December 27, 2007

Vincent Ferrini, 1913 - 2007

[Vincent Ferrini at a reading in Gloucester, MA, July 1992.]

The poet of Gloucester, Vincent Ferrini died on Christmas eve; he was 94. He published more than 30 volumes of poetry -- quirky, idiosyncratic, & working class, he was a well-known figure in Gloucester art & politics. As a friend of Charles Olson, Ferrini "invoked" the first of the Maximus Poems, particularly Letter 5 from April 1953, but indeed Ferrini is mentioned in all 3 of the Maximus volumes.

You can read about him in the Gloucester Daily Times at

I had the privilege of hearing Vincent read in Gloucester & also saw him in the audience at a number of occasions on different visits there. Tucked into some of my volumes of his poems are a couple of letters, from 1992 & 1994, in which he graciously thanks me for poems & photos I had sent him. Vincent's nephew Henry has made a wonderful documentary film that has been shown on PBS about Vincent & "his" Gloucester.

"The mind, Ferrini,
is as much of a labor
as to lift an arm
(Charles Olson)

"As the keel of a
boat is submerged in Water
so are we in death."
-- Vincent Ferrini

Siv Cedering, 1939 - 2007

I recently found out that one of my favorite poets from the 1980s, Siv Cedering died in November from pancreatic cancer. I saw her read once & took some photos of her at the riverrun bookstore in Hastings-on-Hudson in March 1986 (one of my very earliest photos of a poet). What I liked about her work was its "thingness." Check out her poem "Hands" on

This is the notice on
Siv Cedering was the author of eighteen books plus four books of translations, she also was an exhibiting sculptor and painter, a book illustrator, and a writer of songs and TV programs for children. She appeared in Harper's, Science, Ms., The New Republic, Paris Review, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Partisan Review, Georgia Review, BLM, etc., and in approximately 200 anthologies and textbooks. She received major awards for fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and visual art. Born by the Arctic Circle in Sweden, she lived with her husband Hans Van de Bovenkamp at Twin Oaks Farm and Sculpture Garden in Sagaponack, New York. Sadly, Siv Cedering passed away at her home on November 17, 2007. She will be greatly missed by many.

February 5, 1939~ November 17, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 20

[Daniel Nester at Point 5 pointing a camera.]

The last third Thursday of 2007 & tonight's muse was Enid Dame, her marvelous "Holiday Poem" choked me up, even with practice. Thanks, Enid! Sanity Claus was there all night & provided poetry books & zines to the poets, with the obligatory confession of the year's sins (summarized into "naughty" or "nice") on Sanity's lap. I think I had the most fun, but some of the lap-sitters seemed to enjoy squirming.

Joan McNerney was back again with a multi-part visuals "Hudson River Memories" -- & she sold a book! Alan Catlin was sensitive to the plight of holiday travelers & read "The Airline Passenger from Hell."

And the holidays mean visits from family members, like Mimi Moriarty's "My Son, California." Don Levy took us back to a time long past in "Whatever Happened to Mary Jane." And Barry Finley amused us with 3 parts about Guinness -- & made some of us thirsty.

The featured poet was the not-so-professorial assistant professor at the College of St. Rose, Daniel Nester, who is also responsible for the Frequency North reading series at St. Rose ( and co-curates (with Erik Sweet) the "Behind the Egg" series at Point 5 on Madison Ave. His reading was a relaxed stroll down (his) memory lane with explorations of pop culture, the source of much of his inspiration, & lots of acting out & banter with the audience. After reading his first poem (about his first kiss, growing up in South Jersey), Daniel said he wanted to do this "jerky professor thing" & in his nasally "professor voice" asked us to not clap after every poem, which we all promptly ignored. His pop music culture poems included "The Drummer in our Band Tells Us He is a Virgin," and "Found Poem" from a Kiss tribute band. Movie-inspired poems were "Dramaturgical Aside" & "Poem for the Evil Twin Episode of Night Rider" (you had to be there). There was also "Maternal Impressions" from his days as a reader for Painted Bride Quarterly that managed to work in both Blake & Bukowski into the same poem; and excerpts from his hysterical "Queries," culled from his comments on student writing assignments. He ended with his final poem, as we all do, with a poet, a restauranteur & a mob guy in "Mott St. Pastoral." It was a lot of fun & seemed gone in a flash.

After the break, I invoked the Master's Right & read my new poem about Georgia O'Keefe's hands & in true Zen fashion sat on my own lap. Therese L. Broderick (she actually signed up with the middle initial), the lightest lap-sitter, read a wonderful Mommy poem, "I Love You," about over-hearing her daughter talking to a boyfriend -- love like water.

W.D. Clarke again proved the value of rhyme in a "strictly for fun" narrative poem, "The Pirate's Wife." Maeve Smith who had not planned to read pulled down a Henry Vaughn poem from the shelf, & said she may return with poems of her own.

Moses Kash III, before crushing me again this year, talked about his black heroes, his books & the letters he has written in "So We Ask Ourselves." While Sylvia Barnard was pouring over books in the Cambridge University Library, outside there were "Ducklings."

Tom, who has shown up lurking quietly at other open mics, did a dark rap from memory -- still no last name. And Matt Galletta gave us a taste of what is in store during GallettaFest (formerly known as January) with a poem about killing a fly with a bible while having sex & suffering the consequences. As we all know, God is watching -- & so is Santa Claus.

Every Third Thursday, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany -- we'll be back next year.

December 21, 2007

Zounds!, December 19

[An old shot of Jason Dalaba, the featured poet, from November 2001 at the defunct Arthur's Market in Schenectady.]

Tonight at the NightSky Cafe, 402 Union St., Schenectady. Our host with the adjustable mic stand, Shaun Baxter, started us off with Ogden Nash's answer to the Mr. Boston's Bartender's Guide, "A Drink With Something in It."

The first poet on the list was a new voice, but one who normally plays in a band, Eric Ochshorn & he recited a couple of his song lyrics, "Living Life is Half a Dream," & the rap-attack, deconstructionist (& very funny) "Refuse & Resist," a critique & criticism of rap terms.

Tim Lake is a performer who has been around for a while, even has hosted a venue or two, but I haven't seen him out in a while. He read a couple new pieces, "Last Moment Overture," on Autumn's end, & "The Yule Ring." Just be careful or he'll turn you into a toad.

I read 2 poems you can find on this Blog, "Georgia O'Keefe's Hands" & "Christmas Eve, 1945."

Barry Finley's pieces were new to me, an intensely literary-referrent "We v. The Woolf" (as in Virginia Woolf), & "Rowing Song," which to me said it is important to just keep on going.

Alan Catlin called his poem "The Chud" an ode to the NYC Subway system & the title refers to the homeless or otherwise marginal folks who live down there hidden among the tracks; he also read a poem from the vast repertoire of works inspired by his years as a bartender -- many are out there in chapbooks & various zines, worth the hunt.

I've talked about tonight's featured poet, Jason Dalaba (or J. Dalaba as he preferred tonight) & his chapbook from Dead Man's Press, Yesterday's Machine, in past Blogs on this site. But I've grown to appreciate the entertainment value of his Goth-styled performances. Tonight he experimented with background music/sound effects in his first piece about an invasion of Zombies, then later with "Sex & Math" from his chapbook. The rest of his poems were also from the chapbook, & either I've become familiar with his work or his readings have gotten better, more planned & relaxed -- his best yet.

After the break Matt Galletta (or was that "Matt Galapagos-Islands"?) read about a group of students acting up with the elk at the New York State Museum -- stay tuned for GallettaFest next month when Matt is featured at "Live at the Living Room," then the following week at "Zounds!"

W.D. Clarke has been mining the true stories of veterans for his rhymed narratives & tonight's humorous pieces both had to do with G.I.'s dicks -- "The Christian & the Vixen" (about how it's sometimes better not to get laid), and "The Circumcision" (that's all you need to know).

This was the first chance I had to take a picture of Sue Cerniglia on stage reading a poem. Sue attends a lot of poetry open mics, but has never been on stage to read. Tonight she read 2 poems from a new book by her friend Phil Sweeney; she says she'll be back with a poem of her own someday.

Another long-absent poet who we've missed on the scene, Shannon Shoemaker, showed up tonight & did 2 poems "off the top of her head," "Out of the Shadows," & the relationship poem, "Grown Cold."

Our host, Shaun Baxter read a new piece, the absurdist metaphoric slasher movie "Global Warming;" it was funny & right on the money.

Always the 3rd Wednesday of the month, & Shaun has carved out a unique niche in the poetry scene here. Worth the trip, even from Schenectady.

December 13, 2007


(from notes taken at an exhibit in September 1997 at the Metropolitan Museum of Alfred Stieglitz’s portraits of Georgia O’Keefe)

Georgia O’Keefe’s hands
with a thimble
pinching cloth
into vaginas

hands like flowers
her fingers are petals
her wrist the stem

against her car
her hands like
curved chrome
framing black tires

lined knuckles
holding a corncob

smooth woman hands
against tree bark

one where she works
peeling vegetables

Live from the Living Room, December 12

At the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany, with our capacious host, Don Levy.

The featured poet was Steven Holmes who is well known in the entertainment community in his alter-ego "Carmie Hope." But tonight there was no singing (nor the 2 hours he says it takes to get in costume), just some tender, sensitive poetry, including a poem for his deceased mother, 2 lush poems, "Sleep" & "Hammock" & one to his partner, a lost-love, found-again poem. The poems were mostly written after he had taken a writing class & weren't the more recent work he had planned to bring. But now he needs to go to more open mics to read his newer work. He had the best poetry theory line of the night, "Poetry is supposed to rhyme until you take a class."

During the short break some of us began discussing what is "gay poetry" (based on Tim Verhaegen effusing that he was glad there was a gay featured poet). Is it a poem on "gay" themes, or one written by a gay person? Could a straight person write a "gay poem"? Shaun compared it to "political" poems & pronounced that were only poems, which, like people, I think is essentially it. We like to label & classify to help us understand or deal with things, people, but ultimately, "we murder to dissect."

I read my old, recently revised "Coffee House Rant," & a new poem based on old notes from an exhibit of Alfred Stieglitz's photos of Georgia O'Keefe (the exhibit was in 1997 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC), "Georgia O'Keefe's Hands."

Matt Galleta's "Sketchbook" contrasted the time it took a girl to make a quick sketch of a boy with how long it took him to write the poem. Matt will be the featured poet here in January.

Jim Masters says he has some new poems, but the Muse told him they were "too muddled" to read tonight, so he read a quote he reads at the beginning of his day, that life if not a clock, but more like a cloud: be prepared for changes, for surprises. Yes, yes.

Tim Verhaegen read a revised version of "Summer Theater," a poem I remember hearing before, alluding to the loss of youth, but essentially a steamy description of gay men posing (& having sex) on a beach. It confirmed that basic principle of life, "I know it when I see it" -- that is a "gay poem". It settled the debate.

And if a poem can be like a fart (it happens real quick, leaves evidence but you wonder "what happened"?), "La Fame (Hunger)" by Shaun Baxter did just that.

Our host, Uncle Don Levy ended the night with "The Quilt Maker's Complaint," which he wrote for the very first Poets Action Against AIDS, organized by Tom Nattell in 1992. Then he detailed his trials & tribulations at the "Y" with the other patrons with "Stuff it in Your Gym Shorts."

Every second Wednesday of the month, & always straight-friendly.

December 11, 2007

Reading by Larry Winters, Bethlehem Public Library, December 6

[Larry Winters reading at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock, NY, September 2007.]

This event was sponsored by Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace & the host was me, Dan Wilcox.

The featured reader was Larry Winters, author of The Making and Un-Making of a Marine (Millrock Writers Collective, 2007). But his reading was from his poetry. He read the three poems in Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans, edited by Dayl Wise, "Confession," "America," & "Vietnam" (about a Viet Cong cemetery worker). His commentary on his experience with Viet Nam resonated with the peace workers in the audience struggling to end the current war in Iraq & Afghanistan. He read about the parade for Viet Nam veterans in NYC ("Now") and about Robert McNamara's memoir ("Old Men Are Bastards"). Also, a poem about the first person he knew who got killed in Viet Nam, others about going back to Viet Nam for healing, "War" (a gathering of American & Viet Namese vets), & "Viet Cong."

Larry's reading was followed by an open mic of community poets, something Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace have been wanting to do for some time. They hold a weekly peace vigil at the 4 Corners in Delmar every Monday from 5 to 6 PM & are everywhere there is a peace march, conference, demonstration.

Gene Damm is well known in the poetry community but didn't bring any of his own poems, so he read Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match-Girl" for the holiday season. Valiant Barry Finley read his poem to Deep Throat, "Mark Felt I Hardly Knew You."

Mimi Moriarty read from her book War Psalm, "Shell Shook." Michael Rice's poem "George's Prayer of Thanksgiving" looked back to the 1991 invasion of Iraq, & forward. He also read a piece from Poems from Guantanamo.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann's eco-thriller Dirt Cheap was published by Curbstone Press, but she read a short segment from her forthcoming novel, also from Curbstone. I read "A Pain in the Neck," about why I missed the demonstration in NYC against the Republican National Convention.

Find out what else BNP is doing at

Peace on Earth

December 7, 2007

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5

[Featured poet Daniel Nester looking his professorial best recently at the College of St. Rose.]

The trip up is always worth it, & tonight was no exception (except I miss the poets I flirted with a couple months ago) -- a wonderful feature & lots of good open mic poets before & after.

Our gracious, though tonight somewhat censorious (at one point she cut off "lewd comments" -- whatever they are? -- from, well, me), host, Carol Graser read a poem by John Wright (not sure I got that right, there are so many poet Wrights out there), "Bolder Valley Surprise." Later she introduced the one & only copy (so far) of a collection of poems by people who have featured at Caffe Lena. Watch for the sale of Every Drop of Water soon.

When I arrived 6 or 7 poets had already signed up, but (if you can believe this) the #1 spot was available, so I took it & read too seasonal poems, the recently-tinkered-with "My Scarf" & "Christmas Eve 1945" (scroll down & you'll find it).

Michael Hare was back with a husband & wife combination poems, the Humphries, from his collection of dramatic monologues, Saratoga Lives.

I admire Barry Finley for the effort he puts in to getting to & performing at open mics in the region. He says he hasn't written much but is working on more pieces. Tonight he read "Through a Gila Monster's Eyes" & "Is This Diversity Too Much for You ..."

James Schlett did his customary arrangement of a journal entry ("Look") & a poem ("Parting" -- socks & snowflakes & not cutsey at all) from memory. George Drew, a former feature here, said he had done another reading earlier & didn't get to read this poem from a manuscript about Maine, a narrative of abandoned ashes a la E A Robinson.

Then our featured poet, Daniel Nester, completely changed the tone (thank god). Well, no, actually, defiantely, he went back to the previously curtailed "lewd comments" of the adolescent exhibitionist variety, but with plenty of self-deprecating humor (& audience comments). We heard about him masturbating in his room, how a fellow band member was still a virgin, his wife doing yoga, his obsession with the band Queen, TV, pop culture ("The Peter Brady Cum-shot Episode"), & correcting papers for creative writing courses ("The Queries Project" -- there's something to be said for my earning a living as a bureaucrat that I hadn't realized before). It was great fun & made me feel better for being shut up.

As is customary, we took a short break after Daniel's reading & at that point the Saratoga "literati" pulled "a Woodstock" -- they left. Well, as we like to say, they missed it, the rest of the marvelous open mic. Meanwhile the poets who remained left Edwin Arlington Robinson in the dust of the 20th Century.

Carol read a meditative "At 39", then Sarah Craig (a former feature who doesn't read enough at the open mic) read 2 poems on "frustrated love", one on the Satyr statues & the interestingly titled "We're Like Potatoes." It was all made up, it's art, nothing is true.

Too bad George hadn't stuck around; I think he would've liked Yvette Brown's story of an immigrant waitress in a diner in Huntington, or even the description of forsythia along the highway in "War."

It turned out that one of the students Daniel had referred to during his reading as "a pop-culture freak" was actually in the audience, perhaps proving that attribution by being here. Katie Vermilyea read from a diminutive notebook "A Meditation on French Fries," a poem about dating a member of a Kiss tribute band, & a short, third, Carol-defying piece about her father.

Josh McIntyre's 2 poems were dark, "Bed Bugs" & an exhausted woman praying at "Sunset."

Bob Sharkey brought us back to Maine & his Mom & Dad in "Portland Headlights", then the perfume of roses in a love poem in "Perspective."

The other student from Daniel's class who showed up was Elliot Carson; he said about "Night...," "I guess it's a love poem." "The Art of Gifting," just written, sounded like a dadaist exquisite corpse.

Nancy Muldoon was back again this month & seems to like skewering the ruling class, like Eliot Spitzer, or the playground of the privileged with cigar smoke in "August in Saratoga." And quite by chance Chris Brabham followed with "A Prayer for the Middle Class." Maybe the literati had sensed what was coming & ran.

As you know, I am no fan of the idea & practice of repetitious rhyme & mechanical meter. But listening to the narratives & tributes to veterans W.D. Clarke has been reading lately at open mics, I'm beginning to reassess this retro poetic technique & think it can be effective, especially in the way this poet uses them. "The Village Armory" (in Elmira) is one of those public occasional poems where the masses expect this kind of rhetoric. And in "Normandy" the archaic form brings us back to an earlier time as the poet stands at the beach, remembering. Clarke's word choice & phrases sound, for the most part, natural, but enough self-consciously poetic to set it apart from normal speech.

Every first Monday at historic Caffé Lena, Saratoga Spring, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 start (& she starts on time).

December 5, 2007

Albany Poets Present!, December 4

This was the night for the "airing of grievances" & "feats of strength." Let's just dispense with the "feats of strength" & say that no one attempted to pick up Shaun Baxter over their head. Perhaps it was because Shaun had filled his pockets from work with Proust or Gibbons or Henry James & was just too heavy to lift; perhaps not.

Most of the hosting duties were done by the "birthday boy," el presidente Thom Francis, with others jumping in as needed or inspired, as you will note as you read on.

I had to carefully think back to recent shopping experiences as Shaun Baxter started us off with a timely grievance poem, "An Open Letter to Holiday Shoppers from a Retail Worker" about those folks whose purchases don't scan correctly at the cashier & who cleverly say, "I guess it must be free." I swear, Shaun, I will never, ever say that again.

I had the dumb luck to follow him & promptly brought everyone's hilarity back down with "Richard Nixon Must Die." This is my grandest ever poetic grievance, printed by A.P.D. (accept proletarian dictatorship) as a broadside, published on Talkworks, a poetry cassette journal, read on WRPI, printed in The Greenhell Gazette & other gone zines, first read at the QE2, & the title poem from my aborted novel about the turmoil of the 1970's. It's been awhile.

Julie Lomoe (who was in the Lower East Side in the '70s too) "said the F word at the Y" -- a great line if there ever was one -- & told us about it in "Anger Management."

Rob Engelhardt disguised as Matrix: Misfired slipped on stage to introduce NicoleK. It would have been enough for her to read "Only the Girls Will Get This," a great litany to her period, but then had to kill us with "Fuck the Dutch," her hilarious epic search for Dutch cocoa. Gotta hear it again, soon.

Mary Panza introduced the cake, a lovely sheet cake some of us had to wipe from our hair & moustaches later -- everyone got 2 pieces -- then introduced the afore-described R.M. Engelhardt who, in his best radio-school-trained voice proposed "Let's Burn Down Albany," a poem he's been writing for years & years.

Chris Brabham's grievance was with "Reincarnation" -- he doesn't want to come back as a human & made it sound reasonable.

There were a few young perplexed citizens at the bar, & some old timers who didn't read, & one bicyclist (on an icy, cold night?) who kept getting texted, & who knows the undercover cop, who all hung out with "the elitists" eating cake, the Decemberists doing shots, & out-dated Octoberfests. Thom said it was his "best night ever." Hey, who would argue?

First Tuesdays at Valentines -- so probably not in January, which is New Years Day, but check -- "one never knows, do one?"

December 4, 2007


[This is a poem I like to perform this time of year; it is "a love poem to my mother."]

How I love your round belly, heavy
like a fruit cake beneath the tree.

You sit tucked in your flannel robe
deep in yourself in thought and dream.

The red and green and yellow lights
are reflected in your hair, your eyes.

You wait for me, feeling me
tumble, the weight growing larger

stretching you, changing you forever
floating there, nestled, like

the red and green and yellow candies
cooked in the moist sweetness of cake.