August 24, 2012


(for Mary Ann Murray)

A mourner arrived, years
late from the Pacific Coast
landed in the midst of what
you left behind. She walked
in your footprints before, &
tonight finds old companions
faded landmarks, & brings a
bouquet of verbs as fresh
as she brought in the past.

August 23, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam#24, August 21

So with a little help from arithmetic one could determine that, if this event is held twice a month, #24 would mark the end of a year of slams, & indeed it was, & it also marked the (not quite triumphant, but undaunted) return of the Nitty Gritty Slam team from the Slam Nationals. Tonight was a special invitational event with all the past year's Slam winners invited to compete in tonight's Slam. The rest of us relegated to the open mic.

& what an open mic it was, with regulars, old-timers & virgins & newbees, with Slam coach Mojavi (without his coach's whistle) as the host. Elizag was first up with a recitation of William Butler Yeats' "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," channeling the famous recording of Yeats hisself. Carri LaCroix Pan was back again with a waltzing piece I think was about dancing as much as it was about anything else. Since the open mic didn't have time limit of the Slam I was able to do a rare reading (outside of a peace rally) of my poem of "Baghdad/Albany." Mojavi pulled a page from his teaching experience with a portrait of a boisterous, rebellious young student, then introduced the next reader as "Funk Master Nest," Professor Daniel Nester, who read a found poem culled from comments on a Blog, "Dogs in Halloween Costumes," probably the easiest poem in the World to write.

The poet Treasure performed a poem titled "Complicated" which itself was in simple short hip-hop lines & rhymes. Mojavi introduced Poetic Visionz as "the Pastor of Positivity," & indeed his poem on truth & lies certainly was. Algorhythm did another piece (see my earlier Blog about the open mic in Troy, July 27) in both Japanese & English, a commentary on clashes of culture. ILLiptical did a series of his joking haikus, many involving cartoon characters.

Billy, who hasn't been out to a reading in a while, read the poem/musings he just wrote at the bar after hearing me read, his poem mixing peace workers & college girls. This was Empress' first time here & she read a piece based on her experience modeling, "Camera," as some of us took even more pictures of her. Emily Gonzalez closed out the open mic portion with the artfully simple poem "Grandson."

el presidente, Thom Francis, was the night's Slam Master, with Treasure back to the mic as the "sacrificial lamb." Although there were other past winners in the audience, just 5 (Elizag, ILLiptical, Kevin Peterson, Shannon Shoemaker & Poetic Visionz) competed in the Slam. Kevin was knocked out after the first round, & ILLiptical & Poetic Visionz ended up it battling out in the final round, with ILLiptical the winner of Nitty Gritty Slam #24. Algorhythm, who was on the team in the Nationals competition, was called back up to end the night with a piece for his family & friends who had packed the audience.

It's quite an achievement to fill a whole year, twice a month at Valentines, with Slam poetry & a genuinely fabulous open mic. It looks like it's on to year 2 -- the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month at Valentine's on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY -- check it out on

August 21, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 16

at the Social Justice Center, with the tour bus circling the block looking for a parking space, we had enough poets to begin & few enough to read 2 poems each (if you wanted to). Our muse for the night, in honor of our featured poet, George Wallace, who works with the Walt Whitman center in Huntington, Long Island, was old Uncle Walt himself; I read his lesser-known poem, "Spontaneous Me."

Sylvia Barnard has been reading poems from her book manuscript & tonight read "In Memoriam," a recent poem to an old love. Bob Sharkey said he was recently reading a John Ashbery poem & mis-read a line (hmm, how does one know one has mis-read a John Ashbery line?) which led to a poem on a theme by Joe Krausman (on an older poet with a younger woman). Maria Diotte was back with 2 poems, "Branches" on words & lines & perception like a tree, & the notebook jottings of "New York City, October 25, 2008" observing the scene around her.

Wandering in as if from a scene from 20 years ago down the block at the QE2 was the lovely poet Mary Ann Murray. Both poems she read tonight dealt with tortured love: "The Connection" in "a rhyme-scheme of sonnet" & "Sugar" finds the heart "beating with a mind of its own" while trying to sleep -- poems much like (& even better perhaps) her work that I admired years ago. Who says you can't go home again? Tess Lecuyer was also around in those days of yesteryear with Mary Ann, but has stayed (mostly) in the scene here, & tonight read a "really old" poem she has "been doing stuff to," "She Travels Down" on water & what it imagines. I read a new poem I've been trying out at open mics, "Vitiligo, or Michael Jackson & Me."

George Wallace was Suffolk County's first Poet Laureate, had read in the Poets in the Park series a few years ago & earlier in the year joined us for the Walt Whitman Birthday reading. He began with a paean to garbage men, an exuberant piling of images of these civil servants. He followed that with an equally enthusiastic poem, "Sleeping Beauty's Revenge," an ars poetica, he says, writing about his muse. The poem "Belt Buckles & Bibles" was written recently, mixing Kansas City & Jackson Pollock, in jazz rhythms & motion like an action painter, followed my a New York City Saturday night subway poem, in much the same key & rhythm. Another NYC poem wove together the BQE in an elegy for NY poet Jimmy Schuyler, bringing in the artists & poets of the 1950s.  The poem beginning "Little Miss Shit Storm walks into a bar…" was a brief vignette that was no joke. "Help Us Put an End to this Shit" was a reaction to the Occupy Wall Street, a political poem framed around a encounter on the streets of lower Manhattan. He ended with a "driving poem," a mythic narrative with a redhead in a cherry-red '57 Chrysler Imperial without brakes. It was bop prosody & a high-energy reading all the way through. At that rate George would get back to Long Island in 20 minutes.

& we will be back here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY every third Thursday of the month at 7:30 with a featured poet & an open mic for anyone with a poem in her or his pocket; $3.00 donation supports the Poetry Motel Foundation & the Social Justice Center.

August 14, 2012

Poetry At The Aboretum, August 10

This series has been popping up on the 2nd Friday of each month at the Pine Hollow Arboretum Visitors Center, usually with a featured poet as well as an open mic, under the aegis of Rootdrinker Institute. Tonight, it was a program of poets who have been showing up here for the events, with a couple of "open mic" poets thrown in.

Alan Casline served as host & "producer" for "NewsChannel Pine: Local News as if People Matter," with just short intros for each poets as if they were members of the news team. Each poet had a closely monitored maximum of 15 minutes & they all stuck to it & no one went over (was this a poetry reading? Certainly it wasn't in Woodstock!)

Mimi Moriarty lead off the "broadcast" with a bouquet of family poems, beginning with a couple about the beach & her grandfather, on to a poem about her daughter moving to this area ("Upper West Side"), the puzzling "Abraham & Isaac," "Diner" (in Canajoharie) & a poem about when you realize you will never write another poem, "Nothing to Say."

Bob Sharkey began with a funny piece written today about buying a javelin from someone known (& picked on) in high school, then on to "old, dusty" poems. He read a couple responding to statues. "The Trail" is a poem that builds a story just from a credit card receipt found in the woods. In "1957" he recalls being a kid in Maine, then on to a dream poem (my guess), "Paddy," with his grandfather & his favorite character, Earl, both in it.

 Mark Obeedúid~ O'Brien was introduced as reporting on the outdoors, as he consistently does in his poems. But he began by fiddling with technology & the sound from a recording on his phone accompanying his poem "Fulfillment" sounded more like static than rain -- oh well. Many of his poems were short, recording his time in the woods, with a stonewall, crows, mist, etc.

Joe Krausman, an unscheduled reader, was our "man on the street" reporter & began with a poem on political advice titled "Alice" (& included Nixon). "30, or Trust No One" was about poets, followed by another poem about trust with a couple talking in bed. There was more conversation, this time with a Viet Nam vet "At the Dollar Store." He ended with a poem pondering how the ubiquitous personal pronoun "my" is really about loans, not possession.

Our "style reporter" for the night's news was Tim Verhaegen with a single prose piece about growing up in the Hamptons in the Summer & going back later as an adult, a bumping together of the rich & famous against the mundane.

Most of Faith Green's (our "Sunday Supplement," per Alan Casline) poems were short, some as brief as aphorisms, the kind of things we poets write down in our pocket notebooks. Her topics included love, & its loss ("Second Hand Lonely Blues"), memory ("Summer Memory") & musing on life's meaning. A longer, untitled piece was in the voice of friend, her philosophy & life experiences, which seemed to blame it all on men.

After a break for snacks & conversation, our "financial reporter" Jan Tramontano brought us back with a political poem "Eyes Wide Open" written in response to a peace demonstration with the reading of names of the war dead & an exhibit of empty shoes. She ranged from marriage ("Floating Island") to senior moments to writing ("Free Fall"), even to cleaning out the refrigerator. Her contemplative poem "Leading My Life Quietly" was inspired by one of her favorite poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Susan Riback, introduced as "arts & entertainment" reporter, is back on the open mic scene, but her poetry is still unpacked from her recent move so she read from a recent notebook. The first piece was inspired by the Caffe Lena open mic, while "No Man's Land" was a memory of her first poem; her last piece was a prayer of petition. Then she read poems by Mary Oliver & Wendell Berry.

Our host, Alan Casline, dubbed himself the "investigative reporter" in the grand American poetic tradition of Olson & Sanders, with a piece culled from the archives of the Altamont Enterprise in 1911, "Toad's Wild Ride." His poem "Eco-Art Like Seedlings Planted in the Forest," dedicated to his son Tom, was about Capitalism & the manipulation of scarcity, & sequed into a piece about the fragility of trading maple saplings. He ended with an historical slice from his manuscript, "Normans Kill Investigations."

Unplanned (& unknown to me) Alan introduced me as the "lefty" sports announcer. Coincidentally I had at the last minute selected to read a poem about the 1992 Olympics, "Pindar," thus another piece of synchronicity to add to the Jungian pie. Next I read another old piece, "The Altamont Fair Poem," then on to recent pieces, including the lesson from Catherine Connolly, "Tell Me Something That Matters," & ended with another short piece from the past, "Starting the Wine." 

Paul Amidon had been saved for the last, introduced by Alan as the "Andy Rooney segment," indeed it was -- short, pithy pieces, first "Drought," then an observation on the true qualities of youth & effort at the "County Fair." He ended with another piece inspired by the county fair, "Step Right Up," contrasting the popularity of the shooting gallery of Sin with its big targets, abundance of ammo, to the arcade of Virtue with its small targets & no one there. I wonder where Paul will be at at the Altamont Fair?

It was an evening of "Nation of poetry, local news, sports and live Doppler whether" from "NewsChannel Pine" sponsored by the Rootdrinker Institute at Pine Hollow Arboretum 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, but the series continues on the 2nd Friday of each month.

August 10, 2012

Live from the Living Room, August 8

The scheduled featured poet, Algorhythm, was in North Carolina with the Nitty Gritty Slam Team so it was just few of us open mic poets, with our straight-friendly host, Don Levy in the living room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region.

We went around the room twice, each reading 1 poem each time. I began with a piece I'm grooming for the Slam, "Vitiligo, or Michael Jackson & Me." This was Kevin Peterson's 1st time here at this venue now that he lives just a few blocks away; he read a piece he found on YouTube, "This is My Voice" by Shane Koyczan  which generated comments by Sylvia on the poet's false etymology of the word "politics." Sylvia Barnard read a poem she had read recently at McGeary's which somehow didn't make it into my Blog about that event, about reading a Victorian novel about homelessness & turning good into evil. Don Levy read his rant, "A Letter to Queer Youth," pissed-off about gay teen suicides.

Coming back around to me I read a poem I don't think I've read out before, "Support the Bottom." Kevin Peterson tried to recite a poem by T.S. Eliot (not Prufrock) but ended up in a discussion of memorizing, including even Green Eggs & Ham. Sylvia Barnard read another Victorian-era-inspired poem, "The Work House School" & like the previous poem in rhyme & meter reminiscent of popular Victorian verse.  Don Levy ended the night with an outrageous tongue-in-cheek piece written today, "Obama at the Nursing Home."

This reading is often like this, casual, conversational, friendly. There is usually a featured poet, always a chance for open mic poets to read to an attentive audience, at the Pride Center on Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, 2nd Wednesday of each month.

August 9, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam, August 7: The Dain Brammage Memorial Invitational

There must have been something in the water (i.e., beer) at Valentines, with the Slam team off at the Nationals, for such a night of unrecordable poetry. The host was Mary Panza, abandoning her Vodka Mary persona to take on the serious role of MC/Slam Mistress, sans whip.

But first there was a perfunctory open mic (under the new rules that Slammers can do the open mic too). Avery was up first with a new piece "Oh, Wendy" about flirting (& getting a hardon) with a Mom at Tai Kwan Do, another of his signature 8th grade poems. Shannon Shoemaker also had a new piece, written today, sexy & oh so Shannon. I just had to read my poem written here last month, "Hemingway," flirting with a woman with tattoos on her feet.

Bob Sharkey hit us with the first of the night's list poems, wondering "Where is Baby Lisa, where is…, etc. etc. ?" Dan Nester's list poem was "I hate …" which by the end was pretty much everything. Emily Gonzalez's poem "Bertha" was about a white barnyard chicken, with a nod & cluck to WC Williams. Since he couldn't make it to the Slam Nationals (he had enough points but an inflexible boss), Kevin Peterson did a Slam poem for Steve & Lisa at the bar, who had come all the way from Montreal on their honeymoon to attend the Slam; but Kevin's poem was by Steve Connell, not his own.  Dan Nester made a 2nd appearance of the night as the white Mojavi with still another list poem, "13 Ways of Looking at Yo Mama." Leslie Michelle also did OPP (other people's poems) with still another list poem, this one by DC poet Kenneth Carroll.

The Slam was chaotic & probably uncertifiable by the Slam Committee (or certifiable, depending upon your frame of reference). With only 4 in the initial round, someone had to drop out of "the money," so to speak. Ironically, it had to be Shannon Shoemaker, but not for lack of energy, provocative images or spunk (whatever that means). I squeezed into the 2nd round (by 0.2) with my "Slam Poem" but that was it, ending up in 3rd ("in the money" just the same).

Slam poetry tries hard to make the process of judging "democratic" by selecting judges from the audience. This works well when there is a huge crowd to randomly select from. While not "huge" the audience was such tonight that the judges were mostly (other than Kevin who knows a bit about Slam poetry, & writing in general) the kind one would want for a Slam: inexperienced former business majors in college, unemployed alcoholics easily influenced by the price of a drink, etc.). They liked Bob Sharkey's working-class poems about Earl & drinking Guinness at the St. Paddy's Day Parade in NYC, enough to get him 2nd place.

But they really went ape-shit for Avery's axe-murder-panties/touching-anal-sex poems, & got him a couple of 10s (offset by one 0.5, which of course got dropped). He got first place.  Where was el presidente when we needed him?

The Nitty Gritty Slam is here at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. every 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month, but this was the first of the planned events each year when the Slam Team is at the Slam Nationals wherever they may be next. Details at

August 8, 2012

Caffè Lena Open Mic, August 1

Saratoga Springs in August means mortal combat over parking spaces, crowded bars. But I was able to negotiate both to get myself & my guest Ken Hada to the reading on time, after a convivial time at the Parting Glass with the other featured poet, Mark Obeeduid O'Brien & others of his loyal supporters.

Carol Graser, our host, began with a poem by Galway Kinnell, who had been in the area recently, then on to the open mic. Jessie, a young slam poet, had been here before, tonight did a slam rant philosophical love poem. I was second with 2 old "seasonal" poems, "Altamont Fair Poem" (read for Alan Casline who has taken over the duties as organizer of the poetry event at the Altamont Fair), & a poem for Saratoga in August, "…And the Mary Lou Whitney You Rode In On." Mike Burke followed with the descriptive piece, "Saratoga, The Track." Kate McNairy's short Nature poems were about stars ("Kneeling") & in the woods ("Forgotten"). Mimi Moriarty had 2 poems about childhood, "My Best Decade" (her first) & the later "Peter Pan & the Theory of Flight."
Obeedúid~ (aka Mark O'Brien) had a book on the verge from FootHills Publishing when Michael Czarnecki's house & office were destroyed by fire. Benevolent Bird Press of Delmar under the aegis of Alan Casline stepped up to produce a special Caffe Lena Edition of Telluric Voices, complete with a pasted-in broadside & DVD with a couple poems from the book (& others). His work is characteristically "Nature" poems & he began with a cluster of poems with images of mountains, crows, mist, rain & a walk among the rocks. He moved on to read 9 poems from Telluric Voices in which the text "strives to follow 'The Path of the Hero's Journey' over the course of the seasons." That's not always obvious, but the Table of Contents gives each poem a "Timeframe." (One comment on the printed text, no, 2 comments: the Table of Contents doesn't indicate the page numbers, making it basically useless, & (2) the font is just a point too-small.) Many of the titles are in the Mahican language (with English equivalents) & there are some useful notes referencing native concepts & language.

Ken Hada teaches at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, is the Director of the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at ECU. His poems, like those of Obeedúid~, are grounded in Nature (with the capital N), such as "Thunder in the Morning," "Storm on a Mountain Ridge," & a poem to all the Trolls, "Yellow Cottonwoods." He also read from his collection Spare Parts (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010), including 2 poems that had been read by Garrison Keillor on NPR's The Writers Almanac, "Old Men," & Mormon Missionaries Pay Me a Visit." Another favorite (not read on the radio) he included was "Streaking at Bible Camp." He concluded with a poem from his newest work, The River White: A Confluence of Brush & Quill (Mongrel Empire Press, 2011) a collaboration with his brother Duane Hada whose watercolors are an integral part of this journal of a trip down the Ozark's White River in words & images.

We took a short break, then Carol Graser was back with the hysterical poem of "The Haiku" as a character. Joe Krausman has the theatrical ability to present a poem in the voice of the wife of a gambler's wife, then another in the voice of a bull. Susan Riback read a meditation on "Living Alone," then another on noticing "Lovers at the Next Table." Rodney Parrot was a new voice here but said he had a bunch of poetry chapbooks out & read from The Pleasure of Moving Through 3 Dimensions. Frequent reader here Carole Kenyon read a long, funny piece, "Libertarian's Lament." I hadn't seen W.D. Clarke in a while & his ballad "The Lieutenant's Confession" (about a massacre in Saipan) reminded me why I missed his work.

New voice Melissa Anderson, a young poet heading off to college, blew me away with "The Princess Poem" with a good-humored, looking-to-the-future leaving-the-nest poem, powerful words well performed. Katie Leach followed with "Take 2," another leaving/revolt poem -- go for it! Alan Casline has been researching the database of the Altamont Enterprise & contrasted old items with his own made-up items about the current poetry scene, followed by a poem for Michael Czarnecki, "Does a Disaster Have a Side?" Another young poet, Nick, began with a piece on the relics of himself, "An Offering," then a Nature/Zen poem from his reading of the works of Shinkichi Takahashi. Bob Sharkey's "After Poem" was a ramble through the latest massacre, the Poets in the Park (& the after party) & on to the nature of relationships. Sally Rhoades began with "New Poems" about the recent local reading by Galway Kinnell, then about her trip to read at the Woody Guthrie Festival "48 Hours in Oklahoma." Barbara Garro brought it all home with the prosey "Biofiliia" & "Brooding & Melancholy."

Ah, Caffé Lena, with featured poets & great regional open mic poets every 1st Wednesday, 7:30PM, Phila St. in Saratoga Springs -- no horses allowed.

August 6, 2012

Poets Speak Loud!, July 30

In the back room at McGeary's things got raucous with "Vodka Mary" Panza as our host, telling stories, trading insults, & creating new grammar & vocabulary & no one was safe.

Sylvia Barnard began it nicely enough with her poem about a visit to SPAC, "Ballet on a Summer Afternoon." I followed, also quite nicely (if I do say so myself), with a poem in honor of visiting poet Ken Hada, "Oklahoma Sunday," then the recent chance-meeting poem, "City Life." Coincidently Bob Sharkey had a poem that referenced Indian Nations (as had mine), "Road to the Monuments," then a meditation on the use of military drones, "As Olympic Flames Burn." Emily Gonzalez began with a poem by Adrienne Rich, then one of her own, a tender poem listening to stories in a car, "Driving Me Back Home 7AM."

Ken Hada was in town from Oklahome on a book tour; he read from his collection Spare Parts (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010), "Ramona" (actually about 2 Ramonas), "Streaking in Bible Camp" (27.3% biographical, like every poem), & a poem about the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, "Security Guard." Kim Henry's one poem, "Polar Opposites," was more than enough to embarrass her teenage daughter in the audience. Kristen Day's wry sense of humor was out in force in "Dog," & in her workplace poem, "Bad Mood."

Before unleashing the night's featured poet, ILLiptical, our host brought up 3 members of Albany's Nitty Gritty Slam team (Elizag, ILLiptical & D. Colin) to perform their group piece "To The Company Making Trayvon Martin Targets" (The Hiller Armament Company of Virginia, if you are interested).

The featured poet had done his job & packed the house with his family & friends, so how could he not give a great performance. ILLiptical the Wizard of Mars is a teacher, wrestling expert, & member of the Nitty Gritty Slam Team. He began with a poem he described as being written 3 years ago & never performed, a declamation that "the stage is my life …" titled "Engraved." He did his next piece in a falsetto voice of a young student talking about a substitute teacher "Mr. Jenkins" then the impassioned "The Last Jew in Spain." Lightening up a bit his next pieces were haikus mainly about movies & in the voice of the movie character, then on to the prison metaphor love poem to his wife, "Sentence Complete," & more comedy in "Loner Full of Irony." He ended with 2 poems from the news, a Slam poem on the Aurora, CO shootings, & an eulogy for the local boy, Miles McAdoo.

Carolee Sherwood, after complaining that she didn't have enough time to read all the poems she wanted to read at her recent Poets in the Park appearance, read "Apiary" that had been the Split This Rock Poem of the Week (local girl gets national poetic attention!). Tess Lecuyer read "Sonnet for a Watercolor" (from 2003) & a new, FaceBook haiku for her coffee. Chad Lowther doesn't come to open mics often & his poems, like the one he read tonight ("We Admonishing Advice"), need more than one hearing -- complex, interwoven.

Sarah Giragosian is also a rare sight, read poems from a series, one titled "The Fish Beneath the Portuguese-Man-of-War" & the other about the angler fish. Cheryl Rice's poem "We Live in a World," about women changing their names upon marriage, comparing it to mutilation, was a big hit with in this audience. Thom Francis re-did his poem "Saving the World" from last Friday for those of you not there, a message that needs repeating. Sally Rhoades had 2 poems, "Mourning Mother" & "Studying Street Music." Avery's poem "A Whole Closet Full" used his Imelda Marcos-like tee shirt collection as a metaphor for memory (although one wonders how he could speak after being swept-away by our host sitting on his lap -- lucky boy!).

Always positive Poetyc Visionz began with an anatomy lesson on how marvelous we are, then to the long & preachy "You're Already Beautiful," which sounds so familiar he must have done it somewhere else. Introducing Mojavi, Vodka Mary used another of tonight's neologisms, "crotchily" -- hmm? Anyways, he did his vision of the Apocalypse & pantheon of the gods, "The First & Last Time I Smoked a Joint," then an excerpt of his piece on R&B, naming the names. Mary ended on a Slam note by bringing back Elizag to do her Slam piece riffing on "motherfucker/a" to promote the Nitty Gritty Slam Team.

Enough to make your head spin, even without Mary's vodka. Poets Speak Loud is at McGeary's on the last Monday of most months, check out for up-to-the-moment details.

August 5, 2012

Poets in the Park, July 28

The final reading in the 2012 series was not held in the Park at all but at the Social Justice Center, our rain site. The weather had been so uncertain earlier in the day, & the forecasts reminded me of the newspaper picks for the daily races in Saratoga so I thought it prudent to move the reading indoors. It was a grand gathering just the same, with loyal supporters in the audience, including 1 person who had been at all 4 readings, one of last week's features, Carolee Sherwood.

Kevin Peterson began his reading, surprisingly, with T.S. Eliot's long monologue, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," taking up almost a third of his slot. But then on to the reason he was invited to Poets in the Park, to perform the works of Kevin Peterson. HIs poems are discursive, about himself & his relation to the world, "As One of the Beautiful People…" about his hair, & more. "Dueling Pens" begins with a fight with his girlfriend while they were both writing, then on to such themes as a head massage, & sex & creativity. Kevin is one of Albany's Nitty Gritty Slam Team that is heading to the Slam Nationals. With his coach (Mojavi) & other Slam team members in the audience he got into an argument over which Slam poem to do, ending with "Writing Lyrics," a humorous portrayal of the reactions of bar patrons to him writing at the bar (reminded me of the old New Yorker cartoon: A guy sitting at the bar says to the guy next to him, "Most people think I drink because I'm a poet. Actually it's the other way around."). He ended with another drinking/smoking bar poem, "The Usual Disillusionment," a long, rambling piece about what to do, where we are going, perhaps his attempt at a Prufrock poem? Anyways, a reading that showed the many & same sides of Kevin Peterson.

Tenesha Smith, a frequent performer with Urban Guerilla Theatre, brought some young Job Core students with her to hear what the grown-ups are doing. She started with some of her very first poems, written when she was 11 or 12, beginning with the defiant "Fear," then from her teenage years "Negro Spaghetti" a poem about her grandmother's cooking & hard times. "Dysfunctional" takes on the term often used by politicians & social workers, then on to an untitled poem inspired by Clinton Ave., a vivid description of the urban scene where she lives. The next poem began with "a trail of chains lead to where I stand," considered that we are all slaves to something, the complexity of the images & our lives. "Spider on the Ceiling" was about domestic violence, but really about being a "solid woman." She ended with an unfinished piece ("I found a poem...") that kept waking her up, a wonderful string of images from the news, from ads, from her life & the world around her. It was the kind of inspired reading that reminds me why I do this Poets in the Park thing each year.

Poets in the Park in not a open mic venue, but some young poets had come bearing poems as if it were so I ended up, under some pressure from Mojavi, bringing to the mic, one of Tenesha's students, Alexis, who did an accomplished Slam performance of a poem about being molested. Perhaps a future Poet in the Park?  One doesn't know, do one?

Tom Nattell had asked me to continue this event after he passed on & each year I thank the memory of Tom ("star-dust is us") for the privilege of presenting so many fine poets to the people of Albany. & thanks to the Hudson Valley Writers Guild for their support.