April 29, 2010

The Delmar Writers, April 24

If I thought the previous WordFest weekend was busy with poetry I hadn't looked into my crystal ball to this weekend's 4 poetry events. It started off in a relaxed way at the Bethlehem Public Library for this reading by members of a writing group that meets on the 1st Friday of the month in the Board Room of the Library at 1:00PM. But there are apparently sub-groups; all genres are represented, as most were in this reading.

The introductions were by Marion Menna & there were pleasant guitar interludes by Catherine Norr. I had a moment of panic when Marion began with a poem about her dog, thinking I'd be trapped here all afternoon with dead pet poems, but that didn't happen. She read some poems from her chapbook An Unknown Country (Finishing Line Press), & others, including a recent one about the earthquake in Chile. Linda Sonia Miller read 3 poems from different points in her life, & one, "3:33AM," that "transcends all eras."

Susan Morse's personal essay, "Merry Catmas" was an hysterical account of misunderstanding "cats" for "hats" -- she even brought a hat.  Faith Swingle Green read a series of short poems, including haiku & a song lyric. In past years Sharon Stenson would come to open mics from time to time but I haven't seen her in a while; the fine poems she read today, including the well-crafted "Divorce Sestina," reminded me what we've been missing. More humor & dogs in Julie Cushine-Rigg's personal essay, "My Dog Has What?" (it was tonsillitis).

After a break, Marlene Newman read from fictionalized family letters from the early part of the 20th century up to World War II. Catherine Norr read 3 poems from her series called "Deflections of Characters." Phyllis Hillinger read an excerpt from her short story "Lonesome Cowpoke," with a character named Starry Bush, I kid you not.

Haiku poets usually read their tiny gems twice, they go by so fast; unfortunately Dave Nyhan went thru his "baker's dozen" of modern-life haiku too fast & they were gone. I admit to a particular affection for the poetry of Mimi Moriarty & of course enjoyed her selection of poems, some from War Psalms (Finishing Line Press), & others, particularly "The Shenanigans of Women as They Age."

An enjoyable afternoon of listening to good writing; it would be great if some of these folks would brave it out to some of the area's open mics & share their work with a wider audience.

There are individual photos at my Flickr site, where you can leave comments as well if you are inclined that way.

April 27, 2010

Psycho ClusterF**k, April 17

In the early years of the Albany WordFest, "psycho cluster-fuck" was the way we described how the event was unfolding. Over time the term became imbedded in the event, then began to be used to describe a separate performance, as part of the Wordfest, that included featured readers & music. However, sometimes it is not only a title but also an descriptive noun, as this night.

So we were back to the UAG Gallery on Lark St. (hey folks, do you get it? The marvelous organization that is known as the UAG Gallery is not just for hanging paintings on the wall, you know). Thom Francis was the host, & later part of the poetry-music group, "Murrow."

Ed Rinaldi has been reading out at open mics the last couple of years. He read a series of his generally short poems (or, as he himself said, "these are very short, like I am"). He began with a response to some comments about last night's WorfFest with "Epigram to Right Conduct," & "Some Words are Mortal," then into "Lupercalian Eve" & a poem about belladona. He included a couple poems he had read Monday night at Professor Java's, then one about a snake ("Mr. Tantalus the Egg Eater"), a piece on the fear of germs in the super market, "Another Beltain Poem," & ended with a love poem containing the line, "memories are perfumes for the eyes."

It seems we can't get enough of Rebecca Schumejda (nor she of us) as she was back with her fine poems (& I've learned how to spell her name without looking it up each time). She began with a poem by Nathan Graziano (who was listed on the program but couldn't make it). Then on into poems from her 2008 collection of poems, Falling Forward: "Four Months from Now," "Workman's Prayer," & "First Mother's Day" (which she said she hadn't read out before). Then some new poems, "Other Mother" (which she read for Mary Panza), a couple from a new series ("Burnt Pot" & "What Covers the Heart"), then "How to Tell Time" (for her brother) & "Snowflakes in Spring." She concluded with a bouquet of 4 poems from her 2009 chapbook, The Map of Our Garden, ending with "Anyway" ("it's my love poem").

A couple of Super-Heroes had been prowling Lark St. to save the day & wandered into the Gallery as Murrow was setting up; one of them read "Kick Ass" by Nate Graziano. Thom Francis & Keith Spencer, as Murrow, did a selection of their greatest hits, including "Leaving Home," "A New Day," "Doctrine," "Angels," "Aftermath" (dedicated to Geraldo Rivera), "December 4," ending with Keith's favorite piece, the one that has the line about her having "a body that could stop a train…"

There were more performers on the schedule, but since they hadn't arrived yet, we took a break. And before long I broke for home. Apparently a couple poets did eventually show up, but I missed them & so did you, unless you were there. I guess that's why it's called "psycho cluster-fuck."

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.

April 22, 2010

Third Thursday Poetry Night, April 15

The "official un-official start of Albany WordFest." In honor of our featured poet, Paul Pines, our muse for the night was Paul Blackburn (1926 - 1971); I read one of his poems from the 1974 issue of Sixpack, the Paul Blackburn Issue, which also included Paul Pines' poem, "Adios Pablo."

Alan Catlin, as he frequently does, started us off, & tonight with an "older" poem, "Death in Venice," another grim/funny bar story. Bob Sharkey's poem was about seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra up a the Lake George Jazz Weekend. Which was a good segue to jazz-commentator & musician, Jason Crane, who read "Amputee," about not playing his sax. Just back from New Mexico, Alan Casline read a poem/journal entry he wrote in Santa Fe. "Delightful" Don Levy read a how-I-spent-my-Easter poem, "Bloody Marys & Drag Queens."

When I moved into the East Village of NYC in the mid-1970's from my interim post-divorce crash pad in Staten Island, my local bar quickly became The Tin Palace at the corner of Bowery (when it was still "the Bowery") & 2nd Street. It was a jazz joint, in glaring contrast to CBGB's just half a block away, with the occasional poetry reading on Saturday afternoons. I definitely recall seeing read Kathy Acker, Susan Sherman & Kenneth Koch, & for a while Eileen Myles bused tables. The owner, when I first got there, was Paul Pines, our featured poet. Paul eventually moved to Glens Falls & one of his current projects is running the Lake George Jazz Weekend in September. He read a selection of his poems from his most recent book, Last Call at the Tin Palace (Marsh Hawk Press, 2009). He began with the rich, incantatory "Bread," then on to some Tin Palace poems. I remember seeing the drummer Jimmy Lovelace hanging out there ("Regarding the Percussionist") & an array of "Bass Players" to which Paul paid homage, & Hilton Ruiz ("Art of Memory"). Of course "Roaches" are a part of any bar experience, & Paul dedicated his poem "Bar Time" (about other places in the East Village I remember) to fellow "brother of the stick" Alan Catlin. He ended with the recent poem, "Hello from Nola," about being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras dressed as Jesus (or Moses, or Bacchus, etc.). Who would have thought back in 1976 I'd be here in Albany introducing Paul Pines at a poetry reading in the Social Justice Center -- longevity has its values.

After the break I read my poem "At McSorley's" remembering seeing Paul Blackburn there. "The Over-booked" (as we joked) Sylvia Barnard read another "show & tell" piece, passing around copies of a webpage from The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit of the Belles Heures of Jean de France, a poem about the calendar from that manuscript. W.D. Clarke read a piece about Joyce "Kilmer's Cross" that the poet/soldier was wearing when he was killed in World War I, still carried by the Commanders of his Regiment, an amazing story. Tedi Toca was the first poet to read at the Third Thursday poetry series when I started it back at Cafe Web in December 1997, but has been hiding out until tonight when she read "I Want to Do it Dressed Like a Pirate." Perhaps a greater pleasure than having a new poet read for the first time at the open mic is for that poet to come back & read again, as was the case with our last poet of the night, Christine Hollister, who read her recent poem "The Idiom of Pride."

Another great night at the Social Justice Center, every Third Thursday, 7:30 PM, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY

April 20, 2010

Reading by the Carol Ann Donahue Poet, April 15

This is the annual big poetry event at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY & this year's poet was Kim Addonizio. The reading was held at the College's Bush Memorial with the introductions by David Salomon from the English Department.

Addonizio began with some poems from her collection What is This Thing Called Love, first with a couple of sonnets with jazz titles, "Stolen Moments" & "So What." She, at a least as an "I," is a big presence in her poems, prompting her to comment ambivalently at one point on some critics classifying her as a "confessional" poet, to which she gave the lie in "Scary Movies" in which she said she "lied for the sake of the poem" -- don't we all? "Confessional poet" is one of those stadium-sized pigeon holes in which you find not only Anne Sexton & Robert Lowell but Allen Ginsberg & perhaps ever Walt Whitman.

I groaned when she said she was going to read a dying cat poem remembering many such painful moments from past poetry readings, but she endeared herself to me by by saying she wrote it because someone told her not to write it. You know, as far dead cat poems go -- in fact as far as any cat poem goes -- it wasn't bad.

The rest of her reading was 6 or 7 poems from the new book Lucifer at the Starlight. She ended playing blues harmonica, singing along with a blues poem for Robert Johnson, & other old blues tunes. It was a lot fun, dead cats & all.

This is not a good venue for poetry: the amplified sound gets muddy in the cavernous ceiling & the poet is hidden behind a wrap-around pulpit like a sea captain's wheelhouse; moreover, the attendees were scattered throughout the big space, but in a smaller venue would have seemed crowded.

Live from the Living Room, April 14

Actually, tonight it is "Live from the Basement AA Room" since there was a meeting going on in our usual space. Not that our host (Don Levy) does yoga but he is flexible, so we were in the basement, on folding chairs, not as comfortable as the couch & soft chairs, but we're poets, we're tough (or tuff).

I haven't seen the featured poet, Noah Kucij, in a few years when he used to come out to some of the open mics. His poems tonight ranged from Schenectady ("That Lights & Hauls the World," a 5-part memoir/love poem to that city, & "In Memoriam," to the Brandywine Diner) to "Arbor Hill" to the Adirondacks ("Burning," an I-want-to-be-Robert-Frost poem) to Bangkok ("In Thewes"), with a few other stops thrown in. Some of the poems are from the collection, The Fifth Voice (Toadlily Press, Chappaqua, NY). It was great to know he is still around & to hear his poems again.

The open mic began with me reading "Those Big APR [American Poetry Review] Poems" & my loving pastiche of William Carlos Williams most famous poems, "So Much Depends Upon This is Just to Say" (it is National Poetry Month, you know). Bob Sharkey's poem "Sky" was a mélange of images mixing in a fantasy of a witness protection program, then he did his Caffe Lena poem, "Mr. & Mrs. FedEx…"

Richard Morrell has been writing a couple of poem sequences & he read for us #37 of the 55 poems in the "Doom Sonnets," then read #4, "Power Point," from his Iron Pentacle sequence. Carolee Sherwood is one of those manic poets who are writing a poem a day because it is National Poetry Month (so what do they do during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?) & both of the poems she read are on her Blog, April 5 & April 10, & they are both worth reading again.

A new voice here, & her first time reading, was Jenn Armbrust who read an intense piece from her notebook, "My Love is Hate." Jason Crane's first poem, "Lottery," was a tender piece about an old woman remembering important dates in her past by the numbers she played, then he read "Muse Incorporated." Our host, Don Levy, read a poem by Ai, in her memory, & a poem by Madeline de Freeze, both from the old anthology, A Geography of Poets.

We gather at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany for this "straight-friendly" reading & open mic every 2nd Wednesday, about 7:30PM, usually in the living room.

April 17, 2010

Professor Java's Wide Open Mic, April 12

This was the 2nd gathering of this new series at Professor Java's on Wolf Rd. in Albany, NY. Its host is Keith Spencer & it's "wide open" because they let folks with guitars (tuned or not) join in. I usually have an aversion to these open mics because 1) there are plenty of music open mics around; 2) the musicians always play longer than the poets read (I like equity); 3) too much time is wasted tuning up; & 4) how many "heading down that lonesome road" songs can you listen to at once? But this wasn't bad -- & 3) & 4) didn't happen. & I was there to support my friend Keith & a new venue for poets. There was even one singer I thought was really good (see below).

Since even the musicians don't like to be #1 on the sign-up sheet, once again I was the first to read, starting with "Coffee House Rant" because that's where we were, then with "The Lilacs" to show off the new anthology it's in. I was followed by a solo electric bass-player, Dan Sales, improvising a couple of pieces.

Then one of my favorite poets (whom I haven't seen out in a while), Jan Tramontano, with a new piece "In the Music, Voices, Piano."

Josh McIntyre did 2 short poems I've enjoyed before "In Tune" & "Radio."  Greg Guba, who also plays solo gigs around, did a couple of Eric Clapton tunes, one from the Blind Faith album (one of my personal favs), then another when Eric was Derrick & the Dominoes. Jason Butchkoff said his long piece, a letter from Icarus, was the first poem he had written in a long time. Sometimes an open mic can sound like an evening at group therapy, & that's what Joyananda's "letters written & never sent" sounded like -- hope it helped.

The next singer/song-writer was Carolyn Brown with a tune by Jewel, then one of her own songs, "Through the Mud," about over-coming difficulties. Coincidentally, the next poet was named Carol Jewell, with 2 intriguing poems, the inventory of a "Junk Drawer" & "I've Heard that Song Before." Mary Panza really likes Keith's "Elvis mic", into which she breathed "Hit Forward" & one of my favs, "Fuck the Giving Tree."

Erin Powers was the night's singer that impressed me the most, a big voice in a small body, with 2 originals, "Miss Misfit" & "It's a Dark NIght" wrapped around her version of the Jefferson Airplane's "Don't You Want Somebody to Love" -- I'd definitely pay to listen to her again. D. Colin is a young poet organizing a new series at the Center Galleries in Albany; she began with a moving piece about Haiti, a poem beginning & ending with a song, then "Before Translation." Ed Rinaldi's poems are short, & he too had an Icarus poem, "The Nose (or was that "No's"?) of Icarus" where the character swims rather than flies, then a tender love poem, & ended the night with his part of a collaborative poem, "Sharp-Winged Nymphs."

Check this out on the second Monday of each month at Professor Java's on Wolf Rd. in Colonie, NY, 8PM -- guitars permitted.

April 14, 2010

The American Voice in Poetry: The Legacy of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg, April 10

I drove down to Paterson, NJ to participate in the reading/book-launch for this anthology in which my poem "The Lilacs" is included (my buddy Charlie Rossiter also has a poem in it). The book was edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. 29 of us showed up to read our poems & help celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Poetry Center.

In addition to providing poetry events & workshops to a diverse audience, the Poetry Center offers opportunities for poets to contests, awards, reference materials and conferences, including publishing the journal, Paterson Literary Review. It was through the Poetry Center that 3 Guys from Albany brought our unique blend of poetry & performance into the Paterson schools on many occasions. Visit the website for more information about this outstanding center that can serve as a model of how to integrate poetry & the written/spoken word into the community at large.

Copies of the anthology are available from the Poetry Center for $10.00, plus $3.00 shipping & handling, checks made out to "Passaic County Community College" (memo: Poetry Center):

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Editor
The Poetry Center
Passaic County Community College
One College Boulevard
Paterson, NJ 07505-1179

April 12, 2010

Caffe Lena Open Mic, April 7

Another full night on the Caffè Lena stage in Saratoga Springs -- not that all the poets were up there at once, but it was a steady stream of good community poetry, & a featured poet all the way from Oklahoma. Our host Carol Graser began with a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca, on "beauty" of the small things.

Todd Fabozzi was first up with "The Other America" then a lighter poem about the paper-towel dispenser in the bathroom. Carol Kenyon (in the photograph at right) said she had "2 shorties," one (sung) on paintings of the Solstice, the other "straight-up poetry" reflections. Gordon Hayman's poem was "Laugh" with a last line from Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, then "Balls of String," a boyhood memory in rhyme.

Sue Jefts, resplendent in a long, pale scarf, started with Wendell Berry's "How to Be a Poet," then to her own newer poem "Goat Dreams," with wine. Alan Casline has just returned from New Mexico read "Dry Country" (which, as I was writing this a few days later, received  on a slow postcard from New Mexico) & "My Navajo Butterfly Song" both from his little pocket notebook. Barbara Garro responded to a movie about Edith Piaf, then read a memoir about "Bicycles." Nancy Denofio's "The Center of Being" was about what the space between life & death, then a poem about waiting in the car outside K-Mart at "The Cemetary Parking Lot."

Some months back I connected again with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, tonight's featured poet & even found pictures I had meant to give her years ago of a reading she did in Albany in 1994. So it was with a rich sense of meeting an old friend that I sat at her table & heard her read her poetry among her other old friends, & new ones too. Her book of poems & family photographs, Work is Love Made Visible, is out recently from West End Press (Albuquerque, NM) & that's what she read from tonight. Poems of her great-great grandmother writing poetry, her son ("For Michael"), the 2 sides of an obituary "for my brother," gentle & harsh portraits of her Oklahoma ("suite: home Oklahoma" & "ashes & dust"), & the literary Okies, "Rosasharn Reports from California in the 21st Century." I've heard the term "regional poetry" used dismissively by poets & critics with over-reaching ambitions, but hearing this (regional) poetry tonight confirms for me why it is the poetry that readers find the most "universal." Find more information at her website.

Carol Graser continued the open mic with a new, untitled poem that sounded like a miniature novel. Effie Redman's poem "40 Lashes" was based on a newspaper article & cries out to "Free her!" Austin Halperin-Graser, the resident stand-up comedian, tried out some new material. W.D. Clarke put on an English accent (sort of) for "The Parson's Tea" that drew laughs from the audience, then "He" about a soldier's last bullet. Jan Legacy performed a poem, "Small Blond Girl" inspired by photos of her mother. Melissa Anderson was new to the poetry open mic, read "The Sky & I" & the graphic, detailed "Dodgeball."

Another young poet, Amy Leach, read Andrea Gibson's "Sidewalk Chalk" (& read it well, too). Steve Pillar was up next with a "poem about the troubles of today…" "Great Bird of Beauty". Josh McIntyre is "One of our much-appreciated regulars," as Carol said, &, as usual, had 2 short poems, "Home" & "Fasting" on a beautiful day, like today. I read next, just one poem, appropriate for this night, "I Meet An Old Friend on the Subway."
 Ellen Finn has read here before & showed up the other night at Valentines in Albany just to listen, tonight read 2 poems about the effect strangers can have: "3 Days Shy of 5 Years Later" a moving poem of high school suicide, then "Mr. Benchman" about a character in her town buying her cigarettes.

Bob Sharkey read a poem based on titles of poems from last month here, "Mr. & Mrs. Fed-Ex Expecting Spring Plucking a Goose in the Cellar." Therese Broderick was nervous about sending her daughter to "Nicaragua," the title of her prose poem, then read a poem ("Courante") about her neighborhood, using terms from classical music. Lorraine Grund was back after an absence, inspired to writer more about what her life is like, "This Life." Mark Munzer's brand of poetry is "more cowboy," he said, recited rhymes about the rain coming, then, sitting, about going for a ride, passing a tractor driven by a young girl.

This wonderful open mic is at historic Caffé Lena in Saratoga Springs, each 1st Wednesday, 7:30PM -- great community writers & a visiting featured poet.

April 9, 2010

Albany Poets Presents: Bad Lyric Night, April 6

This was the "15th Annual" bad lyric night with "93 people" in attendance, or at least that's what the (undercover) police report said -- you know how bad their information is! But seriously or not there was a contest for the best reading of a bad song lyric so folks came from the Vermont border & the North Country as well as the wilds of Delaware Ave. to compete for the fame & big prizes.

I was hopeless with my recitation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (did you know that there are 4 stanzas to this thing, & that the first stanza -- which is all we ever hear at Yankee Stadium -- is a series of questions?). Needless to say, I was not among the winners. But I also read my poem based on another lyric ("Memo from Turner"), the ironically titled "Memo from a Rich Man" for Albany's errant Police Chiefs & unreliable informants.

Ed Rinaldi read "In Heaven There Is No Beer" (which are actually very fine lyrics) then a couple short poems of his own, "Clockworks for Play," & what he called a "short Nature poem." Dain Brammage's lyric was "Piss Up a Rope," which I don't recall ever hearing on the radio. But I certainly heard of "I Write the Songs," an execrable lyric read well by Brenda Rusch (who won 2nd place!). She was ultimately beat out (hmm…) by Albany's own Don Levy who won first place with his recitation of "Afternoon Delight" (which is totally off my radar). Keith Spencer, who received the 3rd place award, has to be given the dubious distinction of having brought the event to a new low with "Who's Your Daddy" -- I mean, do we (meaning the public at large) really have to hear this shit?

Inexplicably, RM Engelhardt said he was doing the William Shatner version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the Beatles tune, which was simply reciting the lyrics as a poem, which what we were all doing tonight anyway. He also did the rap rhymes of "Back in Black," his theme song, & read his poem "Soul Parade" (available on his website if you want to look it up).

Bless had no lyric but said he was celebrating his second divorce with his short zinger, "Epiphany" -- congrats & best of luck, my friend.

Prizes were Albany WordFest tee-shirts, spoken word CDs & even some old vinyl albums of things like "Donovan's Greatest Hits."

Albany Poets Presents! is the first Tuesday of each month (but bad lyrics night only happens once a year, approximately) at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., in Albany, NY about 8PM, more or less.

April 8, 2010

Albany Poets Invade Kingston, April 3

Rebecca Schumejda invited a bunch of poets from Albany to read in series she runs at the Half Moon Books on North Front St. in Kingston (NY). There was a good audience scattered among the stacks; someone estimated the crowd to be 93, but I'm not good at numbers.

But I do know that I went first with a combination of Buddhist poems from my new chapbook, boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press), & some political pieces, starting with "Good Friday Meditation" then later the old rant, "Richard Nixon Must Die." The Buddhist selections included "The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas" (based on The Lotus Sutra), "On Reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead" & a scattering of Buddhist haikus; also included the recent "Split this Rock Dream Poem."

I've been listening to Mary Panza for years & the audience always laughs, sometimes because it's funny, sometime because she makes the audience is nervous. She brought it all on tonight, from Wim Wender's film "Wings of Desire," to attacks on chain email, or waiting for the poem to come, & her experience as a bartender ("The Assumption"), or to the well-earned attack on Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, for Julia. In fact the experience of having, then raising, her daughter played a large role in tonight's playlist with "The tattooed crowd at Daycare" (the title says it all), or how to get on "In a Post-Partum World," & bonding with her daughter ("6 Weeks Unpaid" watching TV), ending with "Roofing & the Art of the Kiss."

Thom Francis on word & Keith Spencer on various guitars are "Murrow." Thom attempted to read the Cliff Notes of the Iliad & the Odessey until the audience protested. They did a set filled with their well-known "hits" (just like the Rolling Stones), starting with "Angel." Thom likes to combine disparate elements in his poems, like the drinks on a bar & the loves in one's life, or a "Shower" & a confessional, or "A New Day" & a blank page. He pointed out, gratuitously I think, that they had never done "A New Day" before their traditional closing "truckin' poem," so you heard it first there (& here).

I was very pleased to be in such good company, not only of the other poets whom I had performed with, but also of the fine poets & poet-listeners in the audience. This is a relaxed setting, conducive to listening to the words in the air bouncing off the words printed on pages surrounding us. It's worth a stop there even when there isn't a reading to pick up that novel, or book of poems or art book you've always wanted, but didn't want to buy full priced, brand new. Even dusty words don't loose their shine.

April 5, 2010

"It's not the Truth, but it's pretty darn close."

When I post a Blog on dwlcx.blogspot.com it is automatically posted in a few hours to my Face Book site. Once it is there, I can tag friends, but otherwise it is available to anyone on Face Book. However, those who access the entries directly at the Blogspot website have a number of advantages over those who read it only on Face Book: the layout is more dynamic, it is easier to access earlier Blog entries which are sorted by "Labels" & by dates, & there is, at the bottom of the page, a list of links to other websites & Blogs (you can also post a comment). Like an old fashioned newspaper there is a Masthead with the name of the Blog: DWx, & the motto: Poems -- & Musings on the Albany (NY) Poetry Scene. "It's not the Truth, but it's pretty darn close." So if you've only read my postings on Face Book you have never seen this disclaimer.

These Blogs that I write are not, as some refer to them, "reviews;" they are not journalism, or "news;" they are simply my idiosyncratic reports on whatever I feel like writing about -- or not. Often I am writing about a poem I have heard once, sometimes in a noisy bar, sometimes with someone talking to me, sometimes while I'm in the bathroom, sometimes read so badly even the poet doesn't know what they just said. I have written satire, I've posted poems, & I've even posted Blogs on events that did not happen (you find them). I'm under no obligation to be truthful, honest or even nice. But I always put my name on what I write & everyone is free to comment in response without fear of being "de-friended" or blocked. I always assume that everyone else is as wrong as I am.

So, as the Romans said, Caveat lector. Or, as I say, It's not the Truth, but it's pretty darn close.

April 4, 2010

Poets Speak Loud!, March 29

It was the last Monday, again, & Thom el presidente Francis was our host. & Nicole was our most gorgeous waitress, yes! & it was an open mic.

Sylvia Barnard was first up with her poem about dying flowers, "Painting Flowers." Then I read my new poem "Split this Rock Dream Poem" & the old poem "Joe Krausman" (originally published in Open Mic: the Albany Anthology). Josh McIntyre's poems are characteristically short, as was "Downhill Blues" & the very short "NIght & Day". Chad Lother has popped up a few times at local open mics, tonight read a narrative titled/about "Juda" polishing the shoes of D.B. Maybe you can find him at WordFest this year.

Tonight's feature was Avery Stempel with a variety pack of poems, from the very short (a haiku), to the almost interminable "The Colors of the Rainbow" which was printed out on different colored pages with astrological & mystical signs & symbols & wingdings on the back, a meandering poem of movie lines, random philosophical (& otherwise) thoughts, timed throughout the night & day. Other pieces included his "Blossoming Flower" in hip-hop lines read fast (he has a tendency to read his work fast, pressured, in a somewhat numbing rhythm). He writes with poet friends from Siena College (who'd thunk?) in a collaborative group called "Different States of Poetry" that co-creates a poem every month; he read one of his contributions to the group, "Reflections on Windows." He has been showing up here recently at the open mic & it was good to hear a bigger chunk of his interesting work.

You have to stay up with pop culture (both gay & straight) to get with the poems of Don Levy & tonight he challenged us with "Ziggy Family Peanuts" about the Sunday funnies. Jill Wickham told us about Barbie & G.I. Joe & Ken in "What the Dolls Do When They Sleep" (I always wondered!) & then "An Old Story, after Bob Hicok" in his style of random connections.

While I got Carolee Dawn Sherwood's little story titled "Tuesday Lunch" in my notes OK, a line I liked from her poem "Mine" disappeared into gibberish -- oh well, I enjoyed it. Jason Crane showed up in his bike outfit (you know, those cute little hats & tight pants) & read "Lillian Dupree & the Ballad of Frenchman St." which has just been published in Blue Collar Review (Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature); also, from his forthcoming chapbook, "Eating Godzilla." Joe/Songsten Hollander signed up as "Pablo" with a love poem to a Newark stripper, ah!

Good food, good drinks, a beautiful waitress, & wonderful poetry on the last Monday of each month at the Lark Tavern at 7:30 PM (actually, the good food, good drinks, & beautiful waitresses are there all month long) -- Madison Ave., Albany, NY.

April 3, 2010

Jared Smith: Looking into the Machinery

I first heard Jared Smith read his poetry at the riverrun bookshop in Hastings-on-the-Hudson before I moved back to Albany in 1986. Then, in May 2009 he hosted Charlie Rossiter & me in his home in Colorado & accompanied us on our 3 Guys from Albany journey to Albany, Wyoming.

Looking Into The Machinery: The Selected Long Poems Of Jared Smith has just been released by Allen Hoey's Tamarack Editions, which has also published local area writers George Drew & Nancy White.  The book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and other booksellers.  Locally, call the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza to order your copy.

Jared Smith will be reading at Books & Writers in Rochester on April 29th; at the May Day rally in Albany on May 1st (1 to 4PM, West Capitol Park); and will be the featured poet at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs on May 5th at the 1st Wednesday open mic. Catch him as he flies by.

April 2, 2010

Sunday Four Poetry, March 28

Back up to Voorheesville again to the Old Songs Community Center for this stellar open mic & reading. This afternoon our host, Dennis Sullivan, was also the featured reader. But first, the open mic.

I signed up as #2 on the list, I swear, but still ended up reading first. I hyped my new chapbook, boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press), by reading from it "The Fairy Circle," then "Good Friday Meditation" (from 2002). Philomena Moriarty read 3 poems on Buddhist themes, "Enlightenment," one on a ladybug at Starbucks ("Stop Breathe"), & "The Thief Could Not Steal the Moon" in which she retells a Buddhist legend. It was like the "Moriarty corner" (except that they're not related, at least any more than your or I) with Mimi Moriarty next with poems linked by family connections: "Civility" (a family meditation), "Uncle Tom," & the clever play on the anthropomorphism of Time, "My Cousin Who Contemplates Retirement Asks What I Do with Time."

Beat humor is Larry Rapant's strong suit which he displayed with selections from "The Bios," whimsical versions of his short biographies for publications. Obeeduid's (Mark O'Brien) poems today were pensive, beginning with a soft, impressionistic love poem, then "Alone at Last" about sleeping with books, then one I think was titled "Flung by Plants." Tom Corrado likes to string together, then bounce images off one another, like tennis balls in the John Updike-inspired "Topspin," then piled up the images in an homage to Schenectady's downtown in "The High of 51."

Tom stuck around to introduce Dennis Sullivan, comparing Dennis' hat to Walt Whitman's (sure looks like it). Dennis is a philosophical poet, but one whose poems are filled with the passion of living & loving & contemplation, filled with the "wisdom" contained in the original meaning of the word "philosopy." He began with "When You Need a Friend," a poem that turns on the metaphor of a valise containing his clothes & his soul. "Remembering Mother in Barcelona" was from a recent trip to that city, as was "Paean to the Two-Step" with its lovely images of leaves & wine on a terrace. In addition he read a poem he wrote in Spanish & English inspired by the poetry of one of Spain's most prominent modern poets, José Angél Valente ("The Gospel According to Me"). Other poems included "Ten Rules to Take to the Grave" (aphorisms for Jim Williams), "Morning" (for his son), & "Premonition" (a love poem to his wife, based on Ovid). He ended with a poem on the life of a Village, "Utopia", in 7 parts, where the philosophical musings were contained in images, not abstractions.

While that was the end of the poetry readings for the day, the poetic (& political) discussion (& camaraderie) continued around the table at Smitty's Tavern, making for a lovely Sunday afternoon.

The reading is held each 4th Sunday of the month at the Old Songs Community Center on Main St. in Voorheesville, NY.