December 30, 2008

Sunday Four Poetry Open Mic, December 28

Dennis Sullivan introduced the afternoon then introduced the other host, Edie Abrams, who did the individual introductions of the poets, which began with #2 on the list who was me. I read a couple on impermanence/eternity, that I've made some recent, minor revisions, to: "Dancing on the Mandala," & "The Eternal Moment" (it's nice to try them out). Edie Abrams contemplated her big toe in "Poetic Subjects" (it's not every subject you can cover in nail polish).

Dennis Sullivan read a 6-parter on family, memories, the nature of it all, "The Holiday." Mimi Moriarty said it was her father's birthday & read about watching "Home Movies" after his funeral, then about the "Beach Cottage" he built; also, a recent poem, "Ice Storm" -- but I haven't gotten around to writing mine yet.

TimV blamed his poem "In the House" (describing his boyhood home) on Dennis asking him about what was in his boyhood room; then he read a poem by Robert Graves that was written in the same style of simple, declarative sentences as Tim's poems, then one by Marianne Moore -- more TimV, more TimV. Mike Burke, who is one of the triumvirate of hosts, read an 18-word poem, "Done," then an early portrait of a friend's father, "Mr. Ransom."

You can find the link to Therese Broderick's Blog on Ekphrastic poetry at the bottom of this webpage, & her poem "Nighthawks" was about the famous Edward Hopper painting. Joyce Schrieber brought along her own painting, not to illustrate but somehow to elucidate her poem, "Monologue for the Crone."

Larry Rapant (who had been the featured poet here in October, with Tom Corrado on bass) began pondering his philosophy with "Cobwebs all too Cobwebs," then paid tribute to the featured poet with random lines pulled from his poems, & ended with his own one sentence poem, "The Dogs in the Trees." It reminded me of a book by Robert Bly, Leaping Poetry, but with more emphasis on the leaping.

The featured poet, Tom Corrado, gave a full-blown multi-media presentation, with slides, taped reading, & even his companion string-bass. He began with projected images washing over him, stating "the theme is you." His reference was really to the 2nd-person pronoun, not to his audience, although you (!) may take that as you(!!) may. His model/guide is John Ashbery, with humor & the odd juxtaposition, like the poetry of French surrealists, as the method, as in his poem "Pity the Poor Anchovies," or "Immense Door Knobs Populate Your Dreams," where the titles can give you an idea of where he took us without quoting any lines. Speaking of which, did he really mention "gandy dancers" twice (in a poem on facades)? In "The Barometer of Relationships" Tom mentioned "dental floss," which Rapant had also earlier -- or was Larry quoting this poem? Either way, I have never before been at a poetry reading where dental floss was mentioned, twice no less! HIs best exploration of "you" was in "Mapping the Rest of the Journey" with it's dissertation on "you" & "it." His ending was an entertaining Ashbery tribute/immitation, "On the Road, They Cup Their Hands" in which the poet accompanied his taped reading of the 100-line poem on the string bass with video images projected on & over & behind him.

Open mic with a featured poet every 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Arts Center, 37 S. Main St., in downtown Voorheesville, NY. Coming up are:

January 25, Therese Broderick
February 22, Jay Rogoff
March 22, Mary Panza
April 26, Dan Wilcox
May 24, Tim Verhaegen
June 28, Mimi Moriarty

December 21, 2008

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 18

At the Social Justice Center, with our host tonight "Sanity Clause" (as in "everybody knows there's no sanity clause..."). And each of the readers got to sit on Sanity Clause's lap to admit to being bad boys & girls all year, then get a gift of a poetry book or journal.

The first to do so was Alan Catlin who read "The Black Hole Martini" from a new anthology from Little Eagle Press, Bar Code. Then Dennis Sullivan followed with a poem about a blind pelican. TimV referenced the news item that President-Elect Obama will have homo-phobe evangelist Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration & read "California's Burning, Election Day 2008." In the photo, by Georgia Gray, he looks like he's having a good time sitting on Sanity Clause's lap. Don Levy read his poem about learning to be gay, "Everything is Coming Up Show Tunes for Me & for You." W.D. Clarke included a bit of show-&-tell with a faux-scrotum change purse for his "Ballad of Maggie Magee."

Tonight's featured poet was the director of Rootdrinker Institute & publisher of Benevolent Bird Press, Alan Casline. He began invoking the spirit of Coyote, then with 2 poems about local poets, "Benevolent Obsession" & "The Well." His "Preponderance of the Small," a winter poem, owed much to Gary Snyder, as do many of Alan's nature poems. He played upon "A Theory of Numbers," then read a long historical narrative about a spy during the Revolutionary War. His "refrigerator poem" "Feeding Charlie Cheerios" was about a dog, while "There Is a Source to Each River" was one of his Grandfather-carp poems. "3 Lines for Charlie" played upon various meanings of the word "lines" & was about a real person, what Alan described as "a social justice poem." He ended with one of the sagas of the character Perious Frink, "Perious Frink & the 2 Loud Poets." I've written previously on this Blog about Benevolent Bird Press, its series of hand-made chapbooks & broadsides, so it was a treat to hear Alan read a variety of poems in an extended set. Even he got to sit on Sanity's lap.

After the break I read my holiday love poem to my mother, "Christmas Eve, 1945."  New-comer Adam read "Dualism" composed of many small parts. Shirley Brewer was up from Baltimore visiting Rezsin & Ted Adams & read a "fantasy poem" based on a picture of Jennifer Lopez & her bodyguards, "Seven." Tom Corrado took off from the Dylan Thomas poem with "An Adult Christmas in Nantucket," much more fun that way. Mark O'Brien, also known as "Obeedude," debuted "Pushing for a Northern Route," which he described as a "Henry Hudson poem, or not." Gene Damm leered at Salome (from the Bible story) in "The Elders."

The women poets were in the minority tonight (to the chagrin of Sanity Clause), & they seemed to cluster toward the end of the night. Sally Rhoades read a poem about a cousin in Cyprus, "The Day Ali Left the Island." A.C. Everson also enjoyed Sanity's lap (as can be seen here in another of Georgia Gray's fine photos) & did her holiday favorite, often done with a pinata, "Santa Scorned" -- but this Santa (Sanity) did not. Moses Kash III read of the good wife & a love lost in "The God I Found." Typically ekphrastic, Therese Broderick read a poem based upon a "Holiday Card Post-Marked from Holland." Some of the short pieces (definitions?) that Matthew Klane read were as brief as 2 words so it was not a problem that he strung a bunch together, like string candy, for the "one poem" limit. He has a new book out of his experimental poems, B____Meditations from Stockport Flats. The last poet for the night (& for 2008, as he pointed out) was Bob Sharkey whose poem "61" combined the age 61 with recollections of the year 1961.

The photographer, Georgia Gray documented all the pleasures & pain endured by Sanity Clause throughout the night & I will be putting up soon on my Flicker site more of her pictures, so please check them out at

& join us every third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY for an open mic & a featured poet drawn from the many fine local & regional poets we are blessed with here.

December 11, 2008

Live from the Living Room, December 10

The birthday of Emily Dickinson & the 40th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though neither got mentioned in the flurry of poems. Don Levy our host, as always here.

The featured poet, Mary McCarthy, former president of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, continues to energize the Guild through her involvement & gentle nudging, but she doesn't read her work out very much. Her poems are usually short, drawn from everyday experienc, & often tinged with humor. A good example is the first poem she read, "Heights," about being short. Then a description of being on the beach, "West Dennis at Dawn." A prose poem on "the holidays" was really about Time & on the real values. Then she was joined by her husband, Kevin McCarthy (a poetry virgin), to do "A Reminiscence in 2 Part," about being in a snowy Colorado for Thanksgiving, Kevin reading "What we said," while Mary's part was "What I thought" -- the kind of clash of obligation, politeness & our own needs that occur so often, more so in the holiday season. Her poem "To Kevin" has her calling his old phone number (& getting no answer), then an old Valentine's poem, "Searching," that she never got to read here. Both the list poem, "Living Dangerously," & "Peace" were compiled of the details of daily life that are such treasures, with the former poem threaded with humor as well. Finally, "This is for you.." for all of the poets, those who pull out of magical hats great "scarves of words." Thank you Mary, & for you too.

After the break, Kristen Day read her funny rant, "5 Things that Irritate Me at a Poetry Reading" -- many heads nodding in agreement. Anne Decker hasn't been around in years, it seems, did a funny rhyme, "Christmas Depression," a la Ogden Nash. Mimi Moriarty's "Christmas Snapshot" was about her father's last Xmas visit, & "Circle" was about Xmas cooking, coming full circle to with her mother.

Roberta Gould has been featured here in this series & has a new book of poems, Louder Than Seeds (FootHills Publishing), & read 2 poems from it, "Scenes" & the 4-part "Ironies." I followed with 2 new poems spinning off from Buddhist readings: the somewhat inaccurately titled "Samsara in the Orange Room" & the meditation on "The Eternal Moment" (both works in progress).

Another surprise appearance tonight was the much-missed Debbie Bump, no longer from Schenectady, with thoughts on road-kill ("Eulogy for a Frog") & the childhood memories of a friend, "To Catch a Butterfly." Uncle Don closed out the night with one of his own & one by Frank O'Hara. His newest poem is "Mexico Bar Dream," where I make an appearance (as Bob Dylan once said, "You can be in my dream if I can be in your dream"). The Frank O'Hara poem was the early "Poem" ("The eager note on my door..."), read from an old Grove Press edition from 1957.

An intimate, straight-friendly gathering on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY.

December 6, 2008

FENCE 20, December 4

FENCE is a biannual journal of poetry, fiction, criticism and art, published in partnership with the New York State Writers Institute and the University at Albany. The journal is known for including writing from both experimental & mainstream authors, the unknown & lesser known rubbing vowels & consonants with some of the most well-known & respected writers of our time. The editor is poet Rebecca Wolff who has read locally in the community at Point 5 & at the UAG Gallery. This event was a reading by 3 authors to mark the 20th issue of FENCE, with its picture of the President-Elect on the cover.

Writers Institute Director Donald Faulkner introduced Rebecca Wolff who introduced the readers, beginning with Ira Sher. He read 2 pieces, the first (not from the current issue of FENCE) a section from a novel-in-progress, "maybe a beginning chapter." His second piece is on page 133, an abstract psycho political vignette.

Edward Schwarzschild has also read out in the community, at the Fuze Box in the Jawbone Series & at Point 5. His straight-forward prose style belies the tension & sometimes chaos beneath. "Police Report from the Provinces" (page 97) is based on an actual report. The second piece was the beginning of a short story, "What to Expect Before Becoming Pregnant."

While Shelley Jackson's work was described as being in that category of "Other," her piece in FENCE was listed under "Fiction." Yet "Mars, Marred, Married" is decidedly "other," with its parts in prose & verse, from the pages of the New York Times. While it tells the story of characters called Life, Death & Bird Fu, all the words came from 2 pages of the Times. I was also fascinated by her website with it's cyber links & obsessive self-introspection/indulgence, as well as the green streak in her hair, more Brooklyn than Albany.

If you were lucky enough to be there you got your copy for only $5. You can check it out online at

December 4, 2008

Albany Poets Presents!, December 2

It was the annual "Airing of Grievances", with our host el presidente Thom Francis keeping a mental sign-up list.

I "signed up" first & did a trio of classic grievance poems, which, happy to say, are now only bothersome memories & late-night fantasies: "Heartbreaker," "I'm Tired of Waiting" (& I stopped long ago), & the fleeting "Love & Hate" (which I think I once posted on MySpace). Moses Kash III hung out with us at the bar on this night, read the poem he once sent to Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Black Tragedy: Children of the Rainbow," & his take on race wars as reflected in 2 roommates, one white, one black, "The Room Mate".

R.M. Engelhardt made a rare appearance with versions of the poems he has been writing for years, one counseling not to wait on false hope, false love, etc., the other an email rant. Oh we poets, preserving our pain in words. As does the ever-exciting Shannon Shoemaker with three poems: "Grown Cold," "Breathe in the Foul Stench of Humanity" (not sure if that is the title or first line), & what she called the latest installment in her involvement with a woman she shouldn't be -- oh well, don't we all?

Mary Panza hasn't ridden her self-righteous social commentary horse in a while & it was bracing to hear it once again, the title says it all: "The Tattooed Crowd at Day Care." Adam Hoyt has been here before & he read four of his short rhymes, "Catalyst," the prosy ponderings of "Epiphany," "The Song in my Heart," & "Laughter." And the surprise of the night was a poem by open-mic lurker Sue Cerniglia, "The Double-Header," a "just written" piece on having a colonoscopy & an endoscopy at the same time. More than I can imagine. Sue shows up at a lot of these events & I've only seen her on stage with her grand-daughter, never heard her read a piece she wrote before tonight.

Now we all know that el presidente has had more than his share of grievances this past year, but he seemed to exorcise them vicariously through our gripes. Instead he celebrated his 31st Birthday at the bar with cupcakes, candles & beer. Happy Birthday, Thom!

Every 1st Tuesday at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY

December 1, 2008

Teapot Gallery, November 25

I was featured at this weekly open mic out in Westfield, MA. Lori Desrosier had invited me to read back when she ran a series at Jester's up the street. But now she is co-hosting here instead, with Eli Boenziger. A cute little cafe with excellent casual food & a selection of beers & wines. There was quite a crowd because Leah Nielsen had brought her poetry class from Westfield State College -- the second open mic in a week I had attended where the profs had helped to pack the audience with their students. The open mic list had to be adjusted slightly for poets with "swear words" to read later due to a family with young girls having dinner. They left in the middle of my reading -- I didn't need to use "swear words" to drive them out.

Steve Ala, a local regular, did funny narrative pieces in his father's accent. Student David Walker protested that he was not from the ghetto, while Brittany Costa read a poem about alcoholism & violent love. A recent Smith College graduate, Em Jollie read "Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading" by Chrystos, a poet from Bainbridge Island, Washington, checking out (but I wonder what Em's poetry is like?). Co-host & MC for the evening, Eli Boenziger did punchy rhyming poems in between once in a while, including one to his son. Other student readers were Jaime Cocomazzi & Derek Strahan.  
Their teacher, Leah Nielsen read a litany, a spell against another sad poem -- wish I had the name of her chapbook.

I was the featured poet, & introduced myself with "Autobiography" & "Where Were the Professors?" (which of course was not directed at Ms. Nielsen). "Phone Sex" showed I could "watch my language" & still raise an interesting topic for dinner conversation with 7-year olds, who were gone by the time I did "Patriotism". The students were familiar with Slams so I gave them my take with "Slam Poem" (hey, I don't just go after pompous academics). Also on the theme of poetry/poets were "The Night Sky" & "Poetry Prompt." Back to the political I read "Baghdad/Albany," challenging the students to write their own home-town version, then "A Pain in the Neck." "Ordering Lunch" & "Starting the Wine" (to prove I'm not a total cynic) brought it all back home.

Back to the open mic, Kim Dawson did rhymes on music in the kitchen. TJ Matthews's poem was about the time he ate peanuts & confronted his anaphalactic skin blotches. "The Tip Top" was Stephanie Januszewski's poem about dancing before an audience. Caitlin Norton's "Error on Page" contrasted "perfect" looks with the style of a slut, but in computer jargon. Danielle Rice travelled the world in her poem but would rather be home. Brianna Conchieri read a section from a short story.

Ari Hutchins was in costume (to foil Homeland Security) to read "Fuck You America." Open mic regular R.S. Herrick took another direction with "Hold On to Hope" & "The Juvenile Home." Tommy Twilight did a walking meditation on the butterfly "Wing" theory of chaos. And Lisa did a couple of funny Thanksgiving rhymes, one where preparing the turkey was like sex & the other where it explodes when stuffed with popcorn (hope your Thanksgiving was as much fun but less messy).

Even though the students left, the sign-up sheet done, & the feature finished, Steve Ala, Eli, & Lisa each traded a few more tossed off poems as the folks tried to close up the cafe for the night.

It was not a bad trip from Albany (less than 2 hours) -- every Tuesday, 7PM, 22 Elm St. (Route 10, south of the Mass Pike), Westfield, MA. I had a great time.