July 15, 2008

Bohemian Book Bin Open Mic, July 10

In the Kings Mall, on 9W in Kingston, hosted by Teresa Marta Costa, who read from William Carlos Williams to get us started.

I had rode down with the first featured poet, Tim Verhaegen.
His work is suffused with his "gayness" -- exuberant, pensive, historical/memorialist -- & characterized by simple statements that pile up making his point through an accumulation of images. "Italian Kids" & "Third Grader's Rhyme" explored his childhood. A couple bookends explored the first & last time in a gay bar, contrasted with a couple "widow" poems for a lover lost to AIDS. The poem he read last week at Caffè Lena, "I Want Revenge," has been revised to be more poignant, and he ended with a gentle "Hold Me."

The second featured poet, Margot Malia Lynch, had been the featured poet at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center last November.
She likes to adjust her reading to the audience, to the vibes, which can lead to some shuffling of pages, but also to an evolving, organic set. Some of what she read sounded like unrefined notebook entries, like self-affirming journal entries, or simply the notes to a poem. But the best of her pieces took those observations & turned them into images, like "I Like the Way I Drive" (which was more than that) -- & speaking of driving, the meditation on the "Tiger Lily" by the side of the road. There was the dreamy "Blame it On the Moon Wish it on a Star" & the sexy, expressively read "Body Painting on Venus." You can find her at on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/margotmalia.

After a break to pull the seats of our pants out of our sweaty asses, we continued with the open mic. I read the CT Beat poetry festival poem, again, but to a different audience, then the recent Spring-time secret "Last Snow." Eugenia Macer Story read 2 poems about various imagined re-incarnation fantasies. More to the point Donald Lev read what he described as "2 confessional poems" which says he rarely writes, then read Enid Dame's "Prayers" (from Where is the Woman?, Shivastan Publishing, 2006) for a friend who needed it. At the bookshop I picked up Donald's chapbook of movie poems, Adventures at the Upstate: poems on film (Pamphilus Press).

Wry rhymer Ted Gill did "Phobias," "Poor Kitty Cat," then the tender "Lie to Me My Love" -- oh yes! Laura Ludwig does theater pieces as well as poetry, read a couple pages of dialog between Leo & Gertrude Stein, after she read a poem about herself, dreaming of excitement.

He does it all the time, with his Vaudeville placards announcing his titles, & his outrageous, obscene rhymes, Ron Whiteurs brought down the house. Tonight he found every conceivable rhyme on "Barack Obama" & then on the "Weinerama." You just got to let it go.

Guy Reed was up to the task of following Ron with angels in our ears, "The Poetry Whisperers," then in a graveyard with "A Patch of Walt's Grass."

Robert Milby's 5 minutes were gone with his announcements & poets birthdays, & reading a poem by Shelley before he even read his own 2 poems, which took another 5. Then a quick descent into the tedious with Philip Guareri (my heart sank when I saw him park his bike outside) & his sententious preaching on current events -- fortunately Teresa had her eye on the clock (as did everyone else) & let him know when his 5 minutes were up. That was that & Tim & I flew out of there.

You never know what you are going to get at an open mic, so be prepared. The Bohemian Book Bin is moving to another location, watch for the notices about that.

July 13, 2008

Live at the Living Room, July 9

[Jim Masters reading at the Center, May 2007]

Another cozy night in the living room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center, with Don Levy out host.

The featured poet was Jim Masters, who has been attending these open mics for a year or so now. He began with "Perils of Modern Living," a funny take on anti-matter by Harold P. Furth (you can find it at http://www.nap.edu/html/biomems/hfurth.html). Jim began his own poems by reading/displaying a concrete poem about an old clock. He read "Let Go," & "The Group," about joining the men's group at the Center, then his poem about La Marseillaise (which he did not try to sing). He put on a Boston Red Sox cap for "A Short & Surprising History of Baseball," then ended with Langston Hughes' "I Too Sing America." It was good to hear more of his work than is possible in open mic slots.

I followed with my poem about the CT Beat Poetry Festival, then my older poem, "Kissing Dina." Bob Sharkey's poem "Hilton Garden Inn" was about a clueless young Marine speaking at a conference saying she had no PTSD, then a first draft of a poem about hearing the great jazz singer Abbey Lincoln at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

After way, way too long away, Kim Henry read the brand new poem "Mis-matched" about her freedom to dress anyway she wants when her fashion critic daughter is at camp. NicoleK, who will be next month's featured poet here, read a couple by her personal fav, e.e. cummings. (She also likes (very much) his quote, "be of love(a little)/More careful/Than of everything.")

Don Levy finished out the night with an only-in-New-York narrative, "What Happens in Port Authority Stays in Port Authority," & his take on the tempest-in-a-teapot over Rachael Ray's scarf with "Little Miss Rachael Ray of Fucking Sunshine." Oh yeah.

Every 2nd Wednesday, GLCC, Hudson Ave., Albany -- straight-friendly!

July 8, 2008

Caffè Lena Open Mic, July 2

The things you find out at an open mic: our host, Carol Graser wants to do the Monster-Truck-Rally voice! Fortunately, she just read (in her own, very pleasing voice) a poem by Joy Harjo, "Song for the Deer & Myself to Return On."

The first open mic poet hadn't read here before, but I had seen Anne Stocker read at Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady, which city her poem, "Hamilton Hill," was about. Local poet Margot Malia Lynch performed a litany/tribute, "Grinding," to women's bodies, history, their pain into story -- good piece.

Alan Catlin pointed out it was Franz Kafka's birthday & read "Kafka Goes to the Movies," then a poem about artist Stan Rice. My poem was "When you Finally Arrive Home..." (tribute to the CT Beat Poetry Festival) -- I like to take new poems around to the different open mics, revising as I go based on my experience reading them. Erin Moburg, no stranger to Caffe Lena, read "After South Africa," welcoming a lover home.

The first featured poet, Teresa Marta Costa,
has been involved with the poetry scene in the mid-Hudson area for many years, hosting a reading series at the former Cross St. Atelier in Saugerties & currently at the Book Bin in King's Plaza in Kingston (2nd Thursdays). She read new & older poems tonight, with lots of garden poems ("Chervil," "Thyme," etc.) & lots of kitchen poems, like "My Kitchen Floor," "Animated Food," & the hilarious "Refrigerator Fairies." Among others, a poem about sending poems out, & the touching "Either Or" for Enid Dame.

The second feature, also from the mid-Hudson area, Mike Jurkovic, has run the annual reading at the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale (but not this year), among others. His short poems explore pop culture & observations when he is out & about, trying to tolerate (not always successfully) the bullshit around him. Everything from celebrity mug shots to trying to publish poems to traffic to "10048" (the ZIP code for the Church St. Station in NYC) to dead pens to legs on 7th Ave to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx -- essentially anything that enters his experience. How wonderful that these poets, so busy with poesy in the mid-Hudson, took their time to come up this way.

A young poet who has read here a few times before, Jennine Ouderkirk, played on modern clichés & phrases, then a love poem to a boy in Seattle. W.D. Clarke read in rhyme about 2 battles, Greasy Creek ("Their Last Stand") & "Gettysburg." Then Tim Verhaegan expressed his rage at drunk drivers.

Sometimes James Schlett's poems tend to parody himself, or at least the idea of himself, as a "Romantic" poet. Actually he is closer to the self-inflated Transcendentalists with their big, dreamy concepts of "Nature" when he mixes his poems with his journal musings. A phrase like "... beauty becomes illusory ..." is meaningless next to his more immediate images of 2 lovers up to their waist in a Vermont creek with cottonwood blowing around them like snow.

The poet who signs up as "Mona Lisa" adds a bit of color to this pale town, with a "Spiritual Glow" & the randy homage to a new man who wants her "Barefoot & Pregnant." More to the point, Diane Parisi read an homage to "The Women Before Me".

Another mid-Hudson poet, Donald Lev, editor of Home Planet News, hadn't been in Saratoga Springs since he was a child. He read "Mud," all the possibilities of connotations, then, as always, one by Enid Dame, "Lilith I Don't Cut My Grass." Like magic, "like a spell," Kathleen McCoy mused upon the myth of the woman poet. Alan Casline, of Benevolent Bird Press (Delmar, NY), let us know "I Am Not Filled," & saw the "Orbs of Dew Hang from Grass Tips."

Andy I., back again, says she doesn't like titles, so I wasn't sure (as perhaps it should be) if her poem was about a teapot or mist on a field (or perhaps both). Having no trouble with titles Terry Bat-Sonja read "The Fat Woman" about an Aubrey Beardsley picture, then "Wind Chimes" on unrequited love in California, that sounded like unrequited love anywhere else in the world.

The last poet of the night, local artist Barbara Garro, read 2 poems from workshops at the recent IWWG annual conference in Saratoga Springs -- so many workshops, so many poems.

Hystoryc Caffé Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, every first Wednesday for poetry (folk music, etc. the rest of the month, higher prices).

July 5, 2008

Albany Poets Present!, July 1

[Not exactly the view this night at Valentines, but an image of what I have seen sometimes at the bar.]

Tonight we were exiled to the cavernous upstairs at Valentines while down below 4 head-banger bands nearly drowned us out & Kim the bartender did Sudoku. Oh well, we read loud, & short, & were back on the street before the sun had fully set. We had our own "hard-core" poets & some newer voices too.

I did "July 4 in the Year of the Terror" because it was the right time of the year, & "God" because it is short & scurrilous. A new voice, Pete Farina fit in quite nicely with the edgy night with "Driving in November," then what he said he likes to think of as "a real love poem," & one called "4 years;" hope he comes around again. Chris Brabham read the funny, sexy, thankful poem for his wife, "That Ass of Hers," then, after Sylvia, did his "Medicine Cabinet Junkie."

Sylvia Barnard has been reading "Pilgrimage to Vermont" at a couple open mics & tonight added a sequel about visiting an old graveyard there in her mother's childhood town. Kristen Day read her "Wasted Words" again, a funny, social satire about a passenger on a plane with a cellphone; "3 Squirrels" (& she doesn't like squirrels) is a funny take on the effects of medication.

Among the former Troy residents is Thom Francis who read a poem about a bum on 4th St., "Jesus Walks on the Water" and "Female Pedestrian," a poem about watching people from the roof of his building as they go into a club across the street.

Apparently Emily Epstein wasn't scared away last month & came back with a couple more poems, a train-of-thought ramble (a "scribble" she said) on writing, on space, on time, then a fast-speaking rap on reality, with rhymes.

I've been waiting to hear Chris Rizzo read at one of these open mics, but tonight he recited an early Thomas Hardy poem ("Heredity"), then Ezra Pound's tiny "In a Station of the Metro." Maybe he'll bring his own poems the next time.

Hopefully next month the poetry at Valentine's won't be double-booked with bands, but we'll just have to wait & see (first Tuesday).

Poets Speak Loud, June 30

[Ed Rinaldi reading at the Lark Tavern in March.]

With our host, Mary Panza keeping order, such as it is.

Shaun Baxter was back with a summertime haircut, & a piece I think is new, in wedding clothes, "Sacrament." I read my tribute to the CT Beat Poetry Festival, then another new, springtime poem. Scott Wheatley, a young poet who has read here before, read 2: "Tribute to Whispered Smiles (with the haunting line "...& you refuse to look in the palm of my hand") & "Order of Solitude."

Tonight's featured poet attended high school in Troy (NY) with our host, Mary, & has been coming out to readings, particularly here at the Lark Tavern, for the last few months. Ed Rinaldi's poems are mostly short imaged-based reflections on urban life, like "Born a Bastard," and "Dole-out the Barrel," "Hot Air Balloon," "Insulation." A longer piece was musings on a bird on the windshield while driving at night. The "river" (Hudson, of course) had a prominent role in a couple poems. He also included ruminations on George Carlin, & the compelling "Memories are Perfumes for the Eye." It was good to hear him featured after only the snippets we get at open mics.

Another poet who has not read out enough lately is Sebastian Pacheo, who read 2 poems about "bad neighborhoods." Chris Brabham did 2 poems too, including the recently written "When the Bullet takes the Flight" about healing in the community after the recent shootings here.

Tonight we all picked on James Schlett, because we love him so much. When Mary introduced him, she mentioned that he would be reading in the "Poets in the Park" series on July 26, suggesting that if one was cruising the park that night for a hooker, one should stop by the Robert Burns statue to hear James read (who knew there were hookers in the Park?). Then James read one of his romantic, philosophical musings ("Coercion") about being in Washington Park & his honey putting her hand on his chest. That was too much -- all kind of advice was offered as he left the stage, bringing a blush to his cheeks -- ahh.

Kristen Day has been coming back & read "Wasted Words." Speaking of coming back, Tess Lecuyer, who has been working in prose fiction lately, read one of Judith Johnson's dead-cat poems, "The Return," in a near perfect JJ purring manner.

Don't ever ask the audience to pick the poem you should read, they always pick the crazy title, so when Joe Hollander offered us a choice we picked "Trash Night" (& it was the shortest too). NicoleK, off for the summer, was back out & shared a poem about a reason medical event in her life, then a seasonal piece about waking up steamy & angry (more to my liking).

Always the Lark Tavern (on Madison Ave. in Albany -- don't look for it on Lark St.), last Monday -- see www.albanypoets.com.

July 3, 2008

Harry Staley Birthday Reading, Social Justice Center, June 26

[This is my favorite picture of Harry Staley, taken at the old Half-Moon Cafe in February 1991.]

This was one of those events that came about almost by accident. I received a phone call from Helen Staley wanting to set up a reading for Harry at the Third Thursday Poetry Night the Social Justice Center. I had been to visit them in their State St. apartment & we had talked about my series & the possibility of Harry reading. However, I already had commitments for readings going through November. So instead I arranged for the use of the space at the Social Justice Center on another Thursday evening, June 26, which turned out to be Harry's 84th birthday.

The place was packed, as well it should be, with folks from Harry's years at the University at Albany, as well as activist friends & community poets who know him from his past readings. Interestingly, on display, was a photo, apparently from Tom Nattell's collection, that I had taken for publicity use for the Readings Against the End of the World in 1988, the year it was held at the newly opened Social Justice Center. In the middle, holding the end of the long ribbon of pages listing the readers for the 24-hour event, was Harry Staley (the other end was held from the top of a ladder by Tom Nattell); another person in the picture who was in tonight's audience was Rezsin Adams. Albany documentarian, Joe Schuyler, a student of Harry's from the early days, took pictures of all of us. At one point Ted Adams & Harry compared their ages (Ted is older). But we were here to listen to poetry.

The poet reading with Harry was their friend Ellen Reed Driscoll, who had done the illustrations for Helen's book, The Paw on the Tarmac (Westview Book Publishing, 2007). But tonight was her first reading, despite that she has been writing poetry for a number of years. One advantage of going to open mics is, not to copy other readers, but to find what works & what doesn't in a reading, to introduce a level of reality to one's idea of what a "poetry reading" is, & to try out one's own poems, to find what works & what doesn't. Ellen's topics competently covered the required love, death, & politics, with an occasional wandering into sing-song rhythms & rhymes & poetic diction. Her poems were generally short musings in a relaxed presentation. I hope to see some of these hot-house flowers out in the open air of open mics again.

Harry Staley has been in this community since the 1960s, as a teacher, scholar, mentor, poet, activist member of the community, & since my return here 20 some years ago (so pleased then to find Harry still here) I have tried to get to every poetry reading he gave. Some poems I have heard over & over, before his poems were available in books -- as Ted Adams stated to me tonight, "He has given a new meaning to the word 'Petunia'" (see "The Senile General in the Garden," from his The Lives of a Shell-Shocked Chaplain). Tonight he read from All One Breath: Selected Poems, The Snail's Pace Press, 2002. He read "Early Mission," "Sniper" (with its marvelous sound effects), "Beyond Victory," "First Will and Testament," the anti-war (aren't they all?) "Valor," "The Rat" with its carefully crafted half-rhymes, "Tom Kelly Mimics Robertson Davies," "Construing Aliquis," "Convalescent" (with its line that gives the title to the book), "Cain," and the perfect ending of "Nuncs." In spite of (or becaue of) Harry's characteristically carefully constructed (& short) reading, the audience wanted more, so he performed the exceedingly rare poetic encore, not once, but twice. The first, at Helen's request, "The Final Flight;" then, from the audience a call for "Fourth Commandment." While showing the weight of 84 years, Harry gave a strong & lively reading, tinged with his ad-lib humor & leprechaun smile.

"Thank you Harry," the audience said in its standing ovations, for being here, for all these years & for now.