January 31, 2007


What would Anne Sexton had written
I mean if I were a woman and she me
with three kids, some keeping her up all night
others late for school
and I'm trying to write
do the dishes, cook on weekends
go to work: the job that dulls
in litanies of meetings and denials?

Would she write about the job
the getting up each morning
so that every two weeks
there's a pay check so the kids
and wife can eat, sleep
in a warm house, go
to the doctor's when they need to?

Would she write about
the attention the kids get
while I could die
and not be buried until
the stink got too much?

Would she write about sex
alone in the crowded bed
filled with headache and fatigue?

Or would she not bother?
Would she just go into
the gargage, start the car
and just forget to go anywhere?

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
are wonderful.
And hanging in my house is a Christmas -- sorry, Holiday -- card Tom sent out one year: "Star Dust is Us!"

January 26, 2007

What Passover Has Taught Me

that when we gather at home the door must be open and a place set for even godless goyim like me
that the bitter reminds us of how sweet desert will be
that we must repeat the words we have been taught before they are forgotten or forbidden
that Springtime however green is dipped in tears and the mortar of monuments is mixed by human hands
that we must learn to answer the questions the children ask
that when we are summoned & ordered to bow we must stand and confront the Pharaoh
not for us, but for the first born if not our own then for those of others.

January 25, 2007

Home Planet News -- all the news you need

I've just received the latest issue of Home Planet News & reading it reminded me of how important this modest, newsprint zine is to the modern poetry scene. HPN was founded in 1979 by Donald Lev and Enid Dame & is still edited by Donald after Enid's passing. The current issue is Number 56, Winter 2007 & contains its usual eclectic mix of poets and reviews of poetry books by poets. This issue also has two themed sections, "Poems on Holidays" and "Men at War". Donald has included my poem, "What Passover Has Taught Me" in the Holiday section. And I want to point out Enid Dame's "Holiday Poem" as one of my favorites of all time. At the noon peace vigil in Albany, we handed out a flyer the week before Christmas with excerpts from this poem, and I read it as my "muse" at the start of the Third Thursday open mic in December.

I won't list everyone, but some of my favorite poets & people include Alan Catlin, Will Nixon, Roberta Gould, Matthew J. Spireng, Shirley Powell, Robert Milby, Joan McNernery, A.D. Winans, Amy Ouzoonian, Peter Lamborn Wilson, George Wallace, Donald (of course) – phew! You need to find out everyone who is in it, so go get a copy. You can sometimes find copies for free, particularly where Donald is reading, either as a feature or at an open mic (like the Colony Cafe in Woodstock). Or, better yet, send him $4.00:
Home Planet News, P.O. Box 455, High Falls, NY 12440. Tell him I sent you.

January 20, 2007

Oh One Arrow

The Jawbone reading series (where I did my first featured reading at about age 40 neigh on many years ago) is run by the graduate students of the English Dept. of the University at Albany (or SUNY to those of us who still refer to the D&H Building or the Knickerbocker Arena). It is currently being held at Red Square in way downtown Albany.

On Friday, Jan. 19 the Jawbone event was a book release party for Oh One Arrow, an anthology of experimental writing edited by Matthew Klane & Adam Golaski. The book is beautiful -- well designed, crisp, with plenty of space for the poems & a comfortable size.

Not all the poets in the book were there, but the reading included the return to Albany of Lori Anderson (now Moseman), poets Christopher Fritton & Aaron Lowinger, Albany's Pierre Joris, Eric Gelsinger (on Hooters), John Cotter, as well as Matthew (the Mandela's were really mandelas in words) & Adam.

Matthew has been adding his intensely nervously wordplay funplay map poems to the open mic scene here, now has this great document. Check their Blog in the links below, or check out www.flimforum.com.

Jawbone is at Red Square every couple of weeks during the academic semesters. Or, as Mayakovsky once said, "I'll meet you at Red Square."

January 18, 2007

Open Mic at the NightSky Cafe

The NightSky Cafe is a cosy place on Union St. in Schenectady, with an open mic for poets on the third Wednesday of every month; the host is the always deeply whimsical Shaun Baxter.

The features on January 17 were Margot Lynch & R.M. Engelhardt. Margot has only be out on the open mic scene a short time, but seems to have been writing for a while (she read a poem written in 1995). She even played the piano. Rob performed with "Beneath the Mire", keyboard & guitar. The music slowed down his presentation & sometimes obliterated his words -- not always a bad thing, one other poet said. Rob had a new sheaf of poems for sale, "Night", a number containing his signature ellipsis in the next to last line.

Carri read a sexy poem, just as her husband arrived, about why summer is better than winter (because you have less clothes to take off). My two poems were Squeaky Fromme (see this blog) & Henry Rollins, for katherine. Tim Verhagen reprised his poems from Caffe Lena, but good to hear again. Then a last-second sign up, R.T. read from a napkin, perhaps a punk response to romantic posing over a rose?

Next open mic there is actually after the third Thursday of February.

January 15, 2007

Where Were The Professors?

(for all those academic poets who only show up at poetry readings when they are paid)

When Charlene opened the doors and the poets charged in, fighting for the bottom of the list;
When you stood here, off stage, sweating, shaking and you realized you've had too many beers already;
When the podium shook and, blinded by the light, you wondered, "Is anyone out there?" and a beer bottle hits you;
Where Were the Professors?

When Matt Kelly confronted the homeless and greeted the ghosts of his buddies right here on this stage;
When Tanya read her poem to her father, Shiobhan her poem to her mother;
When Mary Panza's curses made cocks fall like dried leaves all along Central Ave.;
Where Were the Professors?

When Jon Drucker's landlord heard him all the way across town with the microphone off;
When Karl lit a candle before an icon and pondered death in his Russian soul;
When Tom fashioned tiny warheads into suppositories for the generals and politicians and I called for the death of Richard Nixon;
Where Were the Professors?

When we read poems about anything, including grandchildren and the heat;
When we argued on stage, off stage, along the bar, in the toilet, out the door, into the gutter until morning and a police horse shit in our faces;
When our notebooks dissolved in beer and we lost the best poem we ever wrote;
Where Were the Professors?

January 13, 2007

Photo at the QE2, 1991

It recedes like a glacier, this Time
withdrawing into the Artic past
the images from memory, and
these boxes of photos, the moraine
all we now can collect
like your certain memory
of a night at the QE2
a short skirt, a headache, a thirst
not at all like the photo
I snapped, or the one clicked in memory
where you are older than you feel
yet younger than I remember
and I had vows & children
and you felt sexy and ignored.
Now, as the glacier melts, I
begin to wonder who you were
who you thought we saw
in a loose blouse, leather
skirt, midnight tights, underwear
only you could recall.
We both went home alone, or
I know I did, what do you remember?

January 11, 2007


like those high school girls of my past
no longer too cute & perky
now as old as I am
heavier, thicker around the waist
-- if still alive
perhaps with both breasts
womb intact, perhaps not
legs rounder, more blue
fannies flattened

you won’t recognize me now
you didn’t even notice me back then
so the question is
would I recognize you?

you’re not my “great love”
now perhaps your pleasant smile
over dinner would be like salt
instead of that sophomore dance
I dreamed of beneath revolving lights
then our senior careers, each of us
drifting to our separate loneliness
away from holiday gatherings
Prozac wrapped in Dollar Store paper
meeting here like strangers on parole

(actually written in early Dec., before Gerald Ford joined Nixon. In 1975 Squeaky tried to assassinate Ford with an unloaded pistol; she is still in prison.)

Live from the Living Room, at the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center

Don Levy's always-cozy open mic on Wed., Jan. 10, had Tim Verhagen the featured poet, a somewhat reluctant feature to begin with, then, during the reading enjoyed the attention he was receiving from a room of fellow poets, both straight & gay. Tim's poems use repetition, both end-rhyme & parallelism, repeated phrases, & list poems ("start-rhyme" ?). He is out as a gay poet, & needs to be out in the open mic scene.

Also read:
Mimi Moriarity (who announced she has a book forthcoming from Fishline Press & we're impressed), Pat Dyjak (like Rachel, who was also there, another academic writing real poetry), Me (of course), Don (of course, a couple poems from his series of gay fantasies), & Gary Yaeger (Robert Service, et al.). And Rachel, who just listened, talked about memorizing, & Alex who wandered in to look for a friend.

Next one is Feb.14 with feature by Pierre Joris -- always the 2nd Wed.

January 10, 2007

First Blog

OK, now is the time to start, in the new month in the new year -- a place for my poems, comments on the Albany poetry scene, time to wean from MySpace & its viruses & assholes.
That's my manifesto.
Let's see where this goes.