May 29, 2010

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, May 20

Another wonderful evening of poetry at the SJC (of course I would say that, I'm the host), with 14 poets in the open mic, including some new to this series, some strangers in the audience, Colie Collen the fabulous featured poet. While we were waiting to begin someone from the street staggered in to recite a poem, a very short love poem he did twice, as if it were a haiku (sometimes they just want to use the bathroom).

My Muse for the night was the poet & biographer of H.D., Barbara Guest, a couple of her poems to inspire us. When we started reading only about half of the eventual open mic poets were there so I rewarded those present by letting them read 2 poems, while the late sign-ups were limited to the usual 1 poem rule.

Once again Alan Catlin was #1 on the list & began with a "true" story from his bartender days, "A Moveable Honeymoon Suite," then from a series of poems using animals as metaphors in surreal places, "White Whales in Fields of Wildflowers." Bob Sharkey's poems tonight were the first two in a long series of prose poems, "The Body" a mystery story, continued in "The Tokens."

Jason Crane read a poem about fixing up his truck, "Red Truck Elegy" then a poem for the jazz piano man Hank Jones, "91." Tedi Toca was back again, 2nd month in a row, with an old heavy-metal & lost love inspired poem, "Smudged." This was Anna Eyre's first time reading at the Third Thursday, with a chant piling up images & celebrating "Me" (I mean, her).

Colie Collen is the coordinator of the Yes, a Reading series, often held right here at the SJC, & an editor at Fence magazine. She began with an "erasure" of a sermon titled "Ships & Havens" by the American author & clergyman, Henry van Dyke, turning van Dyke's text into something other than it was when published in 1897; still, the sense of mortality runs through this re-cycled text as, I'm guessing, was a theme of the original text. Her other work, having some of the same fractured rhythm & syntax of the erasure/cut-up, was saved from just textual games by their everyday images of "thing-ness" as in "Not Night As in Fully" (in a cabin) or the poem following it (containing the image of "a blister inside a blister"). The poems "I Couldn't Explain & Can't & Yet" & "August" were shaped in alternating long & short centered lines in which the alternating shorter lines made a poem of its own. An untitled poem combined a school setting & Bloggers, & she ended with a meditation on touching, "A Gorilla Suit Extends Its Hand," generated by a Flannery O'Connor story (& which reminded me of the movie Morgan -- Netflix it).

After the break we returned to the open mic & I read a new poem from a notebook entry from last year, "Berkeley Morning." Then another SJC virgin, Raurri Jennings, who was encouraged to attend by the featured poet, did "a live cut-up" of 2 letter/poems he has been writing lately, then read the sources, which kind of took the thrill away. W.D. Clarke read "The Outsider" (from his book Soldier Ballads & Other Tales), & a Canadian story his Dad used to tell, "The Pumpkin Pie."

Ellen Finn (an "Albany virgin") is a regular at Caffe Lena, & read "To my Parents this Poem is my Therapy" (as so many are). Moses Kash III's poem read one of his latest poems, "America 2" about the country's racism & decline & it's false dreams of celebrity.
Anthony Bernini's poem was titled "Held in Place" & seemed to combine the wind, a hawk & a "2-ton pickup."

Traffic-girl Carolee Sherwood read "Placing My Head in the Mouth of a Lion" which she said, to taunt me, was a cat poem, but I beg to differ. D. Alexander Holiday plugged his new book, a memoir, In the Care of Strangers: The Autobiography of a Foster Child; the poem he read was "I LIke to Think of Harriet Taubman" by Susan Griffin. The night's last poet, Jill Wickham, read a poem based on a wordle, "Behind the Scene at Dick & Jane's" another of her commentaries on suburban life.

Every third Thursday, the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., 7:30PM (sign-up at 7:00PM), $3.00 donation, featured poet & open mic.

May 19, 2010

Live from the Living Room, May 12

A wonderful gathering of poets from far & wide in the living room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center, with Matt Spireng as the featured poet. But first our host, Don Levy, started us off with Kenneth Koch's funny "Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams."

Matt Spireng structured his reading around his travels, from a couple poems about New Orleans, to "Sunset Cadillac Mountain" (Maine), to poems about whales on Cape Cod, to a series in Montana (including good advice about bears: "Whistle, Sing, Talk"), then NYC & "Crossing Central Park," more whales & a speeding pick-up truck in Virginia, to finally the comforting obvious "You Are Here." A nicely put-together reading; he has a number of books out there & they are worth looking for.

Jill Crammond Wickham was the first on the open mic sign-up list & read a poem to an old boyfriend she found on Facebook, then the gossip column post "Here's Something You Might Not Know About Elvis" (hint: he was knitting briefs & listening to Santana). I read "Springtime Maggie" & repeated "44,000" (the Kent State/Jackson State poem).

Carolee Sherwood's "Have You Ever Told Anyone Everything You Need?" is a poem filled with memory & fantasy (perhaps), then she read a poem about Iceland's dueling volcanos, like girls fucking. Alan Catlin read a couple poems from his latest collection Near Death in the Afternoon on Becker Street (March Street Press), his Schenectady poems, with a blurb on the back from Me.

Charlie Rossiter was passing through Albany from his home in Chicago & it was a pleasure to have him here with us tonight.  He read poems from his collection All Over America: Road Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2009), "The Giggling Teenage Girls of Wallace Lake, MO" & "It Was a Damn Fine Alabama River Wedding."

Richard Morell read another of his Dream Sonnets, this #5, & "Spiritual Queen, Not Musical Theater Diva Grande Alcoholica" (which can be found on his Facebook Notes). Don introduced the next open mic poet as "Jason Crane & His Bag," a bag that has been getting as much cyberspace face-time as the poet his-self. "Convenient Store Sushi" was followed by a deletion poem using as a text Martin Luther King's speech "Why I Am Against the Viet Nam War."

Sylvia Barnard has been reading lately her recent poems, "The Belle Heure Exhibit" & the Nazi nightmare, "The Locked Door" -- thankfully, since I can't go to the library & take out her Collected Poems, yet. Bob Sharkey's poem "Act 23," written after hearing the young jazz singer Esperanza Spalding with a fireman's death & his & his family's personal "23"s; he ended with "Legacy" by an Irish poet, about, of course, a bar.

Don Levy likes to read last at his event & began with the multiple parts of "Pretty City Poem" with tulips the color of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (I kid you not!), then the hilarity of "The Adventures of Jason's Bag as Told by His Publicist" (which can be found on Don's Facebook Notes).

This "straight-friendly reading" is held each 2nd Wednesday, 7:30 PM at 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY.

May 18, 2010

Woodstock Poetry Society, May 8

The WPS meets on the 2nd Saturday of each month at the Woodstock Town Hall on Tinker St. This was a lovely day to be walking around & to be reading & listening to poets, the host, Phillip Levine. I hadn't been there in quite a while, but made sure to rearrange my schedule to catch my dear friend Alison Koffler as one of the 2 featured poets.

As so often happens, even when I get there after the sign-up sheet has been out a while, I ended up as the first poet to read, the somewhat out-of-season "Planting Tulips" & the very current "44,000 (May 4, 2010)." Following me, Trina Porte's 3 poems were short & printed out as half pages the long way. Daphna Rosenbloom in an early tan did a couple from memory. Phillip Levine jumped in with just his "Heels." Donald Lev said his 3 poems were his "last 3 poems, at least so far…" & also read Enid Dame's "Inheritance" for Mother's Day. Dayl Wise read "2 new poems," one about being on the rifle range in the Army when the moon landing took place, the other a marvelous poem to his wife Alison about making a garden, "A Relationship."

As many of my regular Blog readers know, I'm not a big fan of animal poems but Alison Koffler's animal poems are of a different breed. In "For Atha, Wolf Ambassador" & "Zoological Society Meeting" she ponders the confrontation of the captive wild with their captors, while "The Animals of Blazing Stars" are imaginary, poetic creatures. The Bronx was the setting for "The Cyclist," "First Apartment" & "Walking Back thru the Bronx," while "Unmeasurable by Standardized Testing" was about being a teacher. Dayl's earlier poem about her was filled with sweet peas, Alison's poem for him was "Zucchini." She remembered a Grateful Dead concert with a friend, then ended with a poem back in Woodstock, "In the Garden Cafe."

Barry Wallenstein loves to incorporate jazz into his readings & today his accompanist was Gus Machini on alto sax. Some folks in the audience complained that the sax was too loud at one point but I think such performances are collaborations in which it is not necessary to hear every word of the poem, just like we don't always hear every note of the music. In addition, some musician once told me that the saxophone is pitched like the human voice so that it tends to cancel out the vocalist. I thought it worked well here today. Barry began with a couple pieces ("Big & Little" & "Paranoia" -- as in something will get you someday), then on to a big middle section of his "Tony poems" in the voice of a NYC street person, running the gamut from Tony's personal musings, to politics, to even a bit of the poet's autobiog ("Tony's Dad") -- gritty, urban & tenderly human. He ended with a villanelle ("Inside Our Heads Devil Designs") & the marvelous prayer "Great God Nature."

Both of these featured poets put on thoughtfully prepared readings that they had obviously planned & rehearsed, no confused flipping of pages or checking on timing with the host, veritable models of how to do a featured reading.

I can always get the titles correct for Ron Whiteurs' poems because he puts them up on a music stand, like an old vaudeville show, & I always laugh at his outrageous sexual humor, like today's "Don't Let Him in Your Underwear" (was he pointing at Phillip Levine?), & "What Jeffrey Dahmer Said to Me As They Dragged Him Off to Prison." Phil Sullivan followed with a couple of Spring poems & a political piece. Susan Sindall read poems from her new poetry collection What's Left from, as she said, "younger times."

Jay Wenk read a seasonal poem, & one on the big questions of God & youth, then "5 Borough Bicycle Ride" (with wounds of a recent bicycle accident on his legs), the second bike poem of the day! Bruce Weber read "Love Falling In" from Will Nixon's new book Love in the City of Grudges, then Will Nixon was up & sandwiched his poem "The Night I Saw the Clash" from his new book between a piece by Denis Johnson & one by Bruce Weber from his book "Blue Flower."

Berel Berko's pieces were notebook entries playing with word sounds, other journal entries & clever sayings he's very pleased with from his yellow pad. Phillip Levine ended the day with yet another Spring poem, "No Use."

The Woodstock Poetry Society meets every 2nd Saturday at the Woodstock Town Hall (at least for now) at 2PM.

May 14, 2010

Caffè Lena Open Mic, May 5

Our host, Carol Graser, started off the night with a poem by a former featured poet here at Caffè Lena, Lyn Lifshin, then introduced the first open mic poet, Alan Catlin. He said he always feel like he's referencing Bob Dylan when her reads here, so decided to read one of his Dylan inspired poems, "So When He calls You Now You Can't Refuse;" his second was about the New Yorker writer & his long writer's block, "Joseph Mitchell's Silence." Margaret Bryant is a regular here & jumped right in with "Mother's Bridal Bouquet," then, as she said "a lighter poem" "Light."

Todd Fabozzi read 2 poems from his first book, Umbrageous Embers, "Round Pegs in Square Holes" for poets & revolutionaries, & "The Levee of Indifference." Gordon Hayman's "The Visit" was simple & gentle, while his humorous "Commercial Conscripts" was written from the point of few of one of those silly wind sock characters used to attract folks to stores.

Glenn Witecki did his poem from memory in rhyme about a campfire. George Drew's first poem was a meditative "The Thing About Pigs;" he dedicated "The Young Poet With a New Age Name" (the title says it all) to the night's featured poet, Jared Smith & his wife Deborah.

Jared Smith currently lives in Colorado but had lived back East here many years ago. Last year he was the host to 3 Guys from Albany when we did Albany, Wyoming & set us up with some gigs in the Denver area. It was my time to return the favor when he said he was on an East Coast reading tour so I directed him to Carol & the Caffe Lena open mic. He read a couple poems from his 2008 book The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations (Higganum Hill Books), "Poets" & "So You Want a Job." His latest book is Looking into the Machinery: The Selected Longer Poems of Jared Smith (Tamarack Editions), in a large 8X10 inch format to accommodate his long lines. He read a section ("A Matter of Degrees") from a longer piece, "Symmetries." Also from the book the political rant "Information Superhighway of Death," & the equally powerful philosophical-historical-political survey "The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations." Powerful work read in his sonorous voice & with, as another poet noted to me, "a hat with a respectable brim."

After the break W.D. Clarke read an anti-war/Mother's day poem, "For His Mum." Whenever I hear the name of Austen Halpern-Graser I expect to see a tall fellow with a moustache & a British accent -- not quite yet -- but he is the resident stand-up comic & tonight he read us a couple of Aesop's Fables. Dan Stalter started out here at Caffe Lena as a young volunteer who would get up & read from his notebooks; he & his craft have matured, as the 2 intense pieces he read tonight ("Here Lies a Broken Creature" & an untitled piece using a car wreck as the metaphor) attested.

I once read that "every city on a river has a Front St." & Nancy Denofio's long historical poem, "Front St.," was just that: about a city (Schenectady) on a river. One problem of the Caffe Lena stage is that the lighting is set for the audience to see the performers (who characteristically are musicians), not for poets to see their texts while performing; most poets work around it in one way or another. Tonight Barbara Garro borrowed a small flashlight from Thérèse to read 2 poems from a new book, "Christos" & "Holy Heritage."

Carolee Sherwood's first poem was written during April while doing a-poem-a-day "One Evening After A Whole Lot of Same" in fractured syntax, while her second poem was an untitled picture of a day in a rain. It was a nice place to be, next, & I began with the poem I wrote yesterday, "44,000 (May 4, 2010)" & 1 of the Buddhist haikus from my chapbook, boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press).

Thérèse Broderick also used her flashlight & also read a poem from her April assignment, "Decline & Fall" combining the quotidian with the epochal, then "For My Husband" on giving & taking. Jill Wickham was inspired by grabbing a knife while doing the dishes, more everyday elevated to Art, & "Urban Legend" is a poem from a "wordle" (I never heard of it either!). Steve Pillar's poems were rhymes about death, "On the Other Side" & "A Part of Everything."

Ellen Finn has been reading here pretty regularly, & has appeared poem-less in Albany on occasion; both her poems were based on children's movies, "Like Shrek" & "Summer Stuck Between Forward & Backward," fine work from a unique point of view & unusual sources of inspiration. Rob Faivre read "Lost the Halo" from Charles Baudelaire, in translation.

Bob Sharkey's poem "While Riding the Train Between Galway & Dublin on Cinco de Mayo" included the tulips & Burns statue in Albany, & then "Sweetheart," a short word portrait. Gen Legacy ended the night with her poems about being a mother, & a summer poem, nodding to Gertrude Stein with alliteration & repetition, nice work.

Come & bring a poem on the first Wednesday of each month to Caffe Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs.

May 10, 2010

Albany Poets Presents!, May 4

We were exiled to the cavernous, vacant, dark, odiferous upstairs at Valentines while a band flogged away downstairs. We had about the usual bar-hanging crowd, but now we were out on the steel fire escape for air & light (& warmth -- it was actually warmer outside than in the bar), in an old factory looking setting with the olfactory stimulus of pizza & oven smoke. Poems are so hard to write about smells. But there is something about bad environments that seems to bring our spirits closer (or are we just afraid?).

I tried to fit my poem "Dina's Hummingbird" to the thundering of the drums in the club below, then read for the first time my new poem commemorating Kent State & Jackson State (1970) "44,000."

RM Engelhardt, in a Dick Tracy hat pulled over his eyes like Beetle Bailey, read a couple of manifestos, one from 1928, the other his own manifesto, "Immortalis … The Last Poem."

Ed Rinaldi's poem "I Don't Mind Claiming These Pages" piled up race horses & jazz & pot, followed up by the very short "The Water Spray" & "Old Home New Road."

Some of the women poets here tonight didn't read, but dear Prudence wandered up bored from the bar below to read a silly tossed offed piece about patchouli & sex , then quickly retreated -- at least, as the song says, she came out tonight.

Actually, Jason Crane's first poem ("Red Is") was about one of the poets in the gallery, but "Insane Clown Pose" was, he said, not about the band.

Jill Crammond Wickham read a poem about Spring & crows fucking, then one of her "June Cleaver" series, this about whipping a souffle with strangers in her kitchen -- or did I get that mixed up?

This is usually the first Tuesday of the month at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. usually downstairs, but then we're poets, we go where we are towed.

May 9, 2010

Poets Speak Loud!, April 26

Little did we suspect that this would be the last Poets Speak Loud!, at least for a while. We had a great time that night, as usual, for the most part, & as everything in life, we expected it to go on forever, or at least until next month. Unfortunately an early AM fire on May 5 devastated Tess' Lark Tavern. We in the Albany arts community are still trying to catch our breath, but until the Lark rises from the ashes Poets Speak Loud! will take a break. But that night, as often happens here, it was quite an evening!

Mary Panza was our kick-ass host & although there were lots of poets signing up to read, no one wanted the #1 slot -- so there I was. In honor of Earth Day I read my 1991 Earth Poem "Message from Space," then for the end of National Poetry Month read "Poems on Poetry." Sylvia Barnard read again her poem on a medieval calendar, then "The Locked Door," a Nazi nightmare poem. Ed Rinaldi (whose poems are usually short) read a not-short divorce poem, "The News Was Left Out on the Table." The title of Alan Casline's poem is self-explanatory, "Reading at the Lark Tavern after a Dismal Showing at the Poet Laureate Contest" (see my Blog on that one).

Carolee Sherwood was one of the contestants at the Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest who did better than Alan Casline (she came in as #2); her first poem related to the recent Albany WordFest, "To Girls Who Smile as a Way to Survive in the World," her second was a draft from her poem-a-day project, "Dorothy Gale from Kansas." Jill Wickham was back in the pack with Alan at the Poet Laureate Contest; tonight she read "Return of the Zombies Kick" & 1 of her poems from the poem-a-day project, "Partly Waterfall."

Don Levy told us what he did on Easter, it was "Bloody Marys & Drag Queens," then the unthinkable "Republicans in Heat." The bouncing-back-from-the-edge Mike Jurkovic read his piece on the political baggage of poets & the flag, "On the Cheap," & "Broken Bones." Cheryl A. Rice hitched a ride with Mike & read 2 Spring poems, "Spring Thaw" (ice-huts melting) & "What Spring Does."

Tonight's featured poet was Jason Crane. He started by showing off his brand-spanking new chapbook from FootHills Publishing, Unexpected Sunlight, along with a large print of the cover art, "Sunshine" by Bob Anderson. Jason also brought along his wife & sons & half the neighbors on his street -- hey, if your relatives & friends don't come to your readings, who will? He did a clever thing, mixing up poems from the book with others that aren't, beginning with the litany, "Origins." Poems from the book included family poems, "67 Unopened Video Cassettes," & "Bernard Orrin Joseph Flanders," as well as "At Mr. Frost's," "Miles on Ice," "Memorex Hummingbird,"& "Aidan Arrives" (about a neighbor's baby whose Mom, Julie, was in the audience tonight). Other poems included "Miso Soup" (for his wife Jennifer, to whom his book is also dedicated), "Gravity" (about hearing jazz pianist Matthew Shipp play), "My Name Is Jaime Escalante," "Spring Robins," & ending with a classic poem-with-a-title-better-than-the-poem-itself. Get the book.

Continuing on with the open mic, the long-absent & mini-skirted Leena Monette cooed a poem about redecorating & putting her lover at the top of her "love tree". Robert Zigarelli also did a love poem, "What I Do at the Window." Tess Lecuyer said she was reading the "only 2 poems of mine I like today," "Noodles" pondering history & the Summer poem "Inevitable" (if you are her Facebook friend you can read them in her notes). Bob Sharkey's poem "The Body" was a murder mystery.

Bernie Crane was by far the night's youngest poet -- like father like son -- with 2 short poems; was "What's With You" about his Mom? Songsten (sometimes known as Joe) Hollander read a poem that included dogs & long stockings & the mailman. Brian Sullivan's short piece of prose sounded like a video game with Pinocchio in it.

RM Engelhardt also read 2 poems, the first what he described as an untitled piece from 1994, one of his classic God-in-a-biker-bar poems, then read a rambling screed ("See You Next Thursday") referencing "old beats, jazz…" & a faux American Indian quote that left everyone quizzical. I think he should stick to his usual poems about God in bars or about chicks dumping him.

Shannon Shoemaker followed next with her wonderful dyke-on-a-bike poem, "Tongue in Cheek," then "Of Hummingbirds & Sunday Supper." Most poets read from sheets of paper, tattered, or in binders or even plastic sheets, many recite from memory, & nowadays, some read them from their Palm Pilots/Blackberries (is there a generic name for these things?), as did Mojavi with his sad, love lost poem, "I've Kept it Hidden From You," then one from a master of love poems, Neruda.

The last 3 readers were new to the scene, new voices that add so much spice to our readings. Danielle read a couple pieces, an untitled love poem that seemed to want to rhyme, & "Survival." Clarisse's first poem was a clever, trendy piece about a pickup in a bar via iPod, then she did a song about falling in love, "Stupid Humans." Crystal's poem, "The Road to Antiquity," combined women in history with her own personal history.

Good poetry (mostly), good time with friends (with exceptions), good food & drink, & a friendly waitress (but Nicole gave me a hard time because I didn't come early for dinner) -- & we'll miss it. Benefits are planned & you can stay in touch on Facebook (Tess' Lark Tavern). It'll be back!

Listen to the Silence, April 25

This was an open mic in memory of Jorge Lopez Steven Mercado, a trans-gender person murdered in Puerto Rico last year. We were at the Social Justice Center, which was one of the co-sponsors, along with the Poetry Motel Foundation & In Our Own Voices (a student group at the University at Albany). Tiffany, a student at U Albany, & an intern at the SJC, was host & the key organizer. While no one here personally knew Jorge, Tiffany was inspired to hold the event to draw attention to the sometimes life-threatening issues confronting trans-gender folks as well as anyone struggling with their identity in societies that often dictate what "acceptable" identities are.

Victorio, the manager of the SJC, started us off with a poem in Spanish to & about his father. By then a number of people had gathered for the reading, but not many had signed up to read. I claimed to represent straight, old, white guys, said that "liberation movements" were liberation for all, & oppression of anyone is oppression of everyone; my poems were "Communion of Saints" & "The Wall." Bless followed with his wonderful, affirming poem talking about there is "more to life than this…"
  Tiffany's moving poem was a thoughtful meditation on "Silence," which can often be deadly.

Victorio suggested we go for a second round (as a few others had arrived) & urged me to step up next, so I read "My Sather Gate Illumination." Victorio's poem "Cocco Butter & Pancakes" was a tender mix of family images. Bless performed a poem on ignorance & hate, right on the topic. Jackie ended it with a political poem based on her experience in Ecuador (& reading John Perkins' book), "Ode to the Economic Hit Men."

Poetry & the Spoken Word have historically been used for raising consciousness & bringing oppression out of the shadows & into the light. I was glad to see young students stepping up to organize this event, to keep the fight going, & pleased to be asked to be a part of it.

May 6, 2010

Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest, April 25

Those of you who know my cranky self know what I think of "poet laureates" & how we would be better off with global warming, nuclear war, or even the Rapture than with a Poet Laureate of (almost) anything. But I must humbly admit that a Poet Laureate of a (working class) bar with a designated "Poet's Corner" seems about the right kind of domain for such a dubious distinction fraught with contention & envy.
Smith's Tavern on Maple Ave. in Voorheesville, NY is where poets gather each month after the "Sunday Four Poetry" readings. The bar owners appreciate the poets so much that they have given us a designated "Poet's Corner" & hosted today's contest. A great business decision -- the back room was packed for over 4 hours, poets & poet's others drinking & eating all afternoon. The rules, which seem to have been issued by the Commissariat of Poesy (& were too complicated for me), were that to compete one had to sign up on March 31 & there was a 25 poet limit; each poet read in all 3 rounds, with poems of under 25, 35, 45 lines respectively (so they say) & the poets had to submit copies of their poems in advance to the judges. The actual number of poets who competed was 20 since there were a couple no-shows & apparently even some who didn't "qualify" for one reason or another.
The judges were Art Willis, Marilyn Paarlberg, Tom Corrado & Darcy Meacham Morrison, with Georgia Gray serving as scorekeeper. The hosts were Dennis Sullivan, Mike Burke & Edie Abrams (who introduced each poet). The poets read in different order in each round, selected in some random algorithmic throw of the dice in a battered hat scheme, & they were not allowed to do introductions.

The end result was that the readings progressed quickly, with a short break between the first 2 rounds & a 40-minute break before the final round. There were rhymes, Nature/Spring poems, humor, sex, love/not love, vegetable humor, politics, & mercifully few dog poems. There were familiar poets, some rarely seen, & new faces I would love to see more of at any of the local open mics.

The competing poets were Jill Wickham, Rachel Ikins, Philomena Moriarty, Tim Verhaegan, Mark O'Brien, Tim Lake, Barbara Vink, Alan Casline, Mimi Moriarty, Melinda Mackesey, Cathy Anderson, Joanne Lounsbury, Jim Williams, Carol Graser, Jason Crane, Larry Rapant, Howard Kogan, Carolee Sherwood, Michelle Przbylek, & Bob Sharkey.

It was only after the scoring was over that it occurred to me that it would be fun to have a pool of the audience on the winning poet (& a way to pay for lunch) -- it was the kind of thing where it was anyone's bet. But the winner, the Smith Tavern's Poet Laureate, was someone who could have secured that title without going through the bureaucratic rigamorole of the reading (but then we wouldn't have had so much fun). 
Barb Vink has been the Mother of the poetry scene in Voorheesville as long as I can remember, establishing the Everyother-Thursday-NIght Poets at the Voorheesville Public Library, coordinating & running other events there over the years, featuring at all the important venues in the area & more recently Blog-mistress. If anyone had asked me (but then, who did?) who should be the Poet Laureate of Smith's Tavern (hell, of Voorheesville), I would have cast an early vote for Barb Vink.

The second place was no surprise either: Carolee Sherwood has been overwhelming us locals with her poems at open mics as well as blasting cyberspace through Facebook & her website. Howard Kogan from Stephentown, NY was the third place winner; he confessed to this being his first time heading west into poetry country when I spoke to him during one of the breaks, one of a number of new voices that showed up to compete.

Congrats to Barb, Carollee & Howard -- & thanks to all the poets who competed for making
it so much fun on a Sunday afternoon -- as my First Sergeant once said, it was better than church.

United for Thatcher, April 24

AlbanyPoets had a slot in this multi-event benefit to inspire folks to put pressure on the politicos to keep our State Parks open. The event was held at Proctor's Theater in Schenectady, NY in the the vast public area adjacent to the theater where they have the expensive Broadway shows. There were were bands playing in the performance area at the back, tabling by environmental groups & the poetry stage was set up near the State St. door across from the Muddy Cup. Thom Francis from AlbanyPoets was our host & MC.

Carol Graser was spending a busy weekend in the Albany area & began with a poem I don't think I've heard from her, "Poetry Leaves the Water" (like Venus from the sea; other poems included labor poems "Plastic Factory" & "When Workers Decide Union," the love poem "Dark Language," & 3 from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems (Foothills Publishing), including one of my favorites, "Tribe."

A.C. Everson quoted from "Park & Pond" by Ralph Waldo Emerson, then did a series of her short, often rhymed poems, that I also enjoy hearing whenever possible. She is good, too, about sticking to the theme, with "Walk in the Woods" & "Wedded Miss" set in Thatcher Park, burning her wedding dress years after the event. As she read she tossed her poems to the stage. She told stories about Thatcher Park, being married there & her granddaughter's birthday there, "Be Strong Parent," & "Relax & Enjoy the Ride," & "Prattle Rhyme" -- always smiling, always fun.

Don Levy was one of the scheduled poets, but was unable to be here, so I read his poem "The Queerest Little Laundromat in Albany" (it's dedicated to fellow Albany poet RM Engelhardt), then I read a selection of my Earth Day poems (as close to Nature poems as I get): "Altamont Fair Poem," "I'm doing my par to Preserve the Adirondacks," "Earth Day," "The Cardinal," & "The Lilacs." Glad to be asked to be part of this event.

When Thom Francis was a young poet with another name he was a featured reader at Cafe Web, the first site of the Third Thursday Poetry Night. Now he is el presidente of, & half of the music/poetry group "Murrow." In his poems tonight the map of the wrinkles of the face of "Al" played against (Marilyn) "Monroe's Second Coming," then the "Piano Man" took us into "Relevance Gone" -- good to hear Thom's poems again in a solo setting (while "Murrow" works on new material).

Not on the program, Chris Brozek was an enthusiastic audience member so was invited up on stage. He showed us, in the painting that served as our backdrop, where he lives in the shadow of the mountains, recited a short poem about waking up there, another about being barefoot under the trees & talked about riding his bike in Thatcher Park.

You know, if Poetry had any power, this reading would be enough to keep the park open. But then I want to know how you can "close" a space that has a highway running through it? If they have the money to pay all the cops they need to keep people out of the space, they have enough to keep it "open," whatever that means.

May 5, 2010

44,000 (May 4, 2010)

The scientists who study dreams
the oneirologists, tell us
we dream every night
many times a night

but is it one long dream
like a Fellini movie playing all night
or a string of Bugs Bunny shorts?

In 60 years, in 21,900 nights
I have watched 65,700 movies
if I dreamed only 3 times a night.

And how many movies would you miss
if, say, you were in Ohio at Kent State
or in Mississippi at Jackson State
in May 1970, if you were

Sandra Scheuer
Jeffrey Miller
William Schroeder
Allison Krause

if you were
Phillip Lafayette Gibbs
if you were
James Earl Green

if you were 17, or 19, or 20, or 21 years old

if your dreams were punctured by a bullet?

2 lifetimes ago, dreams not forgotten
dreams lost, movies missed 
more than dreamed in a lifetime

44,000 more than they dreamed in a lifetime