April 30, 2009

Frequency North, April 23

This was the last in this school year of this fine series run by Daniel Nester at the College of St. Rose. He has brought in some wonderful poets, both experienced masters & the newer generations. Tonight's program was just that, pairing Marilyn Nelson with Deborah Ager.

Deborah Ager has just published her first book, Midnight Voices but her work has been out there, & she is the editor & publisher of 32 Poems. She read a variety of poems, most springing from her own experiences, like "The Accident" in D.C., or the series of poems about living in Iowa. But sometimes she stepped into a persona such as "Deborah Samson," based on the story of a woman who enlisted into the Revolutionary War disguised as a man, "Holocaust Museum," where she took on the voice of a man, & one poem as a telephone. In "The Problem with Describing Men" she riffed on a Robert Haas poem. Her work was like the best of the open mics, in her poems we always know where we are & what's happening.

Coming up to the mic Marilyn Nelson was still trying to decide what she should read. She was proud of the galleys of her children's book, Sweethearts of Rhythm, showing us the illustrations. The book is about an all-girl swing music band & the poems are in the voices of the instruments. She is a former Poet Laureate from Connecticut & read from book-length projects engendered by that role. Fortune's Bones is about a skeleton of a former slave on display in Waterbury, CT. She also read from The Freedom Business about an 18th Century slave who purchased his own freedom & went on to purchase the freedom of others. She concluded with 3 poems from an unpublished manuscript, "Seneca Village."

The College of St. Rose & Daniel Nester are a tremendous poetic resource for folks living in this area. As alwayes there were not just students & English profs in the audience but many from the community at large. I am looking forward to the next semester's lineup.

April 29, 2009

WordFest 2009, April 17 - 18

How do you report on 12 hours of poetry & all the accompanying gagaga? I don't need to list every poet, every poem because I'm expecting the complete documentation to be up on the albanypoets.com website eventually. So I'm going to comfortably summarize until my fingers get tired. I was there (although I missed the cocktail hour) from 7:00 PM Friday night, until 6:30 AM Saturday. I heard things I can't repeat & saw things I don't remember, but what's left, you'll get.

There were virgins, like Robb Smith (who comes to a lot of readings with Julie Lomoe) doing haiku, & Christopher Brozek who included poems limited to 160 characters. And poets who could've been virgins, Kenny Dawes, the first poet of the night, with a wonderful poem to Albany from his notebook, who was followed by Chad Lowther who had the universal description of a poet's repertoire: "I have 2 poems, 1 shorter than the other."

There were the formidable Voorheesville poets down from their every-other-Thursday night gathering -- Alan Casline with his own toy mic, & Barb Vink whose cell phone went off during her reading of a poem with a ringing phone in it, & the rarely seen Ron Pavoldi describing rubber ducks in the ocean, & gay Tim Verhaegen & spiritual Dennis Sullivan & the night's only brother & sister team, Mimi Moriarty & Frank Desiderio, with back & forth companion poems, & Tom Corrado "Eating an Elephant" & "Obedude", whose handwriting Mary Panza (did I say yet that she was the host?) described as being "like a serial killer's."

Then there was "the Murray Group," Thérèse Broderick who is frequently seen at open mics around town, introducing poets who are rarely, if ever seen, Heather Moore Niver, Laura Whalen & Lynette Noonan with her anti-war poems.

Strangely, for a poetry reading, the night frequently got ahead of schedule & so breaks were occasionally declared to get us back on track. Bless filled in at one point, having not signed up but was available in the audience (actually, there was another Bless who read later, sort of a walk-in). A cluster of not-surprising no-shows added to the problem, and most poets stayed well within their time. But then Albany is not Woodstock in oh so many ways.

Others who are frequently at readings but we don't often hear were Frank Robinson, & Harvey Havel with a section from his novel. Kristen Day took pictures, as well as read including the list of things that piss her off at poetry readings.

Another group of poets, but one that did not read as a group (but who later spent the night, I mean morning, at my house) were from Connecticut. Terri Klein broke us up & got us singing the sea chanty about fastening her grandmother's bra. Tom Nicotera did poems about his lawn & bars & played his Irish drum, and Joan Pavlinsky did powerful political pieces & a great take on the mental status exam.

Other poets who travelled some distance to be here were Cheryl A. Rice doing poems on beer & angels, & Mark DeVit ("Nuwanda") & Laura Lightfoote (both from the Glens Falls scene); Mark had read recently at "Live from the Living Room" & Laura was a dynamite performer who gave me yet another reason to get on the road to Glens Falls. Also from up that way was the "Master of Poetic Hysteria" who was "Hopping Mad."

"Metroland's Best Poets of 2009" were represented by Mary Panza (#1), Dan Wilcox (#2) & R.M. Engelhardt (#3). Other local regulars included Don Levy & his "Three Chins," great selections by Joe Krausman, Anthony Bernini & John Raymond, jazz poems from Jason Crane & Julie Lomoe, John Weiler, Todd Fabozzi, & Shannon Shoemaker (with a poem for the open mics), & el presidente filled in other abandoned slots. Tess Lecuyer pulled out poems from 1986 that I swear I heard her read together before.

Dominick Rizzo made a natural link between suicide & the Mets (sorry) & Matt Galletta did found poems & covers of his friends work.

By the time Chris Brabham read most folks had left, & it was into the wee-hours. In fact, there was no one else signed up on the official list until 6:20AM. I've got to say this about AlbanyPoets, these folks have commitment, they wouldn't just abandon ship & let Sylvia Barnard confront a locked door & dark gallery at sunrise, they wouldn't not be here for AC Everson & "Wake, Break & Bake" scheduled for the finale. AlbanyPoets are tough. It was a 12-hour reading & they were going to be there. And they were.

The honor-roll includes Chris & Sabrina, who stayed for the early gossip & YouTube, well beyond the call-of-duty. Those of us who stayed until Annine came in with coffee & munchkins, & turning on the lights, were Mary, Thom, Keith, Cheryl, Matt, Rob & me. Thom had turned off the video recorder when there were no poets left so unfortunately -- or actually, legally, morally & ethically -- there is no record of the gossip & trash-talk that spun us into sunrise, or at least until we turned out the lights. Right behind the arrival of coffee was a poet looking for a reading, Brigid Schmidt, who had intended to come back at 2AM & had slept through her alarm, so she read at 6AM. AC Everson ("Breaking My Art") got around to smashing her dice piñatas. 

As we picked up the trash, Sylvia 
Barnard arrived for her slot with an Easter poem & poems about the end -- & we were done. Not ex
actly 12-hours of readings but close enough for poets.

They are already planning next year.


Bird flew
it's what
they do

Everything is
coming true:
Swine flew

April 20, 2009

Third Thursday Poetry Night, April 16

The place filled up quickly with our featured poet(s) & a good-sized crowd of regulars until there was standing-room-only all around the room. To begin I invoked the Muse of Franklin Rosemont, who had died recently at the age of 65, with a reading of his poem "Postscript to Mysterioso."

If Alan Catlin was going to be a rock group, he said, he would be the "Electric Prunes", then read from his Greatest Hits "The Working Late Man in a Grey Suit Suit." Don Levy was signed up early, got up off the floor where he was sitting & read "Can I Now Finally Dance on the Taxi?" about the movie "Fame." Kristen Day read her brief poem "Flawed Fantasy". Jan Tramontano read her "Cruel April", an older poet's poem.

Joe Krausman looked for his carpe diem poem in the wrong pocket, then found it, "Only One to a Customer."
Richard (The Master of Poetic Hysteria) Cowles made the trip down for the WordFest (tonight was the official unofficial start of WordFest) & did "An Old Scratched Blemished Poem" like an old warped vinyl record (in the picture to the right). W. D. Clarke read a true tale about an area man, "Gary Evans."

For the second year in a row my April (National Poetry Month?) feature were the students from Daniel Nester's class on "The Oral Presentation of Literature" at the College of St. Rose. Collectively they went by the name "The Solid Gold McCrakens" & performed in 5 groups, with 3 solo performers. Many, if not most, were folks who don't usually go to poetry open mics but you'd never know it from the stellar performances they gave tonight. The first group, The Footlongs (Leora Flax, Britney Heins, Stephanie Toniolo, & John Urbanski) performed "Riding the Subway," deconstructing & debating the Subway ads -- & lucky John got the sandwich. Bangin' Brunettes (Andrea DeWitt, Maria Furforo, Lauren Ravesz & Carolyn Walsh) did a found poem, "Undefined Love," composed of responses to the question "what does love mean to you?" posed to elementary age children, teenage girls, older women & young men -- & now we know, or do we?

Jungle Fever (Shaughnessy Brocker, Caitlin Mandy, Chelsea Roullier, & Jessica Yakel) helped us finally find out "What is a Poem Anyway?" (or, as they said, "... is there a point to the fucking thing?"); they left their crumpled copies of the piece behind so it has now been added to "the archives". The first of the solo performers, Leora Flax, read a short, ironic piece, "The Salad Dressing of my Days." Emily Perez's "Where the Wild Things Are" begins with the story book, ends with crying. "Never Delmar" was Maria Walsh's take on today's suburbia (hey, I grew up there), & how that viewpoint can change.

Hate Club for Hypocrites (Elizabeth Knapp, Justin McCormack, Emily Perez) did "Involuntary Narcissistic Rage" so well you would think they had it. The duo of Adrianna Gaeta & Ann M. Leghorn-McCracken as Arc Flash & Shock Hazard sent "A Letter to Our Fans," a funny ad for Lesbians & an appeal to "fix those homophobic ways." After that we all needed a break.

When we came back, I read my Chicago/May Day/Haymarket Massacre poem, "Crane Alley." Dan Nester was not the only "professor" who brought students tonight; Sue Oringel turned up with 2 of her students from HVCC. Elaundress Ballard responded to Leroi Jones' poem "Air." Deneque Williams' "I Remember" was about a best friend dying in a hospital. Sue Oringel's blue poem included food, referenced Garcia Lorca, from a line she woke with one morning.

The Storm was back again this month with her piece "I Am a Woman" ("... takes a sip from these beautiful brown lips..."). Daniel (the Mad Professor) Nester (to wild cheers from his class) read from his book How to Be Inappropriate from his own inappropriate acts from the '90s. Bob Sharkey's descriptive words were about the characters around the City Arms Hotel. Alan Casline's work are short, imagistic & get lost in his book, until he found it, "Viewing Tranquility." The "goddess" of WomanWords, Marilyn Day, read her real sestina, "Paint Boxes & Whores" on a painting by 17th Century painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

Bless had no idea what he was about to do, then read what he wrote "about nothing," when he sat down to write for the wrong reasons, a performance everyone loved. Moses Kash III gave me a copy of his piece, "Fear It Self," written at 4 o'clock in the morning recently. Bringing us back to his early days as a poet in the 1980s, R.M. Engelhardt, read "What's Left of My Degeneration" (you can find it on his Face Book site). Sally Rhoades was at the latest Presidential inauguration & wrote a poem beginning "America woke up last night..."

Check out my Flickr site for pictures of each of tonight's featured poets, "The Solid Gold McCrakens". & find us here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month.

April 15, 2009

Wize Wordz, April 10

The second of the night's readings, I was back again to Simply Fish & Jazz on So. Pearl St., this time I had some fish.

Our host, Bless, with Nick on blues guitar, started us off with "I'm on the Outside Looking In" in his deep bell-tone voice. "Storm" commented on the true meaning of "Child Support" (I've seen her out performing before with "Herbal Tea") (that's her in the photo to the right). Dani Hope did an untitled piece that said she was grateful to write these lines. I was seasonal with "What Passover Has Taught Me..."

La Siena [again, I'm hoping I got the names/handles correct since I forgot to ask to check the sign-up sheet during the break] performed a poem all over the stage where "Freedom" was a goddess, a beautiful woman, like a song, a chant. V. Campbell recited "Direct Communication" to Jesus in the language of the phone ads. "Passion Poet" said her piece was a "re-mix" from a poem written a couple years ago, on freedom & elections & the history of blacks' struggle. Bless brought us back around again urging folks not to trade their true heritage for a myth as a "Sucker for Love."

We took a break then back for a second round in a Bless-inspired order. He likes to give the poets their new poetry handles, so V. Campbell became "Expressive V." & recited her grand love poem "My Forever Valentine." Nicki Black was back from last month with another funky narrative, "I Should've Listened to my Conscience." "Storm" gave us her response to someone stealing her work. And I had another seasonal work from the Xtian perspective, "Good Friday."

"Passion Poet"'s feminist manifesto said that both men & women need to read the warning signs in their relationships. The recurring refrain in Bless' poem about the problems of a gentleman was "it's a damn shame what a brother has to go through..." La Siena was renamed "Spoken Soul & after a slow start got into "Chicago Blues." Bless introduced the night's last poet as "Elegance" but she didn't know that was her name; still, she was elegant. Her poem, "Determined," was on the theme of love & sex & being a fool for love -- yes, yes.

Not since the demise of "Soul Kitchen" has there been such intense spoken word in such a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Check it out on the 2nd Fridays of the month at Simply Fish & Jazz, 147 South Pearl St., Albany, NY -- the notice said 9PM start, but expect it to start late -- try the fish.

[I ended up missing the Caffe Lena Poetry Festival the next day due to a problem with my car, but with the 2 entertaining poetry events under my belt this Friday night I didn't feel like I hadn't gotten a good dose of the spoken word for the weekend. There's a lot going on & no one can get to it all.]

April 11, 2009

Yes, Reading, April 10

Friday night out & about & this was the first of 2 poetry events this busy night. Co-hosts Colie Collen (makes the back of my throat sore just typing it) & Doug Rothschild did the intros, announcements, etc.

Shane Jones read from the beginning of his short novel, Light Boxes (Publishing Genius Press, 2009) where 3 characters, Thaddeus, Bianca & Selah join a war against February (which all of us from the Northeast agree is a good idea). There seemed to be priests bent on censorship & February seemed to be waging a campaign against flying. In tone & in the use of typography the narrative reminded me of Kenneth Patchen's novel The Journal of Albion Moonlight (which was confiscated from me in Catholic High School).

The second reader was was Julianna Spallholz who, alas, did not have any copies of her chapbook with her (Poor Bunny, based on road-kill), but did read a couple poems from it, "Opposum" & "Heaven" (where she thought about the age she would be when she got there). The remainder of her reading was from a new manuscript, "The State of Kansas," which, based on the poems she read, has a strong narrative content. The title poem was a funny dialogue between a mother & daughter. Others she read were "Business Idea," "A Man of Regrets" (a conversation at a party), "Hero" (another conversation, about a roommate with a nice ass), & "Record" (a list ending with the repeated line, "... you are not broken ..."). Although she gave a long, rambling introduction to her reading at the start, once she got going was very engaging.

You can always tell the readings that come out of the university setting because no one claps after the poems & tongight I felt too self-concious to clap. Once someone starts, everyone else usually claps out of courtesy. And I was glad that I knew about the correct start time this time. The series continues every-other Friday, usually at the new Townsend Park Bakery & Cafe on Washington Ave. in Albany (across from, of course, Townsend Park), but one up-coming reading is going to be at the UAG Gallery. Check them out on Facebook.

April 10, 2009


in the park this morning
white dusty blossoms
rhyme winter on the sidewalk
gleaners gather cans
old buildings collapse
become new

I remember
making love this morning
someone else dies in time
with our little deaths
all those lives lost
just water from the Cross
no one waiting
for resurrection

April 9, 2009

Live from the Living Room, April 8

At the Gay & Lesbian Community Center our host Don Levy introduced the featured poet from Glens Fall, Mark DeVit (also known by his Slam handle, "Nuwanda"). Mark read from his recent book, I Make Stuff Up (looks like a print-on-demand job, try either www.lulu.com, or www.myalibiias.com). He bounced around the text, reading 2 or 3 poems each from the 6 sections, "Glens Falls," "NYC," "I Make Stuff Up," "Judgments," "Almost Love," & "Slams." Mark is my kind of slam-poet, one who reads good poems with expression. Tim at one point suggested Mark was reading too fast, a common tendency when the poems are memorized, but Mark could slow down when he needed to (& the poem required it). A couple poems had some interesting formal limitations, such as "42," on page 42, 42 words long, &, of course, a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; also, "It Takes Time to Love," printed horizontally in the book, going from a short (2 letters) line to long page stretchers. He did his "signature piece," "The Secret of the Mullet," complete with faux Scots accent, and the recent description of the President doing the "Dishes" & making national policy.

After the break I read 2 poems for the weekend, "Holy Thursday" & "Good Friday." The afore-mentioned Tim Verhaegan discovered a former lover on Facebook who was "Too Perfect for Sex," then read the family story, "He Likes to Drink." We all laughed at Kristen Day's new list poem on the different kinds of "Laughter."

Sarah Schaeffer & her battered ball-point scribbled notebooks also came all the way down from Glens Falls. The untitled first piece was late night musings on being unable to sleep, to think; her second piece she did from memory, for Mark & his New Year's advice, "stop, breathe," her world in chaos until she stops, breathes. Bob Sharkey read 2 new poems, one pondering one of those jockey lawn statues in the suburbs, Black no less! The only person who got "In Bed with a Couple of Eggs" was Kim's daughter Alexis, who had taken her iPod earphones out long enough to listen.

But Kim Henry got back at her by reading her anti-fashion police poem, "Mis-matched" that Alexis inspired. A.C. Everson recited a new song, "Nevermore," about all the bad things she used to do, then her funny poem "The Easter Bunny." Shannon Shoemaker also had new poems, an untitled piece wondering, thinking of the past from the future, & "Metaphor".

Don Levy finished us off, with a piece he wrote in the 1st Grade, "The Jumpingest Frog," then a new piece, considering how things could be "gay" (how can that be?), "My Gay Toaster Over Won't Let Go of My Eggo" -- hysterical.

Second Wednesday of each month, GLCC, Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30 PM -- featured poet, then an open mic & always straight-friendly.


Bottle bag drifting down the park path
Tina Turner in bedroom slippers shuffling on Lark St.

This energy --
                             this drifting --

when I get to work
when I get there

when I stop drifting
when I get my ass in gear

when I get to work

first the words disappear
                                                then images

This morning’s feelings
                       drift                        away

Proud Mary gets on the bus
a park worker stabs the bottle bag

“...and the priests in black gowns...”

April 5, 2009

Yes, Reading!, April 3

When I first got the notice back at the end of February for this new reading series, the start time was 6:30 PM. I was out of town for the first two programs, but tonight got to the Townsend Park Bakery Cafe promptly, found other poet friends waiting for the reading to begin, & the gussied-up host, Douglas Rothschild (zoot-suit pants & chain, white shirt & pork-pie hat), busy setting up. As time progressed, approaching 7:00PM, there was still no sign of the featured reader, Cara Benson, & Doug didn't seem to know what time the reading was going to start. Some folks in the audience were there because they had been in a workshop run by Cara & wanted to support her. Others, like myself, were trying to fit the event into a busy First Friday Gallery Walk night, so when the show started at 7:15 we were already late for the rest of the night. When I got home later I found a last-minute reminder email with a corrected start-time of 7:00PM; I guess I didn't get the memo about the change.

Oh well, what I saw was fun. Doug Rothschild hosted "The Poetry Game Show" with $-Store prizes & games like Name that Poem/Poet, & Write a Blurb, surrounded on stage, lucky man, by lovely honies. The reading by Cara Benson was short, but I hear she read again after I (& her workshop fan club) had to leave. She read her "confessional" poems in a pressured-speech style, piling up the minutiae & detritus of daily-life details, often filled with surprising admissions, like "clowns freak me out." I tend to like poems about things & people & enjoy her work. But it made me wonder what her poems would sound like read slowly...

The audience, with a few notable exceptions, seemed to be mostly grad-school students or folks of that generation. It was like those Trivial Pursuit nights at local bars, but without the booze (perhaps booze would help), & it made me realize that the current generation likes these games -- guessing poems, naming characters in TV programs, or obscure historical figures -- but back when I was that age we sat around plotting to take over the college administrator's office or figuring out how to make LSD in the bathtub. I guess that's progress.

You can find them on Facebook (where I just noticed the start time is clearly 7:00PM).