December 26, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 20

While the fantasy tour bus filled with dancing girls circled the block looking for a parking space, the rest of the poets gathered to hear the featured poet, Marilyn McCabe, to read in the open mic, & eagerly look forward to sitting on the lap of Sanity Clause. I began by invoking the muse, Enid Dame, with her "Holiday Poem" on the eve of the Solstice.

Photo of Sanity Clause & Alan Catlin
by A.C. Everson

Eagerly first up was A.C. Everson with a rhyme about a reluctant Santa (& that was no candy cane in Sanity Clause's pocket).   Alan Catlin's poem was written in England, "End Time in the Lake District" (for tonight being on the eve of the end of the world). Avery recited his "smile poem," "From Me to You." Sylvia Barnard followed the smiles with a somber poem, "Autumn 2012, East Coast America" on Hurricane Sandy & the shooting in Newtown.

The featured poet was Marilyn McCabe, in the middle of a cold, started with the poem "Perseveration" from her book Perpetual Motion (The Word Works, 2012), followed by "Psalm: It is Dark." In fact most of the poems she read, with the exception of the last 2, came from her book, & mostly from the section titled "Problems and Affinities." They generally dealt with what she called her "religio-curiosity" about he idea of "God," in "Hieroglyphs," "Within Without" (in which she speaks directly to that God), the theme often reflected in the titles: "Burning Bush," "Lac du Saint Sacrament" (an early name for Lake George), "A Matter of Spirit and Flesh" & "Refuting Buddha" (done by the natural world). "Morning, the Flying Place" & her last poem "The Details" (which she described as "the culmination of her belief system") were about finding prayer around her in the natural world. Despite a nagging cough at the end, she gave a wonderfully constructed, meditative reading.

After the break I read a poem about school shooting in 2006, based on a pair of newspaper articles, "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine…" Joe Krausman read a poem for the Solstice, for light in the darkness, & partying with wine & beer. Anthony Bernini's poem was "a lose-end" observing a woman in "Sensible Pumps." Alan Casline read a poem written yesterday "Cup of Sorrows." W.D. Clarke read one of his ballads, this about his obsession with "Dollar Store Glasses." A new poet in the house, Indie, read a love poem, "I Want to Know You." Joanne (Jan) Farrell read a short excerpt from her historical novel, Liberty for the Lion Shield (Xulon Press, 2009). Another writer of fiction, Julie Lomoe read some haiku from walking her dog, Sirius.  Bob Elmendorf hasn't read here in quite a while, tonight read his poem "The Photographer" looking for light in the Winter.

Photo of Sanity Clause with Sally Rhoades
by A.C. Everson

Sally Rhoades' poem, "High Water Mark," was a recent one about visiting her daughter in Washington, DC.

I won't say that this is the "longest-running" poetry series in Albany, but it has been continuous on the third Thursday of each month since December 1997, in various venues, & now at the Social Justice Center since 2006. Open mic, with a featured poet, & a $3.00 donation supports poetry programs here in Albany & supports the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany.

December 19, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam, #33, December 18

Thom Francis (left) adjusts the mic stand for
host "Christopher the Poet."
It was the second of the women-only Slams at Valentine's, but first the open mic, hosted tonight by "Christopher the Poet." Apparently the Southern crowds at such events are louder than us in the Northeast as our host kept trying to pump up our volume until by the end of the night I was a bit hoarse.

Fortunately I was signed-up as #1 on the open mic list & still had my voice then. I started off with the new poem "Trailer Park," then my 2006 poem on random shootings, "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine…" Billy was next, noting the 50th anniversary this year of the publication of On the Road & read a long epistolatory page turner to "Mr. Kerouac." Alyssa's ironically titled "Thank you" was addressed to partners she didn't want. Rain Dan read the first of what we can expect to be many poems on the Newtown shooting, "When He Comes," addressed to his children, then 2 very short pieces.

Jackie works on her poem.
Jackie K(irkpatrick) read a list poem titled "Time Line of Dating a Poet Preferably Me" giving full warning to the guys lurking out there. el presidente Thom Francis read a poem by Rebecca Schumejda ("Stretching Felt Over the Edges") from her new book Cadillac Men (NYQ Books), then his own happy love poem celebrating the here & now, "At this Moment." Our host, Christopher the Poet, performed one of his signature pieces, a poem to his future son, or daughter. Poetyc Vysonz ended the open mic with one of his signature inspirational pieces.

There were only 3 contestants for the Slam tonight, guaranteeing that all would be in-the-money tonight. The Slam was done in 4 rounds, each with different time limits.

Tasha, Alyssa, Thom Francis, & Rita
Rita was a new-comer with decidedly un-Slam poems, most with attempts at rhyme, philosophical; in the 1-minute round she came in with a 15.8 seconds untitled piece. Tasha's poems were the opposite, done in Slam style & cadence, including themes of cutting & bullying. Alyssa, doing most of her poems from memory, included a poem on weight & body image, along with a couple love poems. When the dust cleared, the scores tallied, the money counted, it was Alyssa in the #1 spot, Tasha was 2nd & Rita 3rd. A good night for them -- & for the rest of us too.

The Nitty Gritty Slam is the 1st & 3rd (& the 5th) Tuesday of each month at Valentine's, check out the schedule at

December 14, 2012

Live from the Living Room, December 12

Our customary intimate gathering for poetry in the living room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, tonight not only poets to read in the open mic but some "ordinary citizens" to sit & listen. Our host, the ever straight-friendly Don Levy.

 Tonight's featured poet was Emily Gonzalez in her first featured reading since returning to the Capital Region earlier this year. In a sort of retrospective she began with a bunch of early poems, many of them about her mother, such as "Apron Strings" (in 10 stanzas), or about being a mother herself as in "Parenting 101" or a marvelous untitled piece celebrating being her kids, her mother, being Puerto Rican. She brought back her early days as a poet here with "Dreaming of Bukowski," or the sexy work & beach fantasy of "Office Space." I am particularly pleased that she included the every changing "Mami" with its images of cooking in Spanish, English, & Spanglish. Her new poems were about her grandson ("Grandson," "Seeds") & love ("Driving Me Back Home at 7AM"), death ("For Laura…") & being back in Albany ("Free Falling," dedicated to another fine Albany poet, Carolee). So glad to have Emily & her fine words back in this City.

I started off the open mic segment with 2 poems written in the last few days, the ghostly elegaic "Jim Morrison" & the break-up letter inspired "Trailer Park" (3rd in a series). Shannon Shoemaker read an untitled sex-in-the-summer piece, then discovered that the poems she wanted to read were in another notebook, not the one she brought.  The aforementioned  Carolee Sherwood also read recent poems, both available on her Blog, "December Puddles" & the wonderfully moon-struck "Learning to Love Again."

A shy, new voice, Edward read the philosophical journal musings of "Whatever," then a little later returned with "Life & Death." In between Avery effusively described baking a failed cake as a way to talk about marriage -- metaphor or recipe? Our genial host, Don Levy, began with an ancient Terence Winch poem about a draft physical, "The Psychiatrist's Office was Filled with Crazy People" then his own poem written today (!), "A Conversation in an Elevator," which you can find on Don's FaceBook page (& if you are not a FB friend of Don's, why not?).

Live from the Living Room happens on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Pride Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, 7:30PM, for a donation that pays the featured poet -- & bring your own poems for the open mic.

December 13, 2012

Poetry + Prose, December 9

It's me & Nancy Klepsch as the afternoon's hosts, with a nice sign-up of open mic readers &, more importantly, an audience of happy listeners.

Nancy, battling a cold & laryngitis, managed to get through a new poem, a love poem it seemed. David Wolcott read from his memoir, a chapter titled "C.O." about confronting his family over being a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War. Kate Laity used her own timer (damn, we need more like her!) to keep track of her reading, a segment of a medieval tale of a young girl being offered to a nunnery.

It is amazing to think that it was the first time here for poetry diva of Albany, Don Levy, but it was, reading classic pop-culture pieces, "Marilyn Monroe & Ulysses" & "The Prime of Miss Don Levy," on surreptitiously watching TV in his parent's bedroom. Ron Drummond began with an anecdote about this morning's church service, then on to the long personal essay, "29 April 2010" that begins with Philip K. Dick, moves to D.H. Lawrence & the chain of being, then he tacked on at the end "a short piece from a work-in-progress."

Tim Verhaegen had us rolling with laughter as he railed against his mother in a piece that began when he found a stack of unopened sympathy cards. Mimi Moriarty read a cluster of poems on holiday themes, "Inventory of Reasons I Will Not Be Celebrating the Holidays," "Two Wise Men & a Buddha," "Hemingway & His Polydactyl Cats" (about spending New Years in Key West), & ended with a meditation on aging, "Hair, a Travelogue." Howard Kogan's poems were also meditations, the first titled "Meditation" explored his "monkey mind" during a poetry workshop at Omega, his second poem is one of my own personal favorites, "Blue Heron." Actually, the piece that I ended the day with is a meditation of sorts, the short prose essay, "God on Alto."

This series continues at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, in Troy, on the 2nd Sunday of each month, starting at 2PM -- prose, poetry, whatever you got that's written.

December 8, 2012

St. Rose Students Open Mic, December 7

Students in the brand-new MFA in writing program at the College of St. Rose came down off the metaphoric hill to Lark St. during the First Friday Art Walk for the first of what's promised as a new monthly open mic at Ben & Jerry's. The reading was hosted by student (& local poet), Jacqueline Kirkpatrick, & most of those on the sign-up sheet & in attendance were students or friends of students. But there were a few community poets in attendance, notably Joe Krausman, Kevin Peterson & me, DWx. The St. Rose faculty was represented by Daniel Nester.

I ended up first on the sign-up sheet (how does that happen?) & read 2 poems from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011), "Looking for Cougars" & "The Lesson."

Our host, Jackie Kirkpatrick, read 2 untitled pieces, the first a list poem that she said is her email "away message," the second poem was dedicated to the bees who swarmed her when she was younger & put her hand through their nest. Sadie Hickman read a cluster of poems from her tablet, the first was addressed to her fears & horror movies, then "Centralia, PA," "I Blame Prometheus," & the funny, sexy "How to Survive Laundry Day."  Cayla Zaluki had one untitled poem in rhyme, "uncovering truths of a wasted youth" (or was that the title?)

Sarah Sherman began with a poem analyzing dream symbols ("Incubus"), then a tender piece, "Visiting Hours," falling asleep thinking of those dying; her poem "History of Violence" was not a dream poem she insisted, while "Math" was a portrait of an old professor (her father?) playing with numbers. Sampson Dikeman read from a bar napkin "The Kinder Gentler Charles Manson." Monica Mitsaka's poem "Decadent Reminders" exhumed bones, while "2004" was memory & speculation of another kind, as was the hymn to her youth, "Yeah, We Were So Punk Rock."

Juliet waving her magic wand.

Juliet Barney began with a poem using words from the Seneca language, recognizing her the culture, then to the skate-boarder poem "Fakey;" for her last poem ("a Harry Potter poem" she said) she pulled a magic wand from her boot & read "My Sister the Half-Blood Princess," waved her wand & turned the entire audience into toads. Kevin Peterson quickly found his human form & read "Simultaneous Events" about dart & trivia night in a bar, then "Nature Hike" & the list poem from a college lit mag "Chicago Musings."

Jackie was back briefly with another poem "On Being Gregory's Lover" -- I do believe she meant Corso. Dalla Trombley ended the night with observing "The Cracks Between the Deck Boards," then an unkind portrait of a girl in New Paltz, ending with a funny rhyme on Xmas (alas, 'tis the season).

This open mic expects to continue each month at Ben & Jerry's (they like poetry there) on First Friday. Watch for it.

December 6, 2012

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5

I like to be on time, particularly for open mics where I plan to read, so that I can hear the other poets on the sign-up sheet. Actually Don & I were on time in Saratoga, just that Hattie's Chicken Shack was not on time with our dinners. So we got next door to Lena's as the first featured poet was reading, & we missed the first chunk of open mic poets -- sorry.

Lynn Ciesielski has a new book out from FootHills Publishing, I Speak in Tongues & included a number of poems from the chapbook, as well as others not in the book. "How to Let Go of a Grown Child" is a Mom's list, tender & funny. Equally tender, but sad was a poem about an octogenarian former professor, "Chaos Theory." In "Let the Whistle Blow" the poet thought of her ashes being tossed on the train tracks to be scattered far & wide. Other poems were set in travel locations, such as the ironic feminist come-uppance of "Practicing Spanish at a Seaside Bar in Cancun," or the less frantic "Two Legs Toward Liverpool." She ended with the sexy & humorous love poem to her husband (dutifully tonight videoing her reading from his phone), "Pizza Again."

AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis was the night's other featured poet, surrounded by his adoring entourage. He said he was reading "mostly new" poems, a relative term to some of us who have heard some of these recent poems at open mics. He began with "At this Moment," then on to the portrait of sad characters at the "Bar." The poem "Stuck," about Time, was written at work (haven't we all), while "Run" examined the power of leaders, cult or otherwise. A particular favorite of mine is "Easter Visit" about a visit to his grandfather in the hospital. The one older poem was "Hero," an ironic portrait of his father as an anti-role model. He said he has been working on "Walk" for 8 or 9 months, a sad portrait of a friend. He ended with another new favorite, a love poem to his insulin pump, "Machine." It certainly was, as Thom described it, "the most personal reading I have ever done."  Good too.

After the break Carol Graser read "Out of Crackers" from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems. Then on to the rest of the open mic.

W.D. Clarke was back with another of his rhymed ballads of black humor, the story of a farting corpse, "Saint Shorty." Barbara Garro's poem "Blessing Bridges" was positive & up-lifting & "Wings" referenced the Sufi mystic poet Rumi. Don Levy dedicated his poem, "The Queen," to Thom Francis, then went on to explain "How I Know My Muse is a Gay Man," characteristic Don Levy gay & pop culture humor. I followed with 2 recent poems, the scary "This is Not Trick or Treat" & the true story of a failed Saratoga Springs love affair, "Adirondack Life."

Tess Lecuyer, who will be one of January's featured poets (with Kingston/Albany poet Cheryl A. Rice) read a list of a month's worth of specific prompts for poems, "Prompt Dates." Michael, who has read here in the past, but not recently, was back with 2 untitled poems, one remembering his father, the other perhaps about the force of desire, like walking on lava. Andrew's poem was a philosophical, modern dialogue appropriately titled "Said Socrates," while his 2nd poem was shorter, but with a longer title.

The last poet up, Leslie Nestor, was a (poetry) virgin (!) but you'd never know it from her poems, the wonderfully sexy "This Shirt" & the more involved "To Our Friend Who is in Pain…" advice to a friend suffering through the pain of a lost love.

Accomplished poets, dabblers, & virgins, that's what a poetry open mic is all about. The open mic at historic Caffè Lena is held on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 pm start, only $5.00, bring a couple poems to read.

December 5, 2012


(For the last 6 years or so we, the members of the Albany peace community at the peace vigil in front of the State Capitol building, have been handing out a flyer with an excerpt of Enid Dame's "Holiday Poem" on the Wednesday vigil closest to Christmas.  This is the text of the complete poem.)

Make your own holiday, I want to say
forget the scolding billboards      the feverish malls
the glittering tinsel      the hard and soft machines      the guilt.
Forget Santa Claus in his red suit
(it was blue in Yugoslavia,
a country that has fallen off the map).
Forget the gross national product forget      Wall Street      the rising market.
Make your own bread rise in your oven.
Make up new recipes.

Make your own candles, I want to exhort.
Make those bees work overtime!
The past glimmers seductively     that happy safe radiant place
where snow wrapped the village in angelhair
and Grandma’s cranberries winked like rubies.
They own it now    the conglomerates     the CEOs     the dream dealers.
They sell it back to us in bits and pieces.

They’ve downsized our fantasies.
They want us all wrapped snugly in electric blankets
dreaming the same-colored dream
while the locked-out people, who can’t afford dreams,
play with matches down the street.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say a word.
I’m a stranger in this culture.
In the milltown, the stores dazzled us each December.
Red electric bells sang on every corner.
Mothers and neighbors swung through the streets
gathering, gathering
Lionel trains     toasters     perfume     doll furniture     bedroom suites.
(My father the radical worked overtime
offering, offering
smiling, accepting greetings for a day he had no part in,
coming home exhausted after all the bells winked out.
We lit small candles     made pancakes     hung stockings
Santa Claus, my mother allowed     but no Christ child     no pagan tree.
We weren’t extremists.)

My mother the 30s radical
trapped in the 50s in a house too small
for all her talents – even her talent for sorrow –
told me, “Don’t buy me a holiday card.
Why make the card company richer?”
I thought of making my own     pulled out paints
too messy     too lazy     too undextrous     I grew discouraged
Hallmark could do it better! I
gave nothing at all those years.

But this year, in the diminishing ‘90s
when all the old hopeful flames have guttered out,
as the century melts down like a candle to a small hard nub,
when too many of us are locked out of our stories
in this dark cold overworked tunnel of time,
I want to give something back to the universe:

I want to be politically correct
(or incorrect, depending upon your viewpoint).

I want to say, Let’s make a feast,
a feast of candles     a feast of languages
Let’s celebrate each other’s Gods
(and dreams and histories). Let’s sit down and listen.
Let’s do Christmas     Hanukah     Kwanzaa     solstice
Let’s invite Buddhists     Muslims     Hindus     secular humanists     anarchists     Gnostics.
Late December is a needy time. But
we don’t need the solace of bought objects.
We need each other’s light.

Enid Dame (1943 – 2003) was a poet, writer and teacher. She was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and lived for many years in Brooklyn and High Falls, New York. Her books include Anything You Don’t See (1992, West End Press), Stone Shekhina (2002, Three Mile Harbor), and Where is the Woman? Letters and Poems from California (2006, Shivastan Publishing), edited by her husband, Donald Lev. Enid & Donald co-edited the literary tabloid Home Planet News. Enid Dame died on Christmas morning 2003.

December 3, 2012

Yes, Reading, November 30

This was the last of the semester's programs, the series mixing experimental poetry with other art forms.   Tonight it was poetry & "flexing", with Matthew Klane & James Belflower sharing the intro duties. It also was a "Brooklyn night" with all of the artists traveling up from there.

First up was the poet Rawaan Alkhatib, a poet & visual artist from Dubai.  I could only describe her poetry as "reverent Dadaism." She read a number of short poems, then a longer narrative in word/sound play (doesn't all good poetry have word play?) a funny piece with the recurring phrase "world goat." Other poems in rhymes, half-rhymes, & even some more goats.

Colby Somerville read one long piece, from his iPad, with the repeating phrase, "When the evil shredder attacked…", apparently built on images from videos games, Japanese & kid show super-heroes, a sci-fi apocalyptic narrative, of sorts.

Corina Copp's work was more fragmentary, less musical than the others. However, she did offer some minimal context for her work, though without explanation. One piece was dubbed a "translation" (i.e., English to English) of Shakespeare's sonnet #59, another was an excerpt from what she described as a "strange" large piece, "The Flat Bed," a haphazard collage from other writers & screen writers. Copp was the only one with a book for sale, a flip-book from Ugly Duckling Press (2011) Pro Magenta/Be Met.

As I've said before, with experimental work such as the writing from these 3 poets who read tonight the readers would do well with some explanation of the method or technique the poets used to put together the text. I mean, you can't call it "experimental" without some idea of what the "experiment" is about. Is it a cut up? A random sortex of phrases from some other writer, or themselves? A stoned/drunken/insomniac rant (e.g., Ginsberg's "… lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish").  In addition, all these poets read rather flatly, unexpressively, sort of the yin to the slam poets' yang, so that the words took on the abstract form of music, or at least of a drone.

Robert Williams Taylor (left) & Jason Cust
The final performance was by 2 "flexers," Jason Cust & Robert Williams-Taylor, beginning with a long intro about how they got into this urban dance form springing from reggae music, then a relatively short excerpt from a longer piece, a duet that could best be described as modern dance meets Chinese contortionists. It was, on many levels, more accessible than the poets, in fact I could see writing a poem, or 2, about it.

This provocative series is held sporadically during the academic semesters at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, donations appreciated. Friend them on FaceBook.  You can get on their mailing list by sending an email to