May 30, 2012

Sunday Four Poetry, May 27

In the midst of the weekend of parades, Mall sales, & backyard cookouts poets showed up to read their work & listen to others & then … but I'll leave that for the end. So Mike Burke served as MC then Edie Abrams took over introducing the poets for the open mic before the featured poet, Thom Francis.

First up was "Bird" (Alan Casline) with a poem for James Williams with a string of epigraphs, it seemed, "The Beauty Way," then "Push a Blossom into the Green Fuse" from a workshop on Dylan Thomas (of course). Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien) has a book coming out soon from FootHills Publishing & read a series of poems from it, some with titles in the language of the Mahican people, some dream like & interior. Joe Krausman read 3 poems related to music, but all really about who/what we are & the choices we make.

The titles of Larry Rapant's poems (e.g., "It's Official Now," "Memorial Day Poem," etc.) give no clue to his obsessive ponderings of his penis, violence & other self-indulgence outrageousness. Bob Sharkey reminded us it was Rachel Carson's birthday & read "Overhead Cables Humming" with references to her work & vision, then "Life Size" with references to veterans & Richard Avedon's photos. Howard Kogan "Betrothed" was about his love affair with Spring, & "Meditation" was about his "monkey mind" at a workshop with poet Patricia Smith. I read an old poem for Memorial Day, "Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial" then the more recent "Washington Park Flowers" which had been published recently as a Letter to the Editor in the Albany Times-Union.

Jim Williams read a series of poems that ran from classical references ("Achilles Revenges a Friend"), to being a curmudgeon at a poetry workshop (sounds familiar), to the masterful poem that that began "Poetry Won't Make you Happy…" that morphed from a list of family comments into a imagined conversation with Carl Jung. Mike Burke didn't bring any of his own poems, read instead one of British poet Ted Hughes.

That was a bit of an incongrueous introduction to the afternoon's featured poet, el presidente of AlbanyPoets, Thom Francis. I have been following Thom's trajectory since he first read at Cafe Web in the late 1990s & I have been more & more impressed by his poetry as his career advances. He began with a familiar, older piece, "She's an Angel..."then on to a new piece, "Easter Visit," that was a portrait of a patient with memory loss. He said he was reading new work, retiring the old hits. But "Gone" is a good older piece, & I've heard the moving, ironic "Hero" before, citing his mother (in the audience) as one of his heros. A definitely new piece was his "love poem" to his insulin pump, "Machine." Another exercise in irony is the sad poem "Shower", while "Write Right" (did I get it right?) is a commentary on the writer's task. The last 2 poems also dealt with writers in different ways, "Paper Messiah" as a portrait of a poet wannabe, & "A New Day," the lead in to his well-known "Trucker" poem, about facing the empty page, the writer's daily task. A most impressive, well constructed reading, getting kudos from not a few other poets in the audience.

"...and then?" we went to Smitty's Tavern for libations, & pizza & burgers, etc., & more conversation about poetry & poets, & the state of the World.

One more in this season's series in June, but look for it to start up again in September, 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY.

May 28, 2012

Pine Hollow Arboretum Reading, May 25

This venue in Slingerlands, NY has been added to the list of area places where poetry happens on an ongoing basis. This night's reading was by Helen Ruggieri, with an open mic for local poets. Our host was Rootdrinker Institute director, Alan Casline.

I was first up (the #1 slot was still open when I got there just before the reading started) with the whimsical "Support the Bottom" & the sexy hot pants poem. Marion Menna shared her poems "Loons" & "New York Shorts." Paul Amidon's "North Country Tenant" was in a cemetary, & "Junk Car" was a childhood memory & he ended with another memory, "Moving Up Day." Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien) also had a couple of memory poems, "Catch Penny" & then 2 on death, one was titled "Kenny" (on the death of a young friend). Mimi Moriarty anticipated the Memorial Day holiday with vets telling war stories in the "Home Front Cafe" then one about a young recruit's graduation party, "Good Bye Party."

The featured poet Helen Ruggieri teaches workshops on Japanese verse forms so it wasn't surprising that her reading was sprinkled with haiku, like croutons in pea soup, but she began with "Memorial Day" done from memory. Other poems on Asian themes were one on "the anonymous poet of the Tang Dynasty", & one on Buddhism in Japan, "The Pavilion of Gold." Other poems were "Apologies to Schiller" & "Reading with the Senses." New poems were one on making a wreath from weeds, "Deer Run," & "A Bedtime Story." She ended with her favorite haiku about mosquitos harmonizing.  Her latest book is Butterflies Under a Japanese Moon from Kitsune Books.

Continuing the open mic Sharon Stenson's first piece was about a student shot by accident, "Essay #3: Cause & Effect, for Vito," while her second poem "Feathers" was lighter. Judith Kerman read a bouquet of nature poems, "Jack," "Pulling Maples," "In the Kingdom" (herons), & "Global Positioning." Alan Casline read descriptive pieces from a recent trip to London, including "Others Gone to the Prime Meridian" (who wants to see an imaginary line anyways?). Edie Abrams remembered her mother & her grandmother growing potatoes in "Resurrection," & the poem "Nature's Blessings" came from walking her dog. Barbara Quint read a prose memoir about being at a circus fire, "The Day the Clown Cried."

Watch for notices about other readings at this peaceful, airy venue. This one sponsored by Rootdrinker Institute & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

May 26, 2012

Poets Speak Loud!!, May 21

&, man, did we ever have to this night, out in the dining area of McGeary's rather than in our clubhouse backroom. We also shared the stage with the wonderful Ramblin' Jug-Stompers, but that was a good thing. They are a blue-grass, old-time, blues, good-time band & they like the poets, too. All this came about because we were not there on our usual last Monday, moved up a week due to the Memorial Day holiday. As usual, Mary Panza took control & kept things flowing (& only 1 poem each tonight).

Sylvia Barnard was up first with a revised version of the poem she had read at Don's open mic 2 weeks ago, "Israel 2012." In honor of the up-coming holiday (& I needed a loud poem) I read/declaimed "If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow." Emily's poem was a memory of the Puerto Rican cooking her mother made for her back in the Bronx.

The featured poet, Carlos Garcia, started with a couple pieces in Slam-cadence, "Dream Poetry" & "For Unheard Voices." At this point he was pressured into taking off his shirt (hmm, such heckling never worked with Mary), then into a fast-paced hip-hop piece. Then the poem "Rhythm" recalled the drums of his mixed heritage, & he ended with a love poem, "Waiting."

After a Jug-Stompers interlude, we continued on with the open mic, with Tess Lecuyer reading her sonnet, "If I Could Love Life Like I Hate Verizon." Cheryl A. Rice read the title poem from her new chapbook My Minnesota Boyhood (Post Traumatic Press, Woodstock, NY). Tammy, who had been here last month, but didn't read, braved the mic with a plaintive rhyme, "Departure." Mojavi followed with another of his customary love & sex poems.

The first thing Julie Lomoe said when she came to the mic, or rather shouted, was "Shut the Fuck Up!" Not only was there a loud group of drunken golfers at the end of the bar laughing at their own jokes, but even one of the tables of poets was a bit too chatty during other's readings. Her poem, too, was a rant about a women's writing group, the poem titled "I'm Too Abrasive." As someone suggested, maybe she needed some of Dain Brammage's meds. Avery's poem was the classic good advice, "Taking It One Step at a Time." Rainmaker (who has produced a CD of his his poems, Metaphor) did "Uncle Sam is my Grandfather," a wide-ranging political rant. Poetic Visionz ended on a positive note (as he characteristically does), with a poem on the amazing power of words & the dangers of stereo-typing.

Most month's this open mic, with a featured poet, happens on the last Monday of the month at McGeary's Irish Pub on Clinton Sq. in Albany, NY, sponsored by -- check out their calendar for details.

May 25, 2012

Delmar Writers 2012 Reading, May 20

This was the 5th annual reading of this ongoing group, with 14 readers today (only 2 were men), held at the Bethlehem Public Library in Delmar, NY. There were poems, of course, but also prose, nearly all memoir, with 1 lone novelist. One interesting bit of programming was the pairing of a poet with each prose reader. The poet read a poem, dubbed an "echo poem," that related in some way to the theme/topic of the prose piece.

Among the poets who had their own slot were Marion Menna, reading from her chapbook Deep Ecology (Benevolent Bird Press), Sharon Stenson & Faith Green reading selections of their poems, Kathy McCabe with "Humorous Rhymes," & Alan Casline with a single poems from his Perious Frank series. Also, at the end of the reading the poets who had been paired up with a prose writer got a chance to read another poem on their own.

The pairings included Barbara Traynor (with the lone fiction piece) & Mimi Moriarty on pregnancy; Marlene Rosenfield & Linda Sonia Miller about fathers; Priscilla Linville & Paul Amidon on gambling; Marlene Newman & Linda Sonia Miller recalled growing up in New York City; Barbara Quint & Paul Amidon on wandering hobos; & Susan Morse & Mimi Moriarty on Elvis.

The reading was marred by the fact that there seemed to be no designated MC or host, each reader was apparently supposed to announce the next reader, but few did. Eventually Mimi served as ersatz host announcing the next reader from the audience. Although there was a printed program of the reading & bios of each reader, I think one someone announces the reader's name it is a way of paying respect to them & of letting the audience know who the person is.

But there were excellent refreshments & the program moved along, even with a break in the middle. The Delmar Writers meet on the first Friday of the month at 1:00PM in the Board Room of the Bethlehem Public Library. If you are interested in joining the group contact Marion Menn,, or 439-3991.

May 23, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 17

A lovely evening, so nice that thousands of people were running through the streets of Albany in their underwear -- actually, the annual Corporate Run. Our featured poet, Elizabeth Thomas, came all the way over from Connecticut, with another CT poet, Faith Vicinanza. Tonight's muse was a West Coast poet who left us in 2004, Carol Tarlen, whose poems about work, workers & working were collected posthumously in Every Day is An Act of Resistance, published recently by Mongrel Empire Press in Norman, OK. I read her poem "Today," about having a day off with pay (something to consider the next time the corporations start bashing the unions).

Starting off the open mic was a new voice at the Social Justice Center, Joe Mangini, with advice in rhyme "If you're going to win this race…" Amy Nelson Hahn works with photos & ekphrastic poetry &, also a new voice here, got choked up reading "Fox Bones."

Faith Vicinanza is a Connecticut poet & publisher of poetry who accompanied our featured poet here to Albany; she read a tender, loving poem, "Confession," for her husband who died 4 years ago. Avery showed up with no paper & was excited to recite by heart "OM, a Kundalini Experience." Joe Krausman read a poem titled "A True Story," which he says so many of his poems are. Tess Lecuyer's poem, "What Riches May I Bring to Your Table," was started in April & she "just slapped a ending onto it".

Our featured poet, Elizabeth Thomas started with "Poetry Is…" a collaborative poem by 4th graders in Hartford. A good way to start for this advocate of youth in the arts. She continued with her favorite poem, "Revelation", about a young student. "On Words & English Teachers" was about her addiction to words, the teachers who encouraged her, passing it on to her students, then "5th Grade Poetry Workshop." Her poem "Speak" was inspired by a woman in a poetry workshop whose son had been sent to Iraq, twice, but can't find a job. The sad, ironic "Hero" was read -- & sung -- in memory of Dave Van Ronk, & soldiers returning damaged. Another favorite, "Mother's Work," was a tribute to the birthing woman of the world, then she ended with another collaborative poem, this from a writing workshop at a Senior Center, "Home is the Place…" A stellar performance, one the audience loved & responded to throughout.

After the short break, we continued with the open mic & I read a new piece, "Lilacs, Again." Jim Eve, one of the hosts of the "Calling All Poets" series at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, was in town & read about being at a lousy poetry reading (not here). Bob Sharkey read, again, his poem "Cycles" that he had read at Don's open mic, the poem now revised from its earlier "wretched version" (his words). Elizag has been working on a new poem, "To the Company Making Shooting Targets that Look Like Trayvon Martin" (for real, unfortunately) & tried out the beginning. Moses Kash III got a ride from across the river & began with a ramble about his life in NYC, then struggled with a section from a book about the Obama family. The final poet for the night, D. Colin, appropriately enough read "On Being a Teacher, Part I: The Things I Can't Say," the next generation takes it on. Here's to all those dedicated, imaginative (& under-paid) people who are teaching our children & grandchildren, making the future.

Join us at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month for a featured poet & many fine local poets who read in the open mic -- $3.00 donation helps pay the featured poet, helps the SJC & promotes other readings in the area.

May 19, 2012

Local Poets from Finishing Line Press, May 16

This reading, hosted by Mimi Moriarty at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, featured 5 poets published this year by Finishing Line Press.

I am most familiar with Jan Tramontano's Paternal Nocturne which she has been reading around at various venues, including Albany WordFest. This evening she read 2 poems from each of the 3 sections of the chapbook, poems based on letters home written by her grandfather in the 1930s & 1940s. She ended with "the most personal" poem in the book, her own tender letter to him, "Letter 2011."

Mimi Moriarty & her brother Frank Desiderio's chapbook Sibling Reverie pulls together some of their "companion" poems they have been writing & performing for a number of years. They read 4 sets, some like "A Matter of Substance on my TV" (Frank) & "Mummers Parade, January 1, 2010" because they were both there; others pairings, notably "Afternoon Recreation" (Frank) & "Jesus at Bat" (Mimi) came about because they discovered that each had written about Jesus & baseball (which would almost get me to go to church again).

Jan Tramontano, Linda Sonia Miller, Mimi Moriarty, Frank Desiderio & Cecele Kraus
I was least familiar with the work of Linda Sonia Miller, whose chapbook from Finishing Line Press is titled Something Worth Diving For, which she said was an oblique reference to Adrienne Rich's work. She began with a few recent poems not in the chapbook, "The She-bear's Lament" & one about living in Paris in her youth, another about Thanksgiving. The poems she read from the book included the marvelous childhood memoir in the Bronx, "Poetry," & one about watching herons.

I've also recently heard Cecele Allen Kraus read from her captivating chapbook, Tuscaloosa Bypass, memoir poems of growing up in Alabama. She read the beginning ("Every Sunday Morning") & concluding ("Mississippi Encounter") poems, & others. I was particularly moved by the poem "Mirror" about a dead brother, & the companion piece "Three Sisters."

After the reading, the group fielded questions about being a poet & their experiences with the process of being published by Finishing Line Press. All in all a pleasant evening of poetry in the front room of the Pine Hollow Arboretum, a light & airy setting for small readings.

May 17, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam #18, May 15

Dustin Walker reading
Thom Francis, el presidente, was a busy man tonight, hosting the open mic, keeping score & slamming. The open mic offered a great variety of poems & poets, starting with Leslie Michelle doing a poem by someone else, then Dustin "Nervous Cal" Walker with a tale about the death of his grandfather done as a series of snapshots ("The Camera"), Tasha with an untitled love poem, Carolee with a new poem based as a picture in her aprtment "Hades Confides in Persephone," & Daniel Nester with a litany of the agony of puberty based on his journals when he was 12 years old.

At this point Dain Brammage took over as the Slam Bastard, I mean Master. But no sacrificial lamb tonight with the small crowd (they even had trouble getting judges). I had signed up for the Slam because at the time few had & by now there were 5 of us. I was first with perhaps the world's shortest slam poem, coming in at 21 seconds, "Fat" (I love it a lady's butt/but wish it wasn't on my gut), & scoring 23.9, enough to make me 5th & thus the only one eliminated in the first round. The rest of the field, Shannon Shoemaker, Elizag, Jess ListenToMyWords & Thom Francis advanced to the 2nd round.

Thom Francis, Elizag, Dain Brammage & Shannon Shoemaker
When that dust settled Elizag was #1 & there was a tie for 2nd place, so rather than battling it out, Thom & Shannon shared the second place honor (normally, the 1st & 2nd place Slammers would battle it out, with 3rd resting on her/his laurels, but this way everyone was honored without undo strife).

Twice a month at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., just down the street from Washington Park, in Albany, NY, the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays, $5.00, a Slam & an open mic (you can only do 1 or the other). & beer.

May 15, 2012

Poetry + Prose Open Mic, May 13

Back on our regular day, the 2nd Sunday, at the Arts Center in Troy, me & Nancy Klepsch your hosts. It being Mothers' Day there were some pieces on that theme, but in general a wide-ranging open mic like we are used to.

No one signed up in the first slot so I took it & read Julia Ward Howe's 1870 Mothers' Day Proclamation, then my own "Mothers Day Meditation," both anti-war statements.

Harvey Havel had a strange, untitled prose piece about a coup by a pitt bull in a nation of dogs (with this great line, "with approval the audience barked like mad"). Brett Axel has just had a children's book published, Goblinheart: A Fairy Tale, but his poems circled around his mother, the very short "Red Paint," "My Mother Became an Artist…" (painting pictures with mercurochrome), "Mother" (as an invalid), & "Birthday." Tim Verhaegen is known for his poems about his family & included one for his mother, "Is She Crazy or Just Plain Mean?" but began & ended with rants, one about "writers who don't write" & the other a list culled from the news about heroes, some ironic, some not. Howard Kogan began with "This Dream" then the tender, chilling account of his mother's family stuck in Poland in "The Great War."

A new reader, all the way from across state lines, was Naomi Bindman, beginning with an older poem "Spring Waking," then touching on the day's theme with "In Praise of my Daughter's Navel," & the sad, & tender "Run Over;" "Fallen" was a love poem & she ended with "Invisible." My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, hadn't signed up to read, but before she announced the next-to-last reader "stole a moment" (as she put it) to pay tribute to a teacher from high school who was her "poetry mother," Nancy Fagan. Ron Drummond spent some time rattling his papers before he launched into the end of his piece he had read excerpts from previously, "The First Woman on Mars." Trina Porte ended up as the last reader of the afternoon (after a battle over who would be the last reader) with the graphic description of a hospitalized person, "Inpatient" then a piece whose title I think was "Rose." And that was the end.

This series continues next month on the 2nd Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY -- free! & open to writers of prose & poetry.

May 14, 2012

Live from the Living Room, May 9

Tonight at the recently refurbished Pride Center there were some folding chairs for the poets, but still no comfy couches -- still better than sitting on the radiator, as some did last month.

Waiting for the feature to arrive, our host Don Levy started the open mic as poets began to arrive, quite a good group tonight, with poets coming out of the woodwork who have not been out in a while. Sylvia Barnard was fresh back from a trip to Israel & read 2 poems from her trip, the blood & Apocalypse of "Israel 2012" contrasted with the more gentle images of "The Garden Tomb." I followed with 2 recent poems, "For Moses Kash III" & one for the 100th birthday of the Oreo cookie back in March, "Ode to the Oreo."

I had not seen Kim Henry reading her poetry for a long time & tonight she read a poem about death that she wrote today after not writing poetry for 4 years -- yay! Kim, come back soon. Tess Lecuyer said it was Joy Harjo's birthday & read 2 of her poems. Kristen Day had also not been out out in a very long time & started with a haiku for a clogged ear, then the work-related "Summary of a Meeting" (she is always good with the work-related stuff).

Emily Gonzalez is slowly inserting herself back into the local scene & read a poem for a friend from her phone, on death & dying. Bob Sharkey crammed 5 days of WordFest into 1 64-word poem, "Trip Wire" -- amazing! -- then read "Cycles" with Guinness & Earl, back again. Somehow before Julie Lomoe read Don got into a discussion of the soap opera, General Hospital, then Julie read her old poem "Bi-Polar I." Rob Smith rarely reads out but wrote a poem written today after lobbying at the State Capitol on trans-gender issues, a poem about the sculptor Constanin Brancusi, "Re-encountering Brancusi." Avery began with a poem from last year on the assassination of Osama bin Laden, "And there Was Much Rejoicing," & followed with a feel-good piece in advertising-speak on smiling (just like the nuns used to tell you).

Our genial, chatty host Don Levy read 2 newer poems that can be found on his FaceBook page, "Sunspot" & "Cowboy Josh." Jenna, who was the volunteer at the Pride Center's cafe tonight, was our last poet & read from her laptop a poem she said she could sing, "Freedom Flows," a work-in-progress. That's what open mics are for: to try new pieces out, to work on the works-in-progress.

Now usually there is a featured reader who starts off the night & one had of course been scheduled but never showed. But with tonight's array of open mic poets we barely missed him. Too bad. Usually on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Pride Center of the Capital Region on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY, in June there will be no open mic (too much else going on here for Pride Month), but will be back in July. & always straight-friendly.

May 10, 2012

Calling All Poets! -- Robert Milby & Dan Wilcox, May 4

Calling All Poets! is a popular name for a reading series (there is one over in Connecticut with the same name), this one held the first Friday of each month at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, NY. I read there a few years ago & the folks who run it, Jim Eve, Mike Jurkovic & Robert Milby are actively promoting local & regional poets.

Photo by Glenn Werner
I was the first of 2 featured poets & began the night with a mixed bag of mostly recent poems, starting with a poem by Catherine Connolly, "Ending," then my poem in her memory, "Something That Matters." In honor of the students gunned down at Kent State on this date in 1970 I read my poem from 2010 "44,000." Then the cluster of poems I wrote in Florida this January, & the 4 Coyote poems. The older poems were "The Lady Bishop" &, from boundless abodes of Albany "My Sather Gate Illumination." Then ended with a couple from Poeming the Prompt (a good marketing ploy because a number of people bought books).

Robert Milby, the whirling dervish of the lower Hudson Valley poetry scene, read next & he too likes to begin with someone else's poem, tonight Thomas Kinsella's "Ancestor." His poems are often situated in the natural world, such as "July's Slash & Burn," the family story "Catherine's Oaks," & "Flood Plain," even his "Coyote" poem about finding a roadkill. He included a couple with references to classical music, "Rosamunde Revisited" & one on hearing Brahms on his radio in the kitchen & backyard. From his chapbook Crow Weather (Fierce Grace Press, 2009) he read "The Memory of Fire" & "The Dead Have No Truth" (after reading Anne Sexton). Other poems from writing were "Barrows Full of Bones & Memory" (after reading Dracula) & "Contracting Hank" (Bukowski, of course). & what would be a Milby reading without a ghost poem? He ended with one, "The Green Medusa."

After a too-long break the surprising long line of open mic poets began. Were all these folks in the house when I & Milby read? Glenn Werner, who also makes poetry happen in the area, began the open mic explaining tidal bore, followed by Ken Howard with a couple poems. Chris Peña's 2 poems ranged from tender to vicious, while husband Tony Peña's "Day Tripper" was a rambling druggie surrealistic romp. Robert Phelps' poems were trees & squirrels, followed by "Ivan Smirnoff" with an accent that sounded more Irish than Russian. Another local stalwart, Christopher Wheeling read a just-written piece & "The Ink Well" (revising the title at the mic), then John Douglas with a portrait of a recluse, followed by Kenaya Massaline also with a brand-new poem & tender one for a late friend, "Dear Raoul."

Hayden Wayne read Cherokee & English from his book, whose title I missed. Stephen Coyle read O.P.P. (a poem by someone else), launched into a lecture about corruption in Iraq (duh!) then wanted to do another poem (after already going way too long) & someone, who didn't sound like either of the tag-team hosts said to go ahead. This was indicative of the chaotic way the open mic was being run. After the first couple of poets neither of the hosts came up to the mic to announce the next reader, but called out the name from the back of the room. Sometimes people were still applauding, sometimes the name was unclear but I'm sure I'm not the only one who frequently didn't know who was reading. It's not just important for a nut like me trying to keep the archives accurate, but also does a disservice to the poet themselves: when I get up to read I want the folks in the audience to know who I am, what my name is. Fortunately for me I was able to hijack the sign-up sheet before heading out.

Ras Negus reads Mutabaruka
The next poet was a good example of that: it was Eve Hinderen's first time here, with a rant & a Wal-Mart Barbie poem, but when announce I only heard "Eve." Likewise, the next poet, Ras Negus, but then his name would've been difficult anyways. He began with "Dis Poem" by Jamaican poet Mutabaruka, then his own "Nature's Holistic Paradise" but then asked (& was granted permission) to sing "a short verse" that went on for another 2 minutes. Co-host Mike Jurkovic did a couple poems, one with a bra in it, then Stephanie Luzzi read, & another first timer, Michelle Johnson, then Franklin with one of his poems in a faked Polish accent, & finally the last reader of the night Sonia with a couple of personal essays.

It had been a long night, at least for those of us here from the beginning. Calling All Poets! is held each first Friday at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, NY, 8PM, with featured poets & an open mic. The website doesn't seem to be up to date on the schedule, but can give you directions.

May 8, 2012

Caffè Lena Open Mic, May 2

Through one reason or another the last time I was at Caffe Lena for the open mic was in February -- it was good to be back. Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with a reading of Muriel Rukeyser's poem "Boy with His Hair Cut Short" then on to the open mic.

Joe Mangini started us off with a piece about his Uncle Joe & a '41 Chrysler, then "My Voice Can't be Recorded" (at least how he hears it). I followed with a poem for May Day, "Crane Alley" then the wise-cracking "Mother's Day." Barbara Ungar made a rare open mic appearance with 2 poems for her father, the first inspired by tonight's featured poet Djelloul Marbrook, "The Book of Sand" then her "first & last pantoum," "Becoming My Father's Mother." Kate McNairy first poem, "George's Girl," was about an encounter at a gas station, then one about baseball, "The Harbinger of Spring." It was Nick's first time reading here & he did well with "I Can't Write a Poem About Paris," & "My Dreams Like White Mist."

I had noticed tonight's featured poet, Djelloul Marbrook, earlier in the day at the reading by Harry Staley at the Writers Institute (see the previous Blog) but didn't know who he was until now. He read from his 2 books of poetry, Far from Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008) & Brushstrokes and Glances (Deerbrook Editions, 2010), as well as newer poems. His poems are generally short (a page, or less in his books), directly & conversationally stated & focused on a moment in time, such as looking at himself in a mirror, or contemplating at line by William Carlos Williams ("My Last Civilized Moment"). They are often (cf. the poems in Brushstrokes and Glances) about the museum moment, less ekphrastic poetry than an aesthetic response to being there, such as seeing a Renoir at the Frick Museum, or a poem simply titled "In a Museum." His titles, also, can be like a poem itself, e.g., "The Doorknob Throbs with Desire," "Gussie Me Up," "Repairing the Herald Angel," or "Which of our Protuberances." I'm looking forward to reading his poems after hearing them flit by like butterflies.

Carol Graser returned us to the open mic with her fabulous working-class poem "Plastic Factory." Then Marilyn McCabe read a couple of (related?) poems, "The East Field" & "Eden, an Alternative Version." Barbara Garro gave us literal treatments of "Wild Stallions" & the Biblical tale of "Abraham & Isaac." I wondered if Carole Rossi Kenyon's poem "Graffiti Rant" (with its compelling phrase "secret zombie fortress") might be about Freud's Id? Charles Watts was funny tonight with a conversation on a plane, "A Poet," & his lament for fame "Why I Will Never…"

Debbie struggled with her laptop & the mic, but was able to get through a poem based on the screen names of friends, "Blushful Moon," & the quieter "Down by the Stream." Andrew Sullivan's one poem (did I miss the title or he not say it?) was based on a tennis tournament as a metaphor for love & life. Mary Eliza Crane had the award for coming the longest distance (from the State of Washington) & read the tender, funny "Dad's Pajamas." Ellen Finn read 2 historical poems from class assignments, "Little Rock Crises," & one on the 1974 - 1979 fight for bi-lingual education (now being dismantled).

Emily XYZ (the NYC performance poet) sang/chanted a mantra/poem with the recurring line "if they don't get it it's alright…"

Ah yes, with Emily XYZ's comment on poetry readings in our heads, we headed out the door & I, for one, hope to be back soon. It's every 1st Wednesday at the historic Caffé Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, $3.00, bring some poems, & always a featured poet (or 2).

May 5, 2012

Harry Staley/George Drew, May 2

Poet Harry Staley
This was a reading & book launch for Harry Staley's long-awaited book, Truant Pastures, The Complete Poems of Harry C. Staley (SUNY Press). Harry is a UAlbany Professor Emeritus in English & a poet who has read in his heyday throughout the community, including the Readings Against the End of the World & Poets in the Park. He taught at the University from 1956 until he retired in 1993.

But first we heard from poet George Drew, reading from is introduction to Truant Pastures, some poems from his 2010 collection The View from Jackass Hill & some new poems. In addition to paying tribute to Harry Staley ("The Annexation"), George also paid tribute to other professors he studied under in such poems as "Making Up With Milton," "God in the Hands of an Angry Sinner" & "The Older I Get the More I Think of Keats." He also paid tribute to the poet/psychotherapist Paul Goodman ("Doing Dante One Better") & to the influence of Hayden Carruth on his work.

George introduced Harry by reading Harry's poem "Parakeet & Pilot." But it was Harry Staley we all came to see & hear. His poems are always touched by humor & fun with word play. "Obese as Buddha" is a meditation on the poet snorkeling, then into the stunning play on sound & meaning, "Chalk It," which he can still deliver with energy & panache. He included "Preliminary Report from Dr. Peters, Geo-therapist," then a series of the anti-war/ war poems, "Penmanship," "Argument from Design," a couple sections from "Nocturnes (from early films)." That was enough for Harry, but his fans called him back to read "Biology One," & "Take Us In Mister."

It was a thrill to see Harry Staley back out to publicize this ultimate collection of his poems. Age is taking its toll, as it does with us all, but Harry always seemed to have great fun at his readings & he glowed with that joy & energy again today.

May 3, 2012

My NaPoWriMo: Update (3)

April is the cruelest month, filling up my calendar with more poetry than I can possibly get to. But now that WordFest is done, & it is now May, I can look back to my assignment for "Poetry Month" to spend some time each day with the works of a different poet. With all the busy-ness of the month sometimes that meant just having a muse or poetic patron saint of the day.

Catherine Connolly (photo by Tom Corrado)
On April 15 the recently gone Catherine Connolly looked over my poetic shoulder as I read thru the just-published Orion's Belt: Poems (Poets' Corner Press).

I've been reading Paul Blackburn off & on almost my entire poetic life. Even his journal entries are like poems, snapshots, not quite like Frank O'Hara's first I do this then I do that. Reading him on April 16 I realize that my own city poems are closer to Blackburn's than O'Hara's.

At Split This Rock I bought Sarah Browning's book of poems Whiskey in the Garden of Eden & I used April 17 to finish reading it. I have heard Sarah read in the past but it is nice to be able to spend more time with her carefully drawn personal poems & with her confrontation with racism & other social issues. Keep at it, Sarah!

"Claire Wilks" signed my copy of Drunken Oasis (Rattapallax Press, 2011) in DC but the introduction, written by poet Susan Brennan (who in her youth read at the QE2 open mic), says she "was brutally murdered on April 16, 1974." I've enjoyed these poems paralleling my own East Village experience, but for the real thing check out Verse: a Murder Mystery at

I've been dipping in & out of Aimee Nezhukumatathill's (say that 3 time fast) book of poems, Lucky Fish, for months, so I used April 19 to get a few more pages along. A younger poet worth checking out.

I was preparing for the Page to Stage workshop I'd been doing with Mojavi & Kevin Peterson at Stage 1 by reading through Anne Waldman's poem "Fast Speaking Woman" so I made her my Poet-of-the-Day for April 20. All our students have been girls so I felt we needed a strong woman poet for them. 

April 21 was the Albany WordFest poetry marathon at the Albany Public Library, & Karaoke + Poetry = Fun at Valentines, so if that's not enough poetry in 1 day to satisfy the Poet-a-Day I don't know what is.

Although April 22 was the day of the Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest up in Voorheesville  it was also the day of a screening of Voices in Wartime at the Opalka Gallery in Albany. The event also included poems read by Ed Tick & others. Plenty of poets & poetry this day.

Every figure needs a blemish, & here it is -- April 23. After 8 days of poetry events, some more than 1 a day, this is the Sabbath. Or, as Groucho Marx once said in a completely different context, "I like my cigar too, but sometimes I take it out of my mouth."

Jan Tramontano's new chapbook from Finishing Line Press, Paternal Noctures, arrived recently. Moreso, I've been listening to her read a poem here, a poem there from her collection during WordFest (& before), so of course she should be my poet for April 24.

I enjoy reading Buddhist texts, such as the Lotus Sutra & the Heart Sutra -- it is poetry, filled with numbers & illusions, so April 25 was devoted to the text & various commentaries on the Heart Sutra. OM

On April 26 I had a much delayed lunch date with the exquisite Mary Kathryn Jablonski. I published her chapbook To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D.) in 2008. How could I not promote her fine work as one of my Poets-of-the-day?

I was surprised & thrilled on April 27 to receive the latest copy of American Poetry Review with the work of Kenneth Patchen as a special supplement. He is one of the poets who has inspired my work, both poetical & political since high school -- RIP my fellow rebel poet Debbie Slocum from Journalism class (we should have grown old together).

The Okie poet & scholar Jeanetta Calhoun Mish was passing through Albany (aren't we all?) for a reading in Oneonta, so I organized a casual "salon" at the Poetry Motel & a stunning array of poets showed up. So I dedicate April 28 to Jeanetta & her book Work is Love Made Visible -- a fabulous title that works on many levels.

I needed space in this month to 2 of my "Shamans" (as Tom Nattell would have it), so settled in on April 29 with William Blake, the visionary poet/artist whose work is much more than "The Lamb" or "The Tiger". I can't pass a sunflower without bursting into song.

And for the last day of this most busy & poetry-filled month I embraced another of my Shamans, the birthday-boy of May (May 31), old greybeard his-self, Walt Whitman. Please join us in Washington Park (Albany, NY) at the Robert Burns statue at 6PM on May 31 for a reading of "Song of Myself" -- bring chairs, blankets & sign up to help read this quintessential American poem

This poem drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, and that all men carry …  
(Walt Whitman, "Spontaneous Me")

May 2, 2012

Poets Speak Loud!, April 30

So the center tables in the back room of McGeary's has become the place where AlbanyPoets (or Albany poets) gather with our drinks & food as we wait for the open mic to begin. There is lots of room & even if you are a poetry virgin, if there is an empty seat you can sit there. Of course there are other tables & booths to cluster at as well. I've never heard anyone say, "you can't sit here," we're just not like that. So when a couple of poetry virgins wandered in this night they joined the shenanigans at the table as if they had already been here.

Chris McGoff
With Mother Mary Panza as the host, the first of the night's virgins was Adam Gorman with a reading of "The Dr. Seuss Bible" from the Canadian sketch comedy group The Kids in the Hall. I followed with 2 "seasonal" pieces, "Crane Alley" (for May Day) & "Mothers' Day." The second of the night's virgins was Chris McGoff with the quite literary "Preposition" based on the poetry of Louis Zukofsky. Tess Lecuyer read 2 poems from her 1993 chapbook, Loping Through the Fields of Abandon, "The Woman Who Smelled Like the Flowers of Death" & "A Glove and a Glass Brick to See Through." Joe Krausman read his poem titled like breakfast "Bacon & Eggs," then another that provided the excellent advice to never wash a hedgehog.

The 3-times Slam winner Elizag (Elizabeth Gordon) was the featured poet with a selection of all new poems on a variety of themes & topics, read from her notebooks, such as poems to her students ("Advice I Can't Give My Students," etc.), & a untitled Autumn piece that included fly fishing. There was also the "Slamery" (her term) poem "Late Night Phone Call to My Ex," & a string of poems about living in Cohoes, such as "The Cats of Cohoes," "Above the Harmony Mills Condos," "I ask Questions of the One Left" (on racism) & others, ending with the poem "Scientist." Elizag is a harsh & probing critic of our political/social scene, the kind of poet who fits well in the slam scene, but can also liven up the more mundane open mics.

Emily Gonzalez is back in town with 2 "just written" poems, including one on love & loss, humbly title "Just a Poem." Avery read a Billy Collins poem, then one about camping with his son in 24 degree weather, "Camping with Fox." Poetic Visionz performed a piece about history & Time & elders passing down the stories, & another piece titled "Money." Kevin Peterson was the night's last poet, with a list poem from an old notebook, "Self-Portrait," & the 2-part "A Shitty Night's Sleep." 

Another night at McGeary's, which, if you weren't there, you missed it. Usually on the last Monday of the month, in May we will gather on May 21 (a week early) to avoid the Memorial Day holiday. Check the listings on