June 29, 2007

Mother Tess & the Lark Tavern Temple of Poetry

(Poets Speak Loud at Tess' Lark Tavern -- poet Deb Bump performing)

Slowly, quietly (OK, not so quietly), over the last few years Tess of Tess' Lark Tavern has been providing a great performance home for musicians, poets, visual artists, performance artists, concept artists, bull-shit artists, etc. The beer is cold, the food comforting, the bartenders & waitresses friendly (& sexy). There are open mics for musicians, a comedy night, a cabaret, an open mic for poets, rock bands, jazz bands, drag queens, etc., etc. Did I mention the food & the sexy bartenders?

You gotta check it out. And now Tess has presented to Albany poets a classic black & shiny plaque, "Poets Speak Loud" (which they do, but that refers to the monthly poetry open mic each last Monday of the month) to be hung prominently in the dining room. To go with it, a set of photos of Tom Nattell at his last performance at the Lark St. Bookstore in December of 2004. Tom was the host of the open mic at the QE2 in Albany on the last Monday of each month, & was to be the featured poet at the first Poets Speak Loud (on the last Monday in January 2005), but died that day from cancer. Each year since, the last Monday of January has been the occasion of a memorial to Tom & a celebration of the vibrant poetry scene in Albany. As Tess says, "I love the poets!" And we poets love her, & the warm, friendly home she has made for us & other creative performers in Albany.

Check it out at 453 Madison Ave. (near Lark St.), Albany. And did I mention the food & the sexy bartenders?

June 28, 2007

Poetry off the Hook, June 26

There have been a number of incarnations of the poetry open mic at the Moon & River Cafe on N. Ferry St. in Schenectady -- just like there have been many incarnations of Richard Genest's cafes: the Half Moon Cafe, Mother Earth's Cafe, whatever-it-was in Cobleskill, the Moon & River Cafe. Joe Johnson ran one for a while, then Deb Bump, not counting the poets squeezed in during the music open mics. The latest host is Marty Mulenex who gets the award for the shortest route from open mic virgin to open mic host, a veritable matter of months. But although it was advertised as a 7PM start (& we all know they don't start at 7), he didn't start until almost 8PM. It wasn't like no one was there, that we were waiting for the tour bus to arrive, we were all there. Somehow Marty got infected by the Engelhardt syndrome: announce a start time, then start an hour later, waiting, hoping, for people to show up -- let's hope that this doesn't mean he'll get locked out the next time (Richard wouldn't do that).

Anyway, eventually I read first, "Photo at the QE2, 1991" (which I would've read at the Colony last night if Michele had been there) &, for the first time, "Night Sky" (see Blog entry for June 22).

Ann Stocker said she had read there before at other open mics, but I must've missed her -- too bad for me, based on what I heard tonight. "Menina," about a young girl on an island off the coast of Brazil, weaving in Portuguese, & "The Globe Extinguishes," which said was "a bit pretentious" -- yes, but not bad either.

The youngest poet of the night (& most nights) was Nina Cerniglia who without a mic was nearly inaudible. The best I could get was one poem was about flowers & the other about her as a kid. At 6 or 7 years old poetry is natural to her, nearly all kids her age can write short, effective, playful poems -- that's their spirit as kids: their life is a poem at that age. Let's see what she is like at 15 or 16, when kids mostly shut themselves up with friends or video games & people like her grandmother (or me) are weird freaks. That's when the real poetry begins.

Marty read his poem to Richard, from the short-lived venture with Arthur's Market, what Marty said was his first poem read out, "At Ease at Arthur's".

OK, I've finally got it correct, after printing 200 flyers for Poets in the Park, it's Chris Brabham -- I've been habitually mis-spelling it, as previous entries on this Blog serve as ample evidence. Chris read "Thank you for the Chaos" & later came back to do "Let the So-Called Nurses Stand Up."

I think Marty was waiting for Tim to arrive but Tim must've had to get himself straightened out & then didn't bring any poems, so he did a short ditty from memory that I essentially missed.

el Presidente Thom Francis (AlbanyPoets.com) didn't bring any poems either. But he had showed me a copy of the new (further) upstate edition of Chronogram & he is the first poet published there, so he read his classic "Radio Man" from the premier issue. The new Chronogram looks like the edition published for many years in the mid-Hudson region -- expensive, upscale ads; classy, attractive layouts; short, so-what articles (on Thomas Merton??). The kind of thing that can make money for the businessmen owners, but not anything I would send home to Mom (if I had one). I don't envy my friend Tim Cahill having to deal with the business of it all, nor poetry editor Mary Panza (bets on how many poetry editors they'll go through in the next year?). It'll do fine, there are lots of "real artists" out there up in the hills. I'm glad Thom was the first poet they published (& the first poems he's had published, except for his own Other:___); ask me & I'll give you a list of the poets they won't publish.

Anyway, Marty finished up the night with a new one, "we as poets know it..." it began.

Marty says it will be the last Tuesday of the month, but check the time.

June 27, 2007

Reading & Open Mic at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock, NY, June 25

(this is a picture of the host Phillip Levine from February, 2004)
tonight, he read a piece to his young daughter, Piper, "Dad as Poet."

We (Alan & Val Catlin & myself) had driven down, not only because it is an interesting event -- it happens every Monday -- but also because one of the schedule featured poets, Michele Battiste, is a friend as well as being one of the finest young performing poets. But when we arrived Phillip informed us that Michele had had to cancel her performance. (Note: Pudding House Publications -- www.puddinghouse.com -- earlier this year published Michele's chapbook Raising Petra.)

But we stayed for part of the open mic & for the feature, Terence Chiesa. Like any open mic there is a tremendous variety in the performers at the Colony, with the extra shot of ego that is "Woodstock".

I've seen Deb Dougherty a few times before, at the Woodstock Poetry Society (2nd Saturdays at the Town Hall) & here at the Colony. Her quiet poems took us through impressions of the 4 Seasons, then "Too Much of a Good Thing," always a problem.

I went next with 2 poems titled "July 4th in the Year of the Terror," one by my friend Charlie Rossiter, the other my response, in the grand tradition of Christopher Marlowe, Bill Shakespeare, etc. (perhaps even better).

Alan Catlin may have more words published out there than any American poet, but they're all in dozens of small press chapbooks & hundreds of zines. The American Poetry Review is still waiting. He read a series of poems based on paintings (ekphrasis, they say) by the poet & painter, Stan Rice. The titles of the paintings are exquisite: "You're Innocent When You Dream," "Christmas in a Time of Wolves," & "Van Gogh Cup with Walking Skull." Stan Rice was the husband of Ann Rice, the vampire-novel lady.

Phillip did a piece on the assassin.

Since the death of his wife Enid Dame, Donald Lev always includes one of her poems when he reads, both as a feature & at open mics, & for that we are always grateful. Tonight he read Enid's "Lilith, I Don't Cut My Grass" from her 2002 collection Stone Shekhina (Three Mile Harbor) -- if you don't know her work, put it on your list. Donald's 2 poems were "This Odd Bird" & "A Song" that he just wrote -- check out his work too, he reads at open mics in the mid-Hudson area.

Michael Suib will be a feature at the Colony in July, read a couple of political poems, "Skid Marks" (the title hysterical, about Charlie Rangle proposing a draft & the effect of that on the underwear of certain prominent politicians with draft-age sons & daughters), & "The Cardboard Cowboy" (guess who -- have you ever seen a picture of GWB on a horse?).

Many, many years ago Dean Schambach ran an open mic at the Tinker St. Cafe in Woodstock, but he is more of an actor/performer than a poet, doing OPP (other people's poetry). Tonight it was Rudyard Kipling &, predictably, "Gunga Din," which he pronounced as "dean" -- I wouldn't know if he dropped lines or not.

I've seen Terence Chiesa perform a number of times throughout the area, his monologues in unique character voices (a working-class guy from Queens, a proper Southern gentleman writer, etc.), more theater than "poetry" (whatever that is). If he had a title for the piece he did tonight I forgot it & forgot to write it down. It started out in the voice of Cecil Milsop then moved to that of Dr. Randall Forbes, both Southern gentlemen & to my ear indistinguishable. Or did I just become numb. The piece was ornate, lush, Faulknerian -- & nearly incomprehensible, perhaps because it was at least 45 minutes long. I just got lost & had no idea where he was taking us. I met many others from the audience lost there too, trying to find their way out.

The open mic continued with Robert Milby listing recent birthdays of dead poets, then a poem by Baudelaire, before doing one of his own, in his own inimitable intense manner about a childrens' hospital in Baghdad.

Normally I don't like to leave before the open mic is done, & I've been known to suffer until way too late in the Colony, but tonight I was driving Al & Val & she had worked all day, they had been to a wake before we left, the place was hot, we were exhausted & out of patience, so left. Undoubtably missing some fine poems & for sure some tedium. But, it's every Monday, "7PM" WST (Woodstock Standard Time).

June 22, 2007


It's always night, or we wouldn't need light.
--Thelonious Monk

How easily these poets are fooled –

“wait for the light” they are told
that far-away light speeding across the sky
just wait, it will be here soon
like the anticipated glory of thick volumes
like whatever applause sounds like from Beyond

wait for it
it will be here soon, light you can’t miss
like your own imagined trajectory
like waiting for the predicted first born
like the forecast for rain or green hail

it will be here soon, look -- here or there
you won’t miss it, like your own birth
just wait, it will be here soon

it will fade
grow fainter
as if no one ever said it would be here
in the first place.

(Looking for the space station
June 20, 2007)

Third Thursday Poetry Night, Social Justice Center, June 21

(This is me as the host of the Third Thursday Open Mic at Changing Spaces Gallery, that's 2 venues back, but we keep on going.

The picture is by Kristen Day, I think.)

Somehow I had put out the right number of chairs (with the able assistance of Don Levy) & off we went on poetry night, with the blessing of this month's muse, Paul Laurence Dunbar -- I read his "The Haunted Oak."

Alan Catlin started us off with one from a new chapbook, about where he grew up, "Leaving East Rockaway by Water."

Shaun Baxter, without his street cheerleader, thrilled me by reading "A Bookstore in Colonie," a splendidly done pastiche of Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California." What thoughts I have of you tonight... Thank you Shaun.

Bob Sharkey read "Killing Me Softly" from his 2004 chapbook, The Yellow Fairy.

Don Levy had been watching TV (that's not anything unusual), a documentary about a "Jesus camp" & responded with "Fundamentally Wrong."

Former feature Mimi Moriarty ended this open mic segment before the feature with the age-appropriate "All These Years She Remembered," I think, if my notes are correct.

The feature Liz King was apprehensive about what she should read, since this is billed as a poetry night & she writes a lot of prose fiction. I said, we won't know where the line breaks are, you've got 15 to 20 minutes to do with what you want. What she gave us was a thrilling mix of short, observational poems -- the kind you jot in notebooks, the kind some poets read directly from notebooks -- poems to friends, lovers; about a crazy roommate, sex (where we find out some interesting personal details along the way), about her job(s) & poems written on the job. At one point she registered her own confusion about the content -- "I think this is a poem." But she even had a poem inspired by Stephen Dunn about a white horse. Also, riding the bus (one of the great sub-genres at open mics over the years) & that new genre, the MySpace poem, "It's 3:30 PM Do You Know Who Your Top Eight Is?" She said she has been writing a lot of fiction lately and ended with the Prolog of the last story she wrote, "Bully," a grim tale from the equally grim upper reaches of New York State. It was a warm night so I had left the door open & the sounds of the rest of the world out there on Central Ave. provided an often fitting obbligato to her reading.

After the break, I read a new poem, yet untitled ("The Night Sky"?), about looking with other poets for the space station to fly by last night; still in my notebook.

Matthew Klane was back with selections from "Sorrow Songs" & hyped his excellent anthology of experimental writing, Oh One Arrow (www.flimforum.com -- see my Blog for January 20, 2007) -- he even sold a copy!

A relative virgin -- in the sense that she has read at open mics at the Muddy Cup & the Lark Tavern, but not here at the Social Justice Center -- Janice McNeal sang in Swahili to relax, then read about herself as "The Ever-Evolving Flower." I hope she keeps coming back, a talented new voice.

Chris Brobham said he likes to read "The Angel of Death Unplugged" & with his deep, reverberating voice it's easy to see why -- we like listening too.

Julie Lomoe mused on the "Mystery (of course!) of the Garden" taking over eventually.

Then a couple of last-minute stragglers who had been downtown for the Alive at Five concert. Terry said she had written poetry in the past & likes to write poetry & then read us from her notebook that "Life is what you make it."

Marty Mulenex will be the host of a new poetry open mic at the Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady, starting June 26, making history as the poet with the shortest trajectory from virgin to open mic host. He read "Two Tears" which could also be Two Tiers.

Another wonderful night of poetry at the Social Justice Center -- thanks to the poets who read & the great listening audience. May the Muse be with you.

June 21, 2007

Zounds! at the NightSky Cafe, June 20

(The photo is of James Schlett, the featured poet, at Caffe Lena in March.)

Our host, Shaun Baxter, started off the night with a couple of short prose pieces by Annie Dilliard.

It was a small & intense audience, the usual crowd, a couple of diners who wandered in & found poetry, some folks who looked liked they might want to read, someday, but today were content to listen. And I went first for the open mic, read Charlie Rossiter's "July 4th, in the Year of the Terror" from 2002, then my response, also called "July 4th (In the Year of the Terror)."

A.C. Everson will be the feature here next month (July 18th), with a pinata, she promises. Tonight she read "Camp Foster" about the anti-war rally in Albany a few years back, then a poem about fitting into old clothes, for Deb Bump.

The feature was Albany's poetry "enforcer," James Schlett (a reputation he earned one night at the Caffe Lena when a tedious performer when too long). James likes to do his poems from memory, with a folded cheat-sheet. His voice is quiet, & he recites quietly, meditatively, reflecting the mood of his poems. He writes about his walks in the woods, around lakes & ponds so there was a lot of water in his program tonight: Scarlet Oak Pond, Benedict Pond, a lake near his home, Fog horns off Lawrence Point, even Baptism, & an empty coffee cup, a poem subtitled Autobiography is titled Water Lily. Of course there was plenty of romantic pining for lost or distant loves in all that water. In between he read some prose journal entries that he calls "still-born poems," with titles like "Sublimation" & "Plunder" (which is about love), & a selection of his "Jersey Haiku" that are short, non-sensical, humorous poems to off-set his more serious work. James is very popular with the open mic regulars & such performances prove why.

Shaun Baxter reprised his poem to Goth poets (& this time I'll give the complete title), "Like the Undead They Crawl Out of Nooks & Crannies When They Are on the Bill." We like the rhyme!

Bob Sharkey gave us another chance to hear "The Over-turned Leaf," then an intimate conversation after sex "Incident on an Old Creaky Bed" that is an ageless battle of the minds that we men always lose when we think we win.

I think Pat Dyjak is trying to get to as many open mics as she can before she leaves for Utah & finds out there aren't any for 600 miles. So it was doubly nice that she read a poem, "Sounding," that is a tribute to people who listen to poetry. Then one from her past in Wisconsin, "Governor's Island July 1996."

Chris Brobham was laden with a string of those ultra-sound shots that serve these days as "first baby pictures," you know the ones I mean, where they have to have an arrow to show you where the baby's penis is (Congrats!). His sermon, I mean poem was "All Work No Play."

Mike was hanging out at the bar, scribbling in his spiral notebook & was coaxed by Shaun at the end to read something, & he dug up a story/journal entry about driving around somewhere outside of Barstow.

There were even poets (at least one) in the audience who didn't read! But no postcards tonight -- maybe next time, with the pinata.

June 18, 2007

Poetry on the Hudson, June 16

This is a new series on the 3rd Saturday of even-numbered months (that's a 1st) at the Athens Cultural Center on Second St. in Athens (NY) & I've already missed 2 of these events. But I had to be there, I was one of the featured poets, along with Therese Broderick. The host is the irrepressible Bob Wright, finally settled in his new house just up the road.

The Athens Cultural Center is a large store-front with a series of interconnected rooms, currently filled with photos by the local photography club. While the reading was going on in one room, a water-color class was in another, a hotbed of local artistic activity.

Bob started with a few open mic poets before the features, & since we were in Athens, Albany poet Don Levy began with "Going Greek," playing off references to classical Greek myths & literature -- & being gay. Also a poem based on a photo of 2 movie stars, "Tad & Roddy."

Arnold Shapiro responded to Billy Graham with "What If They Don't Wait" (& I guess now Billy will have to wait to find out if Ruth is waiting for him.

Georganna Millman's family has lived along the Hudson for generations & she read from her poetic memoir a section about a "Wreck of the Steamship Swallow, 1845" then a poem coming out in Margie, "The Service Dog."

Therese Broderick was the first featured poet & she gave a characteristically well-put-together reading, with a variety of moods, styles, subjects. She has really found her own voice & keeps exploring the possibilities. Her Blog is linked below (www.poetry.blog-city.com). "Ars Poetica" is a a good start for a poetry reading, then a soccer game on "Mother's Day," & again about her daughter in "Teenager Reading the Comics." Then to a series on couples & relationships, starting with 2 about her own: a smashed planter "Just Inside" & "Married 18 Years" (with its tender remembrance of teenage love/lust); on to a couple observed "In the Hotel Hallway" & a street prophet of doom "At Prince & Houston St." On a cruise ship with "The Wave Machine" and at Curves with "Target Heart Rate" (I always wondered what those ladies did in there). The dark "Night Storm" & "Butterflies in the Zoo"; a sonnet, "Halo Effect". Therese is recently back from a workshop in Duluth, Minnesota with poet Ted Kooser & shared with us her thoughts on looking into "Ted Kooser's Writing Notebook," taking us back to the beginning -- a wonderful reading. I've heard poets who have been on the open mic scene decades more than Therese & are still scattered when they get their 15 to 20 minutes.

I too try to "construct" my readings (years of rangling over the 3 Guys playlist with Charlie & Tom), finding links, connections between the poems. I started with Tom Nattell's "Hiroshima" with the 62nd anniversary coming in August, "Physics," a lighter take on the theme. "Photo at the QE2, 1991" & "Henry Rollins" took me into the more recent poems. "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine..." & "Eight Hermit Thrushes". And ended with "Savasana."

Our host, Bob Wright made us laugh with "There Won't Always Be New Jersey" then the more thoughtful "Hmm".

We feared the worst when Frank Robinson introduced his "epic masterpiece," but the poem "We," despite recounting the hopeful history of Mankind (i.e., humans) wasn't that long.

Joe Krauseman said he took a wrong turn from New Jersey & ended up in Athens (I told him he should have turned left at Albania), but he's always prepared for a poetry reading & gave us "Pictures at the Shaker Museum."

The more I hear Mimi Moriarty's work, the more I like it, so I'm glad she has been reading out more lately. A personal/metaphysical meditation on "How A Poet is Sometimes Like a Turtle" & a commentary on the Pope questioning the idea of Limbo (so if any of you feel you are stuck there, you're not).

Cheryl Rice harkens back to the QE2 days mentioned in my poems & keeps on cranking them out, thankfully. She described her (albeit short) walk to work in "I Bring" & "Why I Got Married" was from a prompt in Maria Mazziotti Gillan's workshop (Unsettling America which Maria co-edited with her daughter Jennifer Gillan is one of the best anthologys of contemporary poetry out there).

The next reading will be on August 18, 2PM, with Roberta Gould & Donald Lev, 2 great poets it's worth making an effort to see -- put it on your calendar now. Check www.poetz.com/hudson.

June 17, 2007


I am the man in the middle
the man between my father and my son.
I am the man who is and the man
who will be, would be.

Life hurts.
Guys wander the street
in old shoes, their faces red
with the days and nights outside
with the burning inside.
The cheap wine glows
like bad memories:
we were all once
somebody’s baby.

He changed my diapers;
I changed yours.
I helped his naked body
from the bathtub.

Where do we go from here?

WordFest Podcast

Hey, you don't have to take my word for what happened at the WordFest Open Mic April 20 (see my Blog entry dated May 8), check out a recording of the poets on www.Albanypoets.com. Scroll down the home page to the Podcast (but where did that music come from?).

June 14, 2007

Live from the Living Room, June 13

In the cozy living room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center, with our host, Don Levy --

The feature, who always reads first, before the open mic, was Shaun Baxter who, while minimizing his skill as a poet, perhaps because he writes mainly very short poems, gave a wonderful reading of his mainly very short poems (I was hoping for a reading of his pastiche of Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California", about Border's, but he said later he couldn't find his copy -- uh oh). His poems ranged from "Carpe Beer" to a "Wedding on the Town Hall Lawn", with stops in between for "Beautiful Blondes," "Woody Allen Films," a cut-up, the juke-boxes at the Palais Royale, his classic "Advice," among others. Shaun is the host of the 3rd Wednesday reading/open mic at the NightSky Cafe in Schenectady that you've read about here & that you must go to.

As usual, there was just a handful (perhaps 2 hands full) of poets for the open mic, but a warm, friendly group. Jim Masters continued his saga of "the Clock" that he began last month with a concrete poem. In "Clock 3" the clock is fixed & is ticking tocking again, then stops again in "Clock 4," is wound & ticks again. Sort of like those movie serials from my childhood where I had to come back next week to find out how Batman got out of that bottomless pit.

I read "Tee-shirt Poems" & for the first time my poem for Marilyn & Bill Day's "Recommitment" ceremony at Still Point.

Grandma A.C. Everson read d.a. levy & Andy Clausen from the Outlaw Bible.

Carol Graser has been attending Bernadette Mayer's workshop so I bet "Pregnant Meeting on Enclosed Land" was from that; she also read about "Listening to Joe Krausman" at the Behind the Egg reading at Point 5 (see my Blog entry dated April 27).

Don inserted himself next & read about being "morbidly obese," got lots of fat laughs; then read poems by Brian Paton & Roger McGough from the '60s era Penguin Modern Poets series (I have #13 that groups Charles Bukowski with Philip Lamantia & Harold Norse, a treasure).

Bob Sharkey went from a meditation on "The Overturned Leaf" to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC ("City 2").

P.R. Dyjak quoted Stanley Kunitz's line, "a little blossom of a beast" then read a "Jasmine" (a former dog) & then a tiny poem about a tic (the very-short-poem theme of the night). We're going to miss her.

And it was quite proper that Tim Verhaegen read "In My Own Way" about going to a gay bar in Maine to end the night.

Always the second Wednesday & always "straight friendly".

June 9, 2007

Another Poetry Scam

Just out of curiosity I went to www.poetry.com, one of those scams that promise you riches & publication for sending them your poems. I entered my name in the search & found a couple of Dan Wilcoxes, some Daniels, even some Danielles.

None of them are me, I'm the real Dan Wilcox! I mean, some of those poems were really awful (not that I haven't written some awful poems in my time).

Try it yourself -- enter your name & see how many of you there are out there writing really bad poems (I mean, not counting yourself).

Caffe Lena Open Mic, June 6

There were about 26 folks reading in the open mic, in addition to the featured poet Diane Lockward, another big night in Saratoga Springs, with Carol Graser as host. But the evening moved along, with no ego epics, each reader being considerate of those to follow.

There were two "virgins" -- Lisa Temoshok read "Tuesday Night at the Methodist Church," her entry from the recently published Story Quilt collection (introduced earlier by Mary Cuffe-Perez, an oral history of the little town of Galway). The other virgin, Maria D., earned an A+ from her professor for showing up & reading a fine poem about her grandmother, "To Margaret." That professor is Barbara Ungar who (not-so professorially) read a villanelle, "Excuses for Divorce" (Barbara will be one of the Poets in the Park in July).

On the subject of marriage, but from the other end, Mary Kathryn Jablonski read two poems from her series, To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met: Letter 5, in which fishing & lures figure as images; and Letter 6, where she names a dog "Husband." Humor, of course, drives these poems, but with an undercurrent of eroticism & wistful longing, that she emphasizes in her careful, expressive reading. The more I hear the more I like.

Actually, "fishing" was a theme in Marley Halpern-Graser's stand-up comic routine, deconstructing the phrase, "there are plenty of fish in the ocean."

Another inadvertent "theme" of the evening was poetry workshops, which Tim Verhaegen ripped apart in a revised version of "3AM Echos & Recollections of a Poetry Workshop." His characters (the folks that go to poetry workshops but don't go to poetry readings, or buy or read poetry books) don't know a metaphor from a moving van & are skewered by Tim's gay wit. Diane Lockward mentioned Collete Inez's workshop prompt & then Carol read a sestina from Bernadette Mayer's workshop. The other theme of the night was cows, but that was more of a running, or rather walking, gag. My own poems were about animals, "Springtime Maggie" & "Eight Hermit Thrushes."

Mimi Moriarty had driven up with Tim, made us thirsty with "The River of Stout" & her dream of being in jail with the President (as a drag queen).

I don't know Diane Lockward's work at all. I read a couple poetry zines, try to pay attention to who's out there, but there are a gazillion poets, lots of "awards" & plenty of festivals. She's read at the Dodge Festival, but she is from New Jersey so we know how much easier that is. She read a bunch from her new book What Feeds Us, a couple newer poems & some from a previous book. The poems were humorous, clever, "well-written" but she persisted in reading in a stylized sing-song voice, like plain-song, that worked for her curse poem, "Invective Against the Bumblebee", but got very old very fast. I suspect she has been to a lot of workshops. If you want to read a good analysis of her reading check out Karin's comments on http://knitting-and.blogspot.com/.

Speaking of Karin M.T., I'm so glad she was there, with Sally Rhoades. Karin read a poem about a yard sale, & her Autobahn poem again. Sally read 2 never read before, one a letter to dance friends that morphed into a powerful political piece.

There were some "returning" poets. David Mook did some place-centered poems, "Frenchtown Bridge Renovation" & "Lake Galena", while Eric Hauenstein returned with a poem about the Atlantic Ocean & one about the Pacific; I guess that's where he's been.

Of course, the stalwarts of the Saratoga poetry scene were there, including Sue Jefts; Marilyn McCabe; Mary Sanders Shartle announced the demise of the Saratoga Poetry Zone (more on that in a future Blog); Mary Melvin (who did just fine from the floor without a mic), introduced "Mother Always Wore Lipstick" as a "memory poem", a reference to an earlier poet's comment (& made me think, "aren't they all?"); Jeff Jurgens bouncing around the stage; &, of course, Barbara Garro "Lost in Love."

Then there were "the kids", some young, high-school age poets, the future features somewhere, eventual open-mic hosts. Tanya Russell & Marissa LaFleur both read untitled notebook entries, & we were so glad to have them. And returning from last month were Noah Davies-Mason with a metaphysical rant or sorts, & Nikolais Shumer on death & suicide.

I mustn't leave out James Schlett & his little poems from a trip to Pittsfield. The evening ended with Pat Dyjak handling vegetables at the co-op, and on the beach at Lake Michigan.

Thank you, Carol, for bringing out so many good poets -- Every 1st Wednesday, Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs.

June 6, 2007

Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Poetry Workshops

This is from Poets & Writers magazine, March-April 2007, from an (insipid) interview by Julia Older (who seemed more interested in showing off her vapid background).

Q: "...what do you think of workshops?"

Ferlinghetti: "... So the poetry workshop serves a wonderful purpose for lost souls trying to find themselves in poetry. But if you're in a big city, you don't need it. I think it's better for poets to stay away from poetry workshops..."

Q: "And do you think a poet can learn a lot just by reading poetry?"

Ferlinghetti: "Yes, it's much better just to read it. And then I think -- can you imagine Keats or Shelley going to a poetry workshop?"

Unfortunately, poets who go to workshops but don't go to poetry readings won't be reading this Blog -- maybe those of you who do both can help spread the word.

June 5, 2007

Albany Poets Present...The No Gimmick Open Mic, June 5

The first Tuesday open mic at Valentines, with the gimmick being there is no gimmick -- your host el Presidente Thom Francis. Or the gimmick is it is a pleasant 2 beers evening at Valentine's with friends, reading poems, talking about grandchildren, the upcoming weekend, poetry events, whatever, waiting for the tour bus that broke down in Selkirk. Even so, there was one new poet -- the magic of open mics.

I went first, as I've said before, because #1 was empty (as were 2 through whatever, with Marty taking the last spot). I did "Eight Hermit Thrushes" & the older "Tee-shirt Poems", which I'm glad I found again.

Sylvia Barnard did her "picnic poem" again, & it holds together nicely.

Annine, aka A.C. Everson read Allen Ginsberg's "C'mon Pigs of Western Civilization Eat More Grease" from her copy of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, made Thom & me hungry.

Thom Francis played a guessing game with a poem about a rose & Mary Panza knew it was by Rob Engelhardt, she is such a scholar -- we eagerly await her bio/critical study of Rob.

And then the new poet, Natalie Park, who said she had read once before (someplace) at an open mic, & this was her first time in Albany, and read an elegy to a friend, "What Lasts What Hangs" -- hope to see her later in the month somewhere.

Marty Mulenex told us earlier he will be hosting a poetry open mic at Richard Genest's Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady on Tuesday, June 26 (& perhaps every last Tuesday) at 7PM -- go Marty, go. He read a new poem for the the Gotta Get Gone Festival & "Take it For what It's Worth."

Then, it seems, the proverbial tour bus arrived, too late, & Sahli Cavallero showed up. But enough time for conversation, personal history, flyers & plans for Saturday's (F)Art on Lark.

See, the "gimmick" is just getting folks to show up to have a beer or two, hang out, talk about the stuff of life, read some poems, & go home. No one takes over the world or becomes Poet Laureate, even the bartender (Kim 13) is happy, & we all go home to dream.

June 3, 2007

First Friday Art Walk, June 1

These "art walks" in so many communities, Kingston, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, are wonderful ways to get people out of their cars & onto the streets. Who goes for the art ("Art")? I'm usually there to see who shows up, grab some (almost) free food & wine. Oh yeah, & wander past the stuff until something/someone grabs me. Now with the weather better there is way too much to see at once. Besides, I ain't no art critic, not like my friend Tim. I hit the usual around Lark St., but didn't make it to Center Galleries (I'll check it out during the week when there are no crowds).

I ran into the aforementioned Tim & got him to tear himself away from Ambrose + Sable ("Changing Spaces") & we rolled down the hill together to St. Anthony's Church on Madison & Grand. The Grand Street Community Arts is trying to renovate the building for community/arts use & stuffed their flyer in the exhibit broadside. In addition, Michael Oatman's blurb for the show, "Vestuary Operatics", also pitched the idea. I'll get back to that at the end.

Overall it was a wonderful event, with 19 artists represented, spread out through the decayed & propped up remains of the church. There was much thoughtful use of the uniqueness of the space, with other pieces just sort of tacked on or included just because the space was big enough, like Abraham Ferraro's "Stationary Climber."

The pieces ran from the decorative (the striking wall drawings), to the obsessively intricate (Chris Harvey's plastic found objects altar piece), to the whimsical (tea bags on the columns' astragals), to the complexly interactive (Sarah Gonek's "Lady of the Brambles"), to the merely self-indulgent (Ryder Cooley suspended in space yet again, in what I can only classify as "smack art"), to the touchingly accidental (Teddy Adams asleep in a folding chair). But the greatest of the "Art" was just the many people from the community, artists & plain (& not so plain) citizens wandering about, talking, meeting friends, sipping wine, chasing their kids.

Now about the effort to "save the building". I was drawn in particular to the next to the line from the Grand St. Community Arts flyer: "We continue to investigate heating options and energy costs." And to the opening that stated "St. Anthony's Church was built in 1907". I'm not so sure what is of such grave historical value here. One hundred years old is a veritable babe-in-the woods in most other parts of the world, even in this country & City. It makes me wonder what "loss" there was to the community when whatever was torn down to build St. Anthony's -- now that would be even older, right? I'm sure it's not just the heating & energy costs that will be outrageous; what about plumbing? Wiring? Perhaps the funds would be better spent to create a new, 21st Century building that could more cheaply & efficiently provide for community space, one that could be designed around the needs of the community. I agree with Michael Oatman's statement, although not in the context he intended: "To herald change." Real change would be to make history, not preserve what is worn out & done for.

June 1, 2007

Happy Birthday, Walt -- May 31

Last night we gathered in Washington Park, at the Robert Burns Statue, to celebrate Walt Whitman's birthday by reading "Song of Myself". There were 12 readers sharing the duties while others wandered in & out, with their dogs, their babies, their ice cream cones, just to listen for a short or long while.

The long lines, the images from everyday life, the musings on philosophy, spirituality, the pure celebration of occupation, procreation, loafing resonated under the trees & on the grass while Robert Burns looked down from his perch. The multiple voices brought to life Walt's vision of democracy & diversity, the true greatness of America in its people.

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

Thank you to our readers Sylvia, Sally, Therese, Miriam, Mimi, Robin, Rebecca, Bob, Noah, Sue, & Marty.

See you all again next year -- & in the meantime, look for the schedule of Poets in the Park, 7PM, Saturdays in July, again under the shadow of Robert Burns in Washington Park, Albany.