April 26, 2010

2010 Albany WordFest, April 16

How do I distill, assimilate, digest, compost & regurgitate all these hours of poetry? I mean, why did I take on this job? It can't be just for the money. I showed up at the UAG Gallery on Lark St. Friday night just as Jan Tramontano was reading & thought I was at the beginning (I had a stolen copy of the "official" sign-up list) but then found out I had missed Therese Broderick, Laura Whelan, & others -- even missed the night's youngest poet, Bernie Crane. That's what I get for having dinner at Justins' & gossiping with the other poets I met there.

But the night was young & I made it all the way to closing time, 4AM -- not 7AM as advertised, since there was no one else signed up for the rest of the night when the last poet finished. But in between it was a full night of words -- how many? impossible to tell even in this electronic age. But most of the night was caught on the internet via "live-streaming" by Thom Francis (I did my share of live-streaming in the bathroom throughout the night). Some folks (a few) hung out through thick & thin, while, as could be predicted, some showed up just before they were scheduled to read. The schedule itself became very fluid, disappearing early, then returning later on, so that some groups of poets showed up "early" only because the program was running behind schedule, & then left en masse as soon as they had all read.

Throughout the night there were a number of references to soap operas & if anyone could be the night's "totem" it would be Elvis who was mentioned not only in a number of poems but also when folks commented on the retro microphone ("This looks like the mic Elvis used!" but others said it looked Eddie Cantor's or the one used on "American Bandstand"). And among all the folks who read, the most common first names were Jacqueline & Shannon (I think there were 2 Matts too).

There were groups with their own blocks of time, such as the Hudson Valley Writers' Guild, hosted by Carolee Sherwood & Jill Wickham (including Alan Catlin, Allen Curry (with an excerpt from a frontier novel in progress), Phyllis Hillinger, Mimi Moriarty, Sue Oringel, Barbara Shema, & Henry Tedeschi), and "Versus: The Albany At Night Poetry Group" that was hosted by RM Engelhardt (that included Shannon Shoemaker, Robert Eaton, & Shannon Lynette, accounting for both "Shannons"). There was a group that was not an official group, that drove up with Robert Milby, that included Justin Parrinello, Christopher "Pinky" Gazeent, & Adriana Delgado. Even a group that could've been a group but wasn't: Will Nixon, Donald Lev, Cheryl A. Rice (doing some of her "Albany poems"), Mike Platsky, & Teresa Marta Costa.

There were folks that don't get out to the open mics much, but I am glad to see when they do, like Karin Maag-Tanchak, Judith Prest, Cecele Kraus, "Poetic Vision" & Jacqueline Renee Ahl, who has read at past WordFests, but I only see her at readings in the mid-Hudson area. Barbara Garro, Carol Graser, Nancy Denofio, W.D. Clarke & Todd Fabozzi came down from the North & West.

I enjoy most the surprise of poets I haven't heard (or heard of) like Joe Hesch, Joanne Trapanese, Jacqueline Kirkpatrick (with letters not sent, including one to William Burroughs), Matt "Cousin' Boozey" Walsh, "Work in Progress", Lassana, & the early-AM fill-ins, Kevin, Whitney Coleman (both together & separately), & Shreel. Of course, there was also Tess Lecuyer (with sonnets!), AC Everson, & Don Levy among the regulars.

As is to be expected there were "highs" (in addition to the chemically-induced kind that some folks were experiencing) & "lows" (upon which I will avoid commenting as a charitable, kind-hearted person -- but I will tell you privately, if you buy the drinks). I will say that among the night's fine poems & performances I can cite as particular favorites, Avery's performance "My Kundalini Rising" to a prepared recording (the only such performance of the night), Jason Crane's poems on Lenny Bruce & Weldon Keys, Carol Graser's long, mythic "Tribe," Matt Galletta's "Blow Job" (that's a poem, not whatever else happened), & Ron Whiteur's hilarious rhymed performances with printed titles, a la vaudeville acts (he had the place in stiches).

At one point Michael Purcell speculated in one of his long philosophical pieces on the concept of "squirrel-ness" or "bear-ness" among animals. Tonight's experience made me ponder the nature of "Poet-ness." There is a whole set of photos on my Flickr site, as well on one maintained by Keith Spencer. The hosting duties for the night were split between Mary Panza, Thom Francis & me. If you missed it, or were there but chickened out, you will have to wait until next year.


Jason Crane said...

Thanks as always, Dan.

Avery said...

WHat a fun night!!! some great poets out there!

the redhead said...

Great review! It's always a pleasure to participate & become better acquainted with new local writers. Thanks for this overview!

Anonymous said...

from Therese -- Dan, you can't be everywhere at once. Frank and I read with the Murray Group early, at 6:30pm. Sorry I didn't stay long enough to hear you. Thanks for the summary.