May 29, 2008

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 15

[The attentive crew & my favorite view of Mary Panza.]

At the Social Justice Center, with me, Dan Wilcox, as your host -- Poetry every third Thursday since December 1997.

As is our custom, I invoked the Muse, who was gone Schenectady poet, Matt Kelly. I read my favorite of his, "And Cricket Chirped the Blues" (from Open Mic: the Albany Anthology, 1994).

As if it was planned, the first poet up to the mic was Schenectady poet Alan Catlin reading "Fathers of the Little Darlings." Albany poet Sylvia Barnard returned to the old homestead with "Pilgrimage to Vermont."

Ed Rinaldi was over again from Troy with a great title, "Memories are Perfumes for the Eyes." Tim Verhaegan read his poem about women gossiping on the elevator. Moses Kash III read "What is Love, II" (not sure I remember I). Bob Sharkey's buddy Earl is away this "Spring Weekend."

Our featured poet, the well-known VP of Albany Poets, & Diva-about-Town, Mary Panza had last featured at the third Thursday readings back in May (it is her birthday month) of 1998 in the original location at Cafe Web on Madison Ave. I have had very few repeat features (Mary is only the 3rd person to be featured a second time), mainly because there are so many good poets to get to yet. She has written some new work lately & included that with some familiar pieces, everything from St. Anthony in a Cadillac (but not with a "Vanity Plate" where she quotes/not-quotes Bob Dylan), & "Betty's Blouse," to her re-write of "the Giving Tree" & her meditation on bonding with Julia in "Six Weeks Unpaid," to more love-sex-relationship angst with "Assumption", an only surviving email to herself, & at the end "Dreaming of London & Vim Vender ...." You can usually catch her at "Poets Speak Loud" at the Lark Tavern on the last Monday of most months.

After the break & some canollis donated by Kristen, Don Levy repeated the poem he read at WordFest, in case you missed it, "The Hills Are Alive" that has nothing to do with "the Sound of Music." Terry Bat-Sonya finally got out from under her university work & washed off the paint to read out again, "Why I Understand." Novelist (The Moaner's Bench, 1998) & poet Mars Hill has not been to open mics in a while, but came tonight with his friend Moses, & read a piece in dialect from the mouth of a local barber, "He Freedom."

Thérèse L. Broderick has been to school to study poetry & tries forms, such as the poem she read tonight, "If Present Trends Continue" made up of triolets (not tiny people from Troy, but actually a variation on the French rondel, but you need to look it up). W.D. Clarke likes to work in rhyme as he does in "The Outsider." As does A.C. Everson who let us know that, sadly, "My Libido is Missing."

Kristen Day's "The Elvis Connection" seems to get better every time I hear it. And our new voice (or "virgin" as we like to say) for the night was Elena Cruzallen who also used rhyme, combined with edgy images to tell us about "Global Warming & Big Wig Pigs."

Every Third Thursday, the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY 7:30 start.

May 25, 2008

"Live from the Living Room" May 14

[Mimi Moriarty reading in the living room.]

With our host, Don Levy, at the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center.

I'm an admirer of the work of tonight's featured poet, Mimi Moriarty. She read a lot of "two-sies": companion poems of various topics, like a rant about pedophile priests paired with a poem about her memories of church; then 2 poems from her book War Psalms (Finishing Line Press). "What I Remember" about her grandfather in the garden paired with "Tomatoes" about her grandmother. Two for her husband, "The River Stout" & "Poem in Which You Are Mentioned." "As She Leaves" about her daughter, "Waving from Shore" her son, then the irresistible "After the Bath" about her granddaughter. "Fire" is a new poem for a friend. Then she ended with a rant against aging (& red dresses & purple hats, etc.) "With Apologies to Jenny Joseph." Neatly constructed, perfectly timed reading.

After the break, Bob Sharkey read a poem by Dennis O'Driscoll, then his own about 1968, "The Inevitable." I tried out a new poem as yet untitled (Don suggested "Shaken, Not Stired") & recited "Church Burner" as inspired by Mimi's reading. Marilyn Day's long rant "Won't" listed why/where she won't read this poem.

Kristen Day took lots of pictures (she's catching up to me) & read "My Heart" & one about her grandmother's funeral, "The Elvis Connection." Matt Galletta told us he had "One New Voicemail." A fixture here, Jim Masters, advised us to "Let Go" & read another poem for a dog named Bishop (there's that church thing again).

It's been a while since Carol Graser was able to make the trip down here; she read a couple poems from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems from FootHills Publishing. Shaun Baxter (who really wasn't at WordFest this year) has been compiling "Rejected First Lines of the Bible" & discovered "Prometheus Unbound" working in a convenience store, with Elvis, no doubt.

Our host, Don Levy, finished off the night with a tale of running into Meryl Streep in NYC & with his ongoing commentary on pop culture, "It's the End of the Rumor Mill for Your Gossip Girl."

Every 2nd Wednesday, 7:30PM.

May 19, 2008

Post Traumatic Press 2007 Reading, May 12

Dayl Wise has been taking his band of veteran poets on the road, reading in Woodstock (his home base), Delmar, New Jersey, now in Nyack at the barely opened "Over the Rainbow Cafe" on South Broadway, part of something called the Institute for Living Ethics. At each reading there is different set of poets from the anthology, basically whoever can make it to wherever it is. I've already written about some of these on past Blogs.

Tonight's vets were, in addition to Dayl (who has been writing odes lately, to the "P-38" can opener, his boots), Thomas Brinson, Gerald McCarthy, Jim Murphy (who set this up in his hometown), Walt Nygard (who is not in the book), Jay Wenk, Sam Weinreb & Me. Dayl began by reading one of "Tack" Trostle's poems; "Tack" is now on life-support after a motorcycle accident.

As usual, there was an open mic for local poets that included Alison Koffler, Sam Nygard (son of Walt), and Nyack poets Patti & Tom.

If you want to find out how to get a copy of Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans, write to Dayl Wise at 104 Orchard Lane North, Woodstock, NY 12498 or email

May 16, 2008

Caffé Lena, May 7

[Featured poet Carolyn Forché reading at the College of St. Rose in Albany, September, 2004.]

The place was packed for the featured poet, Carolyn Forche. Many of those here were her students at Skidmore College, maybe some will come back again. Our host, Carol Graser, began by reading Yassin Aref's "Jail" -- find it at

Alan Catlin took the bus, did a poem about the work of "War Reporters." Fittingly (& quite by chance) I read my poem from 2 newspaper stories, "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine as Town Mourns School Killings Family Urges Kindness."

Another Alan, Alan Casline read his poem on fellow poet's Dennis Sullivan's poem "Family" (wish Dennis had been there to read his poem). Nora Nellis read "Home Free" about her experience with breast cancer & "This Could Have Been Any Party" after her son's funeral.

Absent for a while, Mary Kathryn Jablonski read a recent poem about a fever where her refrigerator talks to her in Spanish, & "Since Last We Were We" from her forthcoming chapbook.

Mimi Moriarty's recent work in progress was a "Litany" with humor; then George Fisher kept the god-theme going with a couple poems.

I've been an admirer of Carolyn Forché's work for years, have seen her read a number of times, even reviewed (most favorably) her anthology Against Forgetting at the Albany Public Library. This was perhaps the best reading I've heard her give. Being in the company of her students, or the great community of poets that Carol brings in to Caffè Lena, or perhaps just the end of the semester & on to new duties made her relax, not having to impress the professors, & left us breathless. "The Victor" & "The Colonel" were the old chestnuts we like to hear, followed by new poems not in a book yet, some I heard her read at the Split this Rock Poetry Festival in March (see my Blog entry below on this event). "Exile," "The Museum of Stones," (can be found in the Beloit Poetry Journal), a couple poems for poet Daniel Simco: "The Lost Suitcase" & "Litany in Krakow" (marvelous phrasing, "the no of ..., the yes of ..."), & a couple of cancer poems, "The Bridge," for a friend, & "What Comes" for herself (& us, I suppose). We're looking forward to that next book.

After the break, Carol Graser read an untitled blank verse sonnet about a car salesman -- you had to be there. Marilyn McCabe read "Within Without", then Mary Sanders Shartle a long poem on arrhythmia.

Liam didn't read his poem from a napkin as he's done before, instead a journal entry from his trip to India. Olivia had gone away to school & now is back, for a while, read a love poem & a dream poem; that's what we poets do: love & dream.

Susan Fantl Spivack is not here often (too bad); she read "My Dad's Treasures" from a series about the death of her father, & a poem about grass holding the land -- she would be a great feature here sometime. Gene Damm, who knows Carolyn from the summer programs at Skidmore run by the Writers Institute, read a poem about this father, "The Great Authority," & another about being at a Navaho reservation.

Tom Porter's poem was a love poem, the lovers as 2 rivers in Ireland. James Schlett got nostalgic in Central Park, then meditated at Potash Lake. Andy I. (I never checked the sign-up sheet so I'm not sure I got her name correct) read "Queen of Queens," & the Sylvia Plath-inspired "Epilogue," both filled with youthful enthusiasm & fantastical images.

Therese Broderick's carefully crafted villanelle told the story of being in the bank on September 11, 2001. Marty Willow, passing through again, did rhymes on "America Generica," & an "Ode to the Easily Offended."

I had a hard time understanding Effie Redman's reading of her poem, but admired her presence; see Karin M.T.'s Blog at for her comments which I won't attempt to paraphrase. Perhaps the lesson is you need to do what you feel you must do & just let the rest of the world deal with it.

Nick Muscatello brought it all home with a couple poems from memory, some early AM sex ("A Moment of Lucidity") & one about tripping in NYC (I think).

Open Mic, featured poets from everywhere, historical setting, parking, good coffee & cookies, every first Wednesday, Caffè Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 7:00 PM sign-up, 7:30 start -- cheap too.

May 9, 2008

Poets Speak Loud!, April 28

With Mary Panza, our host.

Chris Brabham earned this night's featured slot, even though he has been featured here before, by winning the "best performance of bad song lyrics" contest -- he did a killer (if I may use that word) version of "Fishhead" (for the record). He justified his presence right off the bat with "The Poet" ("listen to the poet...") & "Why Poetry." He is also the master of the booming erotic -- "Man Shake," "Man Whore," & "That Ass of Hers." Among others he did one of his classics, the "Medicine Cabinet Junkie," & ended with what is perhaps his signature piece, "The Angel of Death Unplugged."

I began the open mic with "Springtime Maggie" & "The Breasts of Squeaky Fromme" (from the anthology Post Traumatic Press 2007, edited by Dayl Wise). Annine (A.C. Everson) followed me with a notebook entry about what makes her American.

Mary's classmate from Troy, Ed Rinaldi, was back with poems about kids in school, Ravel's madness, Spring, the secrets of poor people as well as one titled "Diogenes Pilots a River Boat," if I got it correct. The former Albanian, now Kingston Diva, Cheryl Rice read about long distance love in "Where the Waters Will Take Me" & the price of trout ($7.02).

Thom Francis was still recovering from WordFest 2008 & read a piece he said "has nothing to do with the last 6 months" -- it's personal. The version of "Crooked Change" that the Poet Essence did tonight was, I thought, more genuine, more moving than the studied version she did in her set at PsychoClusterFuck.

At Tess' Lark Tavern on Madison Ave., Albany, the last Monday of each month -- but not May.

May 8, 2008

Poetry @ the UAG, April 25

The last of this season's series, an inspiring collaboration of town-&-gown, with free coffee from Scratch (452 Madison Ave., Albany), tonight the host was Michael Peters.

Sam Truitt hit us twice in one week. More of his "Vertical Elegies," then work from a street meat mss. walking around NYC with audio/visual recorders (but without the images or sounds tonight -- words can & are often enough). He did more/other from his "Songs of Rasputin", then 40 lines for 40 days for a friend turning 40 inexplicably titled "Rattan Rex". Often his work involves floods of images. He described one piece in "cascading lines" but hard to hear what he meant as he read, as pleasurable as it was. Sam's work can be unrelieved seriousness but I don't have to understand everything he is doing to enjoy the play of words & images.

Rebecca Wolff is the editor of Fence, the lit mag currently housed at the Writers' Institute at SUNY Albany; I had once seen her read in May 2001 at the 11th St. Bar, & she has also read at the "Behind the Egg" series here in Albany. I found myself swept along with her images too, the humor of her word play, the generally easily grasped size of the poems she selected for her reading, including work from an untitled/tentatively titled ("Upstate") mss. So I'm just going to write down the titles, accurately or not, as I took them down. -- Something Sticking on Every Hand, What Are They Doing Here?, Between Spring & Prince (in NYC as a child), An Authorized Biography of J.A., Intoxicatorism, My Arrogance, My House Set in Order, My Pretension, One Morning..., World Without Rhyme, Elegy for the Lost, The Redirections, Literary Agency (the death of Loretta Scott King), & Remains (stones).

UAG once again shows it is the center of the arts scene in Albany. Let's hope this series, this collaboration between Jawbone & AlbanyPoets, continues on when the new academic year begins.

May 5, 2008

it ain't in the writin' it's in the recitin'" -- No!

I'm not sure how many (of the few) of you who visit & read this Blog read the comments posted by others; my guess is it's a rather small number. For that reason I am posting this poem from The Poet Essence that she originally posted as a comment. It supports my contention (made many times, both publicly & in private) about Slam poetry being generally more concerned with performance than poetry (afterall, slam poets are after the "10"). Essence's poem shows that poetry that speaks to us is in the "writin'" rather than the "recitin'" -- it is content that makes a poem, not strutin' style, preening & prancing -- this poem succeeds on the page, without a performer, & I hazard a guess it can be read badly & still get its message across -- it is poetry, not performance.

It’s Not Just Words!!!

What would you do if you craved The Spoken Word in such a way your kinetic energy sent the man next door your lines first?
What would you do if you saw a poet of character on stage reading from papers unrehearsed?
I can’t stand being considered angry because I recite how the economy haunts my daydreams.
It’s making me very sick to know a frog leaping across the community pond carries more ink… then the weekend of corruptions, uncovered prostitution rings of salacious scandals –
Such as the attorney general a. k. a Client #9
Why not collect your lustful verbiage and pussyfoot it into a chap book (not to be publicize)
Why come to an open mic to express your sexual fantasies and desires about how your manhood is going to grow mysteriously during your three minutes of shame, it’s no different than having to coexist with a pedophile residing a mile away
What would you do if the spoken word replaced rap & heavy metal, conquered the air waves like homegrown terrorist… ignored until mass transit lines sees fatalities worst than Mortal combat 1, 2, or 3,
Worst then the stories you hear of Hiroshima, more poverty stricken then the current recessed economy until…until…we see what happens next??
What happens if New Orleans, the storm of Hurricane Katrina became a bi-polar virus and wiped out Minnesota, Texas and certain regions in Ohio, how much will congress debate the stipends allotted?
What will the scene be considered then…survivors (not Looters), victims needing to be saved, rescued, rescued from the Mary’s, the Uncle Sam’s, & the Sister Jane’s.
And…Making me sick is becoming more of a contagious thang cause’ everywhere I go there’s a poet I want to take in the backroom with a thesaurus dictionary, notebook, karaoke machine, and throw away the key until the paper shoots from under the door and
The Spoken Word piece was belted across the southern bell states, the republican valleys
He would say that children are furnaces and deserves to be serviced daily
He would perform to peak sleeping interest out of the weak
He had commanded an audience without even being seen!!!
Because it’s those words which matter, words that travel like Red, white and blue blood across the desert sands…
Words are inside classrooms of 4th graders in April, during National Poetry Month,
It’s the evening internet blogs military moms have become so familiar with.
Remember words are comforting, an eye opener...
Lyrics have meaning...
So the next time you have only three minutes to shine
Let it rise, let it rise like the Exxon Mobil shell marts
Speak out loud about something cause….


The Spoken Words
Of 5-03-08
The Poet Essence©

P.S. For a poet with content & style check out Alix Olson at the WAMC studio on Central Ave. on May 30.

Amrose + Sable Gallery, April 19

[Bernadette Mayer reading in my living room in the relocated Poets in the Park series, August, 2006.]

Just what I needed during WordFest: another poetry reading to go to. But this one I couldn't resist when I saw the line-up. The host was Erik Sweet who is contemplating making this venue a regular event. Actually, it once was -- when the storefront was Changing Spaces Gallery it was the site of my Third Thursday Poetry Night from April 2001 until January 2004.

The first reader was Bernadette Mayer. I've been following Bernadette's work since when I lived in the East Village in the mid to late 1970s (I even have a cancelled check endorsed by her from 1982 when I ordered a copy of United Artists #16; the check is pasted inside my copy of her "Golden Book of Words"). She is the former director of the St. Mark's Poetry Project & a legendary workshop leader. Check out A Bernadette Mayer Reader (she read "Failures in Infinitives" from it today) & Scarlet Tanager, both from New Directions. She reads with great enjoyment in her work, & laughs at her own jokes (& we do too!). Most of the poems she read were from new poems she is writing to cheer up a sick friend: "Flooding Scrabble Freezing Sonnet," "Wild Turkey Sonnet," "Power Outage Sonnet," others -- always great fun to see her read.

Sam Truitt is a young writer who has now finished up his degree program at SUNY & hoping to stick around. He started off reading new poems written here, in Albany, then from his book Vertical Elegies #5. He was a bit thrown when some random folks with young kids wandered into the gallery & had to find a poem that wasn't as "tawdry" or "violent" as he had planned to read. He ended with some parts from "The Song of Rasputin."

The work of Chris Martin (American Music from the wonderful Copper Canyon Press) was new to me & a very pleasant surprise. He read mostly from manuscripts, serial poems incorporating urban images, the leftovers & samples from pop culture; I particularly liked "How to Write a Mistake-ist Poem." He ended with a rap piece, "Programming Flowers," culled from lines from his book, sort of like all those white boys playing the Blues.

Philip Good's work needs to be out there more, so it was a great thrill to hear him read. He read characteristically short poems from various manuscripts. "Not the Great Horned Owl" repeats the lines for a humorous effect. In fact, the charm of most of his poems came from his quiet humor. One of the manuscripts he read from was a series of coffee poems: short, musing observations. Then, of course there had to be tea poems; they seemed to be longer, use more rhyme; he ended with one of them, "Out of Work Poet Dreams."

The tone, manner, ambiance, style & attitude was different from the WordFest swirling around me, & a pleasant break on an unusually warm, lovely April Saturday. I wonder if this is the start of a new series -- One never knows, do one?

May 2, 2008

Albany WordFest 2008, Part 3
Psycho Cluster Fuck, Saturday Night April 19

Well it wasn't quite the PCF it was back in 2000 or 2001 when WordFest was given the nickname; tonight was more organized. There were 6 scheduled acts, ranging from poetry to poetry with music, with video, to poetry with music & video. It was an interesting mix from the sublime to the ho-hum, like most poetry readings I've been to in the last millennium. Unfortunately half the program was, in the words of Walter Mosley, "a world where poetry is a contest at best & a competition at worst."

Beginning that contest was Dain Brammage who got lost in the fumes in some of his poems. For the poems he did remember, it ultimately was too much of the same thing: same delivery, same inflections, same gestures, same sentiment -- all the things that folks find wrong with Slam. As he says in his poem "Slam", "it's not in the writin' it's in the recitin.'" The "recitin'" was all the same; he should spend more time on the "writin'".

Max Parthas had come all the way up from South Carolina for the weekend (see previous Blog entries for Friday night & for the Third Thursday). He read one poem (or was it 5 or 6); it was hard to tell. All the pieces were recited in the same manner, full of preaching, self-righteous indignation, and bragging self-promotion. If you had happened to doze off (as I saw one poet in the audience had) & woke 2 poems later you would think you were still in the same poem. It was an effective performance style for the right 3-minute slam poem, but a full 20 program needs some variation in tone. And the irony was that one of his topics ("beefs" he said) was religion & preachers -- if I had wanted preachin' I would've gone to church.

We got a break with NicoleK, backed up by "VJ Jon". A marvelous, entertaining break I must say, with an effective, sometimes interactive use of video. There were home movies of Nicole as a child, & the poem "Snapshots" used the very images she was describing; also, shots of her rearranging her closet, the hiarious "Fuck the Dutch" vignette, & her other hates: rain & snakes. Her video version of the devil in Starbucks poem was worth the price of admission (oh yeah, it was free, but if there had been an admission it would have been worth it) with Nicole playing both roles in the video.

I've always admired the work of "The Poet Essence," but she too falls into the trap of too-much the same-performance as the other slam poets. Her most effective peace "Crooked Change" sounded better when done alone a week later at "Poets Speak Loud." She is an impassioned social critic; her messages would have more punch if the delivery was varied.

The last 2 performances used guitars with the poets. Mary Panza, poet, & John Weiler on guitar & feedback, were the pared-down group "The Johnny Bravehearts." Mary's program included old favorites like "Girl Busts Finger," "Foreign Girls in Unitards," & the viciously accurate "The Adventures of an Asshole," as well as the new fire-bombing of Shel Silverstein (somebody had to do it), "Fuck the Giving Tree." Mary was loud & demonstrative enough, but once again John Weiler's volume threatened to overwhelm the words. And the fact that Mary often had to shout into the mic made her performance a bit breathless -- not necessarily a bad thing.

Appropriately, the last group of the night, "The House Band of the Apocalypse" brought it all together: poetry, music & video. The act was carefully constructed & obviously rehearsed. Thom Francis on words, Aaron Christensen on lead guitar, & Keith Spenser on bass. Except for some brief start-up problems with the sound, the band was not too loud for the words. Thom, like Nicole, used some old home movies as background, but also included shots of the World Trade Center burning & of the flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, even shots of driving along Hackett Blvd. in Albany. In general there was a good match between the word & the images. I've heard his poem "The Radio Man" a number of times & was surprised, & pleased, to hear it split, the 2 parts read at different points in the performance, framing the other works.

And so as the moon set over Lark St., & the poets scurried to a bar, another Albany WordFest drew to a close. Who knows what new mayhem next year will bring? Stay tuned to & find out.