October 26, 2007

What If They Gave A Reading & No One Showed Up? October 20

Even though "Community of Writers" was sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild there were but 10 of us in the large (then seeming larger) auditorium of the Albany Public Library to hear Russell Dunn, Lyn Miller-Lachmann & Pierre Joris read from their work. What those not there missed was Lyn reading from her novel Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press) & discussing the role of fiction in creating empathy; poems Pierre has not read out before & poems he didn't recognize; & Russell discussing the self-destruction of waterfalls, ending the afternoon with a veritable Hymn to Imperfection.

You'd think with 200+ members in the Guild there would be more than 1% in attendance, but then it is rare to see many of them leaving their workshops for real readings (sort of like my poem "Where Were the Professors" with the professors here). And then I hear there were even less in Athens to see Mary Panza & Ken Holland this same day. The late October weather was too nice, I guess.

Whatever.

46 comments:

Albany said...

We have often thought the same thing. We send out our announcements and information to almost 1200 people and do not get nearly that many out to the events.

Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Pierre Joris never goes to open mics to hear anyone. Mary Panza is rarely seen at other open mics to listen to anyone. Like the people you complain of, they accept an invitation to be heard, they're not out listening to anyone else either. Maybe thats the point, maybe everybody likes to be heard and events have to be geared toward everyone being heard. Albanyword fest attracts tons of people. Everybody gets to be heard. makes sense.

Tim Verhaegen said...

This blog and the comments are interesting. I've been around the scene since Summer 2005. I'm fairly new. I support two poetry groups. I support Dan Wilcox's, Don Levy's, Carol Graser's, and Sean Baxter's open mics.

I see Carol Graser, Dan Wilcox and Sean Baxter, Dain Brommedge(sp), AC Everson, Therese Broderick, Don Levy, Bob Sharkey, Alan Catlin, Chris Brabham support open mics very often.

I would love to see Alex Albino, Mary Panza, John Raymond, RM Engelhardt, Essence, Pierre Joris, Nicole Peyrafitte, Russell Dunn, Lynn Miller-Lachmann, Daniel Nester at open mics on evenings they are not featuring. It would expand attendance significantly and bring tremendous energy back to the open mic scene.

I think it is no coincidence the above poets and other poets I've neglected to mentioned are featured often. They are wonderful poets.

We're all busy. I love featuring too and I'm honored I've been asked.

We all think nothing of dropping our busy lives for a night to feature, lets all try to drop our busy lives a couple nights to listen and support other poets.

With all the wonderful poets, there is tremendous potential for the Albany poetry scene to be exploding with vibrant words, full of life.

Daniel Nester said...
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Daniel Nester said...
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Daniel Nester said...

Guess it goes to prove--you have to have an open mic to have any reading work around here, or to draw a crowd. Many people in the literary scenes here want to hear themselves read, not someone else.

But for me this raises a couple questions.

First up: What's so great thing about everyone getting to be heard?

Art may be better in a democracy, may reflect democratic principles, but it most certainly is not a democracy. Some people shouldn't be heard, especially if they aren't any good! What if we applied this principle to every other form of art:

Hey, people of the Clark Museum or Upstate Artists Guild or Ambrose + Sable Galler, I am not going to see paintings by that woman unless I get to hang my own drawings up there--and right now!

or

Hey, you, Bruce Springsteen, I'm not going to go see you play your music unless I get to sign a legal pad a half hour before your show so I can play a song I wrote last weekend during a break from my administrator job.

Sometimes this idea works (see punk rock); other times, it's a nightmare of amateurs that's frankly embarrassing for all those involved and doesn't reflect the art form at all.

Which raises another point from anonymous: Just because lots of people attend a reading doesn't make the event any better. Listening to 45 people read one poem might be a good night out for those who are among the 45 people who crave to listen to their own voice above all else every week. But there's some other people who want to hear what other people, specifically those outside their own coteries and circlejerk of friends, have to say. It's one of the best ways to become a better artist.

(That’s part of the reason why I’ll bet the 6 people who came to see Aaron Belz (from St. Louis), Peter Davis (from Muncie, IN), and Michael Schiavo (VT) at our Behind the Egg seies had a better time than another place where they got to hear the same people read the same poems they heard last week. And they didn’t even get to read! They could just listen and enjoy it! But the fact that only 6 people came also points to the other possible effect of this, one I am actively fighting to counteract: that the Albany area is a place where people won't come to see out-of-town poets. Word gets around.)

Open mics have their place and can totally rock—the ones I went to in my years in New York proved that magic can happen there. Pink Pony West and the events at the Bowery Poetry Club come to mind as places where the crowd is highly supportive and also welcome people from in and out of town. But those open mic participants, overwhelmingly and almost down to the last person, do not go to featured readings at other venues.

So what can curators of readings do? Do they have tack on an open mic reading and hope the open readers come? I don’t think so.

Instead, they need to cultivate whole other audiences, ones that don’t depend or count on the open-readers, one that comprises people who want to hear other voices. Maybe even--shock and horror--people who aren't even writers themselves!

Just my ten cents.

Sharkey said...

This is a tough issue. I feel for the organizers who work so hard to arrange these events which then seemingly often garner a small audience. But does the size of the audience matter? If only a few individuals hear a great reading is that not worthwhile? Think about the various first Friday arts events in the area. Scores of people attend the gallery at any moment but why? To eat and drink and socialize often while the poor artist(s) stands in the corner hoping for someone to actually look at the art! I think there's also an aspect of bearing witness and setting an example to the wider community who pass by the windows or steps of venues where readings are going on. I'd like to think there's some subtle impact on human behavior that results from the mere presence of these events that would be lost if they did not occur. I think that the open mics and the special feature only type of readings are in different classes and shouldn't be compared. Human behavior is usually more complex than any statement or casual observation that we might make of it. The only sure thing is that most of us do have many things competing for our time. In my case, events that occur on a regular basis or that are announced well ahead of time have a better chance of winning the competition for my time. It's difficult to push other things aside for an event that I only hear about a week or ten days in advance. In terms of a more general audience we not only have the competition for their time and attention but the need to accommodate the general laziness that's settling in more and more. People that live around me who are cutting down some of their trees so they don't have to rake leaves aren't about to drive into the city to spend a chunk of time looking to park nor are they going to walk more than a few hundred yards to anything! So maybe we don't want them anyway. But the TV lights burn as bright in Center Square as in the suburbs. So what's the answer: lunchtime readings downtown where people work, readings in the malls? How many non-writer people in the crowd stopped to listen to the readings at Larkfest? Just some thoughts......Bob Sharkey

Daniel Nester said...

Compelling thoughts all, Bob. I also do think so-called featured readings and open mics is a case of apples-and-oranges, but only to a certain point. I also think it wouldn't hurt anyone to go to a featured reading. Sharon Olds, Marilyn Nelson, and WD Snograss come to Sage College, the Fence poets read at Albany, and all attract smaller crowds than some open mics. Does that mean the poetry is better than the open mics? Maybe. Does it mean there's more people who would rather hear themselves read than the best the world has to offer? Maybe.

I would place some of the blame on some really mis-directed antipathy towards the academy/academic poet-professors, distinctions I never, ever witness in New York City at all. The smaller the scene, it seems paradoxically, the more a scene splits into teams. This professor makes far less money then most of the state workers blocks away from me--does that mean I should boycott the state workers who read at open mics?

Here's a question: How long will curators keep setting up readings that no one goes to? More and more, it seems like it's a question of a money-type exchange when it comes to writers in the local community. And how wrong-headed that is! Would this apply to writers who come into town one time? Does it matter that these people do or don't get paid when they do? Must we owe people a favor to attend a reading? I don't think that's the point. The point is getting pleasure from a reading--it shouldn't be a holy day of obligation. If those suburnites are going to sweat out parking in Center Square, if they can't parallel park or take a bus or pay, like three dollars at the lot on Lark or walk from the free one on Swann Street, so be it. Let 'em stay home and not rake leaves. They'll be the ones who suffer for it--either spiritually or artistically.

The trick, again, is to find audiences, writers or non-, who will come and enjoy it, and won't feel put out for doing it. Which leads me to my last question: Do those people exist around here?

Anonymous said...

from Therese Broderick--Great comments and discussion, everyone. Keep it going. I was in attendance at the HVWG event. I can't get to everything because I also have obligations to my teenager, my husband, my house, my other social groups, etc. etc. etc.

Daniel Nester said...

Therese -- Thanks. My wife and I have a newborn, so I know what you mean by obligations. When I moved up here from NYC in 2005, I couldn't get away from the writing scene fast enough. It all seemed so incestuous. But I changed my mind fairly quickly once I got settled, and find that setting up readings and going to them is a great way to keep in touch with other writers. I still go to NYC readings when I make it down there, and there's always an abundance of choice. And people go. I think one solution is to double, triple the events around here, so when people do set aside a night/afternoon to go to a reading, they will have a choice. It sounds counter-intuitive, but there is such a thing as critical mass--such as First Friday. Maybe literary curators and writers could come up with a Last Friday or something where there's readings everywhere, all at once?

Thom said...

Terese - I agree that there are things going on in peoples lives besides poetry and that is a reason why we are not seeing people out at all of the open mics. I know that I have a hard time making it out to events because of all of the "other" things.

Another thing that I think gets forgotten here is the fact that there are a lot of open mics in this area and not a lot of poets participating. We seem to expect that all of the poets at the Lark Tavern will be at the Night Sky and then at Valentines and then up at Caffe Lena. Yes, supporting the art and the scene are important as poets, but the hosts, the venues, and the promoters should be trying to draw in people from outside the circle and not depend on the built in audience that has always been there.

Daniel - I am not certain that more events would work here in Albany, but a First Friday type of event may work as it would give people the choice of what type of poetry event they check out. It also showcases the diversity of the poetry in the area.

Anonymous said...

Wait. Are you telling me that people don’t attend literary in large numbers? Poetry readings and open mics have less smaller audiences than the latest Tom Cruise movie? How can this be? I was just watching Oprah the other day and she told everybody to go to their local bookstore buy five books of poetry. She then said that she didn’t want anybody watching her show until they finished reading those books.
While I was on my way to work the other morning all I heard up and down the FM dial was talk, talk, talk. Selected Shorts was on three different channels and Garrison Keillior was reading poetry. I had to go to the far left of the dial to find a static filled radio station that played Free Bird.
Damn. I guess people get so much literature in the rest of their life that they need a break from it and can’t bring themselves to go to a reading.
As for the accusation that writers are only interested in their own work well that’s just a total lie but make sure you check out MY poetry on my website. The site also contains a list of the places I’ll be reading, as well as t-shirts, baseball caps and posters.

Anonymous said...

from Therese Broderick--When I read my poems at an open mic, I enjoy the public attention, for sure (even though I'm shy). But I read my poems aloud at open mics NOT JUST for the attention. I read my poems at open mics because it's a NECESSARY PART OF THE ARTISTIC GROWTH PROCESS which makes me a better artist. Despite my MFA degree which may lead some people to assume that I'm a snobby "poet on the page" writer, in truth I take the opposite position: that poety is what is vocalized OUT LOUD and that the written poem on the page is only the NOTATION of the poem, not the poem itself. So...if I am going to call myself a poet-artist, I MUST read out loud at open mics. Otherwise, I'm not a poet. Moreover, I don't mind listening to beginner poets (whom some listeners might describe uncharitably as only "amateurs" or "bad" poets) at open mics, because I think that that beginning poet will benefit, and grow as an artist, by reading out loud. In addition, my next goal as a poet-artist is to MEMORIZE my poems like the poet James does because I think that THAT artistic practice is really the purest form of poetry--poetry memorized and read aloud. Because I am now working on that new goal of memorization, I will, for sure, appear to be an "amateur" and a "beginner" and a "bad" poet all over again, because I'm be stumbling around (as I did at Dan's open mic this month) until I master this new skill. If we are true poet-artists, we will always be starting over with new things to try and practice. So let's be careful before calling poets embarrassing amateurs. We should all be such amateurs, over and over again.

Daniel Nester said...

Me, I define amateur to provoke here -- the writer or artist who only wants to hear or read one's self. Kind of like the way I play electric guitar.

And there's plenty of writers like that in this world. What was the WH Auden quote everyone loving the smell of their own farts?

Why not call those kinds of poets amateurs? I could call them worse, actually; then again, I'd never see them except for their own readings, and then they would probably up and leave after they get their turn to read!

Listen, there's a load of a difference between amateurishness and humility or a being a beginner. I read with three people yesterday, and believe you me, I was an "amateur." Superior writers all. Perhaps there should be more people willing to subject themselves to such wonderful humiliation. Last week, I read my students' writing with glee, because I could see some were on their way on their journey as a writer.

But do we zip our lips when there's an unsupporting scene for people to go out and see people who aren't beginners, who aren't amateurs, who aren't their friends, who aren't--god forbid!--humble about their gifts? And then do we keeps said lips zipped when people present dodgy and selfish logic about why that is?

Anonymous, are you saying that people listen to NPR and Writer's Almanac, and that's good enough for them, there's no need to go out and see, say, Nathaniel Mackey or The Festival of Chinese Poetry at SUNY? Ug. I'm back to square one now.

rushmc said...

>>in truth I take the opposite position: that poety is what is vocalized OUT LOUD and that the written poem on the page is only the NOTATION of the poem, not the poem itself. So...if I am going to call myself a poet-artist, I MUST read out loud at open mics. Otherwise, I'm not a poet.

And that's a perfectly valid attitude for you to take...for yourself. Some of us skew far to the other side, however. The ability to write and the ability to perform in public are in no way correlated, though some are fortunate enough to have both. Someday we won't be around to read our poems aloud, but I hope you will concede that it doesn't then cease to be "poetry!"

I think it would be great to get some non-writers in the seats at these readings (since enjoying poetry shouldn't be something that is limited to those who write it), but how to do it? I am new to this area, but I get the sense that most of the advertising effort has been aimed at those who want to share their own poems rather than at a general audience.

Anonymous said...

Mr Nester-

Re:"Ug"

If you read my non-amatuerish poetry as I advised-that goes for the rest of you, I think you could all learn something from it (especially you Mr. Baxter, I've read your stuff; you're a hack!)-you would understand what I meant. Since you didnt I'll put down Finnegan's Wake (it's the 17th time I read it), and explain what I meant.

What I meant, Mr. Nester, is that despite every American's high level of interest in the written and spoken word, especially poetry, the mainstream media does such a great job of providing it to them 24/7 365 days a year, that people are overwhelmed. Essentially poetry readings are superfluous.

So yes, Mr. Nester, I don't believe there is a need to go see Nathaniel Mackey (unless Oprah, the leading literary critic of our time, tells us to) or The Festival of Chinese Poetry.
I say forget the poetry. Let's have a festival of Chinese Films. First let's remake the Chinese films with American actors (Will Smith?) who speak english (I hate subtitles).

-Jonathan McFarr

Tim Verhaegen said...

A while back I went to see the novelist Jodi Piccoult at the Scotia High School. OH MY GOD there was a line around the building, police were directing traffic, there wasn't a seat available in the place, people were running to be on line because they were afraid they wouldn't be able to get in. There had to be 1,000 people there!!! It was awesome.

Of course people will go listen to a literary person read.

The question is - is there a large enough audience for LOCAL POETS to gather "just listeners" from?

Have we given them a reason to listen?

Have we as local poets earned that audience?

As someone has already said we are reading to our inner poetry clique most of the time.

Most of us self-publish or have close associates publish our work - which is also self-publish when it comes down to it.

Is Pierre Joris a better poet than most Albany poets? Ken Holland? Mary Panza? Tim Verhaegen? I don't know. Whats the criterion? We don't ask outsiders. Most often we don't ask independent/outside publishers with no association to us.

People who are asked to feature a lot, are we better poets than people often not asked to feature? I don't know.

Do we deserve to be listened to? I don't see where we've asked that question, or tested the question. I talk to many poets. Many poets don't have outside eyes look or critique their poetry at all, they don't believe in it.

I'm sure Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg would pack them in.

Bruce Springstein will pack them in.

Local musicians face the same challenge, they have their inner cliques too.

Its inherent to the "local" artist.

Are we being realistic?

If we're only reading to each other, attendance would increase if we ALL supported each other.

I think its presumptuous that many of the frequent features think they only have to be listened to and never go to open mics to support other local poets.

Daniel Nester makes that case perfectly "you should listen to me Daniel Nester because I'm great, but I'm not gonna listen to you, you suck". You did say that Dan in your first post.

I strongly disagree.

I'm proud I go to open mics and support the open mic poets.

Sometimes the listeners are better than the features, there just not as well known or popular from within. Since we're only reading to the choir, everybody including the Daniel Nesters should be out supporting all the poets.

When we as poets go "national", we'll be packing the library auditoriums in.

Anonymous said...

from Therese Broderick--FIRST POINT--This is what I think about what a poem is--When a poet dies, the notations of his/her poems are preserved as text in books or magazines or websites. Even when a poet is still alive, his/her books contain the notations of his poems, not his poems. When a reader reads silently a printed poem, he or she "hears" the poem in his/her auditory mind. Then, the notation of the poem comes alive as heard "voice." The voice is the voice of the reader, not of the original poet, but it is still a heard voice. A poem exists as a heard voice. SECOND POINT--There's a difference between "performing" and "reading aloud" a poem. Anyone who writes a poem can read it aloud, with a greater or lesser degree of skill (suitable pace, volume, enunciation, rhythm, etc.). But performing (as I understand it) involves a greater degree of physical theatrics (gestures, facial expressions, group dynamics, etc.). Yes, I agree that not everyone who writes can be a great performer, and not every great performer can write well. But anyone who writes a poem can read aloud his/her poem.

Tim V. said...

Bravo Dan Wilcox, you have picked a subject and received an explosive amount of comments.

Apparently we're all reading your blog. Thank you so much Dan Wilcox for providing a forum for all of us to share our thoughts.

Daniel Nester said...

Hey Tim V -- Shame on you for twisting what I say to serve your own point :)!

But do look at that first post. I didn't say listen or go to see ME--I've read in Albany, like twice, and I am not even primarily a poet--I meant people should not just listen and see THEMSELVES, but go out and see OTHERS read.

(Plus, I actually went on record and said I sucked in another post--so let's make that clear: I suck. I am an amateur.)

My occasion for writing and chiming in on Dan's post here is running another Behind the Egg reading yesterday with some terrific poets from out of town and only, like, 6 people came. What irks me is talk of a writing community when there doesn't seem to be that big of one. When people came to New York City from out of town, people got the word out and people came to see them--unpublished, published, self-published, not-even-interested-in-being published.

And here? Doesn't happen. The open-reading culture won't change--open readers will only go to a reading where they can read--but there might be some people in that scene who might want to hear other people.

But what irks me even more importantly, Tim -- you seem to be talking about going to readings as if it's some kind of chit-sheet score-keeping affair--poetry is a gift economy. We're not making bucks offa this stuff. And believe you me, I love having Albany poets at the series I do with Erik Sweet. It's awesome. So I do feel like I am supporting the community. Sometimes a curator wants love--just ask Dan Wilcox.

Tim V. said...

I mean no disrespect Dan Nester, I'm sorry if I have twisted your words. What I meant was I have never seen you show up at an open mic other than when you were featuring your people at Dan Wilcox's. I meant there are a ton of other people who also don't show up and support others either. I provided a list of people in my first comment.

I think you are inviting huge disappointment making comparisons to New York City. New York City has 8 million people to Albany's what...? So do the math.

Then New York City has a much larger population of independently wealthy, rich wives/rich husbands who have all day to be doing this art stuff. Theres almost none of that wealthy billionaire stuff in Albany. We're working. Then trying to fit the poetry in. Apples and oranges.

Are you applying a NYC paradigm to Albany?

That feels unfair to me.

Daniel Nester said...

I suppose you're right Tim V. It is an unfair comparison. But I do want to be part of the community here, and want things to be better. Being negative is something I'm trying to work against and I suppose is for me and my therapist to figure out. I've done my fair share of self-pimping, to be sure. Which reminds me: come out to see a Frequency North reading sometime! I don't read at 'em; I just put the show on, folks.

frequencynoth.com.

Tim V. said...

I can't thank you enough Dan Nester for your efforts. I will attend a Frequency North. I come from downstate - Long Island - so 1980-1982 I made constant comparisons. I was so depressed.

Then after a couple years, I fell in love with upstate, and here I sit.

Please keep up your efforts.

rushmc said...

>>But anyone who writes a poem can read aloud his/her poem.

What if they're mute?? ;)

Seriously, though, I hear what you're saying but strongly disagree with it. Or, rather, I disagree with your effort to try to corral ALL poetry within those fences (as I probably would with anyone else's fences). The fact that a great deal of poetry is written that is not intended to be read aloud, which is never read aloud, or which it is even impossible to read aloud opens a lot of gates in those fences.

And personally I'm not interested in writing "notes;" I'm interested in writing poems. Not so much in reading them aloud or performing them to an audience, although that can be a kick from time to time (and, I agree, instructive). We don't live in a society where culture is primarily transmitted orally anymore, and I for one am perfectly content working within a paradigm of text which is informed by but not inferior to that of vocal sound.

Anyway, not trying to pick a fight or get off topic, just providing an alternative perspective.

Anonymous said...

Two things:

1. Not that this is the wrong place to hash this out, but, if I'm not mistaken, I think that albanypoets.com has a messageboard/forum.

2. Anyone who has asked knows that the reason I started the Night Sky Cafe open mic was because my work schedule-mostly nights-often prevents me from going to open mics or other literary events, so I decided that I would host one. Now I make at least one a month, though usually more. Above all else, my interest in poetry open mics is hearing other people read. I know there are tons of people on the other end of the spectrum who only want to be heard; they want their ego boosted. I also can think of at least two people who go to open mics solely to listen.
The bottom line is that is not food, sex, shopping, television, movies, pop music, etc. Like stamp or coin collecting, being a Deadhead, watching David Lynch films, or mountaing climbing poetry is a special interest-for lack of a better term-and it does not have wide public appeal, and as Tim said Albany only has so many people(and sorry Daniel, I like what I've heard of your work and I've been dying to go to the behind the egg reading though I always work on saturdays, but I'm so sick of the NYC is better than everywhere else in the world thing. It's like being disappointed in a cat because it doesn't act like your childhood dog).

sb

Daniel Nester said...

sb --

Thanks for your kind words about what you have heard of my poems--as a writer, I am in a bit of a crisis now, since I don't really consider myself a poet anymore--I write essays and memior-type stuff--but I want to get back into it.

I personally think poetry is better than movies, at least for the past 10 years, but more often than not not better than many of the original series on HBO or even Showtime. And it's certainly better than Britney. My point, I think, is that poetry and other-type readings can totally compete with those other art forms, and all it takes is to get over that perception/preconception/frame of mind. A Pierre Joris reading accompanied Munir Beken on oud is way better than, say, Everyone Loves Raymond reruns.

But I do see what you're saying, that reading series have to compete with other, much more force-fed things.

I personally don't care to go to open mics. It's my preference--I like to hear a whole set from a writer than the rat-tat-tat of the open mic. I do go to a lot of the featured readings around here, such as down in Hudson and at Albany and Sage. I often bring students--i.e., force them to go--because I think it's a great opportunity for them to see a "real, live writer." I have been encouraging some of my students to go to out to open mics and try out their voice, listen to other people. Does that mean I don't "support" open mics? I hope not.

Albany Poets said...

That is a good point Dan. Some folks are just not into the open mics, but go to featured readings. For whatever reason, it is their preference. Who are we to judge? At least they are out and supporting the art.

And also, to bring up something mentioned earlier, would you expect to see Bruce Springsteen at one of the local music open mics just so people will go to his show? Just because you are the feature, that does not necessarily mean that you have to attend the open mics. For example, we have Phillip Levine as our feature tonight at Poets Speak Loud, but you will probably not see him up at the Lark Tavern for another open mic night in the near future, because he hosts his own mic on Mondays in Woodstock.

Just something that I was thinking about.

Anonymous said...

From Mary Panza
First of all, I have been part of this open mic scene since the first QE2. Second, I have a been to HUNDREDS of open mics. I can't make all of the open mics anymore because I have a small child,a partner in school and a business. I really feel singled out for no reason. I have two, maybe three features a year. I never complain if there is a small attendance. Every time I get asked to feature it is an HONOR. I treat it that way and give 110% no matter how many people show up. I am a proud member of this community and have been for 20 years. I am also happy to be a member of Albany Poets. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in this community. I may not be able to attend EVERY open mic but I try to do as much as I can to help it grow. So to anonymous and Tim V. when it is your 20th year anniversary in this scene, it will be my 40th.

Tim V. said...

I don't really care who goes to the open mics or not. I was only responding to the people who were complaining about low attendance.

I'm fine with low attendance. It just puzzles me when people complain about low attendance and want to seek outside audiences. Apparently there not happy with the low attendance. There is no outside audience. We only have our own pool.

Daniel Nester said he FORCES his students to go. "forced" is a very strong verb. definetely not a synonym of desire. "forced" - not an encouraging concept.

I think Dan Wilcox brought a great topic. The blog is a forum to explore these topics. Hopefully we're allowed to discuss that.

I mean no disrespect to Mary Panza, but I do note theres a long iist of people, Mary is only one of a long list, that are not seen at open mics unless there on stage. Mary does a lot of work behind the scenes. What of the rest on that long list?

Of course we're busy. We're all busy. Priorities.

I know Mary Panza was my inspiring force for attending in the Mary Panza STephen Clark days in 1996. Those Border readings were mobbed with people then.

If no one was complaining about low attendance, I would not be making any comments.

The way the blog was presented, it sounds like the potential listening audience was being attacked as ignorant etc. for not attending these readings.

I do not see the Albany poetry community as a spectator community. We are participators.

Unless of course a huge poet hits town, then naturally, we're spectators.

Seems completely normal to me.

Tim V. said...

P.S. I'm going to see Philip Levine tonight.

I go to open mics regardless of whether the feature shows up other times tor not. I don't condition my attendance on that.

I enjoy both listening and reading.

Albany Poets said...

"I enjoy both listening and reading"

That is what it is all about.

Daniel Nester said...

Tim, what you say confirms my fears: that, beside those folks who want only to participate, there is no audience for readings in Albany.

Also: If a "huge" poet comes, only then will people attend a reading. So that means no one will go to see a less-than-huge writer, not if it means they can't read, too, Albany being a "participatory" scene"? Another fear confirmed.

How about instead of the word "force," I say "suggest"? "Require"? Would you prefer my students not go to your readings? Or, rather, the readings someone else puts on so you can read? We can set up our own readings here in the ivory tower--is that what you suggest?

Which leads me to another point: Those people Tim V and anonymous single out for not attending readings here on Dan's blog, this post and otherwise, by and large are curators/series-runners themselves: Mary, Dan, me, Pierre, RM, Nicole. All these people bust their butt so there's literary events here. Many of them, myself included, probably like doing this kind of work--organizing, curating, bringing people together. In case you didn't already know this, for every hour of a reading, there's 5-6 hours of emails, flyering, getting-the-word out. Are you saying, Tim and anonymous, that these people, who work so hard so you can sign up and do your thing, along with an unnamed "long list" of people, many of them possibly curators as well, should go out and see you read at other places? That by putting on a show, that's not enough? Why select curators as 80% of your examples?

When Erik and I set up a couple of readings at Behind the Egg, we had this idea to have other series curators feature (Carol, Dan, RM, Mary) because curators rarely get the love so many others take for granted: here's your bottle of water, we'll sell your books here, here's my introduction for you to fact-check. Give the curators some LOVE!

Albany Poets said...

We did a similar thing at the 2006 Albany Word Fest by inviting the hosts of poetry open mics in the upstate area (from Woodstock to Saratoga) to be featured readers at the event. It was a way for us to say thank you for all of the hard work it takes to put on an open mic series.

And to go back to the topic of only going to readings if you are able to get on stage yourself, I remember at the 2005 Word Fest a poet showing up at the Saturday night show at Valentines and turning around and leaving when he found out that there was open mic for him to read his poetry.

Tim V. said...

I go to all the stuff regardless. Unless I don't like the poet's work. I guess I should not be speaking for others.

Conquer the low attendance problem without me. I was just suggesting that it would be great if the poets went out more. A sure way to increase attendance. You don't have to, I'll still be going to stuff.

I've only been to Night Sky Cafe three times, one of the three times was when Mary Panza featured. I went to hear her. I love her work.

Now I can't go see Philip Levine tonight, I'm afraid Mary Panza, Thom Francis and Daniel Nester will kick my butt. Actually any ONE of you is capable without even ganging up.

I'm a big sissy and I don't know how to fight.

Anonymous said...

From Therese Broderick--I just spent three hours writing a new poem to read tonight at Phil Levine's reading. I want to be there to support him because he supported me in Woodstock. I think it's OK to want to reciprocate in friendship, and to prioritize my poetry events schedule in order to reciprocate to friends. I think this blog thread must be approaching some kind of all-time record for total number of posts. Also, I wasn't trying to pick a fight with anyone over the nature of poetry and I don't mind if people disagree with me. I enjoy the lively discussions.

Anonymous said...

It has happened to all of us...what if you hold a open mic or featured reading series and no body came. It's happened to me many times over the years. I do not like some people's notion of taking "attendance" and accusing people who don't go to open mics all the time (because they have a life) of reading only when thery're featured. It's an unfair assumption to make. Instead of sniping at each other, maybe we can pool our collective heads and help each other out. And just a note from what I've noticed: it's always the people who offer "constructive criticism" are never the people who do the work that has to be done in organisng an open mic or working either on the Board of the Guild or Albany Poets. These people always like telling those doing the work what has to be done instead of rolling up thier sleeves and doing the work! Uncle Don

Tim V. said...

Had a great time at Poets Speak Loud. Thanks Mary and Thom for not kicking my ass.

The only person who yelled at me was Nicole, the waitress.

I did regret that Mary Panza and Thom Francis didn't read a poem. Not that I'm keeping track.

I love the Mary Panza high energy, can you blame me for missing her when I don't see her? I guess I'll have to come to her.

I remember vividly when Mary Panza was on the cover of Metroland, when was that? 1996? 1997? Long article too. It was an awesome article. She ran a tight, exciting ship at Border's. Larry Rapant, Tom Corrado and Stephen Clark were regulars those days. Stephen Clark used to workshop RM Engelhardt's poems sitting in our livingroom. Stephen Clark spent hours at his desk writing poems. There was a CD that included everyone's works that Mary Panza and Stephen Clark produced. It seemed for almost two years as a non-poet, I heard the names Mary Panza,her roommate Tess, Don Levy, Dan Wilcox, RM Engelhardt on a daily basis. I wasn't a poet then, I was too busy going to the gym, chasing, and being chased.

Now I'm chaste. I've found poetry.

So interesting to be in the thick of those names now, ten years later as a poet in such a different, much closer context.

Yes indeed. Mary Panza has ruled the scene a long time. I'm no dummy, I knew that.

I loved her then, I love her now.

I feared her then, I fear her now.

Tim V. said...

Holy shit, Don Levy just beat the crap out of me in an email. He said I was really hurtful to Mary Panza and the other people.

I sincerely apologize for my statements. I am very new. I am very enthusiastic. I'm comparing now to 1996. I see the low attendance. I'm scared the poetry scene is dying out just as I'm falling in love with it. I do forget my two years is nothing compared to the time spent in the scene by almost everybody else.

Don does have me thinking though. He said in the last blog:

"I do not like some people's notion of taking "attendance" and accusing people who don't go to open mics all the time (because they have a life) of reading only when thery're featured."

I've been going to a lot of open mics. Does that I mean I don't have a life?

I do have a life. I really do. I swear to God. I have references.

Who was that poet laureate that Don Levy wrote a poem about that said only losers go to open mics? Wasn't that poet laureate saying we only go to poetry open mics because we suck as poets and have nothing else to do?

I'm in two poetry groups that total 20 people, only Mimi Moriarty goes to open mics on any regular basis.

I'm so confused. is that true?

Is the "feature-only" reading a higher level experience than an open mic?

Do I only like the open mics so much because I'm new? I love the randomness of the open mic. I love not knowing who will come.

I've read all 35 comments. I have so many questions.

It sounds like I've been dead wrong about the Albany poetry scene. But I sure don't have any idea whats right.

rushmc said...

I don't think being concerned about attendance and pondering how to improve it is a bad thing, Tim.

I'm far newer to the whole open mike thing than you, but it seems to me that it is a fundamentally different thing than the sphere of the academics (to which I'm sure your laureate belongs) or the hermit scribbler. Different does not, of course, imply inferior.

It seems to me that the open mike nights (and the Albany area is blessed with a profusion of them) are more of a social thing than anything else. I am reminded of various clubs to which I have belonged in the past: the familiar faces, the camaraderie, the mutual support. It seems a wonderful thing, but not everyone is social and it has little to do with the writing of poetry (though obviously it provides an encouragement, or a provocation, to produce).

I think the fear, spoken and unspoken, of some is that such a regular, relatively small group could become incestuous and unproductive and stagnant without a steady infusion of new blood (and, perhaps, a separate audience to feed). And there's no doubt in my mind that it could (people being what they are). But there's also no doubt in my mind that it's not inevitable that it should, and from what (admittedly little) I have seen, the local community here is fairly robust and diverse and welcoming to new voices.

Thanks for my welcome. I'm off now on a plane West. I hope to hear you all read again in spring '08. Take care!

North Albany Blogger said...

I searched albanypoets.com and linked to this page. It was facinating to read the blogs and hear the comments. I wonder if some of the reasons adding to poor attendence problems is the venue. Noisy clubs, stages next to busy bathrooms and kitchens, no room to move, poor parking access and an ambience not compatable with poetry may add to the problem. If any of the hosters would like to consider a potential new free venue for weekend afternoons, check out AT THE WAREHOUSE in North Albany, behind Miss ALbany Diner. We have a 925 sq. foot dance studio that is isolated from the rest of the market. Outside there is a tea shop and small cafe. We have live music from 11am - 2pm (usually a singer songwriter). The energy is phenomenal and I'm sure some curios people attending the market may wander in and add to your attendence. It could be a Saturday or Sunday afternoon venue from 12 till 3pm. If interested, stop down some weekend and ask for Fred. Thanks. Fred from AT THE WAREHOUSE.

Anonymous said...

From Mary Panza
Hey Fred
I just got back from Tots Yoga AT THE WAREHOUSE. You are correct, it is a great space. panza@albanypoets.com.

Daniel Nester said...

Hey all and Fred and Mary--

At The Warehouse is an excellent space--there's parking--Albany people love that--but most of all the space is wonderful. My wife takes our kid to yoga there, too. On Saturdays and Sundays and other days, there's a super farmer's market.

And I agree--the venue can do so much to make-or-break an event. I have trouble lining up space even for my "official" Saint Rose events. To have a supportive space is ideal.

So maybe in the interest of turning potential negatives into a positive, wouldn't it be great to have a couple events at a place like At The Warehouse? I for one would love to have a series there.

Anonymous said...

From Mary Panza

Fred and Daniel

Hey guys, Albany Poets is interested in getting together and running some ideas past one another. Let us know.

Tim Verhaegen said...

Fred, At the Warehouse sounds like a great place to have a monthly open mic.

Weekend open mics are non-existant. Parking is tough for the Albany open mics.

I think I'd put my energy where my mouth is and volunteer to host it.

I promise I wouldn't take attendance.

Please contact me Fred, at tverhaegen@nycap.rr.com if you have any interest.

Mary Panza, Dan Wilcox, do you think theres a market for a weekend open mic? Is it worth a try?

Dan Wilcox indicated open mics aren't on weekends because venues don't like to give up the space.
If we have a venue willing to offer the space, would a weekend work for an open mic?

joe hollander said...

I must admit you all have accomplished something here...and this is a year later. I will see you all out at the readings.

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