June 28, 2009

Flag Day Celebration, June 14

I was pleased to be invited to be the featured poet at this event arranged by Connecticut poet & painter, Joan Pavlinsky, held at Studio 59 in Torrington, CT.  This is part of a regular series, the Studio 59 Poetry Circle, a poetry & music salon in the performance space that is also the home of pianist Timothy Alexandre Wallace in a renovated church.

We were an intimate group, sipping wine, talking about art in our various communities until it was time for the open mic, with Joan as the host.  Her husband Ed Stempel made his poetry reading debut (a virgin) with a reading of "In Flander's Field," written during World War I by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) of the Canadian Army.


Victoria Munoz, who runs a poetry series in Waterbury, CT read her description of the food & music at a festival, "The 4th on the 5th of July," "Invasion 2009" on politics & cleaning up on New Year's day, & Billy Collins' "The Blues."  Poet & graphic artist Priscilla Newcomb didn't bring any of her own poems, so she read Joan's "The Miles Between Us," written for the "One Soldier, One Poem" project.

Our host, Timothy Wallace, improvised thinking about "the blue flag," a lush piece with classical allusions & blues scales.  A visit to his salon is worth it just to hear him play -- & to see the space.

My program was based on the "Flag Day" theme, so lots of politics, some humor & token love poems just to prove I can.A wonderful venue for poetry & music.

June 17, 2009

Wize Words, June 13

The contrasts in the 2 poetry readings I attended this night couldn't be more stark: Community open mic poets reading from hand-written notebooks (or reciting from memory) v. featured poets from academe reading from published books; black v. white; late start v. start on time; loud audience appreciation (sometimes in the middle of the poem) v. polite clapping only at the end of each set.

I didn't always get everyone's name but sure got the poems, the songs, the spirit. Our warm host, Bless, took us around through a couple of relaxed sets. The folks liked my sexy take on "Patriotism" better than the somber "John Lees" (I was trying out my "Flag Day" playlist). Penny read from her notebook, the first time with "Reality Tripping," telling us "writing is where I live"; her second piece was, believe me, "Poor Poor Pooky". Chris was glad to be in a better place now than he was when he was younger, his rap from memory (of course) written when he was 16; second time he talked about his "dream girl" -- he's all of 19. Shay talked about "Unity".

Kim was a singer, first with recorded music, then the second time around she teamed up with Bless in a free-style on brown skin, a crescendoing sex ride that was here & now it's gone. Bless his-self argued with god in "Could You Talk to Me," then a piece on why he writes but also what he doesn't do poetry for... Later he did his classic "Black Love." The last poet I saw was Storm, flipping through her notebook until she found "I Stand Alone."

Just 2 sides tonight of the multi-faceted gem of poetry in this fine, buzzing city -- come again on the 2nd Friday of each month at Simply Fish & Jazz, 147 South Pearl St. (just below Madison), Albany, NY, 9:00 (or later) start.

June 15, 2009

Yes, Reading! -- June 12

The "last" in the series for this semester/season, or maybe not, at the Social Justice Center. I've been corrected for characterizing this series in a previous Blog as "grad students" (actually, I said "academics-to-be"). However, the series does have a decidedly different flavor than most in the area -- it doesn't include an open mic, it draws a noticeably different crowd of younger, college-age folk, than the other events, & often the readers, well at least the 2 readers tonight, are well-published professors. & no one claps between the poems, saving their soft hands for the end.

Tonight our tag-team hosts Colie Collen & Douglas Rothschild introduced local favorite Matthew Klane to introduce Deborah Poe, who had read at the UAG back in February & March 2008 (see my Blog entries) when she had read from a manuscript, now published as Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords 2008). She also read, as she had on her earlier visits, from her project, "Elements," a series of poems based on the periodic tables. Tonight she included "Sulfur" & "Gold" & a couple of the new elements that exist only in the laboratories of experimental scientists (which seems like a metaphor itself for other experimental activities). While I connected with the things & colors in her poems they were the kind of pieces that are difficult to grasp at one hearing.

Our hosts then introduced, as a new student to the area, James Bellflower, who introduced Laura Sims with what I experienced as an unintentional parody of the fellow-academic-gush intro style that Bob Boyers at Skidmore has turned into high art. Fence Books, where Colie Collen works as an Associate Editor, housed at the Writers Institute at the University at Albany, has just published Sims' book of poems, Stranger. She read a number of sections, run together without titles as if one long poem. The poems are a fragmentary narrative about the illness & death of her mother, which could not help but be moving. She also read from a manuscript she was having doubts about calling "My God is this a Man?" which are a series of murder poems -- the audience seemed to like the title. Other work included what sounded like a processed text (as were the murder poems), "Infinite Reward," that seemed to include concrete poetry, but hard to tell without seeing the text, just listening.

You can find samples of both Deborah Poe's & Laura Sim's poems in A Sing Economy (flim forum press, 2008), edited by Matthew Klane & Adam Golaski.

June 11, 2009

Live from the Living Room, June 10

Sometimes an open mic is more fun when it doesn't happen. Don Levy was locked out of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave. this night; there was no volunteer available to attend the cafe due to the other activities in town for Gay Pride Week. We hung out on the stoop, a pleasant Spring evening, until the featured poet, Alifair Skebe, arrived. Don arranged for Alifair to read in September & we adjourned to DeJohn's on Lark St.  [Photo shows Alifair Skebe reading at the Social Justice Center in July, 2008.]

Over coffee, tea, soda & beer we talked about poetry & writing. Don read a Frank O'Hara poem which prompted a discussion on narrative. Mimi Moriarty & Ed Rinaldi read a poem each, with Alifair complementing Ed on getting his poem going before the "I" jumped in.

Alifair Skebe is a fine poet, we are blessed to have her in the area, & I was pleased to spend some time in her company (beyond running into her & her family at the Flea Market). It was almost like hanging around the living room of the GLCC, except that I could have a beer.

So, as they say at the end of the Uncle Wiggly stories, if ice doesn't fall from the sky & freeze the locks & someone shows up with a key, we will gather on the next second Wednesday of the month at 7:30PM, at the GLCC, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany once again for "Live from the Living Room."

June 8, 2009

Reading & Book-signing, Theogony by Douglas RothschildTM, June 6

Some years ago, before Douglas RothschildTM settled in Albany, we exchanged some words about the Albany poetry scene on the pages of the Newsletter of the St. Mark's Poetry Project. He stood corrected & I sit where I stand. This day it was a distinct pleasure to be among Doug's friends & fans in the back room of the Lark Tavern on the anniversary of D-Day while outside folks were (f)Art(ing) on Lark.

I joked that I had always wanted to meet Hesiod, but this is a different Theogny (subpress). Having lived many years in New York City & worked in downtown Manhattan, I know whereof Rothschild speaks, so the title could be glossed as "Theo (god) Goes to New York." The poems are short, playful, New York wise-guy, some simply transcribed phone messages describing what was happening, more Frank O'Hara in his personal engagement with the City, as opposed to Chales Olson (invoked in one of the blurbs) & his historical/scholarly investigations. The poems are especially fun if you know downtown Manhattan, but fun just the same if you love any city.

Rothschild appeared in a grey zoot suit, complete with long waist chain & pearl-grey Cab Calloway hat, & in between poems tried to get us to help him roll quarters for his job at the laundromat, a Tom Sawyer trick. He did a series of short readings from the book, interspersed with breaks & readings by audience members. He had put out the word that he wanted "invasion" poems, so we got everything from Pierre Joris reading from poems that popped up when he did a computer search of 30+ years of his poems, Michael Peters doing scenes from "Saving Private Ryan" (better than the real thing), to Josh Potter reading from a story by Wells Towers, Colie Collen reading Juliana Spahr, to my "Baghdad/Albany," to the ulitimate invasion title for a poetry collection, Richard Brautigan's Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt.

Find Douglas RothschildTM -- he's out & about at the Yes, Reading series, or at the Laundromat -- & buy his book.

June 3, 2009

Walt Whitman Birthday Reading, May 31

The annual event at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park, Albany, NY, sponsored this year by the Poetry Motel Foundation & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. Thank you everyone for sharing your evening, braving the cold & holding on in the wind -- Our readers, many reading more than once, were:

Dan Wilcox,
Cynthia Whitman(!),
Bob Sharkey,
Sally Rhoades,
Mary McCarthy (in photo),
Gene Damm,
Jamie Jo,
Frank Robinson,
Russell Crouse,
Susan Pedo,
Bernadette Mayer,
Philip Good,
Matt Galletta,
Cheryl Rice,

Mimi Moriarty (in photo),
Michael McCabe,
Lorre Smith,
Tom Ross (section 33, the longest, all by himself),
Alan Caslne,
Harvey Havel,
Kevin McCarthy
(& Ted & Rezsin Adams on the bench the entire reading)

& check out what the Albany Times-Union wrote in an editorial on that morning, & this photo published later in the week.

VOX, May 29

We had to wait outside the Fuze Box on Central Ave. for the bartender to unlock the doors before the open mic could start, but still the folks from the grad student reading up the street just walked on by. I think the score was 3 - 0 (3 community poets at the grad students reading, 0 grad students at VOX).

When we finally got in & got rolling (typically late, of course), "Reverend" Rob (our host, R.M. Engelhardt, who has been secretly training for the role of Kramer in the upcoming Seinfeld movie), read another of his religious tracts, "In the Church of Coffee & Smoke," then "Noir" (or, as he pronounced it, "no-R"). Mike Purcell began by quoting Basho, then a couple long list poems: "Hate" & "I Won't Work Anywhere...", then stretched our patience with a Paula Cole lyric. If it was on the radio you could turn it off. When I got up to read I said, "I won't work anywhere where I have to work," then read a poem I wrote for Lark Fest, "Watch Your Language," then the 2 "Epidemic" poems (posted on this Blog).

The featured performers were Keith Spencer on guitar & Thom Francis on poems, as Murrow, well documented tonight in photos by Kristen Day & myself. A good way to start is a poem about confronting a blank page on "A new day..." then into this group's crowd-pleasers -- the trucker poem (that may in fact be the title now), the "body like a train wreck" poem, "Shower," a drinking poem "3rd Can," a character study about working in a beer store, "Leaving this place I once called home...", the anti-recruitment, ironic "American," & ending, as they usually do, with "Radioman." A good performance, with the guitar riffs in the background keeping the rhythm in the poems, slowing the pace.

Back to the open mic, Don Levy gave us his take on the right-wingnut anti-tax rally, "How Long Do You Let Your Tea Bag Steep," then on the use of "gay" to describe inanimate objects, "My Gay Toaster Won't Let Go of My Eggo." The other photographer, Kristen Day, began with an old poem, "Closure," then the satiric "I'm On a Diet!" Our host was back with a reading of lyrics by Kansas -- why?

Matt Galletta went to the circus & saw the elephants on "The March." The night ended with 2 poets we don't usually see at these open mics. Ford McLain has published a chapbook Antietam (Shadows Ink Publications, 2007), where each of the poems begin with "D"; tonight he read a tribute to redheads, "In My Bed."
  
John Cirrin made a quick cameo with a lightening-fast take on mad-cow disease. Then the disco crowd began to take over, in a hurry to get rid of those poets, crank up the amps & begin pounding the beat into the floor.

This, the former QE2, ancestral home of the Albany poetry scene, now seems to be not particularly poetry-friendly; perhaps they are nervous about the poets hanging around too long & giving the disco &/or goth crowd a bad name. I mean, we dress funny & talk in tongues. But some actually buy booze. But this event continues on the last Friday of each month at the Fuze Box, Central Ave., Albany -- New York, not Wyoming.

June 2, 2009

Yes, a Reading, May 29

The moveable feast series run by academics-to-be at the University at Albany was the first game of an unintentional double-header this Friday night. Now at the Social Justice Center with the demise of the short-lived Townsend Bakery, hosted again by Doug Rothschild & Colie Collen.


Sarah Lariviere was tense, young & seemed to not have much experience reading her work in public. Her poems were fragmented, short, most often untitled. In fact "The You Poems" was a love poem composed of lines that have each not yet grown up into poems. She did show some narrative skill with "At the Conference," like a selection of overheard quotes.




Eric Keenaghan said he hadn't been working on poetry much lately, absorbed with some critical writing. The work he read combined both, including selections from his manuscript "Love Letters to My Husband." In general he was more discursive than Sarah's poems. What saved the reading for me was the explanation of his technique -- if I hadn't had known that the portion of "Disinterment" was an exercise of erasure on his own critical work I wouldn't have known what the fuck I was listening to. Ultimately the most entertaining pieces were the queer sex fictions. The human always wins out over the mechanical/theoretical.

I give these folks a lot of credit for bringing their work down into the "hood" but too bad they didn't stick around this night for the community poets just a few doors down on Central Ave.

Sunday Four Poetry Open Mic, May 24

If you have one of the bookmark style, full-year schedule of the Sunday Four Poetry series you will have noticed that I was scheduled to read on April 26. But due to a family wedding in Philadelphia I switched dates & instead was the featured poet today. It was like tag-team hosts, with Mike Burke introducing the afternoon's event, then Edie Abrams taking over the host duties for the open mic, & Dennis Sullivan introducing me at the end.

Mike Burke was the first of the open mic poets with 2 dog poems, which usually make me gag, but his "Tiny" & "His Yorkies," had enough humor & tough-sentimentality to make them work. Mimi Moriarty's first poem, "Delicate Woman," about her first open mic, had an uncharacteristic number (more than zero) of "Fuck"s in it. Her family memoir "Decade in 3 Movements" was more like her.  

Barbara Vink read old poems from The Every Other Thursday Night Poets 2006 collection, Poetry Don't Pump Gas. In addition to being a poet, Larry Rapant is also a philosopher; his "Swooshtika" on the Nike logo rambled on in that philosophical vein.

Dennis Sullivan went from words to melons with "In the Deep Silence" (words, like a work shape-up, waiting to be put to use) & a tribute to fellow host, Edie Abrams (who didn't read any of her poems today), "The Fields on the Bender Farm," which she is fighting to protect from development. "Mark O'Brien" is such a common name that this one likes to go by "Obeedude;" he told us "How the Poet was Hit in the Head by the Rock He Threw," by "The Events that were Somehow On Top of Him" "Under the Wandering Moon."

Tim Verhaegen read what is often call "O.P.P." (other people's poems) except that these were songs, by Melanie, Carly Simon & Joni Mitchell. [Note to Tim: until I can go to the library & checkout your "Collected Poems", read your own stuff -- I can listen to the records any time I want.] When Tom Corrado took the little square of paper out of his pocket, unfolded it carefully, then read from the wrinkles "Rubber Maid," for Larry Rapant, it was a performance in itself. Alan Casline is a champion of the short nature poem & today he had ones about a dead branch, about bees & rain, & about the heat. Philomena Moriarty (no relation to Mimi) read a couple of Irish-theme poems from Oriel, put out by the Unitarian Universalist Church (or society or congregation, or whatever it is), "Lifting the Veil" & "On Being Irish."

With a room full of such fine poets I was energized for a reading that the agonized playlist had been changed & massaged & tweeked & manipulated until I was no longer sure where I was going, but I went. But here it is: "The Communion of Saints" (as invocation), "Birthday Poem" (1/09), "Dot Dot Dot," "The Cardinal," "For Natalie," the 2 "Epidemic" poems, "Said Again," 2 Buddhist haikus, "On Reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead" (with rain stick), and blowing bubbles while "Dancing on the Mandala." It's all (l)inked together in the breath, if in nothing else.

Then we repaired to Smitty's for food, drink & conversation. Oh yeah.

The 4th Sunday of each month, in Voorheesville, NY, at the Old Songs Community Center, 37 S. Main St., 3PM -- bring poems to share.