May 29, 2007

Poets Speak Loud - May 22

This usually takes place on the last Monday of the month, at Tess' Lark Tavern on Madison Ave. in Albany, sponsored by Albany Poets ( But due to the Memorial Day weekend, it was held a week early, & on a Tuesday night -- still got a good group of poets out to read.

Now I've got to tell you, Tess' is the kind of place that if I was an old coot poet living nearby in a little studio apartment I'd be there everynight, for the great food specials, & to be treated like some hot stud by the flirty, young, pretty, tattooed waitresses. I mean, that's what they do now, but I'd like it everynight.

Anywho, back to the poetry night, which, of course, was hosted by Mary Panza. I was there early for dinner & flirting after the Peace Vigil in Delmar, so ended up signing up first, just like back at the QE2, which was also held on the last Monday of the month (but didn't move because of holidays). I read one about our Veterans for Peace chapter marching in the Memorial Day parade in Albany in 1999 when Jun Sun showed up from the Peace Pagoda, chanting the invocation to the Lotus Sutra; then my new poem "Eight Hermit Thrushes" (see an earlier posting on this Blog for the text, if you are interested). Then Nicole Peyrafitte read her reactions to the same event, followed by a song-in-progress, "No Name" on Auguste Saint-Gaudens.

Jacqueline Brookfield was the surprise new poet for the night, with a couple of strident political pieces, "Gag Order on America" & "Rage Against 2007".

Marty Mulenex didn't have to tell us that the title of his first poem was "Sadness"; another piece on Albany's first Friday art event (a challenge theme for other poets?), then "Oh Juliet".

The feature was "Johnny WordFest", aka John Weiler, sans guitar, just a half-filled pint glass & a gallon of rock'n'roll attitude. It was like a John Weiler sampler: from William the Conquerer to his dog eating the Buddha, to haikus. I listened carefully to "Revolution Sounds Like Love" because John was upset at Valentines a while ago to my reaction when he read it there -- it had sounded to me that he was saying the protest generation of the '60s has all turned off being political, had gone to drugs & solipism & I took exception. Poor John was perturbed because he meant it as a tribute. Now I see that it's a complex poem that moves through moods & modes & that's why I was confused. He describes the confusion & destruction of many of that generation but ends up paying tribute to its (our) continuing struggle for justice & peace. Sorry John, I get it now.

After the break R.M. Engelhardt read 3 poems from his "collected works"; it's handy to have the book so we can find out if we really get it or not.

Mark Galleta's "Honest Man" is in one of the issues of Other:__, perhaps you can find him on

James Schlett will never live down his role as poetry enforcer (for which we're grateful). He read his poem from a day at Grafton pond, then a "Jersey haiku" where the joke is not just in the title.

Sylvia Barnard read a new version of the poem she had introduced at the Social Justice Center, "You Can't Buy a Bus Ticket Home", now with a better ending; then one with the funny premise that picnics are not just for eating.

At the end Dain Brammage showed up late as only a "Mental Reincarnation."

Tess' is not just for poetry you know -- in addition to some of the best bar food in town, the usual beers & girly drinks, there is music or poetry or bands or comedy nearly every night. And, like I said, pretty, flirty honeys waiting on your table. I'll be back.

May 24, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, May 17

I've realized that in reporting on my own event I've forgotten to mention "the Muse". Each month I like to envoke the Muse (I studied ancient Greek as an undergraduate), some gone poet who could not be here with us. In honor of my feature who had read from Text for Nothing last month at Zounds!, I read from Samuel Beckett's "Sanies II" from Collected Poems in English & French.

We had a small, intense crowd, but our feature, John Raymond did his homework & made sure his friends were there. His work is sexy, with a strong narrative bent, anecdotes from everyday with attention to the kind of language that makes it real for the rest of us voyeurs. I hope someday we will have to pay booksellers to have his work in our homes.

I like to surround my feature poet with open mic poets, a scam I learned in NYC to keep an audience for the feature. But here, in this kind city, poets stay to listen to each other & it's not really necessary to trick them. They don't seem to mind.

Alan Catlin started off the open mic with a letter of sorts, "Dear Whoever whatever...", then Tim Verhaegen described a familiar scene with "Echoes of a Poetry Anonymous Meeting on a Sleepless Night." Oh yeah.

Marty (Mulenex, he just signed up with his first name) was "In La La Land." Don Levy's doctor apparently told someone he knew "Try Not To Be So Morbidly Obese" so Don entertained us with his (food) reactions. Joe Krausman wrote a letter to God, don't know if he got the response yet, maybe that's a good thing.

After the feature & the break there was Bob Sharkey with "Arms & the Man". Karin Maag-Tanchak was back (we missed her), fashionably arriving in the "Beijing taxi" & read about her return to Germany with "Autobahn." And Sally Rhoades read images from dance, & the moon.

Ahem, I'll mention Miriam Herrera without the bolding because she (who rarely goes to open mics) didn't bring a poem to read & I was disappointed to not hear her fine work (we were in a workshop some years back & I've always liked her poems -- see the link to her website at the bottom of this Blog).

Third Thursday, at the Social Justice Center, 7:30.

May 23, 2007

Zounds! at the NightSky Cafe, May 16

Why is it that when we gather here, on the third Wednesday, we tend to cluster around a few small tables, while the big table with 6 chairs was left to Mike Eck & his daughter, Lily? I guess poets are poor planners. Or everyone wants to sit with "us".

Shaun Baxter, our gracious host, started off with OPP (other people's poems) & also read from his postcards throughout the night. Actually, I was surprised by the Bukowski poem, "Computer," I always think of him as a typewriter kind of guy. Throughout the night he read from postcards; if you don't know about this, you should go sometimes, pick up one of Shaun's addressed/stamped (he forgot about the rate increase) postcards, write something, mail it & he reads it.

The features were embedded in the open mic-ers, about-half way through. The first was Lindsey Ragowski, with her black guitar & equally black punk outfit. Shaun had plucked her from an earlier appearance at Albany Poets Present. She sang "about regret & random shit", about being hit on by older guys (not me!), other raw, pungent pieces from her angst. Later, I expressed a wish to others more knowlegable that she had sung in her natural voice, or at least something closer, but I was informed that she was trying to sound like Ani DeFranco. I've mentioned this before with singers, but why do they have to imitate these stars, particularly when it obscures their lyrics? Ah, youth.

The other feature was Jamie Stevenson, whom I had featured at the Social Justice Center based largely on an open mic appearance at the NightSky Cafe -- what goes around comes around. I like his work, quirky, political, cynically humorous (e.g., "The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, or What's Left of It"). I hope he keeps writing & keeps showing up.

Amongst a bevy of regulars, there was one virgin, Pierre Johnson, with big themes, "Fate or Will", in rhyme.

I morphed my Good Friday meditation on the 4th Station to a Mother's Day Meditation, "Every enemy we face is some mother’s son or daughter". Bob Sharkey on "An American Dream."

Don Levy was upset by last month's feature (George Martin)'s remark that there are no bad poems so responded with "Good Poets Don't Let Bad Poets Write." You could almost make an anthology of just Don's titles. Good to see Dain Brammage here & he described fat robins on his doctor's lawn.

For some inexplicable reason on this very pleasant evening Terry Bat-Sonja had an issue with the door being open, perhaps it was the season in her poem, "Winter Dreams."

Someone finally responded to the death of Jerry Falwell (RIH -- roast in Hell) -- thanks, Joe Johnson, just back from the west coast. And since we're on Js, Jason Dlaba signed up as "J" & read "Blend." Then at the end, Chris Brobham with "Death of the Common Scourge" or something Scourge since I now realize my notes (after 2 beers) are illegible -- anyways, he was there.

Third Wednesday, Union St., Schenectady -- or go there anytime, good food, wine, beer, mural.


for Daniel Goode & Mary Jane Leach
May 20, 2007

When the windows & doors
of the old brick church
are left open the de-sanctified
space is made Holy again
by the sighs of gods’ creatures
rising to some heaven
man-made tremblings
of metal & wood & strings
the beep of cameras
the click of my pen.

Lost whispers in the confessional
give voice to hollowed sticks
the organ’s lungs make low wind
breath squeezed through reeds.

Here the color of light through
red & yellow & blue glass
scatters across black on lined pages
across a shadow nun with a pony-tail
plinking rain drops on the forest piano.

In an hour we are like eternity
the birdsong moment neither
before or after.

May 22, 2007

Experimental Cabaret, May 14

The Experimental Cabaret is finished, long live the Experimental Cabaret!

Nicole Peyrafitte announced that after 2 years the Experimental Cabaret will be no more. Held on the 2nd Monday (usually) of the month at Tess' Lark Tavern (Madison Ave., Albany), Nicole presented a variety of multi-media productions with musicians, painters, dancers, puppets, poets, acrobats, typists, even a nursing mom. It even started on time. You can find an archive of the performances at

Tonight was the last & like a rock music critic I snagged the playlist (which actually matches my notes). Nicole featured herself (as well she should) & the works of poet/anthologist/translator, etc. Pierre Joris, with bass acrobat Mike Bisio throughout. Nicole began with her signature piece "Things Fall Where They LIe" -- it's on her CD, la garbure transcontinentale (visit the website, for information).

Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous of 20th Century painters, but he wanted to be known as a poet (don't we all!). Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris have overseen a project to translate the majority of Picasso's poetic writing into English for the first time. The result is The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & Other Poems edited with Introductions by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris, and afterword by Michel Leiris. As Pierre read some of Picasso's prose poem journal entries from 1936, images of the handwritten text were projected behind him, across his black shirt & the white paper, like he was immersed in the text, himself written on.

As with the text from Picasso, Pierre keeps introducing us to poets we don't know about but should, must. So next he read a series of short, almost tiny, poems by the Luxembourg poet, Anise Koltz, like:
I am looking for a baptismal font
to hand back my name
to drown it
in its holy water

I take original
sin upon me
once again
like a force
a carapace
that makes me invulnerable

Back to Nicole, who did the extended version of "The Dragon Land Bakery" (also on her CD) with the full version of the film by her son Joseph Mastantuono. But on the CD you won't hear Mike Bisio who was given room to stretch out his version of stretching those thick bass strings. I mean, he could be distracting while trying to watch a film at the same time, he literally dances with that wooden honey of his.

After the break Pierre came back with Mike & read from "Lemur Mornings" (from his book Turbulence, St. Lazaire Press, 1991). He continued into "Hands of Gargas", crouched over a light box that contained a video camera focused on his hands as he read the poem. The image of his gesturing hands was projected on the screen with images from the cave of the prints of hands about which he was reading, mano a mano. It was perhaps the best combination of images & words (with "Dragon Land Bakery") of the night.

Then Nicole closed, fittingly enough, with a "Karaoke" version of Piaf's "Non Rien de Rien", with Mike playing along.

She has had a good run with the Experimental Cabaret. I've been privileged to perform a couple times, once with a slide/poem performance of my work & from 3 Guys from Albany, & more recently with Nicole doing poems by Iraqi poets. But we expect her back. And check out Mike Bisio whenever you can. There is a link to Pierre's blog at the very bottom of this site -- check it out too.

Au revoir.

May 20, 2007

The Bohemian Book Bin, May 10

I have been trying to get down to this event for months, even planning to drive with Alifair Skebe when she had her reading there, but something here or somewhere have interferred. It's at the Kings Mall on 9W in Kingston on the 2nd Thursday of each month. But of course, when I'm featured, I had to be there. From the road & the parking lot it just says "Used Books" so you just have to have faith you're in the right spot. And you are: a fabulous used book shop, very neatly set up & arranged. The reading is squeezed into the entrance way, with refreshments served (!) in the mall hallway.

Teresa Marta Costa has been the host of a number of poetry venues in the mid-Hudson Valley, mostly notably at the Cross Street Atelier (which she could never pronounce) in Saugerties. She's fun, if a little ditzy, which I guess makes it fun, & this event is.

The first featured poet was Iris Litt whose most recent book is What I Wanted to Say (Shivastan Publishing, Woodstock, NY, 2006). She read a number of poems from this book as well as earlier, & some more recent, work. Her poems are short, about a page or less, & are responses to the world & its images around her, in the best way. Not just notebook jottings, but crafted poems nutured from the raw material of her life. We exchanged books & I'm very glad to have her work around the house now.

I was featured next & I want to record my playlist, since it is one that has served me well lately, once before at the Social Justice Center when I read for The Actual Theater Company salon -- check them out at I started with "for Hugh Thompson, Jr." as much as an invocation as anything else, then "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine...", "On Reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead" with chime & rainstick, "The Wall" & "Baghdad/Albany" (partially as "Albany" poems & partially because the Kings Mall where we were is the site of the weekly counter-recruitment effort by Jay Wenk & Mary Keefe & others against the Army Recruiting station at the Mall -- they are being sued by the mall management for their activities), and ended with a bit of humor, "A Pain in the Neck."

The open mic was the usual mixed bag. I don't think I've ever heard C.J. Krieger before, & I liked his work, especially "Breakfast Breasts" -- yes, yes. Curtis Butler read "Urge & Urge & Urge" responding to Walt Whitman (Walt's birthday is May 31; Albany folk will be gathering at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park at 6PM to read "Song of Myself").

Speaking of birthdays, we celebrated Donald Lev's birthday (close enough) with cake. He read, as is his wont, a poem by Enid Dame, then a couple of his movie poems. Donald is one of the mid-Hudson's (& the world's) poetry treasures; look for his zine Home Planet News wherever -- & get Enid's poems too while you are at it.

Teresa Costa read her Spring poem, "Unlucky 13" about chickens & bears. Then Ted Gill with a bouquet of his short, rhymed ditties, which you need to hear -- who would've thought someone would be writing like this in this day & age, & have you still smiling.

When I saw Phillip Guarneri walk in I groaned -- he invariably reads too long, too sententiously, & so he did. If he had stopped at his first 2 poems I would have been proved wrong, but he continued on to a piece longer than his 2 poems with a letter to the editor that would have filled the editorial page & run on to the obituaries. Memo to open mic hosts: start timing when Phillip takes the stage & cut him off at 5 minutes, please.

Now, Robert Milby has been known to go too long too, but not tonight, although he did spend a good part of his time with the current literary/historical birthdays & a poem by Robert Browning, but then 2 interesting poems of his own, one on the Virginia Tech murders & the other "No Guru." Robert is to be forgiven for all the good he does promoting poets through his multiple open mic venues.

Marty Mulenex drove down as far as I did, maybe further, to remind us that May is National Bicycling Month -- keep pedaling, Marty, & writing (but not at the same time).

The last reader, Lisa A. Rings just does not read out enough, but that's what the job does to you. I love how she read 2 poems by her husband, Don Yacullo, & got choked up -- he was right there in the room, luck guy. Then her own "To Everyone Everywhere on Planet Earth." Thank you, Lisa.

Enjoyable night overall -- thank you Teresa!

Live from the Living Room, May 9

Ah, such a cozy setting. The feature was P.R. Dyjak, who will soon be leaving the area for a teaching position in Utah -- one of the "fuds" (PhDs) who knows where the true energy is. Her work is strong enough to draw not only the usual open mic junkies but also Bernadette Mayer & Judith Johnson, poet/teachers with whom Pat had studied, a tribute to her work. So we were treated to a reading of dreams, Poetry as a Necessity (Audre Lord), The Search for Knowledge, her dog Molly, angels a couple times & the job market. We will miss her.

The host each 2nd Wednesday is Don Levy who read his poem "To the Fag Bug". Jim Masters has been coming around for a couple months, finally got up to read some poems about an old family clock. Likewise, Tim Verhaegen has been coming around & reading for months, read his poems about leaving the movies with his friend, a work that is changed each time I hear it, then another on the homeless in Montreal.

Phil Goode read from his ongoing coffee poem, which I guess keeps it ongoing. Shaun Baxter read his "No Man is a Number" & one of Charles Simic's. Then me, then Bob Sharkey, getting ready for the Albany Tulip Festival with "The Dutch Girls" and "Tulips" with the 2 Moses.

Next, the the "2 T(h)eresa's": Teresa Marta Costa drove up (with Roberta) to tell us "How I Recaptured My Teeth" & about Spring & chickens & bears; & Therese Broderick on an old man in NYC. At the end, last month's feature, Roberta Gould, like a dividend with 2 of hers & one by George Wallace.

7:30 PM, 2nd Wednesday, Hudson Ave., Albany.

May 18, 2007

Caffe Lena Open Mic, May 2

Another big night up in Saratoga Springs -- Carol Graser keeps bringing them in -- 21 open mic poets -- some of the regulars, some new voices -- & a great feature, Bernadette Mayer.

Bernadette read after about 5 open mic poets. Her readings are always well put together, even when she shuffles the poems about, & fun: humor, twists on established forms ("Howard Zinn Sonnet", "The Chocolate Poetry Sonnet", etc.), & the odd, like her n+7 exercises. And at the end of the night, after all the rest of the poets, an encore, "The Petty Blues" -- a rarity at poetry readings. We are glad to have Bernadette (& Phil) here in this area. Speaking of which, during the open mic, Phil Goode read a moving poem, "You Were A Friend of Mine" for the murdered journalist & activist, Brad Will.

Some of the newer voices that night were Dustin White doing his piece from memory, virgin Josh Morrell, Greg Wait, Yvette Brown, and a couple of high school students who must have been practicing their readings, Noah using some half-rhymes, & Nicholeaus (?) with anti-logical strung-together random images -- good stuff from both.

Other highlights included the quickly disappearing Pat Dyjak on owning men in "Tiffany Windows" (look for her in Poets in the Park in July); Shaun Baxter & his "Like the Undead they Crawl Out of Nooks & Crannies", but Goth poets are never around to hear it.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski was a featured poet some time ago at Caffe Lena & read from her series of poems with titles taken from the names of "lakes" & "seas" on the Moon. I was unmoved by them, they seemed too studied, uptight. But she read 2 poems this night that shivered: "To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met" & one I took to be "Mare Nubrium", but may have been "Mare Imbrium", in 2 voices & coming out of a dream. Nice work.

Cara Benson likes to present herself as a slam poet but her reading of "I Predict...", based on Joe Brainard's "I Remember..." was way too fast. I hope she wasn't nervous with that crowd. We do like to heckle, but only those we know & love.

I always like Carol's work & I liked the resonance of the titles of the 2 she read this night: "Rally these Bones" & "Behind the Egg".

First Wednesdays, 7:30 PM, historic Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St.

May 16, 2007

Frequency North Finale, April 26

Dan Nester has done great service to the Capital District with his fine, free reading series at St. Rose, "Frequency North". This is the second year he has brought in poets & edgy prose writers. It's like the Writers Institue without the big budget & without the best-seller list: young/young-ish writers with a sharp edge, some of whom will be on the Writers Institute program in a few years, or should have been already. Thanks to Dan we hear them now. And hopefully he'll be back with more next season.

The final program of the year (you know that crazy academic calendar, September to May) was Katie Degentesh & Denise Duhamel. Both had works that clearly come out of the MFA repertoire. You know, devise a clever prompt (write a sonnet series on the varieties of Campbell soup, imagine what it would be like to live in your girl friend's underwear drawer, write a poem based on a dictionary of old slang, etc.), then publish the book & get a job teaching creative writing by coming up with more clever prompts, to people who write poems based on clever prompts, then publish the book who go on to get a job teaching creative writing..., you get the point.

Actually, Denise Duhamel does have such a poem based on slang from mid-century, "Our Americano" that is funny & long & clever & entertaining, like her Barbie poems. And Katie Degentesh read from her series of short prose pieces based on the MMPI (Minnesota Mult-phastic Personality Inventory). You sort of had to be there.

Very entertaining, sort of like "Law & Order" without the crime.

Read the Comments too!

I know there are not many out there reading this (hey, that's why these sites have counters on them), but I recommend that those that do should check the "comments" at the end of the postings to see what others are saying about the Blog & whatever it is that I wrote. For some reason my Blog on the April 10 open mic at "Black Door" has drawn a lot of reactions -- see what you think.

Blogspot is a little funny, calling you "Anonymous" if you don't have blog on their site, but one can always sign a name in the entry. In fact, most of those of you who have commented do. But, as my old Grandma once said, "there is at least one asshole in every crowd". I don't put much stock in the comments of those who don't leave a name, not owning up to your remarks is chicken shit & won't get a response.

If you can't stand by it, don't say it.

May 15, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, April 19

In the great rush to get out the entries on the WordFest, I completely overlooked my own event, one of my best nights ever. Also, the chronological nature of the Blog puts my entries (if you read from the top of the page down) in reverse order of the events, as well as in reverse order of the way I wrote them. If you read them in order of the date of the event, rather than the date posted, you will be less confused, perhaps. Or better yet, stay confused, it's more fun.

The folks at AlbanyPoets had generously dubbed my Third Thursday reading & open mic the "unofficial start of WordFest". I like being unofficial. It was my biggest night since moving the the Social Justice Center, the room packed by students from Dan Nester's poetry performance class at St. Rose. I was a guest lecturer there a few months back & encouraged them to come to the open mic & read. In addition, the featured poet, Mimi Moriarty brought her friends & supporters (if your friends & relatives don't come to your performances, who will?). And we had a good representation of the usual local poets.

Now I'm going to have the same problem reporting on this event as I did hosting it: the handwriting on the signup sheet is not always clear, & I didn't always annotate the list when the readers corrected my mispronounciation of their names, so apologies are offered -- & corrections will be accepted & made -- for any misspellings, just leave a comment.

These folks were eager! I mean they were hanging out waiting for me to get there & so my first 12 readers were from the class -- a wonderful variety of voices, styles & personalities. They must've had fun in "Boom Boom"'s class (as Dan signed up in the midst of the students, to read "The Last Spanking" -- hmm...)

Christina Bernardo did a poem by Naomi Nye, & read it well; Whitney Prontecki & group did one on a bad day; Katie Vermilyea, "Send for the Woman"; Stevie on a first place beauty; Lisa "241"; Heather Cirula cut-up a newspaper better than Burroughs; Christina Rufa, "There Was a Bear"; a group calling themselves the "Stratocasters" followed their prof; Christopher Petterson had the best hat of the night, with a memory of Fall; Michelle Bula saw "Saddam Hussein Hanging in a Coffee Shop", a very effective piece; and Jessica S. read a poem by Heather about the class.

And these students didn't just run away when their reading was done, & thus got to hear the community poets who keep the series going, including Mimi's fine work, some poems from her forthcoming book, War Psalms (Finishing Line Press). Some very serious work, not to say humorless, from Mimi that poets need to pay attention to.

Alan Catlin took the bus down from Schenectady & recounted what happened last night (see the Blog entry for NightSky Cafe, April 18). Then Tim Verhaegen; Therese Broderick; & Frank Robinson with a piece taking flight from Emma Lazarus on a humane immigration policy (on this we agree, Frank), Chris Brobham on Reincarnation, & Finnegan in German & English.

John Raymond, who will be the featured poet on May 17, read a piece about being a horny librarian, which harkened me back to my teenage years as a horny library patron. Both Sylvia Barnard & Bob Sharkey read poems using public transportation as metaphors. And Moses Kash III was back. Shaun Baxter thought he was at the bottom of the list, read his ironic paean to Goth poets, "Like the Undead..." Marty Mulenex probably didn't realize when he read "Disgusted" about flags that he was followed by the "flag-poet", Kevin Lee Gilbert, who read about Ahab instead.

One of my best nights ever since I moved over to the Social Justice Center (33 Central Ave., Albany, every third Thursday, 7:30 start).

May 8, 2007

WordFest 2007 -- April 21 Night: Psycho ClusterFuck '07

The first WordFest was definitely a cluster fuck, barely happening without the sudden support & transportation of friends. Likewise year 2 (where Bob Wright made up un-official badges with Mary Panza's picture under the banner, "Psycho Cluster Fuck") was another near disaster without food or sound equipment. Somehow everyone survived, no was was murdered -- or thanked.

Now, in homage, "Psycho Cluster Fuck '07" at Valentines, with poets & bands & a bar full of booze. But the least successful of the events this weekend. Good bands, good poets, just a lot wrong with how it was all put together. First of all, upstairs at Valentines is fine if you want to be overwhelmed by screams, loud guitars & insistent drums, if you want to pogo or mosh, stagger around with a plastic cup, if you're not listening to lyrics, if you want to reach up under the skirt of the foxy bass guitarist, or the wasted honey standing next to you. The stage is oriented the wrong way in the room & space near the bar is a well of conversation that must be overwhelmed by coked up head-bangers in sleeveless tee-shirts.

There were some good bands, from the relatively quiet of Tom McWaters opening, with words that matter, to the popular & punk-interesting The Fire Flies. The 2-guys-with-guitars of Palatypus (huh?) had their own idea of a twang/drawl that made many of the lyrics unintelligible. Why can't they just sing in their normal, upstate speaking accents? Why do they have to sound like country singers from Woolworths? I guess it's the Dylan-syndrome, like the rock version of literature professors reading poetry in fake English accents.

Oh well, Deb Bump's reading, obscured by an out-of-control John Weiler, was the most distressful of the night. She told me afterwards that she had told John to crank it up, play as loud as he wanted -- & he did, with apparent indifference to what Deb was saying, if he could even hear her. Deb said she thought she could project over him ("give me more cowbell" she kept telling the soundman). But electric guitars & amps are made to play over an auditorium of screaming fans & there is no way cranking up Deb's sound could make her intelligible over that. This was doubly bad because, of all the readers, Deb's poems had perhaps the most direct appeal to a rock'n'roll audience. All of that compounded by the odd stage placement & the constant din from the bar area. If she could've grabbed the attention of those boozie rockers, they would have really dug hearing about her "Spending $60 on Rollins Tickets", or about Eddie Little Horse, or her tribute to another rocker/poet Pat Covert, or her "Apology to Lenny Bruce." Maybe next time, with balance.

Earlier, after McWaters, Shaun Baxter gave a distracted reading, but a very effective, theatrical rendition with a young women of his poem on Descartes proof for the existence of God, which proved to me that God does indeed exist, & so does sex.

Between Deb & the Fire Flies, a drunk named Matt Gleason commandeered the mic & read some poems, then launced into Ginsberg's "America" as the band behind him slowly, gradually overwhelmed the reading in an artful, respectful manner. Gave me an idea.

Before the final band, Princess Mabel, A.C. Everson gave a model reading with Mitch Elrod on guitar. She didn't have to shout, Mitch looked & listened, played loud sometimes, quiet sometimes, the music & the words bouncing off each other like friends dancing or walking down the street. But once again you had to be close to appreciate it & the mob clustered near the bar could care less.

The evening's host was Harith Abdullah, from AlbanyPoets who kept the night rolling but obviously could do nothing about those not listening, or for those of us who couldn't hear. And of course we always wonder where were some of those poets so concerned about "community", or whatever they call it, that they can't get to a poetry event if they're not on the bill, & this time I'm not talking about the professors.

WordFest 2007 -- Experimental Cabaret, April 21

Part 2 of the Albany WordFest was Saturday afternoon, a delayed segment of Nicole Peyrafitte's monthly Experimental Cabaret, normally held on the second Monday of each month (from October to May) at Tess' Lark Tavern, on Madison Ave. It was well attended for a mid-afternoon on a nice day, a tribute to those poets who were there just to hear others & not read their own work. Let's face it, open mics are scams to get poets to show up -- many show up just to read their own work -- but those who show up at others' readings are the "great audiences" ole Uncle Walt talked about.

Mother Judge is usually thought of as one of the foundations (as in "Mother") of the Albany music scene. She currently hosts the Wednesday night music open mic at the Lark Tavern. But over the years she has occasionally appeared as a poet. This afternoon's poem was a work-in-progress (ain't it all?) "Vector", about the politics of disease, supported by the music of John Davies & Nicole's tongue clicking & videos -- tapeworms, fish, mosquitos, & don't forget to wash your lettuce. The work was simply stated, the words taking center stage & the music & images used to under-stated effect. This is the fruit of years of working with other musicians: to know what is important about each piece, what should be up front, what in the background, the balance to effectively present a work without it being overwhelmed by music or images or razz-a-ma-tazz.

El Presidente Thom Francis, the quiet man behind the AlbanyPoets organization is rarely featured at readings, but when he does I always wonder "why not more often?" His selection was his more politically centered poems, still presented as very personal material, with carefully selected video images from news footage to match the poems -- the destruction of the World Trade Center, the shootings at Columbine, a police riot (aren't they all?), war & young soldiers fighting & killing (an anti-recruiting poem), the destruction of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina -- other poems on the assault on our constitutional rights -- the sum total he called a selection from his "The Book of Job." Jared Funari & Keith Spencer provided musical support, tastefull & balanced. We owe Thom our thanks for not only being such a key part in creating Albany WordFest, but for his poetry, showing the power of the political in the personal.

Mary Panza's picture appears on the un-offical badge of the 2001 Word Fest, indeed, she helped bail out the near-disaster of the very first Word Fest, & she is one of the Albany Poets behind this year's event. Remember her role last night at the open mic? We know what we are getting when she takes the stage. This time she had Johnny WordFest aka John Weiler on guitar. Unfortunately, John paid little attention to her words & instead built a wall of electronic drone, scream, wail & screech; fortunately, Mary is loud. And nasty: cutting the famous (Bob Dylan), the local ("Johnny Braveheart"), the personal (her father). Why we have "Pretty Flowers for the Ugly Sister". And again Nicole projected bent & delayed images behind & on, over & under, half step behind, looking like a full step ahead.

A wonderful afternoon of performance & poetry & the great food at the Lark Tavern. I think Tess should run for Mayor -- I'd rather hug her than shake hands with Jerry Jennings.

WordFest 2007 -- The Open Mic, April 20

Finally getting to this, & I'll do it in segments (we all know the short attention spans folks have now) to keep it in managable chunks -- a weekend of poetry events to put NatPoMo in its coffin, for this year.

Billed as "Upstate New York's largest open mic for poetry and the spokenword" (over 80 people had signed up), the Friday night event came off as something less -- & more. It was a fabulous time, with over 45 poets reading, moved along by Mary Panza's sharp whip/wit & threats of death by dismemberment (usually one particular member). The first to experience Mary's sharp cut was Jason Dlaba & few tested her after that (as the Chinese say, "kill the chicken to scare the monkeys").

I won't try to list/comment on everyone; pictures, podcasts, etc. will be available soon on, so they tell me.

As it says in the old song, "the usual crowd was there", & then some. New (i.e., unfamiliar) poets wandered in & Mary put them in the gaps of the no-shows. This worked very well & kept the readings on time. Folks from Woodstock & Voorheesville were among those didn't show; too bad because we like them, & it would be good for those in the audience who don't get anywhere else to hear their poetry. But Dennis Sullivan came down off the hill to do his Siena library poem.

Some of those that stand out in memory (& notes) for various reasons: Shaun Baxter's new Lottery poems series (a winner); Courtney Earnhart did a long poem in crescendoing images, "The City In Which I Love You" (where did she come from?); the soon-disappearing Pat Dyjak; Karen James on being a Catholic school girl; Alex Emerson's small & pointed attacks on Bush (I managed to get a copy of his chapbook before he left -- Another Victory, by George!, Bear Paw Print Press; always glad to hear Carol Graser's Sharon Olds poem; Alan Catlin on recent events at NightSky Cafe; Alifair Skebe's "American Pastoral"; Basam's moving "On the River from Which my Blood Flows" should be dropped as leaftets over the White House; Richard Morrell brought the house down with his hand-jive poem where "Flipper Meets Gentle Ben".

Not to say everyone else was chopped liver (as we used to say in New York). But even I had to take a break outside briefly with the smokers & jokers (& got interviewed by Harith).

Like I said, there were many new voices, some returning like Ford McLane who used to show up at Rob's old "School of Night" at the old Lionheart, where Bomber's is today, & Joe Hollander, former host of an open mic at Hollywood. Speaking of R.M. Engelhardt, he did his "33", one of the few poems I've heard for the victims & the killer at Virginia Tech. Jamey Steveson did his ode to pretty nuns, Sahli Cavallaro on horses, on love, Philomena Moriarty in poetic fuck-me-pumps, & Margot Lynch's Bermuda triangle.

Oh yeah, the new voices, sorry, got carried away there -- Lilliana Hernandez mentioned the toilet paper, Mike Noble the Hail Mary; Erin somebody or other from in the back with her friends; Andrew Hough who had been at the Black Door was caught doing something he shouldn't, but he was the one who mentioned the cops; Indigo with hip-hop rhymes; Sabrina the writer in her; McMonkus did the other Virginia Tech poem; Mitchell; Marilyn from her book, Poetic Climb; & Fiona untitled.

& John Weiler started on his role as Johnny WordFest -- you'll see why in the next installments. Stay tuned -- or not.