October 30, 2007

What If They Gave A Blog & No One Shut Up?

I make it a practice not to weigh in with my own responses to other's comments on my Blog: I said what I said, now it's your turn. But I feel with the recent volume (& vivacity & virulence) of comments here I should respond in some way, other than just saying, "Thanks for reading." I'm cherry-picking among the posted comments or more specifically, among my memory of my reading of the comments on the issues that resonated for me, presented below as separate paragraphs in a somewhat random order.

As usually happens with Chat-rooms, Blogs, even Comments on MySpace, etc., the discussions can easily get side-tracked on issues that were not in the original text -- this is a descriptive statement, not a value judgment; I think the Comment sections function as Blogs for people who don't want to put in time on a Blog of their own (pace, Virginia Woolf). My actual comments in my posted Blog were directed to a specific audience, i.e., the members of the HVWG, & to "literary-types" who never show up. I was not speaking about the poetry community at large, who were proportionately well-represented at this event. In fact, I'm quite satisfied overall with the way people attend local literary events. Some events are better attended than others, some months of the year they are better attended than others, but overall we have a vibrant, interactive community, with lots of people coming in & out, & always new people showing up. As with the October 20 event, those who show up are the ones who benefit, whether there are 10 or 50.

As to readings v. open mics, I've said this to some people but have never put it in writing: quite frankly the open mic component of my Third Thursday Poetry Night is a scam to get people to hear the featured poet: they come to the open mic to read their own work but have to listen to the featured reader. Unlike some areas of the country, people here do stay to hear the featured poet, not just to hear their own voice.

& while I'm on that topic, the poets that I feature at my open mic are those that I like: perhaps they have shown up regularly (one of my goals when I started this series back in 1997 was to give first features to poets -- I was 40 years old before I was featured anywhere), or I had heard their work someplace else & I think the local community should hear him/her, or they are someone who is working hard to promote poetry/build a community either here or elsewhere. I don't have to think the poet's work is the next new school/wave/movement, or even like their work, just that what this person is doing for/with her/his art is positive, human, keeping us going.

As far as celebrity poets go, there is a huge difference in the dynamics of attendance at their events from our community events. America is a celebrity-driven culture. You can be famous for having done nothing at all (where did David Letterman come from, or Paris Hilton, or Anna Nicole Smith, & what did they do to become famous other than showing up?). Many people go to the Writers Institute readings (a wonderful asset for this community) on name-recognition only. For me, if Billy Collins was reading here & at the same time there was an open mic I liked or a local poet featured somewhere that I wanted to support, I would go to the local event; I can get Billy Collins in the library, but with the local poet, like Eric Dolphy said about jazz, "... after it's over, it's gone in the air, you can never capture it again." I'm not saying that the celebrity poet shouldn't be heard, just that sometimes the choices are difficult. I grew up in this area when there were no choices & I'm grateful that now we live in a time of choices & conflicts.

As a parent, former spouse, worker, active community member I am as aware as anyone of the "pressures of life." In fact, "life" is all there is: if Art is anything it is about the lives we live. We need to do these things: I've missed many events because I was at a Little League game, taking kids to ballet lessons, had to go to Binghamton for work, at a birthday or anniversary party, on a family trip, at a meeting, or just wanted to be with the one I loved (ah, yes). I would have been at the recent Behind the Egg reading but I was in NYC that day in the rain trying to stop the War. And as someone has already pointed out, sometimes the other "pressures" are those of organizing events. There are always the few who are concentrating on their own navels, but most of the folks here who organize events are recognized enough in the community to even show up in these Blog comments.

Finally, just an observation that such a discussion as we have experienced here would not take place in a vacuum -- there's something going on in this community. Thank you to everyone.

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.


October 25, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, October 18

[This photo by Edie Abrams shows Dennis Sullivan reading with accompaniement by Alan Casline on bodhran & Tom Corrado on tuba.]

October in the Railroad Earth, the month of the anniversary of the Indians discovering Columbus on their shore & the month of Tom Nattell's birthday so he was the "Muse" & I did a couple of his Columbus Fantasies.

So then the strangest thing happened -- Dennis Sullivan, our night's feature had left a couple of free broadsides up on the counter by the sign-up sheet & our first poet up, Daniel Scott, who was unfamiliar to what we were doing, picked up one of Dennis' broadsides & read it. What a cool introduction to the night's feature -- how perfect. (Perhaps Daniel will return with one of his own poems soon.)

I like to say, "If your friends & relatives don't come to your readings, who will?" & Dennis proved my point by packing the house with cohorts from Voorheesville's Every Other Thursday Night Poets. First up from that group was Alan Casline, whom I've mentioned here before as publisher of Benevolent Bird Press & the Rootdrinker Institiute, both at P.O. Box 522, Delmar, NY 12054 (somebody remind me to write a Blog about these marvelous publications). Alan also published the 2 free broadsides & Dennis' chapbook Harvesting Silence. Anyways, Alan did "Treading Softly" from memory.

You'd never know Mike Burke was out there writing his working class poems if you didn't go to Voorheesville, but here he was in Albany reading a poem of lost love perfect for the season, "Fall Romance." Barbara Vink had been a feature on the Third Thursday way back at Changing Spaces Gallery; her poem, "The Tavern Keeper, in Memory of Frank Smith" is in her chapbook Heat Wave, also from Benevolent Bird Press (catching the subtext here?).

Edie Abrams (who took everybody's photo) broke open the political box with a moving rant & tribute to "Howl" that asked where are our leaders in "Wimp Nation." Obeedude is really Tim [whoops, I mean] Mark O'Brien & he did a Halloween poem, "Knick Knock".

Our feature, Dennis Sullivan, is a modern-day Bodhisattva in a Walt Whitman hat & beard. He's not often out at open mics so it was an even greater pleasure to hear him do a full reading. He was accompanied by Alan Casline on Bodhran & Tom Corrado on tuba & didjeridu -- both deep resonance of the spirits through life, a frequently perfect fit for Dennis' philosophical musings. A couple poems used classical references to ponder life, as in "The Test," using Ovid, & "After Seeing Breughal's The Fall of Icarus." Some ("Poor Passing Facts") just mused. The short parts of "Ten Stops at an Early Morning Oasis" were humorous musings with funny tuba & contained great advice ("listen/question"). "Into the Great Silence" was a response to the meditative film by the same name. The marvelous litany of "Psalm 4" of was a series of blessings for the goodness of life, an anti-Moloch poem. He ended with a tender elegy to a neighbor, Etta Hatch, over rhubarb & other neighbors' pettiness.

I, your bossy host, Dan Wilcox, read a new piece inspired by a conversation with 3 lady poets at Caffe Lena, "Poetry Prompts." 2 weren't here tonight. Then Tom Corrado put down his tuba ("...if you want to play the saxophone...") & did Frank O'Hara inspired short lines on fonts, typography, now I do this now I do that.

Bob Sharkey's new poem was "Perspective." And Sylvia Barnard did 2 stanzas on a real & imagined trip to Vermont. Therese Broderick's new poem was "Upon Hearing the News that A Poet I Love is Dying" & that is Christian Wiman (but then aren't we all, some just faster than others).

Tim Verhaegen read the poem I liked so much last night, "Finally." Has anyone else noticed he is like the counter-Blog with his comments?

Amanda Haney had shown up in August, fresh from Seattle, now was back with a poem (freshly written?) that began "I opened my eyes..." & continued on with her mother's voice & socks & all kinds of things. And Paul Amidon ended the night by taking us "Elsewhere."

Always the third Thursday, always someone new.

October 22, 2007

Zounds!, October 17

The monthly open mic at the NightSky Cafe on Union St. in Schenectady, with our host Shaun Baxter. I note that Shaun seems to have responded to fact that he is not the shortest open mic host by producing the smallest open mic flyer, just over 3x4 inches. He started us off with Raymond Carver's "Where Water Comes Together with Other Water", then challenged us to parody William Carlos Williams' "This is just to say...", you know, the plums-in-the-fridg poem.

But I (Dan Wilcox) had no time to respond so only read what I had planned: Tom Nattell's Columbus Fantasy #32 (in the Tom manner with whistle & foot stomp) & last year's Halloween assignment, "Zombie Gourd."

John Paul, with a literal feather in his (baseball) cap, did a poem in memory of his grandmother, "Memories," then "Just for Today" (like a self-help list in the newspaper) (or, were these by his grandmother?).

Alan Catlin passed on to us advice from his past life as a bartender, "Beware the Solitary Drinker," & a poem never read before based on a reading by Richard Russo. Alan responded to Shaun's assignment with a combination WCW, EA Poe & Gertrude Stein ("...the plums, the plums...").

Marty read to us half of a Halloween poem, "Going into the Booby-Trapped Make-Up House from Hell" (we'll probably hear the other half at the 2nd Tuesday open mic at Moon & River Cafe, on N. Ferry St., also Schenectady).

The night's feature was Tim Verhaegen who gave a nicely constructed reading of new, old & re-worked poems on themes of growing up gay, & the dynamics of dys- or barely-functional families in mid-20th Century America, like "Dad's Car" (stopping at the bar) & "Third Grader's Rhyme." Even a straight guy like me can feel the pain of being bullied (I was too), or the ache of (gay) love in Tim's Brokeback Mtn. poem, "Hold me." Tim's re-worked "War" was more focused, concise -- better? "each has his tastes" as e.e. cummings said. And he ended with a poem I don't think I had heard, "Finally," time passing for a gay man (or any person), "beauty" to "ugly" & enjoying being alone. Art shows us what is human, beyond skin color, gender, sexual orientation, language, cultural background, education, class, medical diagnosis ... (you add to the list) -- we're all more alike than we are different. Thanks, Tim.

I'd heard Michael C. Rush read earlier this month at Caffe Lena (q.v.). He said to check out his website, webnesia.com -- I did, Huh? Anyways, his poems tonight, he said, were "not typical": "On the Occasion of Your 30th Birthday" (seems that she left him for a rich man), & the saga continued with "On the Occasion of Your 40th Birthday" (even thought she was really gone).

Matt Galleta is much closer to the experience than I am & so could write "Participation Is 20% of Your Grade." He stepped up to the WCW plate & hit a double.

W.B. Clarke had also been at Caffe Lena & writes in the narrative rhymes of Robert Service. He read two poems about experiences in Viet Nam, "Dust Off Crews" & "To the Shit-Burners" (which even the younger audience liked).

Schenectadian Jason Dalaba read a "hippy Fall poem" written 10 years ago, "Persephone", also read "Push" from his chapbook Yesterday's Machine, & did the WCW thing with cigarettes!

Tom has shown up before a couple times, does hip-hop rhymes in baseball cap & hoody, his piece tonight on technology setting us up was unfortunately said too fast, the rhymes taking off on their own.

Albany Poet's living Spoonerism, Dain Brammage did his WCW parody as scared of ghosts (Boo!), then did a few others -- "When Hippies Divorce" is one of those poems that may be good or bad, but the title is great.

Long-absent J.J. Johnson (too blond to be the great bop trombonist) read from his book, Seeds and Weeds.

Hip-hop/slam artists like to give themselves a stage name & one never knows (do one?) if it's ironic or poorly chosen; thus it was with Apathy. But both of his pieces suffered from being driven by the rhyme to the point of being unconstructed, like the worst of Bob Dylan, although the rhymes of "Trapped in the Lion's Den" were not the standard rap-issue which made it his own. Unfortunately, his second poem "Fuck" was based on still another false etymology of the great Anglo-Saxon verb as an acronym -- when will they ever learn to check their sources.

Chris Brabham's dark images were a journey through grief & depression, & we are there with him, even if we can only listen.

A.J. Gundy ("Mr. Cool") must be last, doesn't want his picture taken, & walks around the room instead of using the mic, I mean his stuff is so powerful, who needs electricity. He likes aphorisms & seedy, misogynist characters, & snaps his fingers at the end of each poem (otherwise we wouldn't know it's over, would we?). One of his poems was "U" in Morse Code: ". . - " (or, as we used to say in radio school, "Dit Dit DAH").

Always the 3rd Wednesday, sometimes the day before the third Thursday, sometimes the week after -- go figure.

October 18, 2007

Caffe Lena, October 3 (continued): Josh & Beatriz

Tickets To Vegas

We have our tickets to Vegas.
Families are planning from NY to Mexico.
So, I thought I better ask just to see:
Te Casas conmigo?
In other words -- "Will you marry me?"

October 17, 2007

Miss Mona Reports:
Allen Fisher Reading at UAG Gallery, October 12

[I asked my old friend, Miss Mona, to cover this event for me while I was in Philadelphia. Miss Mona used to comment on the gossip scene in Albany years back & has just been growing old since.]

Friday night [Oct. 12], Albany Poets and Jawbone combined together under the auspices of Pierre Joris to bring British poet and artist Allen Fisher to read at the UAG Gallery on Lark St.  Among some of the poetry luminaries who came out include Mary Panza, Thom Francis, his lovely new wife Lacy, and Dain Brammage of Albany Poets, the coolest Grandmother, A.C. Everson, Keith Spencer, and poetry newcomer Matt Galetta and his girlfriend Tori. I also noticed Donald Byrd in the audience.  Fisher first read from his new book Place which talks about the goegraphy of Lampham County in England.  I hate to say it but I fell alseep through parts of the reading, but that is due to being an old fart of 47.  Later a number of us hiked over to Justins, the setting of several poems by Pierre.  It was another wonderful night of poetry in Albany. 

October 16, 2007

A Visit from Charlie Rossiter, October 7

[Charlie's photo of Dan Wilcox and some of the poets (Evelyn & the 2 Danae) at Joe Weil's.]

Charlie had a reading at Foothills Publishing in Kanona, NY to promote his new book & fanangled a reading in Binghamton (actually, Vestal -- didn't see any virgins) to pad out his trip from Chicago. I drove down with a promise of a good time & a soft place to sleep inside out of the elements. The reading was put together by Joe Weil, a poetry instructor at SUNY Binghamton & was held at Joe's place a few miles down the road from the university, on the banks of the river.

Charlie read in the backyard as the sun set, starting off with a few poems not in the book -- a letter addressed "Dear Aspiring Writer" (from the Fuck Around Writing Program), "Drinking While Driving" (memories of his Dad as he drives around with Jack, his son), & one about doing poetry in East Side High School in Paterson where William Carlos Williams & Allen Ginsberg had both been students. Then from The Night We Danced with the Raelettes, another attractively produced chapbook from FootHills Publishing. I've performed with Charlie throughout the country with the 3 Guys from Albany & have heard him perform a number of these poems, often in earlier, different versions in his solo spot in the program. The book contains the long subtitle, "Occurrences in and around College Park Maryland in the 1960s for the most part to the best of my recollection," which is an accurate description of the book, & the most honest description of memory poems I've heard (one only has to read Time Regained, the last volume of Proust's monumental A la recherche du temps perdu to know how universal is that phrase, "...to the best of my recollection."). For the record, tonight he read "Defiantly Undeclared," "The Summer I Brought in the Yeast" (working for Budweiser), "When Someone Asks Me Who Was First" (ahh, the First...), "The Night the Rubber Broke," "Ah, Nan..." (his grandma), and the title poem, "The Night we Danced with the Raelettes." In between, Joe would comment from the back row, sitting among the handful of his students that came to hang out with the poets, then begin a tangential ramble that Charlie would have to interrupt with another poem. But the light held out for Charlie.

Later, after the sun went down, we had had more chips & kielbasa & other snacks, beer, finished the bourbon, some folks had gone on a beer run, & we had started a small campfire, then a round the fire open mic, at first doing poems from memory until someone got a flashlight. Also by then our friend Tom Nicotera had arrived from Connecticut, bearing some beers, some whiskey & some spiced rum (that crossed my eyes). Since it was too dark to take notes at the time, my notes from the night were reconstructed the next day, & are presented in no particular order. Some of the poems are from a collection, The Arc of a Cry put out by Joe & students; that helped with the names of some of the poets & their titles.

Joe Weil, a cue-ball of an Irishman, did "All the Fucked Up Things I Did Just to Stay Alive" & later sang some Irish songs accompanied by Tom on the Bodhran -- but all the songs sounded like "She Moved Through the Fair." Joe joked about the "Danae", 2 of the students named Dana. Dana Haitkin did "Gettysburg" & "This" while Dana Jaye Cadman did "For a Secret". After some students came back from a beer run with fried chicken Jennifer Diskin read "Exultation Over Fried Chicken." I don't remember Tom Nicotera's poems, but he has many fine poems that he often accompanies himself on the Bodhran. Another poet was Evelyn, who I had a long, poetic talk with, but don't remember the title of her poems, at least one of which was a tough-tender love poem, the best kind. Somewhere along the line I did a couple of political poems, an underdeveloped theme that night. I'm sure I've left some out, but without lights I didn't/couldn't take notes. Believe me, it was a good poetry night.

When the fire died we all went home.

October 11, 2007

Behind the Egg at Point 5, October 6

[Carol Graser reading at Lark Fest this year.]

Not quite literally behind the Egg, this series began it's new season with 3 powerful poets from the area, Randall Horton, Cara Benson & Carol Graser. The hosts are Erik Sweet & Daniel Nester (getting a lot of space here on the Blog in the last couple days).

I arrived a little late (coming from the Banned Books reading, q.v.), just as Randall Horton was coming up to read. He did a 3-part reading that really over-lapped itself. The first part of his prison poems & poems touched by his prison experience; then from a cycle of poems about "the African myth," the poems playing on images of sound, including do-wop, a harmonica man, even the sound of dice in a game of craps; the third section from his book, The Definition of Place, persona poems about his family, often in southern black dialect. Check out his website, www.randallhorton.com.

When I came in I ended up sitting next to Cara Benson & it seems she brought her own cheering section from a recent poetry workshop -- hey, if your friends & relatives don't come to your readings, who will? I wasn't quite sure what she was doing in most of her poems, but her performance & stage presence was engaging, if somewhat giggly at times. She does the performance thing well, without over-acting. One long piece, read from a home-made booklet, was like riffing, or improvising over chord or key changes as she brought in references to the thunder & rain actually occurring outside, with lists of words, each section strung together with the slowed-down phrase, "then the breath..." Her last piece, "6 Billion & 3" was on dating, in the voice of a nasally persona.

Carol Graser is the host of the open mic at Caffe Lena (I haven't figured out them HTML accents yet), & was featured recently at Lark Fest, out promoting her wonderful book, The Wild Twist of their Stems. She read a few from the book, like "3 a.m." & "Sestina for Peace," & excerpts from "Dear One." And a wonderful potpourri of others: "Behind the Egg" about an earlier reading here, a poem from Carolyn Forche's workshop, some political pieces, a new "Journal Entry Poem" on writer's block, her N+7 on the Lord's Prayer, others. Carol's hosting the Caffe Lena readings & her more frequent appearances have paid off, making her much more self-confident, joking, at ease with the audience. My impression is that in the past she was intimidated by other poets in the room, but she now knows she's at least as good as, if not better, than the rest, even the some more "famous" poets she reads among.

This is an eclectic series with an erratic schedule so check out www.unpleasanteventschedule.com/behindtheegg/ or the host venue's website www.federationofideas.org for more information.

Banned Books Read-Out, October 6

An annual event at the Albany Public Library, co-sponsored with New York Civil Liberties Union, Capital Region Chapter. John Cirrin, the Public Information Officer for the Library introduced Joanna Palladino who put the event together & was the M.C., with some opening remarks by Melanie Trimble, the NYCLU-CRC Executive Director. As usual, readers from the community picked their favorite of books that have been banned/challenged over the years. Many of these were books for children & young adults.

The readers & their books this year were Mary Ellen O'Connor read from Scary Stories, Jack Fallon from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Laura Murray from Forever (Judy Blume gets banned a lot), A.C. Everson from To Kill a Mockingbird, Ryan Faas from Fallen Angels (about Viet Nam, from young adults), Janet Womachka read the entire And Tango Makes Three (& solved one of my Xmas gift problems), Dan Wilcox (that's a me) from Poems from Guantanomo, Jeremy Ward from Lolita, Bob Resnick from The Higher Power of Lucky, and Kris Anderson from Howl (yeah!).

And Mother Judge brought it all back home with some songs.

Another reason why we need our libraries.

October 9, 2007

Frequency North, October 4

This is the third year of this reading series at St. Rose, run by new poppa Daniel Nester. This year the readings have been moved from St. Joseph's Hall auditorium, with the big stage & curtains, to the Library. Same number of people showed up, just looked more crowded. I mean if the same 40 people showed up at the Knickerbocker Arena -- I mean Pepsi Arena -- whoops, no, Times-Union Center -- folks would say, "there was nobody there." Like skinny girls in tight pants.

The poet tonight was David Lehman, editor of the series The Best American Poetry & the recent edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, as well as author of several collections of poetry, including When a Woman Loves a Man. He read a poem from that book & it sounded like one of those articles in Cosmopolitan magazine explaining why after sex guys put their jeans on & go out for a smoke, & the women want to cuddle & discuss wedding plans. He also read a couple poems from his "poem a day" project, a couple set in Albany, but filled with everyday cliches. To call the Empire State Plaza "Rockefeller's last erection" in cocktail conversation elicits knowing chuckles, in a poem it's banal. I have a personal affection for Mayakovski's "Brooklyn Bridge," & Lehman did a version based on translations he read because he felt none of them were adequate. He also did some new poems not in any of his books, including some where he writes "in the manner of..." with a couple of my own favorites, Cafavy & Neruda.

In general, his work is clever, discursive, contains complete, grammatical sentences, often lists & pronouncements, but many poems sound contrived, like exercises. Perfect for American Poetry Review.

Also something I've noticed here & at the Writers Institute readings, or wherever academics gather, students & profs don't like to clap, not like at community readings "downtown" where we clap after each poem. Sometimes, at such readings, I clap just to get others to do it & it usually throws the reader off. I think David Lehman liked the adulation of the undergraduates & would've liked the applause, so I didn't clap until the end.

Oh, & you poets who tell us not to clap until you're through, fuck you, I'll clap if I want (or not at the end).

October 6, 2007

Caffe Lena, October 3

[Carol informed us that Tim Daynard, a poet from the Gloversville area who had a read a number of times at Caffe Lena, had died & she dedicated the night to his memory. This is a picture of Tim reading at Caffe Lena on September 6, 2006.]

Carol Graser, our bestest host read Gary Snyder's "Ax Handles," that reverberated through the night like an ax at a bad angle on an recalcitrant oak.

I've realized that "October is the Columbus-day month breeding racism & death in the continent..." so I have started including Tom Nattell's "Columbus Fantasies" in my readings. These were poems written in 1992 to commemorate the Indians discovering an Italian mercenary for Spain landing on their shore. After doing a new poem of my own, "Starting the Wine," I did #23.

Next month's feature, Tim Verhaegan did a long, rambling, disjointed piece "War" & I'm still wondering who the "you" in the poem is supposed to be.

Sue Jefts is a one of these low North Country poets, who puts herself in her poems prompted by Mother Nature, quiet, meditative. She did 2 new pieces, "Faith, or the Place Between Worlds" (sound like a much longer poem), and a beach poem, "August Aubade."

The bouncer, James Schlett began with a quote from the 20th Century American poet Robert Henri (variously pronounced, if you can believe that), then another Grafton poem ("what else?" James said, it's his favorite place) "Tao" on the beauty of chance, then a New Jersey setting to "The Trestle, Oakland."

A new poet up to the plate (it's October you know), Andy I., in plaid, did thunder & rain & words with "Thor," then a funny, fun rambling slant hip-hop/slant rhyme "I've Never Been Good at Rhyming ..." where, if my somewhat battled ears served me right, she rhymed "trachea" with "maker."

I have a particular affection for Mary Kathryn Jablonski uncurling from her self-spun web here at Caffe Lena with her popular "Letters to the Husband I Have Not Yet Met," this time #7. Then "Becoming Other," where I imagined myself to be "the piscatore of the barbless hook," yes, yes.

The featured poet was Michael Czarnecki, the publisher of Foothills Publishing (who recently put out Carol's fabulous chapbook, The Wild Twist of Their Stems -- has anyone ever told you how good this book is?) & published other locally-known luminary poets like Robert Milby & Charlie Rossiter. Anyways, he gave a relaxed reading steeped in Beat beer & the tea & saki of classical Chinese & Japanese poets. He began by evoking the muse of Lew Welch with the dedicatory poem ("What strange pleasure do they get who'd...") from Book I of Ring of Bone. His poems were interspersed with stories, like the one about the ginseng hunter. He also read from his haibun collection Twenty Days on Route 20, which I had to buy, since I've been at both ends of Route 20 & spend some parts of most days on it (the book includes a stop in Albany during the Lark Fest). In East Springfield he invokes the ghost of Vachel Lindsay, in Cleveland, that of d.a. levy. Other poems talked of the stars & midlife, his son playing the Moody Blues, and fire, wine, stars, owls, Chinese & Japanese poems "As Autumn Approaches on Wheeler Hill." Check out his work as poet & as publisher at www.foothillspublishing.com.

After the break, Carol read "Children's Concert in Congress Park," from her book.

A new face/voice, W.D. Clarke (not sure about the terminal "e") read a couple of thoughtful rhymes, the ghosts of Army buddies "The Night Time Army," & an homage to "The American Farmer."

Mike Ballinger was back from his vineyards in France & did a sonnet in the mode & mood of John Donne, complete with "-iths;" then a relationship poem that I think you can guess the way it is going from the title, "Burmese Tiger Trap."

The itinerant Marty Willow was passing back through with a couple of poems from different points in his life: "Aspirations," & fantasy characters from his youth, "Standing in Front of a Full Length Mirror at His Boyhood Home."

Don Levy brought us Senator Craig "Tap Dancing in the Bathroom Stall." So then Michael Rush had the misfortune of following Don -- Carol ran some interference creating space -- & then Michael re-did the fable of the blind man & the elephant, where the elephant was blind too, "Misdirection;" then "Timeline."

Josh McIntyre was really, really glad he didn't have to follow Don, since what he had planned was much more romantic. Setting the stage with the short "Ode to Dora" dedicated to the lovely Beatriz & playing with Spanglish. Then he invited Beatriz to the stage as I moved to take a picture of them together & he brought up a chair for his beloved. This is what he read,

Tickets To Vegas
We have our tickets to Vegas.
Families are planning from NY to Mexico.
So, I thought I better ask just to see:
Te Casas conmigo?
In other words -- "Will you marry me?"

Out came the ring -- this was a real, live marriage proposal with Josh on his knee offering the ring. Beatriz burst into light, glowing, shining, & of course, said yes (or "Si"). And the room went wild with applause, cheers, even tears & laughter. We all wish them long years of love, health, happiness -- & babies too.

That's even harder to follow than Don Levy, & it was Shaun Baxter who was dealt this blow. Now I seem to recall hearing "When the Penguin Came to Town" read recently but can find no record in my notes -- but it's the kind of poem I would remember without notes: a comic-book/movie character & the imagined, hoped for, dream-bent changes to the world his visit brought. Also, "The Wait," a traditional drinking poem, he said.

Therese Broderick (someday I'll figure out how to do accents in HTML) described the birth of her daughter as another of the things she was told she couldn't do in "Life Guard Gives Birth," then one from her Writing from Art workshop on the paintings of Stephen Hannock, "Ox Bow."

The last poet for the night, Yvette Brown returned to the life guard theme, back to her summer at 16 in Long Branch NJ, "Italian," then a poem to her sister, "For Harriet," dedicated to poets, how fitting.

What a night! We have a whole month to recover, perhaps. The first Wednesday of every month, at Caffe Lena (again, no accents) on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7PM sign up, 7:30 start.

October 4, 2007

Albany Poets Presents!, October 2

[This is a generic Valentines reading shot, with Dain Brammage taking a picture of the poet, in this case NicoleK. This was from last month's open mic.]

One often wonders whether this open mic really happens or just exists in the fantasy of alcohol & memory. Once some years ago I read a poem here & a lady I had invited told me later that's when she fell in love with me. On some nights the-nameless-we just sat around & told outrageous stories & bought each other beers. On the Road is filled with such lies & similar fabrications. "October in the railroad earth..."

Our host is Thom Francis. Of course, el Presidente. On to the rest of the poets.

Why do people sign up #5 or #6, when everyother number is blank? I (aka Dan Wilcox) rushed in from the Voorheesville peace vigil, signed up in the blank #1 spot & then was on stage (after scattering kisses & handshakes & a $10 on the bar) before I could catch my breath. So my choice of poems (except for the last one) was a bit rushed & not "wise." But I used the October/Valentines theme: "Zombie Gourd" (published in Wired#2 (where's #3?), & "Pick Up Line;" then Tom Nattell's "Christopher Columbus Fantasy #61" (with Mary Panza's whistle to make it Tom-authentic).

#2 may have thought he would be #6, but that's the alchemy of the List. Chris Robbins drove all the way in from Massachusetts, but then we knew that as soon as he began to speak, read a tribute, "Womanist Poetry Day," then a poem to hippies, "Flower Power," of course.

After quite a hiatus from the open mics, Rich Tomasulo was back with a topical piece, "Like an Undocumented Worker." NicoleK says she is turning her kids onto e.e. cummings & did one for us, then one of her own, pondering relationships, "Not sure what I'm doing..." [do any of us?] or "...just feeling."

Thom Francis did his piece beginning, "We can tell time by the lines on his face..." this time without musical accompaniment (unless you count Keith Spencer working the sound board).

Sometimes Dain Brammage gives us more information than we truly need, like what he had before coming to Valentines, & it wasn't dinner. I'm not sure what his wife's reaction would be to the birthday poem Dain wrote for her, "I Lust," but it does end by him pledging to act "like a faithful husband."

Back on the scene after a short pause was Chris Brabham & that was good. He has a tendency for allegorical monsters & in "Hypocrisy's Concubine" the feeding monster is eventually chased away by Truth & Virtue, I think (& hope). Then he shared a litany of stuff to get one going, "Medicine Cabinet Junkie."

My Blog for September 26 has a picture of The Poet Essence & her poem "Free Jena Six," but as good as it is it is nowhere as good as seeing/hearing/experiencing her in person, as she recited that poem -- a good message to take us on into the night.

Always the first Tuesday, Valentines near the beginning of New Scotland Ave., 8PM. For the next gathering, on November 6, Mary Panza has assigned us the task of doing a dramatic reading of what we consider the "worst song." Which is easier than singing the Star Spangled Banner.