing his 3 Guys from Albany tee shirt, & he read his haibun for Mark W. O’Brien’s Blog, 36 Views of Ononta’kahrhon  then a poem based on lines from a poem by Charles Simic. Howard Kogan read a poem titled “Another Essay on Henry & Waldo,” then one titled “Getting to Know You” & a limerick for 3 Guys from Albany (thanks Howard!). Julie Lomoe in her newly-tinted blue hair read 2 older poems, “Bi-Polar Gaia” & one for the approaching 9/11 anniversary “In Memoriam: Windows on the World.”

Mimi Moriarty read a couple poems for the season, “August 29” (on Hurricane Irene) & a cento “Downpour.” Diane Sefcik’s poems were memoirs of growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s, “Syrian Bread,” “Scansen’s” (a bar where her family drank), & "Stand 1" (from a series, a story of her brother & sister & a fight). Mike Conner read a seasonal poem “Maple Blight,” then one about Hurricane Katrina “The Water Came & Came.”

I hadn’t seen Joan Gran in a while so it was good to hear her read a couple poems, both about  bees, “Bees & Things” & on gathering honey “The Bee-Keeper.” Paul Amidon began with a poem about insomnia “3 Hours ’til Dawn,” then one titled “Help Wanted” & a childhood memoir “Street Lights.” Philomena Moriarty (no, they are not related, except by poetry) also had a poem about Hurricane Katrina (& her father’s death) “Corpses,” then a related poem on climate change “Adaptation,” & “A Path to the Sea.” Joe Krausman read a couple of rhyming poems, one on growing old, the other about being at Whole Foods. Sally Rhoades read a poem titled “Don’t Put Plastic Flowers on my Grave,” then a memoir piece about reading as a child “80 Railroad St., Malone, NY.”

A new face & voice here was Kareem, who said he was from Brooklyn by way of Schenectady, stepped away from the mic to do a performance piece “A Dilemma Called Time.” Bob Sharkey read another of his fortune-cookie poems, inspired by the work of John Ashbery & Bernadette Mayer, “Convex Fortunes.” Making a neat anagrammic symetry, Alan Casline ended the open mic with another storm poem “Red Cell” & one on Autumn.

Photo by Annine Everson
Charlie & I, with the spirit of Tom Nattell looking over our shoulders, performed a mixed bag of newer pieces & favorites from the 3 Guys repertoire, with Charlie starting off with “Snake Black Solo,” then backed me up on harmonica for “The Blues.” Then into a segment of working-class poems, Charlie’s “Paterson,” my “I Thought I Saw Elvis” & “Going Postal,” & Charlie back for “The Summer I Brought in the Yeast.” He continued with “July 4 in the Year of the Terror” to which I added my response with the same title. On to some randomness, we did Charlie’s “Looking” with the lines on colored strips of paper, & I read “What If…” from randomly shuffled index cards. Our little jazz segment had Charlie reciting “Manhattan Blue” while I stumbled through backup on my alto sax. Charlie’s poem “Love Me Now” was written for 2 voices, while my “love” version of “Labels & Names” required the audience to join in. Mixing humor & politics Charlie read “Even Yuppies Get the Blues” & I, sadly, am still reading “When Donald Trump Farts.” We ended with a complex piece written by Tom Nattell, “Wounded Knee,” with burning sage, hoof rattle & a drum — I hope Tom liked it.

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky has 2 more gatherings before the Winter sets in, October 6 & November 3, at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY — 6:30PM.

September 12, 2017

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, September 6

Racing season is over & there are parking spaces & room at the bar in all the restaurants. To start the open mic our host, Carol Graser, read a poem by Naomi Shahib Nye, “Red Brocade.” First reader on the list was Kat Sephas who began with a piece on racism & political corruption, “So What,” then one titled “Human Rights.”

Whenever Mimi Moriarty’s brother Frank Desiderio is in town they like to read their poems together, sharing themes & reading pieces for 2 voices. Tonight Mimi started off with a descriptive, meditative poem titled “Diner” that has been accepted for the Route 20 anthology that Charlie Rossiter, one of the featured readers, is working on with FootHills Publisher Michael Czarnecki; Frank responded with “The Rust-Belt Motel;"  they concluded with a mash-up up of Emily Dickinson lines with quotes from Woody Allen on death.

Caffè Lena volunteer Debbie Bogosian squeezed by the rules with 3 short poems, “Revisiting” a summer cottage from the past, “Why the Ball,” & a poem on power “Woman is Water.” Although this is a poetry open mic (the folk-singer open mic is another night of the month), Adrienne Z. & Kris didn’t know this, she brought her guitar & Kris his resonant box (that must have a name, but I don’t know it); Carol, being Carol, let them perform & Adrienne, who is from the Florida keys, sang “Blue Day,” a hurricane song.

The first of tonight’s featured poets was my co-conspirator in the poetry performance group 3 Guys from Albany, Charlie Rossiter. He read poems from his poetry collections The Night We Danced with the Raelettes (FootHills Publishing, 2007) & All Over America: Road Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2009) as well as other new & old pieces. His introductory poem was about his “no-collar” job as a poet, then on to “Listening to William Carlos Williams,” “Bethlehem Steel” about a Summer job, & another college memoir. He included his signature “cheap motel” poem (bouncing off Frank Desiderio’s earlier piece), then one about his trip home from the Dodge Poetry Festival “At the Triple X Steak House, & “American Life.” “Listening to Music Outside the Music Building” was a Summer piece, then from the route 20 anthology “Somewhere in Upstate.” He ended with a piece written on a 3 Guys trip to Albany, Illinois & Albany, Indiana “I-74 Street Corner of America Poem.” Charlie has been reading his poems out for a long time & is a master at weaving interesting poems & stories together.

The 2nd featured reader, Nicola Maree Allain, is married to poet/story-teller Joe Bruchac, who read a a tribute poem to her, “In Human Kindness.” Nicola has been coming to these open mics for the last year or so to read pieces from her in-progress memoir about growing up in the French colony in Tahiti. She began with a chant in the ancient language of Tahiti about the creation of the world, from a fat book that nearly collapsed the poet’s music stand. Then on to a selection of pieces from her series-in-progress, beginning with “The Arrival” full of details about the place & the food. Her pieces are full of rich, descriptive details, such as “Gauguin’s Garden,” with a couple pieces focusing on her grandmother, her house, her family, including “The Night Visit” in which she dreams of her grandmother’s death. She ended with a poem in 5 parts for her brother Julius about a tropical storm.

After a break (during which many of the audience left), Carol read one of her own poems, “June Party.” Continuing with the lion’s share of the open mic list, Mary Ann Rockwell read “Craven Image” about taking a photograph of some Amish folks. Eric Krantz read a piece about moving to the area from New Jersey & becoming “a Winter man.” Terry Bat-Sonja read an introspective anaphoric poem “I Had…”

Bud Mansmith was a poetry virgin when he read here last month, & liked it enough to return, to read a poem about being in Viet Nam in the early days of the American war there, then a long, complex piece about picking berries. Saratoga journalist Thomas Dimopoulos read from the introduction to his collection Saratoga Stories: Magic and Loss (available at Northshire Bookstore). Leslie Sittner read pieces about husband #1 (“If I Had Stayed”) & #2 (“The Muscle Memory of Love”) leaving Carol to wonder about how many more husbands (& poems) there were.

Tonight’s poetry virgin was Susan Kubert who read 2 pieces in rhyme “Unsung Hero” about military children, & a grim piece about being hit when a child “In the Name of Discipline.” I followed with a poem for the August set “& the Mary Lou Whitney You Rode in On,” & my 3rd-place winning poem at the New York State Fair “At the Silarian Cafe.” Rodney Parrott read a dream/movie narrative “One of 4 Deaths.”

Carol Shup Star read a couple of short pieces, like notebook jottings, one written after a trip to Israel, the other titled “Canyon Crossing.” Nancy Denofio read a recent piece of automatic writing imaging the Civil War “I Held a Daffodil.” Barbara Garro read 2 poems inspired by Ireland, “Song of St. Patrick” & “Ireland.” W.D. Clarke brought us all home with a rhyming ballad, the nostalgic “Grandma’s Griddle.”

Each month on the 1st Wednesday there is an open mic for poets, a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us, here at Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Spring, 7:30PM. Bring a poem or 2 if you want or just come & listen to what the community has to offer.

September 9, 2017

Albany Poets Presents Adam Tedesco, August 23

This was the latest in the unique series held at Navona Restaurant in which a poet of renown gives a reading, then is interviewed by Albany Poets el presidente Thom Francis & grilled by the audience. Adam Tedesco is an editor of the online poetry journal Reality Beach & a contributing editor to the journal Drunk in a Midnight Choir, & has been featured at Poets Speak Loud!, the Third Thursday Poetry Night, & other local venues.

Adam’s poems are always tough to grasp at first hearing — is there “sense”/content? is he just stringing images together? how much is just random music? Not that it matters. The first poem he read was titled “Lingam,” which is pretty obvious, then on to “What Could Happen” with its images of horses. He described “Other People” as his most overtly political poem — perhaps “political” in its broadest meaning. He went on to poems he described as written after Heavy Metal songs, such as his poem “Hit the Lights” but it’s not what I’m familiar with so I can't say I got it. Many of his poems are addressed to some “you.” “Bliss” addressed the idea of freedom & power, but how did trees get in there? Likewise flowers in “A”? “At the Penitent’s Altar” began with images from medieval art, & he ended with a poem about clearing out dresser drawers, like an ending or at least a moving on.

Thom Francis started off the “inquisition” with his usual question, “What got you started writing poetry?” Adam responded that it was about 10th grade when he discovered the Transcendentalists, & acid; sometime later finding Buzz magazine (a local rock zine from the 1990s) & an interview with Henry Rollins & his book list. Since then he discovered drugs, art, painting & experimental electronic music, but poetry became more “feasible” after he had kids.

Questions from the audience ranged from sound or meaning (poetry as sound), about performing poetry (as a state of mind). He said he "thinks in poetry," that his favorite shape is the rhombus because he likes the sound. The discussions ranged on to dream analysis, & back to the issue of drugs, whether to write sober or not.  A free-flowing discussion at the bar.

Check out for their schedule of events, for the next Albany Poets Presents! & bring your pointed &/or embarrassing questions to ask.

September 3, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 17

Although the mythical tour bus circled endlessly looking for a parking spot, there were still 10 of us for the open mic with others to listen to our featured poet Teresa Costa. Our Muse was the gone American poet, Thomas Lux (1946 - 2017), & I read his poem “Ode to the Joyful Ones.”

Alan Catlin’s poem “Ice Cream Days & Coke Bottle Nights” was a memoir of childhood & news stories, while “The Widows” was about the town where he grew up. Richard Jerin read a rare urban poem “Brick Walls,” then a reminiscence of someone he knew.

It’s always nice to have a new face, new voice at the open mic & tonight the first of the news was Flowers who read an insistent poem about being independent of love.  Sylvia Barnard read the same 2 poems that she read on the last Monday at McGeary’s (but it’s good to hear them again), “2 Blind Mice” in her apartment, & “Rabbit” (in the city). Rich is not unknown to read at poetry open mics, but it was his first time here at the Social Justice Center in Albany, his poem “Life as Art” was about looking at his woodpile while stoned, & then a longer, descriptive poem about his grape vines “The Vineyard.”Katharine Corp hasn’t been here in a while so it was wonderful to see her come back; she read a sad, emotional poem about her Dad, his suffering after serving in Viet Nam.

Another new voice was Katherine’s daughter, Juniper, with a poem 2 short poems, one a variation on “Roses are Red…” Samuel Weinstein returned to read a new poem written in England “Storm” with rhymes (sometimes) like a letter to himself. Betty Zerbst also read a poem in rhyme, “My Daddy & My Friend,” then in a different tone, a poem about herself “Natural Habitat.” I ended the open mic with an old poem “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” (in memory of Tamir Rice).

Teresa Costa, our featured poet, hosts the Word of Mouth series in Kingston at the Art Bar Gallery on the 2nd Thursday. She read new stuff mixed in with old stuff, many like short notes to herself, about herself, the life around her, in the Beat tradition of writing about the ordinary. There was usually a touch of humor, such as “Animated Food” based on a realization she was eating her childhood cartoon friends, or the bitter humor of “Threatening Poem” (one word that gets thrown out), or the sarcastic humor of “In Frankenstein’s Mother’s Kitchen.” Inspired by Pamela Twining’s erotic poems, she read 2 short zingers, one from Paris, the other about her well-hung Italian ex-boyfriend; she also read the brief “Electric Orgasm,” a very early poem from high school. Sometimes we learned about her home, as in “Life in the Woods,” & the descriptive “Top Draw Chaos” & “Last Draw Chaos,” or the inventory of 40 pairs of “Darn Socks.” But she could get serious too, such as “Indian Summer,” & “There’s Something About a Wall” (that’s comforting). She ended with the short, funny “Making a Face” that is now easier that she is older.

Join us at the Social Justice Center in Albany, on the third Thursday of each month, at 7:30PM for a reading by a local, regional, or national poet & an open mic for our diverse community of poets. Your generous contribution supports poetry events in Albany & the work of the Social Justice Center.

August 30, 2017

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, August 2

August in Saratoga Springs can be a problem due to the crowds there for the horses, but I was able to find someplace to park my car, & got to historic Caffè Lena on time.  There was a long list for the open mic, & a good audience for the featured poets Bertha Rogers & Liv McKee, & our host Carol Graser — who got so excited about the featured poets that she forgot to do her customary opening poem, which she did after the first open mic poet; the poem was “I Woke Up,” a political piece by Jameson Fitzpatrick.

So, the first open mic poet was Brian Dorn with 2 rhyming pieces, “Her Attributes,” & a poem about autism “His Humor.” After Carol read, next was Marilyn McCabe with “I Await the Night with Dread…” the opening poem from her collection Glass Factory (The Word Works, 2016).

Debbie Bogosian was the volunteer at the door & she read about a needlepoint project “Sewn Together with Time,” then an emotional piece “The Family Gathers.” Jackie Craven read a poem “In Which I Try to Leave My Husband But Cannot Find the Words” a nonsense piece springing from workshops by famous poets Bernadette Mayer & Marge Piercy. Joe Bruchac (another famous poet) also read a poem from an assignment, one that he gave to students, “Rainy Season in Ghana,” & the “School Assembly 1958” (informing us that the word “nerd” 1st appeared in Dr. Seuss’ 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo). Nicola Mare Allain (one of next month’s featured poets, with Charlie Rossiter) read a couple of narrative memoirs about growing up in Tahiti, one about a fisherman, the other about a sea turtle. Thomas Dimopoulos, who sometimes earns money by writing about rock concerts, read from some emails from readers & a couple of paragraphs from his own reviews. D.Colin read a recent poem “7 Reasons Why I Am a Poet” then sang & read a poem from her book Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015).

Liv McKee was the first of the night’s featured poets. Her reading tonight seemed to have no plan, as she vocally wondered what to read next. She began with a piece inspired by Shel Siverstein (that she had done recently during Poets in the Park), & also read from her just published self-produced chapbook honey at the corners of her mouth, “Prodigal,” some haiku, & the slam rant with a long title, a letter to a racist hippieman. “Safety - What a Hopeful Dream” was written after she produced her chapbook. She ended with a couple of slam pieces, “Late Bloom” (from the chapbook), & “Fold.”

Bertha Rogers is a very different kind of poet, more on the page, to Liv’s on-stage performances. Bertha read extensively from her 2010 book published by Salmon Poetry Heart Turned Back, beginning with the opening poem “The First Time.” She went to dreaming of an old love “When You Were Dead,” “The Future,” “Dog Girl Tells the Truth,” to a series of memories of her youth in rural Iowa, “Rhomboid” (a high-school poem), “The Cornfield,” “Turkey Buzzard,” “For the Girl Buried in the Peat Bog,” & “Jay and Father and Winter.” She concluded with a cluster of poems not in the book, with a couple more with dogs, “The Old Dog’s Lament,” & “Furred World,” & ended with “Morning, the October Stone Circle,” & “Wild Again.” It was a wonderful pairing of 2 fine poets of different generations & different styles.

After the break, Carol was back with her own poem, “Women March on Washington All Over the World.” Leslie Sittner was a “virgin” — her first reading -- & read a long piece on ADHD in the voice of her grandson “I Am Owen,” then a more amusing piece on hair “Growth Age.” Suzanne Rancourt had also read in Poets in the Park, read 2 new poems, “Stones as Words,” then one on insomnia “Sleep Will Come Tomorrow.” Todd Fabozzi was back after a long absence & read about songs at baseball games “National Pastime” & “Faith.” Terry Bat-Sonja also made a rare appearance with a couple old poems “Fragments” (of poems) & “Rabbits in September.”

Alyssa Bonaro read a portrait in words of a boy who is her friend. Another “virgin” Bud Mansmith read about the dead of his family, & others, “The Circle Outside of Me.” Kaela Ellis read a skillful piece “The Sky” a science lesson on the water cycle disguised as a poem. W.D. Clarke read a couple of his rhyming ballads, a humorous “The Ballad of Poor Reggie” (who watches his health but is hit by a car), & one from his experience in the Army “That Other Meat.” Karen Fabiane read “God Boy,” & the recent “Karen’s Steaks & Chops.”

The final poet, Gloria Manthos, said she was reading for the first time “in New York” & read “Bourbon,” then a piece about being a veteran in a family of veterans “Cycles.”

This poetry open mic is held each 1st Wednesday at the recently renovated Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, with a featured reader (or 2), at 7:30PM.