September 30, 2009

Yes, Reading! September 26

Central Ave. has become quite the poetry street, what with the Fuze Box reading down the street last night & tonight's "Yes, Reading!" at the Social Justice Center just up the block. Tonight there were 2 poets from the world of Academe, hosted by Colie Collen.

Natalie Knight is a working towards a PhD at the University at Albany. She read what she described as "2 series of pieces" in which she raided words from poets & song writers. The first & older piece, "Archipelagos," is forthcoming from Punch Press (Buffalo, NY). She described it as a "lyrical science fiction narrative." It went forward to part 8, then from 8 back down to 1, in a fragmentary narrative filled with intellectual ponderings. The second series were newer poems; they seemed to be conversations, or fragments of overheard conversations or arguments, ending with "Nuclear" which you can find on the website.

Christophe Casamassima teaches at Towson University in Maryland & is the editor of Furniture Press. I must say I was put off by his self-deprecatory remarks, such as saying the people in the audience were smarter than he is & claiming he did not know what "serendipity" means, while I thought it was just insincere posing. He began with reading from Ore (twentythreebooks, 2009) which he described as "lines from 450 writers" & said that "this whole book is stolen" because he can't write any more, so he steals (is this any more or less true than his claim that he doesn't know what serendipity means?). He also read from Joys: A Catalogue of Disappointment (BlazeVox, 2008) which uses the lines of James Joyce & Charles Olson, & a brief section from The Proteus (Moria Books, 2008). I found the work to be abstract intellectual exercises, what might be called "wording off." I'd rather hear the work of Joyce & Olson unprocessed, that's why they are so great.

There seems to be a trend/fad/style among young poets from the universities to construct literary works from the lines of others; appropriating texts they call it. Both poets tonight read work that predominately used this technique. Local poet Tom Corrado essentially did the same thing last third Thursday right here at the SJC, but the author's text he was "appropriating" was him own, in a sense re-cycling his lines as he re-created himself in a compendium of his own words. The poets tonight were not as successful, with their work sounding like exercises in intellectual cleverness & often simply impenetrable.

The Yes, Reading! series continues on an irregular schedule, mainly at the SJC. Visit their website for more information.

VOX!, September 25

At the Fuze Box with our host R.M. Engelhardt resplendent in a long, black leather coat, who began before a sparse audience with "Immortality," for the recently-deceased, his friend Sue Cohn & Jim Carroll, both of whom had been in this very room back when it was the QE2. Mike Purcell then read an essay on the need to do things differently, "Shake Things Up." I read my poem for Charlie & Jack in Chicago "At the Garfield Park Conservatory" & just to be outrageous I read "Angels" but there were no nuns to chase out (or at least none that left).

Our featured poet, Margot Malia Lynch, fortunately brought her own following of friends & members of the Troy Hellions roller derby squad, otherwise there would have been only been 5 of us listening -- her performance deserved more of an audience than that. Margot's poems are characteristically self-referential, with her addressing some un-specified "you," which could be herself, as in her first poem running through a list of qualities of being a woman. "Defending Yourself" was structured like a class for women in abusive relationships, the teacher telling "you" what you should do. "This Is My Ritual" was another upbeat piece of self-affirmation, this time dancing alone & fantasizing sex (oh to be the rug). She ended with a couple songs, accompanying herself on her guitar, chanting/singing about love, then the New Age "Imaginary Friends".

In spite of the fact that there was only one other poet on the sign-up sheet, our host called for a break -- I guess he needed a cigarette. Once back, Rob began a long story leading into a poem about a dead cat, & described himself as "an animal rights activist" -- but then he should've worn a different outfit tonight.  Shannon Shoemaker was the night's last poet, performed from memory an old poem about being around a campfire, "Night in Michigan."

An open mic with featured poet(s) on the 4th Friday of each month, at the Fuze Box, Central Ave., Albany, usually about 8PM.

September 27, 2009

Third Thursday Poetry Night, September 17

Our featured poet Tom Corrado entertained with his stand-up bass as the poets gathered, then I envoked the muse, tonight Robert Creeley. Bob Sharkey began with a piece on the late David Foster Wallace, "Doing His Highness." Larry Rapant was a "flash poet" with his very short "My Kind of Wine." Marilyn Day pondered finding her collection of poems at the Barnes & Nobles in Niskayuna, "It Will Not Happen Here."

"The Theology Department's Lost & Found" was Don Levy hilariously taking apart the expression "finding God." Dennis Sullivan used his poem "My Mind I Traded for the Moon" to explain to a cousin who he is. Alan Casline told us that "Always I Quest After Detail."

There is a fashion among poets, particularly among younger poets associated with Academia, to make poems from the appropriated text of other poets or writers, mixing & matching lines like Allen Ginsberg picking out his wardrobe at Goodwill. Our featured poet, Tom Corrado, is a fan of John Ashbery's persistent non-sequiteurs. His reading tonight, which he described as "A Pastiche," was an appropriation of his own text. He rapidly leafed through the pages of a stack of his own poems, reading a line here, then turning the page to the next poem & reading a line there, a continuous self-anthology jambalaya for 20 minutes. I've read Tom's chapbooks & heard him read a number of times so there was that occasional shock of recognition when he got to a familiar line. It was a captivating journey through (parts of) the poetry of Tom Corrado.

When we returned after the break I read my Rosh Hashana poem "Taslich." Philomena Moriarty thought about "Indispensabilities" while waiting for her husband at the doctor's office. New voice & face Jim Williams, in his soccer referee's uniform, told "War Stories" of youthful protest marches prompted by the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. The poet known as "Obeeduid" copied the kids with his "My Emo Poem" mourning his Muse. Sally Rhoades captured beasts with words on a page in "Sovereign Minds."

Rachael Ikins watched insects under the full Moon on September 2. Benevolent Bird Press just published a broadside of Thérèse Broderick's poem "At the Site of Thoreau's Cabin," which she read with the correct pronunciation of his name (accent on first syllable). And R.M. Engelhardt gave us another in a series of lectures, "The Poet's Sermon on Sleep & the Nature of Reality" for those who need to know.

It's every third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, 7:30, a featured poet & an open mic for poets. Support poets, poetry & the Social Justice Center.

September 26, 2009

3rd Annual Welcome to Boog City Festival

I wan't there for the entire "5 Days of Poetry & Music" organized by Boog-Guru David Kirschenbaum but was at for the book fair & readings at Unnameable Books on Vanderbilt Ave. in Brooklyn on Saturday & Sunday, September 12 & 13. I had a table for A.P.D. (Albany's Poetic Dynasty) & was scheduled to read on both Saturday & Sunday.

Due to New York's rainy late-summer we set up on Saturday in the basement of the bookshop, the small press displays crammed together on folding tables among the old books with barely room for customers & listeners. I missed Rachel Levitsky, who had once read at the Readings Against the End of the World years ago, but did catch my table-mate Wil Hallgren (Stubborn Plant Press) & his political limericks, then Lydia Cortes's Puerto Rican memories, & Jill Magi's deconstructed L.L. Bean catalog before it was decided that the rain had stopped enough to go upstairs to the courtyard. Enough but not entirely.

When we finally got going again, Ivy Johnson read a series of her short poems, then Austin Alexis with his hospital/AIDS poems, Douglas Manson with some "table" poems, & Stacy Szymaszek from her book Hyperglossia (Litmus Press). I began to realize that some of the poets were leaving my head fuzzy while others spoke to me. The pattern for the day so far was short, fragmentary poems, but while some were mechanical exercises others dealt with the sometimes fragmentary nature of modern, particularly urban, experience. Mina Pam Dick's fragements came from her living in the city & were saturated with her presence -- good stuff, not just clever words.

Continuing on through the afternoon we heard Jennifer from Fence Books (another Albany connection, which somehow went unmentioned), Geoffrey Olsen from EOAGH: A Journal of the Arts, Cory Frost representing Ellipsis Press, Christopher Stackhouse from Corollary Press, & Andrew Hughes from Book Thug. I bought Jennifer L. Knox's book (Bloof Books) after being entranced by her sexy, funny poems, such as the one about Liberace. The afternoon was getting late, I was tired but I did catch Marcella Durand (Belladonna) & former Albany student, Karin Falcone, who had read at the QE2 open mic back in its day & still putting out the hand-made arts/lit zine artICHOKE. I was the last of the small press readers (reverse alphabetical order this year) & brought a bit of historical/political direct-statement to the day.

I regret missing my friends Katie Yates & Ammiel Alcalay as I was stashing my stuff, but was pleased to catch Jim Dunn who included in his reading a tribute to Garrit Lansing, as well as some of Garrit's own poems. The move to the courtyard exchanged the problem of a crammed, hot space with the danger of rain on our books (there was a brief sprinkle during the readings, but we were supplied with plastic tarps to protect our wares), & a very noisy gravel surface. But overall it was good to be outside & everyone was good-natured about the crunch-crunch while poets were reading. I wish I could've stayed on into the evening for more poets, but even my poetical ass gets sore & I did need a drink & dinner. & I give a lot of credit to my son Jack for hanging out with his old Dad.

Back again on Sunday, a better day for weather & the gravel quieted somewhat with some carpet & plywood -- you live & learn. It was a day of slightly longer sets, from Paul Foster Johnson, Eric Gelsinger (whom we've seen in Albany reading for Flim Forum Press), Joanna Sondheim, & Tracey McTague. I'm not usually a big fan of singer-songwriter entertainers, but perhaps it's because Alan Semerdjian is also a poet that I found his work so interesting. Martha King read a prose memoir, "A Little Tale of Family & War, 1977" that referenced the work of her husband, Basil King, who read after me & just before the panel. But in the meantime Brendan Lorber gave us his humorous, ironic urban tales. I followed reading poems by A.P.D. poets Anthony Bernini & Mary Kathryn Jablonski. Basil King's poems were, like Martha's, a memoir of his life & work as a visual artist.

A good chunk of the afternoon was taken up with a bevy of NYC & Brooklyn activists, artists, writers, etc. discussing "Thinking Globally & Acting Locally in the Aftermath of the Global Capital Meltdown" moderated by Greg Fuchs. With about 10 people on the panel the discussion fragmented like the poetry we'd been hearing the last 2 days, but certainly the highlight of the discussion was a comment by David's mother on the emphasis in schools on technology rather than reading poetry. Too bad few of the panelists hung around before or after they shot their mouths off to those of us who did hang around.

The poetry continued with Corina Copp, followed by the random everyday experiences of stalwart Lewis Warsh. Our omnipresent host David Kirschenbaum read a poem on the "Swoosh" logo. He was followed by Philadelphia poet Hailey Higdon, then the last one I caught before packing up, the short poems of Shanna Compton.

Just too, too much poetry for a body to bear, but exhilarating to be among so much word-energy, & a great counter to stuffier venues taking place elsewhere. I think the short answer to the panel discussion was the community of poets & small presses gathered here together in the courtyard of Unnameable Books & in the other venues throughout the City during Boog City Festival. If you're in NYC you can pick up copies of Boog City at lots of the hip places, or visit the website. Thanks David.

P.S.  You can check out more images on my Flickr! site.

September 15, 2009

Live from the Living Room, September 9

09/09/09 as some kind of magic number perhaps, & a quiet night at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany. The featured poet didn't show, but the poets (& one listener, the omnipresent Sue Cerniglia) who did show enjoyed talking & reading poems as if they were in someone's living room, as we indeed were.

I read "my" new collaborative poem, "At Peace Week," actually written by folks attending the annual Peace Week at the Quaker Meeting house in Albany in August & arranged/sorted by me (it was today's flyer handed out at the weekly Vigil for Peace in front of the Capitol building today). Bob Sharkey described a project he is working on of poems with titles taken from lines in Molly's soliloquy in Joyce's Ulysses, & read a draft poem "And She Never Left Us." Don Levy, our host, read his poem pondering the phrase "finding God," "The Theology Department's Lost & Found." Don asked, "does God tweet?"

We went around for a second time. I read "Angels" & told how this poem once chased an nun from the cafe in Border's. Bob read another from his project, this one titled "That He Thought He Had." Then Don took us through "The 19 Stages of Duggar" (baby 19 due in March). If you don't know, check out the website!

Always cozy & always "straight friendly," the 2nd Wednesday of each month.

September 9, 2009

Caffè Lena, September 2

The streets of Saratoga Springs were still crowded with the horsey crowd, so I opted to pay to park in the otherwise free lot -- somebody had taken my secret parking spot. Carol Graser, perhaps the shortest poetry open mic host, & certainly one of the most upbeat, began with a poem by Adrienne Rich. In addition to Rich's poetry, poets should read her essays in What Is Found There.

The first open mic poet was Carol Kenyon, who put out illustrations for her poem & read a saga of bands playing at SPAC in "A Saratoga Tale." Mary Melvyn's "The Role of Her Life" was a sad poem about a delusional woman in CVS with her faux baby. Mary Kathryn Jablonski read another of her series of poems on the "seas" on the Moon, this one, for 2 men she had loved, "Mare Undarum," literally sea of waves, forthcoming in The Healing Muse. Todd Fabozzi read "Vigilantes" (on immigration) & "Mutants" (effects of pollution) from his book Umbrageous Embers.

I don't recall seeing Billy Neary before, so he was the first of a series of tonight's "Caffè Lena virgins;" he read "My Other Dream," & longed for Ireland in "Sinn Fein." Sue Jefts has read here many times, meditated on "Morning," & a poem about a painting of snow dragons in the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC (a place I highly recommend -- dedicated to the art of the Himalayas).

Georganna Millman had just read at my third Thursday open mic in Albany, but I enjoy her work, plus I wanted to hear the entertaining array of local poets that usually show up here at Caffè Lena. She read a selection of poems from her new chapbook, Formulary (Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press, Stuart, Virginia), "The Happy Drawer" bringing out squeals of delight from her fans. She included some other pharmacy poems not in the book, & others, such as a "rare track poem," "Her Royal Nibs," & her green heron poems, "Seduction" & "Marriage." She has a pleasant, soothing voice that carries her simply-stated, well-crafted poems well.

After the break, our host, Carol Graser was back with one of her own poems, wondering who to blame untitled in 14 lines. The night's stand-up comic was Austin Halpern-Graser; he was also named the "best clapper." George Fisher's poems dealt with kids from a city shelter ("Turtle Hunters") & about an AIDS patient ("Waiting to Die"), but his intros seemed longer than the poems. Erica Shumacher, another new voice for me, read "Wind Chimes" & a haiku, brief & memorable. Barbara Garro was "hot & cold" with a poem about a hot night, "Soul's Night" (but what was Grendal's mother doing in there?) & "Cooled Love."

Fay Bell was another of tonight's poetry "virgins", reading a series of very short poems she called "Olivers," then brought down the house with a hilarious counter-version of Cinderella, "Everafter." Carolee Sherwood apparently has been getting out to readings, & read an exploration on the word "Forage" that included poetry monsters & dreams, then more dreams in "Origami." The title of Josh McIntyre's "The Bar at the Heartbreak Hotel" says it all, & "Radio" was about the songs you sometimes hear.

I read 2 new pieces, the wistful "Falling Asleep in Patchouli," & the Mingus-insprired bunny poem "Respect." Thérèse Broderick was there with her poetry salon friends & read "Permit" about teaching her daughter to drive, & the meditation on the night's lights over the Grand Canyon, "But For." Ryan Crotty is a young actor who likes to do OPP (other people's poetry), tonight the cannibal story of "The Rhyme of the Nancy Bell." W.D. Clarke followed with his own ballads, the anti-war "The Amputees," & "The Thunderbird" about a gambling gold miner out West.

Even the professors show up at Carol's open mic -- Jay Rogoff read about his grandson's taste in funky music, then his wife & Mozart's Così fan tutte, "All the Same." James Schlett spends a lot of time at ponds, this one in Chatham, "Road to the Interior." Yan Redman, clearly the shortest poet tonight, was amazed to be on stage & read us one of my favorite poems, "The Jabborwocky." Then Effie Redman (a brother & sister tag-team?) read her poem about about the cat in her lap.

Sally Rhoades took us to "The Wigwam," a warm place of love & hope with the family, then to hearing the sea on "Cypress Time." This was also Malcolm Willison's first time reading at Caffè Lena & he got us driving to the opera with "To Orphée at Glimmer Glass" then "After the Movie" with a hurricane coming to New Orleans. Nancy Muldoon was scribbling "Lipstick & Potato Chips" during the reading, bringing us back to scenes of Saratoga Springs, a fitting end to the night.

Check it out every 1st Wednesday on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, still happening even when the horsey set leaves (but don't expect to see Mary Lou Whitney there).

September 6, 2009

Poets Speak Loud!, August 31

Summer may be coming to an end, but the poetry readings keep happening & there was a full card of readers tonight, corralled by our host, Mary Panza.

I was there early for dinner, with Don, & so ended up #1 on the list, to nobody's great surprise. I read 2 Summer poems, one old, "Cutting the Lawn for the Ex," & the new piece, "Respect." A.C. Everson is everyone's coolest grandma, & she did a "white granny rap" & another on her grandchild's 2nd birthday (I hope her present wasn't a tattoo!). Sylvia Barnard was relaxing from the first day of classes, read a poem from her visit to England this summer, "The Work Love School." We haven't seen Rich Tomasulo for some time & his poem was entitled "Refugee."

Tonight's feature, Dominick Rizzo began with a poem for his beloved Mets, then on to a reading of "happy or positive poems," most from his book The Spiral Staircase of my Life, as he has at recent months at open mics & when featured at the Third Thursday Poetry Night. You can find out more about his book at

Brian Sullivan tried out a couple poems with interesting titles that he wrote for a creative writing class, "Not Another Soap Opera" & "I'll Need a New Pair of Levis Before This is Over." Don Levy read his ever-hilarious 3-chin poem, "Can You Count the Chins on the Angry Homosexual Poet?" Kevin Peterson was a virgin & apparently didn't hear the rules so Mary let him read 3 poems: "To a Stranger on a Plane," "First Day of Work" (a failure at selling cosmetics on Central Ave.), & "Never Had a Sister."

My immediate, visceral reaction to Amanda Rose's poem "Should've Been a Man Not Amanda" was NO! Then she took apart cliché's in "If One More..." Joe Hollander wrote "On the Way Here" just then on the back of a Third Thursday flyer. Shannon Shoemaker's poem "Metaphor" made the point that "the sea ... just a fucking metaphor;" then, "... for now" "The Last Poem." We ended the night with "the most dressed poet in the capital district," R.M. Engelhardt, who read his poem on Paris Hilton wannabees at a trendy bar, "Amateur," then "Unprogrammed," another in his ongoing series of poems on "phonies & fakes."

Come back to the Lark Tavern (in Albany, NY) on the last Monday of any month for another night of poetry among the burgers & fries, from your friends at Maybe by then I will have washed my cheek where Nicole the waitress kissed me at the end of the night -- do you think this is love?

September 5, 2009

Read for Food, August 28

I drove down to the Boughton Place Theater in New Paltz for a tribute to the wonderful American poet (who unfortunately is no longer among us), Enid Dame (the photo is of Enid reading at Cafe Web in Albany in October 2000). Paul Clementi, who was the host & runs Read for Food events, is putting together a video from documentary footage of Enid reading her poems, including segments from the Poetry Motel interview I did with her back in 2000. Paul had planned to have copies of the DVD for sale, but was still working on the project. Instead we watched selections from my interview as well as footage of her & Donald Lev reading in New York City. It was good to hear Enid's poems again in her own voice, from her own image. Older generations talked about "seeing ghosts." Now we do it all the time through the magic of film & videos, photographs & audio recordings -- I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

John K started off the open mic with a celebration of light, love & life for Paul & his wife Jodi, then a couple of love poems to his late wife, & a catalog of nature & love. Fred Harris commented on the radio news, then recited just part of a longer poem. Frank Boyer began with a sad "Late Afternoon" written when the World Trade Center was still standing; other poems included a recently written one on reading in the Widow Jane Cave, "Was It All Like This" (a cell-phone poem), with a haiku thrown in there somewhere.

I read a couple of summer poems, "Cutting the Lawn for the Ex," & the recent "Respect," & ended with my tribute to Enid, "Lilith at Bloomingdales." Ted Gill read his typically quirky, rhymed poems, "April to December," a piece on feeling the dark descending, & the swords & lords ballad, "Matter of the Hounds." Paul Clementi read an excerpt from an introduction to a photo essay, "The Sherman Creek Power Station," then his latest poem, "Waiting for the Bullet," with an interesting conceit of comparing the mileage on his cars to the circumference of the Earth (24,902 miles at the Equator, if you must know).

Donald Lev is now doing what he calls "Sorts," based on the old practice of sortes, random searches of texts. He read a series of these short poems based on random verses in the Bible, "Old" & "New" Testaments, including a piece that compared some sushi to the towers of Tyre, one on the New York State Senate based on a passage in 2 Corinthians & the eery one on the death of Ted Kennedy (from 2 Kings 14:14). The poems were short, riffing off the text, & decidedly not spiritual. Robert Milby typically extends his reading time with a catalog of recent birthdays & with a poem by some dead poet, tonight it was Goethe & Apollinaire. He finally got to his own poems, "Where the Road Rage Begins" on the death of a friend & the violence in our society, & his most recent poem, "Cloud Hagiography."

It's a monthly event, the 4th Friday, 7 to 10 PM at the Boughton Place Theater in New Paltz; check the website or that of Read for Food for directions.