January 30, 2007

Poets Speak Loud, Jan. 29, 2007

"Poets Speak Loud" is the monthly open mic for poets held at Tess' Lark Tavern in Albany, NY on the last Monday of every month, sponsored by AlbanyPoets.com. This month was the 2nd anniversary of the readings & the second anniversary of Tom Nattell becoming star-dust. Tom had been scheduled to be the first featured reader at the new series on January 31, 2005, but died of cancer that morning. The open mic was held that night and became a celebration of his life, work and performances. Tom was a major force (if not THE major force) from back in the 1980s in creating the vibrant Albany poetry scene, with the Readings Against the End of the World, the open mic at the QE2 (held on the last Monday of each month), Poets in the Park, Poets Action Against AIDS, along with his peace work & environmental activism.

I was the honorary, guest host; Mary Panza is the usual Diva-in-charge, with El Presidente working the sound. There were 15 readers at the open mic sign up, some who had known Tom, but some who did not. That being in the spirit of all the open readings that Tom ever ran -- that the new poet, the virgin, was as welcome (some would say more so) as the crowd-pleasing old favorite. We had a pantoum (Therese's poem on
her daughter in the fitting room), vignettes (Jason Berkowitz's interview, & Dain Brammage's new "Pulse" with Keith), some political pieces (Chris Brodham, Katherine, back from Philly for a too-brief visit), a birthday/cyberspace poem (Nicole), even a new poet (Ruth Putnam) bringing some warmth to the cold night), many others, & of course the needed rant, "This is an Open Mic", Mary Panza wrapping up the night.

Interesting that the audience/readers included so many hosts of other readings that carry on Tom's tradition: R.M. Engelhardt, Nicole Peyrafitte, Dain Brammage, K.J. Spence, Bob Wright, Shaun Baxter & myself. Then, to the singing of Steve Earl's "The Revolution Starts Now", we (what was left of us, & then some) tramped to the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park, where Tom Francis scrambled up to place the green beret, with hidden duct tape, on Bobbie Burns' cold pate.

I read a couple of Tom's poems during the night, & would now like to end with a couple of his thoughts. His last poem was
Short or tall
flowers
are wonderful.
And hanging in my house is a Christmas -- sorry, Holiday -- card Tom sent out one year: "Star Dust is Us!"