February 28, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, February 21

It was a slow-starting night, but by the time the crowd gathered we had 11 open mic poets, plus our featured reader, William Seaton. But first I invoked the Muse, tonight the sadly recently-gone Jayne Cortez with her wonderful, rhythmic, amusing poem, "You Know," you know.

Respectfully following the one poem rule, Alan Catlin read his piece "Wasted" (he wasn't wasted, that was the title of the piece), the lives trashed by urban violence. Brian Dorn was back again with a "social justice poem," focusing on our similarities, repeating, like Jayne Cortez's poem, "We All." Bob Sharkey's poem "To the One to Whom No One Lights a Candle" was Nancy Lanza & gun violence & women with guns. Alan Casline read a poem "The Poet Universe is Expanding" where we all become dust. Tess Lecuyer talked of Winter camping & read a poem about it "After Winter Day at LIttle Notch," perhaps one of the only poets who can make me (almost) want to do it.

William Seaton channels Kurt Schwitters
Our featured poet William Seaton has a new book out from Nirala Publications, Dada Poetry: an Introduction, containing translations of German Dadaist poets Emmy Hennings, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hans Arp & Hugo Ball. I discovered Dada in high school & along with the Beat poets it blew open the poetry I'd been reading in anthologies of 18th & 19th century English poets, made me find "new" ways of using words, of looking at the world. I've continued into the 21st Century to study the interlocking lives of those German & French poets of the early 20th century, & this book certainly contributes greatly to that study. After an abbreviated recitation of a poem by Kurt Schwitters, Seaton gave a relaxed, wandering lecture on the beginnings of Dada & the role of the 4 poets in his short study. He read a poem by each, & ended with a few of his own Dada-influenced poems from his collection Spoor of Desire (FootHills Publishing, 2008).

Bob Gumson
After a short break for a chance to buy books, I re-started the open mic with a new poem, "The Leprechaun's Cottage." Amy Nelson Hahn handed out copies of the poem she read, "Transition Black and White" about the chance meeting of a skunk & a train. Jan Farrell returned tonight with a poem, "It Just Happened," memory bound up in a chance meeting. Arielle Gumson has also read here previously & tonight read the story-line for a children's book she is writing. She also brought along her father, Bob Gumson, our last reader for the night & the first poet I can recall to read his work from Braille; his poem was inspired by the 2011 Occupy movement.

We gather each third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, 7:30PM for an open mic with a featured reader. Bring a poem & $3.00 donation (which helps to pay the featured poet, supports the SJC & supports poetry events in Albany).

February 22, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam #38 - The Women of Albany Poetry Slam, February 19

Jessie & Alex get ready
How could I not be there? All women poets in the Slam! But first an open mic (the only way I could read my poems tonight) hosted by Mojavi.

Brian Dorn was here for the 1st time testing the waters, starting off with a love poem about a smile, then on to one I like, "From My Poems to Yours." I followed with the poem I had meant to do last night in Pittsfield when I had a chapbook malfunction, "Where Were the Professors?." Alyssa Niman packed the house with her family for her later appearance in the Slam, her open mic poem was "My Mother in Numbers."

Rachel Bolton read a list poem (based on personal experience?) "The Advantages of Being Short." The first of a string of virgins -- oh, yes! -- was Emily Willwerth with a pastiche "Howl to the Uneducated." Virgin #2, Jessie Seafillippi read "Shadow Girl." Virgin #3 Carrie Livingston used the hoody she was wearing as part of her performance of "The Awakening," a narrative of walking the dog & lost love/lust. Kevin Peterson (definitely not a poetry virgin) did a piece by Ani DiFranco. He was followed by Virgin #4, Rose Marie Andrew, who read her poem "I'm so Mad" (at herself for doubting herself) from her smart-phone. Mojavi performed his unsettling sociological study, "On my Block." The poet known as Hat Guy read what he described as "a structured rant at stupid bitches at school."

The rapt audience
For reasons that have never been explained to me there are different rules for the women-only slam (sort of like making them play softball rather than baseball):  there are 4 rounds with different time limits: 4 minutes, 1 minute, 2 minutes & 3 minutes. The poets were Alex, Alyssa, Kristen & Tasha. It was a mix of performances from memory, reading from notebooks, paper, & smart-phones. Even some real poems & a minimum of slam clichés.

Alex has been coming out to the Slams for a while, honing her skills, even working on her poems at the bar. I've heard her first poem "Opinions" performed before & like it, but tonight I think she was over-performing, trying to put too much emotion in her voice rather than letting the power of the words speak for themself. But most of her work contains the elements of effective poetry, images, good use of language without being in-your-face. Alyssa is an effective performer with Slam-influenced pieces focused on herself. She performed a fine piece about body image, "Cartography," during the 1-minute round but unfortunately went over time.

Thom Francis with Alyssa, Tasha, Kristen & Alex
Kristen's work was of the 4 poets the least slam-influenced, reading her poems from her notebook. She reads well & her poems have a strong emotional impact, especially one about making love to a lion, & another about the loss of a pregnancy. Tasha had the most Slam style to her work, even when read from her smart-phone, & as a result was afflicted with the common Slam ailment of her poems sounding pretty much the same. But I will say her piece about killing ants was what I would call "a real poem."

So when all was said & performed, when the timing was stopped & the scores tabulated, the stage wiped of it's sweat & tears, the winner was Tasha, Alyssa 2nd, Kristen 3rd & Alex 4th. Always good to hear the ladies, I have been heard to say.

Nitty Gritty Slam takes place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays (& on the rare 5th Tuesday) at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY -- open mic at 7:30, followed by the Slam -- $5, or $3 with student I.D.  More information at albanypoets.com.

February 21, 2013

10x10 Poetry Festival, February 18

Albany Poets was/were the featured poets one of the events of this week-long arts festival in Pittsfield, MA, at the yBar on North Street . The (whole sick) crew consisted of el presidente Thom Francis, Jill Crammond, Mojavi, Shannon Shoemaker, Kevin Peterson, Algorhythm & me (DWx).

Thom introduced the night with a bar poem, served as MC "sprinkling" his poems during the night & introduced me (age before beauty, or whatever). I had meant to read "Where Were the Professors" as an introduction to the Albany scene but the copy of my chapbook, boundless abodes of Albany, was defective so I did "Joe Krausman" instead, from memory. Then on to some poems from Poeming the Prompt, then "Baghdad/Albany" & ended with "At the End."

Jill Crammond did a representative sample of her fine suburban-divorced-mom poems (with long titles), beginning with a recent piece about gun violence, "After My Son Returns from His Father's…" then on to the anti-fairy tale "All the Pretty Mothers" & "Cinderella Stops Watching the Pot to Say Grace." "Outside Your Home a Man Lifts Boulders" plays on the idea of what is gentle & is really a love poem. "Barbie Pulls Her Arm Off Realizes She is Not a Real Girl" & "Still Life: Ex-Wife Washes Dishes in a Burning House" played off ideas of divorce & disasters.

For all his time on stage, Mojavi actually read remarkably few poems, but they are worth all the chatter around them. He began with a tender poem to his newborn son, then on to a series of relationship poems (it ain't only the ladies who writer them, you know). "If He Broke Up With You & Wants You Back" was like an advice letter, while "How Many" brought back memories of early sex & the regrets of the resultant abortions. Another divorce poem was "Please Be My Memory" & he ended as he began with a tender poem, this a love poem.

Speaking of which, Thom read one of his poems that is one of my favorites, "At this Moment."

Shannon Shoemaker described herself as "a reluctant Slam poet" & so performed the first Slam poem she wrote, "My Name is Shannon Shoemaker" (she also noted this is the first time she has read not in New York State). She then went on to a piece I call her "dyke on a bike poem" about a confrontation/imagined seduction of suburban Moms. Some of her poems are inspired by the works of other poets, such as her outrageous "dick poem" based on a remark I made to her at a poetry reading, & "Of Hummingbirds & Sunday Supper" inspired by Jill Crammond. She ended with a poem of nostalgic love "A Night in Michigan."

Kevin Peterson is another poet who writes for the page as well as for the stage & began (& ended) with a Slam piece, the opening poem about uncertainty in a gay bar & a meditation on STD's & bad choices. Then on to "No More Smokes" & a piece of sociological observation written at SPAC at a Philadelphia Orchestra performance, & a piece about drinking as a teen & now. The last piece was his funny Slam piece about writing in a bar, "Writing Lyrics."

Algorhythm puts his sonorous voice to good use in performing his poetry. Tonight he ranged from a new piece he read from his phone, "Inner Conflict" on the question of "what is I?," a tense, moving monologue in black dialect. Switching to another accent he performed in mix of Japanese & English, my favorite piece of his, an examination of Japanese racism, "Black Man's Cherry Blossom." He ended with yet another consideration of being a "Sucker For Love" (aren't we all?).

We had a great time reading & performing & acting out for the attentive audience at this unique art space called yBar. Check out more information on the scene in Pittsfield at this website.

February 20, 2013

DC Poets Against the War - 10th Anniversary Reading, February 17

This reading, at Busboys and Poets at 5th & K in Washington, DC, was held to celebrate 10 years since the founding of DC Poets Against the War. Sarah Browning, who was there at the beginning, & went on to organize the Split This Rock Poetry Festival with Melissa Tuckey & others, served as MC/host (with Katy Richey as host for the open mic). Sarah talked about the first DC Poets Against the War reading & went on to talk in general about the cost of the war(s) that are still going on. There were 7 poets to read, each with a poem by "a missing voice," then one of their own.

Sarah Browning as MC
First up was Dan Vera, who is a founding member of DC poets. He read Grace Paley's "Responsibility" (which I note I have read as our "muse" at the Third Thursday Poetry Night in Albany), then a new poem of his own, "This is How We Learn of Other Countries." Melissa Tuckey began with "To Be or Not To Be with Headcover" by an Iranian poet friend, then her own poem, "University Kiss in a Time of War". Joseph Ross read "Wars Number 1" by an Iraqi-American poet, the an elegy to "The Buddhas of Bamiyan" destroyed by the Taliban. Esther Iverem talked about the influence of Aimé Césaire on poetry in the world & read an excerpt from his long poem "At at the End of Daybreak." Her own poem was the tender & moving "My Heart is Not For Sale." Leah Harris read "What I Will" by a Palestinian-American poet, then her own poem, "The Sniper & Saddam," about the DC sniper, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, & the media's advice to "keep going about your business as usual."

Yael Flusberg & Sarah Browning
It was great to see & hear another STR regular, Yael Flusberg, who began with the late Dennis Brutus' poem from 1975, "Sequence for South Africa" (I remember seeing Dennis read at the first Split This Rock festival in 2008). Her own poem was a wonderful piece of self-affirmation (& advice), "What I Tell Myself When I Go Out of My Mind" (or, What I Have Learned from Stones). Sarah Browning ended this part of the program with paired poems by an Iraqi poet, "Freedom Before the Occupation" & "Freedom After the Occupation," then she read a new poem, "In Quantanamo."

Susan Scheid
At this point Katy Richey took over for the open mic, & I was pleased with the "One Poem" limit (sounded like home). The first poet up was Susan Scheid whose poem, "Her Prayers," was about women in the world & as collateral damage of a war. Later, I bought her new book of poems playing off fairy tales, After Enchantment (2012). I brought Albany to DC with my reading of "Baghdad/Albany." Khilia Chantel recited her poem about love & being a poet, "Do They Really Love Me?"

There had been a huge demonstration here early in the day against the Keystone XL pipeline & climate change issues in general & Jesse Alexander's new poem "Climate Changes" was right on topic & he even worked in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy & other myths of our culture.

The audience listens to Jim Hayes
Jim Hayes read a poem by Natalie Diaz. Bomani Armagh has just taken over the poetry programming at Busboys & Poets & he performed a funny rap piece with the repeating line "the President's talking about a change…" Tamerra Henderson said she was in from Chicago & read her poem "When Will My Eyes Not Cry." It's hard to characterize Zoran's time on the stage, a combination of rambling introduction about children playing in the mud to a shorter poem about children & earth.

Tolanda Henderson's untitled piece played off the sci-fi concept of her having multiple versions of herself throughout the Universe. Ed Simmons read an intricate political rant in praise of whistle-blowers & against torture. Tony Bates' short poem was titled "Dust." Marianne Ross said she had read her poem "Numbers" at the White House; it was about her 8 previous "deaths" & how her 9th would be as a political activist.

The reading was scheduled from 5PM to 7PM, with another group coming in behind right away. The MCs did a good job of getting all the readers in just in time. But at the end we were being hustled out with little time for the socializing & schmoozing that's usually done. I missed saying "hello - goodbye" to some folks but did end up upstairs with Sarah, Melissa, Joe Ross, Susan & her husband & Katy Richey for a wide-ranging snarky poets discussion, with alcohol, of course. Be sure to check out the Split This Rock website for information on the 2014 festival & lots of stuff in between.

A full set of my photos can be found at my Flickr! site.

February 19, 2013

Live from the Living Room, February 13

Gathered in the living room of the Pride Center we awaited the arrival of the featured poet, who didn't show, but our host, Don Levy was patient & there were plenty of poets so we did a round-robin style of reading by those of us who were there.

Alan Casline started the clockwise circle with what he described as "a prize-losing poem" (I got a million of 'em myself) about a place to buy drugs, "Meet at the Tree." Robin Mendoza was a new face & voice & his first poem was "Temptations" looking for alternatives. I followed with a new poem, "The Leprechaun's Cottage." Sally Rhoades was here with her husband after a dinner date for Valentine's Day & read a love poem celebrating the everyday, "Love's Attitude." Don Levy completed the circle with an elegy, "A Poem for Harvey Milk."

The 2nd round, quite by chance ("synchronicity"?), seemed to focus on specific, unique experiences, 1st Alan with "A Walk at NIght." Then Robin combined a famous painting & a personal experience into his poem "Christ in the Wilderness." At my turn in the circle I read my new "Birthday Poem 2013." Sally read from her notebook about an experience at an Indian sweat lodge. & Don's poem "All I Wanted Were Eggs" took place at a Stewart's on Super Bowl Sunday.

For the final go-around, Alan began with "A Theory of Numbers." Robin's poem was a descriptive piece "In the House of His Parents." My poem, "Reading Kant in China," was prompted by a daily horoscope, with assitsance from my daughter Madeleine. Sally's poem "Love In the Ease of his Person…" was to her father. & our host, Don Levy, finished off the night with the outrageous mashing together of "The NRA Pride March" -- oh, if Life were only like that! But then, Thanks to Don for imagining it!

LIfe, imagined or real, gets read about each 2nd Wednesday at Live from the Living Room at the Pride Center of the Capital Region at 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, 7:00 PM sign-up, 7:30 for the featured poet to start. Always straight-friendly.

Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera & Me

Not really -- I never played baseball with them -- but over the Christmas holidays when my son Jack got inspired to clean out his old bedroom (now the "Andy Warhol Guest Room") he found some old scorecards from baseball games we attended in the 1990s. That was when the local minor league team was the Albany-Colonie Yankees, who played at Heritage Park out near the Albany County Nursing Home & the Airport.  Now, Spring Training has begun & baseball, happily, is back in the news.

I like to keep score when I go to baseball games; it helps me to pay attention to what is going on & not be distracted (too much) by the beer, hotdogs & fans around me. Archivist that I am, I dutifully stick the scorecards in a file -- & forget about them.

The program, scorecard, & roster that Jack found were from a game on June 30, 1994, between the Binghamton Mets & the Albany-Colonie Yankees. I wasn't keeping a diary at that time so I don't know who I was with, but conceivably it would have been Grandpa (John Dugan), probably Jack, & maybe my wife, Mary, & daughter Madeleine. When you look at the scorecard you will see that the 2nd batter was "D. Jeter," playing shortstop. The starting pitcher, who went 9 innings, was "Mariano Rivera."  Of course, at the time I had no idea the stars they would become; then they were just another player's name on the scoreboard, & I was trying to get the correct spelling, pay attention to how the play went, & not spill my beer (I taught my sons & daughters how to keep score so they could take over while I went to the bathroom).

According to my hasty jottings, Jeter struck out twice, flyed out to right field & walked twice. Rivera struck out 4 & gave up 5 hits & 2 runs. His opposing pitcher on the Mets (whose name I did not write down), in 6 innings struck out 8, & they were winning 2 - 0 when he was taken out. Unfortunately we must have left after the 10th inning with the game tied 2 - 2 (either the kids were tired, or maybe Grandpa was too) because I didn't record a final score & who won.

Another interesting note is that the 1994 Yearbook has a picture of another future big league Yankee, Andy Pettitte, whose name does not appear on the printed roster that came with the scorecard. Minor league players do get moved around a lot.

The Albany-Colonie Yankees are no longer the home team, replaced by the Diamond Dogs & now by the Tri-City Valleycats who play in Troy at the stadium located at Hudson Valley Community College.

I don't get to Major League games very often, but I do like seeing the local teams play -- you are closer to the action, the tickets are inexpensive, as is the food & the beer. And, who knows, you may see future Major Leaguers play, even future Hall of Famers. Go out & support your local teams.

Go ValleyCats!

February 14, 2013

Poetry + Prose/2nd Sunday @ 2, February 10

Nancy Klepsch was back as co-host with me, DWx, & a full list of open mic readers, some for the first time, some regulars.  George Guarino started us off with a hypnotic reading of his piece "What If," setting the tone for the afternoon.

 Brian Dorn has been trying out the different open mic venues with his rhymes; he read 3 poems, a couple with subtle (or not so) political messages, such as the nostalgic "Back in the Day" & a poem about his alter ego, "Darker Me." David Wolcott read another segment from his memoir, this about working for NYSERTA developing alternative energy sources. Howard Kogan's first poem, "Chaperone," was about walking the turkeys as a way to stave off wild beasts, then a poem that pondered the nature of Time, as did his last poem, "Tanta Chava," about an aunt of his, that he is perhaps the only one alive with a memory of her (one of Howard's poems that's a particular favorite of mine).

Don Levy was back in Troy again & began with a wonderful list poem, "Growing up Queer," then on to a funny true story about Super Bowl Sunday, "All I Wanted Was Eggs." Sally Rhoades began with an elegy, "Mourning Mother," then on to an old poem, the self-affirming "Steadying the Street Music," & ended with a "harvest" of words after 3 hours dancing, "The Dance Underscore." Mimi Moriarty had a cluster of short, seasonal poems: a Mardi Gras poem, then "Valentine for Ex-Patriots, the "anti-Valentine" "Love Knots," & "5 Dangerous Fantasies." Inna Erlikh does translations of contemporary Russian writers & asked me to read for her 2, "I Heart New York," a short prose piece on learning to like New York by Inna Goukhman, then the short lyric poem, "Do Not Abandon Me," by G. Polonsky.

Sean Heather McGraw's first poem was an extended metaphor ("all the stars go out") of friendship & relationships, then a commentary on the mis-use of the term "gay" by students, "The Kids Always Say." Ron Drummond began with a piece from a letter to a friend that read like a tender poem, then an excerpt from a collection of pieces for the Sci-fi writer Samuel R. Delaney. I followed with just one piece, "Birthday Poem, 2013." My co-host Nancy Klepsch followed with a short piece finding similarities to her father, who died recently, then a poem written just this morning, a celebration of the everyday, of life & love.

Frank Robinson made a rare appearance & read from his book, The Case for Rational Optimism, on the gains of the 20th Century & how we have not done badly. He was followed by Therese Broderick reading from a chapbook she is writing about her grandfather, this piece about how he worked at the Watervliet Arsenal. Tim Verhaegan noted the deaths in his family that have occurred in February & read from his ongoing family memoir, "Our Revelations," in which he notes that his memories of his older brother Michael are different from Tim's twin brother's memories (linking us back to Howard's poem). Joe Krausman ended the afternoon with 2 "parables," first "The Collector," a short absurdist prose piece about a pancake collector, the a short anecdote, "Waiting in the Waiting Room of the Doctor's Office."

This afternoon was just what it was supposed to be -- a diverse mix of prose & poetry. And it happens on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, on River St. in Troy -- & it's Free!

February 10, 2013

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, February 6

I was surprised when I arrived at Caffè Lena to find a taller, more expansive Carol Graser, then realized that it was Alan Casline who was performing the duties, in his own inimitable way, as the substitute host for the night. He began, as Carol does, with an OPP (other person's poem), this "The Meaning" by Drummond Hadley. The featured poets was the brilliant discordant harmonics of Joe Krausman & Matthew Klane. But first the open mic.

First up was a member of Joe's cheering section, Barbara Kaiser, with 3 (the rule is 2) tiny (OK) poems, more like aphorisms or short jokes, the first on marriage, the next about a diner ("The Albany Poem"), the last about a sign in a store -- inspiration is everywhere. Rodney Parrott read "a couple things on ideology," the first poem contending that "with a slant you get a narrow slice" then a poem on piece on powerful Christian men from his chapbook. Kate McNairy's poems are like beach glass: tiny, fascinating pieces of something you know is larger; her first tonight, on Winter, was titled "Heart" while "Falling Out" had her dancing on her grave. Sue Jefts read a "newer" poem about the Moon, "A Prayer Heard & Answered," then an older poem, "Micro-moments Under an Evening Sky."

Gordon Haymon likes to rhyme & tonight his rhymes were on guns & school shootings ("Lamentation Fermentation"), & on a stop at a church in Texas while driving cross-country. Cole announced this was his first time ("a virgin," as we say) & read a couple of notebook jottings in short, uneven rhymes, pensive & philosophical. Steve Pillar also likes to rhyme; his first piece "Awakening" was based on a dream, then a piece that rhymes on God & angels & the Trinity.

Matthew Klane, one of the coordinators of the Yes! Poetry & Performance Series in Albany, was the night's first featured poet. He read mostly from a stack of small cards, short, aphoristic poems, in his customary studied dead-pan style. The poems, so short he often repeated them like one does when reading haiku, were versions of definitions based on word-play, puns & often dark humor that elicited laughs from the audience. He ended with an excerpt from a piece titled "Unquiet Youth," also based on sound & word play. While his work is of the type usually labeled "experimental" the poems he read tonight were accessible through their humor & playfulness.

Joe Krausman was the second featured poet, a long-time denizen of the Albany poetry scene. His poems are more discursive, narrative, but, like Matthew, often uses humor to make their point. "Marilyn Monroe's Dress" was a meditation on what things are worth, & "High Wire" also had a dress in it. The poem "Nurseditor" was about aging, as were others such as "Losing It," & a later doctor poem. Finding/keeping a place to live was the theme of another cluster of poems, "Oh Give Me a Home," "House For Sale," & "My Neighbor's Parrot."  And I'm glad he included one of my personal favorites of his, "Houdini at the Death of His Mother."

After the break, another rhymer, the Biker-poet Tim Sneider, recited "The Accident," then a poem on getting a hot-oil massage, "The Threshold of Heaven." Our host Alan Casline followed with 2 choruses (à la Kerouac) from a longer piece titled "Blues Experience," both about hanging at a bar in New York City. Nancy Denofio read what she called "a one-sided conversation" (sometimes called a "monologue") about a visit of an old Italian friend to her grandfather's death bed. Brian Dorn has been bringing his rhyming poems around a lot lately; the first, "Falling Apart" was about the complexity of relationships, while he addressed what might be described as "the yoga of poetry" in "From My Poems to Yours" (namaste, Brian). Throughout the night Alan Casline had been interspersing between poets what he called "existential urban jokes" which I suddenly realized is an apt description of my first poem, "Joe Krausman," then I dedicated to Matthew Klane my little bit of experiment in bar poem typography, "Parallel Parking." We began the night with a Barbara & ended with another, this one Barbara Garro who read a poem for Valentines Day, "Heart Rules;" she then asked the audience to pick between 2 poems, based solely on their titles (a bad thing to ask the audience to pick what you read next, I think: what if they pick nothing & tell you to sit down?) & ended the night with the list poem, "The Road Paved with Words."

This was an inspired pairing of 2 local, but very different, poets. Theoretically it should have drawn a diverse audience from the "camps" of both poets. In practice it was Joe who drew the most strangers -- some poets who rarely show up here (or elsewhere), & a number of (one could only guess) non-poets. Unfortunately, Matthew's camp didn't show (except for his lovely wife, but then that's de rigueur). I think the ugly truth is that the featured poets are not the draw. The poets come for the open mic, to put their own work out there. They really don't care who the feature is. Yes, a good featured poet will bring her friends & family, but if you want an audience for a poet, have an open mic too, which they do here each month.

This fine open mic is the 1st Wednesday of each month at Caffé Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30 PM, $5.00. I'll see you there.

February 4, 2013

The Safe Haven…Business or Pleasure?…, January 31

This is a new open mic series in town that I've been meaning to get to, but it's on Thursdays & I miss at least one a month due to my own venue on the third Thursday & somehow other Thursdays get away from me as well. Finally, I got there this cold last night of January. But the welcome was warm & the poets were hot. It was co-hosted by Poetyc Visionz & Kat SoPoetic who also took turns working the sounds. I say co-"host" but it was much more free-form than that. Actually, it reminded me of a Quaker meeting where folks speak when the spirit moves them, no introductions (although P.V. did honor me with an introduction the first time I read for the benefit of those who wondered who is that stranger in the house?), poets & singers jumping up to perform a piece, then returning again later as inspired.

Kat SoPoetic did kick-start the night, "tapping into the energy," as she said, performing the first of a series of her tough, personal pieces, this one about "writing replaces slitting her wrists…," later a long piece with random guitar, "I Wear the Crown," imagining the time after her death, & later with a piece about being molested as a child. Bless was there & his pieces ran from a seduction poem, to one on death & religion, to one on sex & rape; I miss his voice at the other venues in town.

Of course Poetyc Visionz put his positive spin on, including on the negativity of being high on chemicals & later on the paradox of being given the freedom to chose by "the Creator." Michael Anthony Dillon did a long ramble about his life, an introduction that became the piece itself, later singing Bob Marley. I let the topics of the night dictate to me what what I should read, my first poem the recent "Trailer Park," then later in the night, as "God" became a frequent topic, I read an older piece combining religion & sex (& humor), "Gods."

Of course one problem in just getting up there is that if you don't introduce yourself a stranger (such as I was) won't know what your name is. There were a couple of performers like that, with their material running the gamut from religious testimony couched in rather derivative hip-hop rhymes, to political pieces on racism, to raps on love & on the Mother Land, Africa.

Once performer who did announce himself was the singer Bryan Barcello backed up with a professionally produced CD (& a rich, sonorous voice). Just before I left Christopher the Poet showed up to do his signature crack-addict performance. & I was happy to catch a fine poem titled "Unspoken History" about her great grandmother from a young poet named Shaniquise (again, not sure of the spelling."

All in all a most interesting night, with or without names. This open mic takes place every Thursday at The Urban Book Cafe, 153 South Pearl St., Albany, with doors open about 8:00PM & the festivities starting about 8:45 -- $5.00. But you know, I can't make you famous if I don't know your name.