April 28, 2008

Albany WordFest 2008, Part 2
the Open Mic, April 18

I got there late to the UAG Gallery on Lark St., but the open mic had started late, so I only missed about 4 readers, coming in as Don Levy started "When the Hills are Alive." Then the no-shows started -- half of the 80+ who had signed up online over the last month or so just didn't show up Friday night. Their loss, since those of us who stayed were treated to the whirl-a-gig fast-moving, get 'em on & get 'em off program run by Mother Mary Panza: 3 minutes at the mic, no longer or you leave random body parts on stage. Sometimes random late sign-ups were thrown in the schedule if available, mostly not. We were done 2 hours early. Oh well, we just got to the bar & to bed a lot sooner.

There were the frequently seen, like Don, Shaun Baxter, Alan Catlin, Thérèse Broderick, Bob Sharkey, Me, the recently-returned Joe Hollander, Chris Brabham, NicoleK (showing leg), Tim Verhaegen, Sylvia Barnard & Dain Brammage.

Then some out-of-towners here for the poetry weekend: Max Parthas, Tribal Raine, & Marilyn Garcia -- perhaps others among the new readers.

There were the not-so-frequently seen: Frank Robinson, Anthony Bernini, RM Engelhardt, Margo Lynch, Algorhythm, Dennis Sullivan (with news of a new open mic in Voorheesville on the 4th Sunday), Alan Casline, Philomena Moriarty, Chris Rizzo, Ford McLain (you can buy his book, Antietam at the Gallery), Mark Devit (Nuwanda), John Weiler, Jason Cosco & Janice McNeal.

Also the new/never heard (always a treat to hear new voices, good or bad): Junco (? spelling, a fill-in), Carmen Hall (has a new book out), Matthew De Joseph, another couple of fill-ins: Vincent (at the "Hail Mary Motel"), & Najara (?); Todd Fabozzi, Lotus Lion (how can you read a "free style"?), & Noel.

Sprinkled among the no-shows were some fine local poets I'm sorry didn't make it. Among which were the puzzling sign-ups, ranging from the silly pseudonyms to the sophomore high-school pranks. So I would like to pay tribute to the missing Mr Lei, The Dubber, Amy "Anti Muse", Theory of Catharsis, Epameinondas, Von Neumann's Catastrophe, Matrix III, Daima, Naughty Vixenn, & Avant Security Guard -- perhaps, as one reader unnecessarily insisted he was not, they're all Dadaists.

You know, you don't have to wait until WordFest 2009 to read at an open mic in Albany: just check out the calendars at www.albanypoets.com or at www.poetz.com/hudson.

Albany WordFest 2008, Part 1

Before I get into the parade of readers who filled the weekend of April 18 & 19, I wanted to draw your attention to the latest in the continuing series that is Other:____, currently edited by AlbanyPoets el presidente, Thom Francis.

Other:Nine contains the work of 16 poets, mostly local, with such familiar open mic names such as Nicole Karas, Shaun Baxter, Chris Brabham, & me. Some, like Hollice Danielle Wiles & Tom Harmon I wish I could hear more of. & others apparently are just hiding out writing poems -- yeh!

But most I was thrilled to see the return of Miss Mona (I didn't know her last name was Ferret, in fact I didn't know she had a last name). Glad to see her back from her world travels as personal secretary to Paris Hilton (or was that Justin Kimberlake?) & hope to read more of her musings in Other:Ten.

Check it out at www.albanypoets.com & find out how to get a copy.

Third Thursday Open Mic, April 17

It's Official: once again my series was designated the "Unofficial Start of WordFest" (on the eve of the birthday of Bob Kaufman, our Muse for the night). We had a full card of 17 or so open micers (is that a word?). And the 18 poets who were the feature, "the Shoutin' Rosebuds of St. Rose" (My old sophomore year high school English teacher, Lynn Cronin, would be proud!).

We began with open mic poets (as usual): Alan Catlin, Michael Hare, Gene Damm, a new voice Chris Petterson ("The Mosaic Inn"), Bob Sharkey, & Don Levy ("Why I Blew My Muse" -- just had to get that title in here). Then the old Prof his-self, Daniel Nester read his poem about his first kiss, & continued on to introduce the five group pieces of tonight's featured performance (students from his oral interpretation of literature class at the College of St. Rose). To make my life easier they had prepared a handout (what course is complete without it?) listing the performers, the group name & the title of the poem. So here goes:

Sistas 4 Ewa included Ewa C, Christina T, & Amy W performing "Dancers," a humorous take on performing. Danielle H, Dan H, Kara R & Kristofer W performed as Shit, I Crashed My Land Speeder; their piece was "Inspiration," a commentary on clichés. Group 5 (aka Anti-Bush Bitches) were Ashley B, Ally C, Karley G, & Brigette M did Ashley's political piece, "The Government One," filled with feisty outrage about the economy & the war. "Shout out your imperfections," was the message of "Real Beauty" by Four Easy Payments (Rob C about whom we learned more than we need to know, Lindsey D, Tara F, & Nicole L). The Saint Rose Difference was Jonathan A, Mary Catherine O, & Kali Z who performed an homage to Geeks, "Superman Without the Phone Booth." All the pieces were superbly performed with energy & humor -- they clearly had fun & so did we.

After the break I read "What Passover Has Taught Me." Then Kristen Day was back with "Phobic". Last year Katie Vermilyea was one of the students from Daniel's class who read here in the open mic; she was here again. Tommy LaBello had an interesting piece with a sentence for each year of his life (good thing he's a young guy). Then Tom with his hip-hop on government surveillance.

Mary Panza took down Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" finally. Then the list expanded as poets arrived from a gig at a old folks home where they had done a reading -- The Poet Essence, Thom Francis, Dain Brammage, & up from South Carolina for WordFest, telling us "What Happened to Hip-Hop," Max Parthas.

One of the best Third Thursday readings -- there's nothing like Rosebuds.

April 24, 2008

"When you meet the Buddha on the road..."

In case you need another reason to make up your own mind & shoot the Buddha:

In the April 6 issue of the New York Times Book Review, Mary Jo Salter, in a review of Grace Paley's book "Fidelity," described "intentional ambiguity as one of poetry's hallmarks." A few pages later, James Logenbach, in a review of Jorie Graham's book "Sea Change," said "poems thrive on precision." I guess a good poem must be precisely ambiguous.

April 23, 2008

Poetry @ the UAG, April 11 --
(where Jawbone meets AlbanyPoets)

[Charles Stein, nearly 20 years ago, at the the QE2 -- the advantage of having a beard is you always look old so when you really are old folks can say, "You haven't changed a bit."]

This is the ever-morphing series, with the constant host Chris Rizzo. Tonight's lineup was stellar, with stars of academe, the art-world & Albany street poets.

Chris introduced Charles Stein with a very short poem from a 1973 book. Stein's work is characterized by experiments with language, either in English or in made-up "languages" like Lewis Carroll, so his readings often leave me scratching my head; and although his poems often deal with some sort of identifiable content, it is often the private stuff of dreams or personal links & leaps. A good example was "Beams from the Biome", a serial poem that he read random pages from, with private links & leaps, with zoos & elephants. His subjects also include philosophical musings, from "The Wall" to attempts at solving a Zen koan, to the playful statements of "Secret Surface." But there is often chuckling humor, although he seems enamored with his own cleverness.

George Quasha's work is often linked to other art forms, such as sculpture -- check out http://www.quasha.com/. He read from 3 chunks of work, the first from a new book of poems, Ainu Dreams based on the dreams of Chie Hasegawa & re-worked with approval. Dream poems often hang together on some narrative thread & are interesting for the leaps they make, not always as poetry, but as personal psychology. Another chunk was "torsion poems" (if I got it correct); one titled "Portrait" was circularly self-referential (as it should be), while an intellectual love poem was appropriately title "L Word." The 3rd chunk was from his book Preverbs; he explained what they are but when he read the poems it was hard to see how the description applied to the actual poems.

No dream poems from Mary Panza. & the only head-scratching is about Vim Vender (but she can have my overcoat if she wants). Of course, some might not know who (specifically) she is referencing in "The Adventures of an Ass-hole" or "The Revolution Doesn't Pay Shit" but most know the type. I've always been curious about the twisted values of Shel Siverstein's The Giving Tree, never read it to my kids (they preferred Edward Lear), & wondered why he is such a darling of school teachers (probably because they don't like real poetry & think kids don't either). Anyway, as an antidote I recommend Mary's new piece "Fuck the Giving Tree" which she dedicated to her daughter "when you are old enough."

A thoroughly enjoyable, head-scratching, finger-in-the-eye night. Thank you Jawbone & AlbanyPoets.

April 19, 2008

Live from the Living Room, April 9

[Sally Rhoades reading at Caffe Lena, April 4]

Our host Don Levy introduced tonight's featured poet Sally Rhoades. Her work rises out of her life, with poems about her mother ("My Mother was a Waitress"), friends, about growing up ("I Grew Up Poor," "Street Fighter"), her daughters ("The Gate Closes", "Without Daughters," "The Daughters' Diligence"), about her life as a dancer ("Dance Questions All"), even about riding the train to NYC ("Six Yogis All in a Row", "Snow on the River"). Later, during the open mic section, Sally read a poem by her friend Nur Cheyenne, "Old Friend." Nur read with other SUNY students at the Albany Art Gallery in March 1990; she died of cancer a year later in March, 1991.

After the break I read 2 newer pieces, "Jack Sketching," & "Walking Washington." Bob Sharkey did his "St. Patrick's Day program" with Irish poet Dan Lordan's "Explanations of the War" then Bob's own poem on the confusion of terms & gender, "Fairy Dust."

Mimi Moriarty read "Flight to Gethsemene" about Thomas Merton's body being on the same plane in 1968 with the bodies of soldiers killed in Viet Nam, then "What $25 will Buy."

Kristen Day was back & read "Phobic" & then the only poem I can remember hearing about the frustration of frosting a cake. Jim Masters, who has a short article in the Center's latest issue of their newsletter, read "When the Angel of Death Calls" reacting to poems by William Cullen Bryant & Dylan Thomas.

A new voice, Jeff Wellman, read 3 "haikus" that were just written here, one on death, on a Red Sox Cap that Jim Masters was wearing, & April 9 (in the park).

Our gracious host, Don Levy, left us with a bit of kvetching humor, "See You in the Complaint Department."

Always the second Wednesday of each month, the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY 7:30 PM.

Aime Cesaire, voice of French Black pride, dies

By Astrid Wendlandt
Thu 17 Apr 2008, 13:18 GMT

PARIS (Reuters) - French Caribbean poet Aime Cesaire, founding father of the "negritude" movement that celebrated black consciousness, died in his native Martinique, France's Ministry of Culture said on Thursday.

Cesaire, 94, who was mayor of the island's main city Fort-de-France for more than half a century, was admitted to hospital last week suffering from heart and other problems.

His writings offered insight into how France imposed its culture on its citizens of different origins in the early part of the 20th Century.

The theme still resonates in French politics today, as the country continues to struggle to integrate many of its residents of African and North African origin.

In 2005, Cesaire refused to meet then French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy (now French president) over concerns that Sarkozy's conservative UMP party had pushed for a law which proposed to recognise the positive legacy of French colonial rule. The law was eventually repealed.

Cesaire and African intellectual Leopold Senghor -- later president of Senegal -- founded "The Black Student" in 1934, a journal that encouraged people to develop black identity.


The Caribbean writer rose to fame with his "Notebook of a Return to the Native Land", written in the late 1930s, in which he says "my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral, it plunges into the red flesh of the soil."

His poems expressed the degradation of black people in the Caribbean and describe the rediscovery of an African sense of self. In his "Discourse on Colonialism", first published in 1950, Cesaire compared the relationship between the coloniser and colonised with the Nazis and their victims.

He was a mentor to fellow Martinican author Frantz Fanon, and their anti-colonial writings were a major influence in the heady intellectual climate of the 1960s and 1970s in France.

The negritude movement was a counterpart to the Black Pride movement in the United States, though it has been criticised for not being radical enough.

Cesaire was also a friend of the French surrealist poet Andre Breton who had encouraged him to become a major voice of Surrealism.

Cesaire's anti-colonial rhetoric did not prevent him from having a long-lasting political career.

After becoming mayor of Fort-de-France in 1945 at the age of 32, he was elected deputy of parliament a year later, a post he held until the early 1990s.

A graduate of the prestigious French Ecole Normale Superieure -- unusual for a black Martinican in the 1930s -- he remained a member of the French communist party until the Soviet Hungarian repression of 1956.

Cesaire was born in 1913 in the small town of Basse-Pointe in Martinique. He married Suzanne Roussi in 1937, a gifted writer in her own right, with whom he had six children.

April 15, 2008

Post Traumatic Press/Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, April 3

Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace in the former Republican enclave of the Town of Bethlehem is one of the most active & best organized of the local peace groups. They host films, discussions, a weekly peace vigil at the 4 Corners in Delmar & lots of other events. So when they (in the person of the irrepressible Trudy Quaif) asked me to organize a poetry event for them of course I said, "of course". My friend & comrade in arms Dayl Wise published Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans last year & included me among the other fine poets. So that was the germ, the starter, of this reading. But Dayl, ever on patrol for more poet-veterans, reached out & invited poets not in the current collection into the platoon-reading.

We started (& ended) with community open mic poets. The new voice Tony Avacato started, appropriately, with "Give Me the Gun." Mimi Moriarty read "Movie Version" from her book, War Psalm.

Dayl began the main event with "Tack" Trostle's "10th Anniversary - The Wall". Thomas Brinson read "Just After a Monsoon Shower" (his son), "The Bone" (an obscene celebration of war machinery), & "Parade".

W.D. Clarke is not in this anthology but is a familiar figure in the local open mic scene. He takes the broad, historical approach to the issue of war, from "Urchins" to the "Shit-burners" & his own "Night-time Army" from the Viet Nam war, to the World War II "The Boys from Troy," & even back to Civil War "Gettysburg."

Jim Murphy shared the stage by reading Gerald McCarthy's "The Hooded Legion" (from Shoetown) & a Viet Namese poem, "Where the River Flowed", in addition to his own "Black Granite Panel 53W, Row 13."

Vince Traenor is also not (yet) in the anthology but gave moving readings of his 1995 "Monsoon Memories" & the 1970 "Welcome Home." World War II vet Jay Wenk read us the just-written memoir "The Jew" and "A Different Sort of War Horror Story."

I read a combination of old & new, the old rant "Richard Nixon Must Die" (& folks fantasied an updated version about the current president) & the new "Combat Boots." Our editor Dayl Wise read the "Cross of St. Andrew" & the new "Ode to the P38" & the moving "Stop Round-Eye or I Bite."

Two open mic performers brought us on home. Local peace activist Michael Rice read from Mumia Abdul Jamal, then Laura Baboulis sang Otis Redding's "A Change is going to Come," a great way to end this night.

Join the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace every Monday (until the war ends) at the 4 Corners in Delmar from 5PM to 6PM.

Caffé Lena Open Mic, April 2

This was a wild event with 23 readers, including open mic-ers & folks in the just-released-that-night collection, Every Drop of Water: Voices from the Caffè Lena Poetry Stage, Volume 1. The "featured poets" were the poets in the collection, with some of them reading their poem in the chapbook & some other works, or a mix. The poets were: Barbara Ungar, Sue Jefts , Joe Bruchac (with a couple of new poems, one about a World War II uncle just beginning to write), Kristen Day (who read her hilarious-outrageous "Pick a Poem"), Thérèse Broderick, D. Alexander Holiday (who has a news book of personal poems coming out soon), me, Sarah Craig, our host Carol Graser (who read her classic "Poetry Open Mic"), Barbara Garro, Bob Sharkey, & A.C. Everson. There are more poets in the book so you might want to pick up a copy.

The other poets who read were familiar voices like Marilyn Day, Tim Verhaegen, Michael Hare, James Schlett, W.D. Clarke, Mimi Moriarty, Josh McIntyre, & Sally Rhoades. Newer/lesser heard voices were "Nuwanda" (Mark Devett -- down from Glens Falls), Liam (with a poem on a napkin about Hindu gods), & Nick.

It was a full night but our expert host Carol moved it right along. I picked up my copy of the chapbook when I arrived & purchased other copies for friends, but at the reading I read other poems, not the poem in the book, so it wasn't until I was home, in bed, that I opened a copy of Every Drop of Water. The chapbook is an interesting design with 2 signatures sewn together without any other binding on textured, deckle-edged cream-colored stock. Most comments I over-heard from the other poets were on how attractive the book is. And indeed it is.

Unfortunately, Every Drop of Water is marred by production/layout errors. When I finally that night read the text I discovered that my poem, "Water", was printed without the last 9 lines. The poem fills the page so it is not apparent to someone not familiar with the poem, it just has a different ending from what I intended. Another error is that one of the poet's bios is repeated on another page, & the credits/acknowledgments that usually go on the "copyright page" (the reverse of the title page) are on a page facing the title page. There are also no page numbers & thus no table of contents, which in an anthology not arranged alphabetically makes for difficulty in finding the individual poets' work. I connected with Beth DellaRocco of the Caffe Lena board the next day & she said they will print another, shorter poem of mine (so it will fit on the one page) in the next printing, and those of you with the truncated version of my poem will be getting an errata sheet. In the meantime if anyone wants the complete text of my poem, please send me an email. All's well that end's well, I suppose.

Anywho, the open mic continues with interesting featured poets & is always the first Wednesday of the month, at historic Caffé Lena, Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM. See you there.

April 10, 2008

Poets Speak Loud!, March 31

Last Monday, last day of the month, & Mary Panza still the host, oh my.

The featured poet was John Raymond, who began with a series of "oldies," generally poems he has read at open mics & his previous features at the Social Justice Center, the GLCC, etc., like the one about eating a chicken, or the woman at the end of the bar, or a dingy old bar with friends, or "Surgery," "The Damned" (killing a fly). The new poems were also sexy, pickled -- a "Bath" with candles & gin, or 4AM "Existential Alcoholism." The love poem "Clichés" echoed "Left Unwritten" in the first half, the struggle of writing & the struggle with love. Did John resolve it in the last poem, a love poem in magic language? Stay tuned.

I read a poem that had been lurking in my workbook until a poet friend helped me lace it up, "Combat Boots," then a new poem, "Painter's Eyes." And out of the blue came Billy Stanley with a "Stained Vision" of Ashley Dupree in a dingy hotel, "The Flash" for a friend in the National Guard, & a poem about never wanting to leave home -- nice to hear his twang again.

Ed Rinaldi breezed in from South Troy with a series of short pieces, one on ghosts & memories, "Esophagus Rising" (love repeating on him), winter with an ex, & writing in an empty house. Chris Brabham showed up in a fancy turtle neck to do a couple pieces on drug abuse, "Methadone Sea" & "Medicine Cabinet Junkie" getting ready for the day.

The performance piece of the night was Don Levy dropping a page to his new piece, "See You in the Complaint Department," bumping his head on the music stand as he bent (which is a generous use of that word for what he had to do) to pick up the page, then almost knocking over the mic stand -- phew, he got through it -- a funny, new poem, even without the shenanigans.

Coming all the way down from Glens Falls, the poet known as "Nuwanda" explained "The Secret of the Mullet," then a couple more, including a performance piece about waking up in the morning, "Five More Minutes."

William Eng read a piece like a journal entry of a visit home, then the returning Joe Hollander did a short poem I think was called "Fremont" that he was about to write at the end of April, or something like that -- hey, it was late.

Last Monday of most months, Lark Tavern, Madison Ave., Albany -- you find it.