Each year since the first Poets Speak Loud! in 2005 at the old Lark Tavern, on the last Monday in January AlbanyPoets.com has held the Tom Nattell Memorial Reading & Beret Toss as part of its ongoing series. This is our story of this year's event, complete with photos & parking ticket.
A small group of us gathered at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park, in the dark, to place flowers, a candle, sage & a newly knitted scarf (courtesy of Cheryl A. Rice) in Tom's memory. It is always an unknown as to how we are to "toss" a green beret to the head of Bobbie Burns, since that first time when Nicole Peyrafitte scrambled up with (rhyming) bare feet. Thom Francis has made the trip a number of times, & this year Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien) was the brave one who did the deed. This was quite fitting given Mark's Scots background & that he once appeared at Poets in the Park at this site in the guise of the Scots Bard hisself. The ceremony was short (it is January in Albany you know) & sweet.
Leslie Gerber made the trip up from the mid-Hudson area & read "Religion" & the title poem of his forth-coming book, "Lies of the Poets," ranging from Shakespeare to Mary Oliver. New voice/face Joanne Luciano wasn't planning to read but found "It Wasn't Decaf" on her laptop, a philosophical poem in rhyme. Mike Jurkovic also made the trip from down river & read "My Meeting with Vonnegut" & a poem on the work of revolution, "Company Meet." Alan Casline had joined us for the first time for the beret toss, & now read about a visit to an "Arkansas Pig Farm," then the strange rhyming "Past Bankers Riding News."
The limber Obeeduid read a poet about his ancestral family of Scots living in Ireland, from the Kindle-iszed version of his book Telluric Voices, then another family poem, "Looking at the Table to Keep the Memory of the Living." Cheryl A. Rice is pretty much an Albany poet although she also had to make the trip up from Kingston; she read 2 new poems, both from a recent trip to Costa Rica, "Plane Ride," & the nostalgic "Lady in Red." Tess Lecuyer paid tribute by reading Tom's poem "Ronald Reagan's Got Me Worried" from Open Mic: the Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994).
Oh yes, the parking ticket. For the beret toss I had parked in my usual illegal spot near the statue, after which, as we headed to our cars, there was one of Albany's finest Parking Enforcement Officers placing a ticket on my windshield. I apologized to her, explained I was leaving & but of course would pay the fine. She was sorry about Tom. I figure that parking in that spot had cost me about $3.00 each time I did it, a cheap rate & much more convenient to pay it all at once.
Poets Speak Loud! is a on-going open mic, often with a featured poet, held on the last Monday of each month at McGeary's Tavern on Clinton Square (near where Herman Melville once lived) in Albany, NY -- check out the calendar at AlbanyPoets.com.