January 28, 2009

Poets Speak Loud!, January 26


& the annual Tom Nattell Tribute Open Mic & Beret Toss, at the Lark Tavern. Back in January, 2005 when this series began, Tom was to be the first featured poet. But he was dying of cancer & stepped away from us that morning. So the open mic that night became a tribute/celebration/wake, & we've continued it each year since. Tom was a force behind the beginning of Albany's busy poetry scene & his presence is felt wherever the poets gather. And I am honored to be the host each year & celebrate in the way he would approve. "Star dust is us," Tom said.

The place was packed & the poets ranged from "old school" to virgins, just as it should be. The first up was the ever-popular & well-published Alan Catlin, beginning with the first of one of the night's theme of a shift in power & direction, "Love in the Time of War." A.C. Everson, fresh from Florida (we hate her), continued with her "Bye Bye Bushie" (ole G.W. Bush was also a favorite topic of Tom Nattell's). "Open Mic on Lark St." by Julie Lomoe told of Tom's last reading at the Lark St. Bookshop in December 2004.

Mary Panza dedicated her reading of Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day" to those critics of Mary's recent public comments in the Times-Union. The fact that her reading was "better" than Alexander's on Inauguration Day was probably a combination of Panza's experience before open mic crowds & the fact that there were not quite 1.8 million people in front of her in the Lark Tavern. Josh McIntyre read his short piece, "Vegas" -- I had invoked the "one-poem rule" due to the length of the sign-up list. Slam-poet Dan Stalter's poem "Penis" was about the frustration of writing poems ("why should this poem be about anything?"), so he said.

I got distracted & missed the title of Cheryl A. Rice's poem about Long Distance Love (or was that the title? -- I'm sure she'll correct me). Likewise, R.M. Engelhardt (who is restarting his open mic series Vox at the Fuzz Box) read a poem he said he reads every year at a tribute to Tom, but I missed the title & he wasn't included in last year's notes. [Cheryl's poem is titled "Three Hours" & Rob's is "Think Beautiful".]

Hairy & boisterous "Mr. Lei" said he had read at the first & the last Readings Against the End of the World, the annual event that Tom coordinated for the Albany Peace & Energy Council, but I didn't recognize him except in his spirit; "Mad Mud Funk Oil" was dedicated to James Brown, Jerry Brown & Sadam Hussein (they all stepped into the beyond on the same weekend).

Lark Tavern virgin Jason Crane read an inauguration poem, "Last Night" & said he was last here 15 years ago, & was the second person of the night to mention Oprah (but my notes don't tell me who as the first). Another virgin John Allen read a poem about the snow storm. Definitely not a virgin of the reading scene, veteran of the QE2 open mics, Tess Lecuyer, read a sexy, urban rooftop poem written on the winter solstice of 1992 (she said "the cat ate the poem" she had originally planned to read) -- I'm glad, I liked this one.

Back to the political Todd Fabozzi's "Shock Therapy" described the economic stimulus package in sexual terms, making it hard for me now to listen to the nightly news without getting aroused. Provocative in a different way, Chris Brabham read the creepy "The Sentimental Cannabalist."

Amanda Rose was as lovely as her name & did "I Sing the Blues" (which I have because I missed her reading at the UAG Gallery last Friday). The last virgin of the night, D. Rizzo, dedicating some of the proceeds of the sale of his chapbook to suicide prevention, read "Sick Walker." Although titled "Valentine's Day," Shannon Shoemaker's poem was grey with irony & a death wish, no red hearts & pink flowers.

Long-time Albany poet Syliva Barnard is one of the very small, exclusive club of performers who read at all 10 Readings Against the End of the World (my first was the 3rd in 1986), & read her poem "Clara's Funeral." Ending up the night was Scott Casale on sex with the "Beauty is the Essence of Another."

As some poets can recycle their love poems, I can recycle (Tom would like that) my concluding comments from last year's entry: "it was great night: old friends, new friends, new faces, returning prodigals, vigins -- poetry in Albany on a Monday night in January, who'd thunk. Then on to visit Robert Burns, smudge him & us with sage, & the green beret to warm Bobbie's head through the night (with thanks to el Presidente), & Tom was/is there/here. [The beret was still there Monday afternoon.] And thanks to the generous folks who filled Tom's neon hat with recession dollars for the Tom Nattell Peace Poetry Prize.

Poets Speak Loud! every last Monday [just like the QE2] of the month, Lark Tavern, Albany, 7:30."