January 30, 2015
First A Little Bit of History
The first Poets Speak Loud! reading was held on January 31, 2005 (the last Monday of the month) at the Lark Tavern in Albany, NY. That day of the month was picked to honor poet & activist Tom Nattell who had run a poetry open mic on the last Monday of the month at the QE2 Rock Club across town. Tom had been asked to be the first featured reader for this new series but he died that very morning, of cancer. That night the open mic turned into an impromptu memorial. At the end of the reading a band of poets marched to nearby Washington Park to place Tom’s beret on the statue of Robert Burns, the site of an annual series of readings in July, Poets in the Park, started by Tom in 1988 & continued to 2004 (& beyond). Each year since 2005 the Poets Speak Loud! reading is held on the last Monday of January & poets gather before the reading for the “beret toss” at the Robert Burns statue. This year was no different — sage was burned, flowers left, a candle lighted & the beret tossed until it landed on the statue.
& Now The Open Mic
& each year I serve as the host for the open mic, now held at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Clinton Square. This year the last Monday fell on my birthday so a raucous 69 acknowledgment became part of the mix, complete with cake courtesy of AlbanyPoets Vice-President, Mary Panza, the usual host here.
I began by reading Tom’s “Christopher Columbus Fantasy #61, then my own poem “Theology 101, for Tom Nattell.” Kevin Peterson is too young to have been at the QE2 readings, but he is a big part of the poetry scene now Tom helped to create here; he started with a performance piece on lucid dreaming, then a poem written here last month inspired by seeing an elder poet dozing off, a tender tribute to the “old poets.” Pat Irish began with an anecdote about Tom being punched at a demonstration, then read the lyrics to his own “Generic Protest Song.” Sally Rhoades talked about first reading at the QE2 & Tom’s support of local poets, then read her poem “Broken Lives,” then another on being at President Obama’s first Inauguration.
Adam Tedesco, another of the younger poets on the scene picking up the slack, read a love poem of sorts, “I Am a Man,” then “Who Told You” about when bad shit happens. Dan Coleman, a poetry virgin, had been lurking over my shoulder all night to make sure his friends at the bar would be there when he read -- a couple of pieces in rhyme, one from January 1987 “Winter” then another old piece about the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC “They Come to this Wall” — & he friends, & the rest of us, clapped.
Poets Speak Loud! is an open mic with a featured poet (usually), on the last Monday of the month at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, Albany, NY, 7:30PM, for a donation, & sponsored by AlbanyPoets.com — good food, cool drinks & attentive service.
January 29, 2015
In the midst of a busy poetry weekend. Today’s program did not include a featured poet but rather a panel discussing “Poetry as a Vision of Utopia.” More on that later, but first the (abbreviated) open mic, with the ebullient Edie Abrams as our host.
First poet signed up was Michael Rutherford, with Dennis Sullivan reading from Rutherford’s 1973 chapbook Meat is My Business the humorous phone-sex poem beginning “This is just to warn you, operator 772 …” Brian Dorn, with a nod to the day’s panel’s topic, read his poem “Writing Poetry.” Dennis Sullivan was back with his own poem, “A Bit from My Non-Comedy Comedy Act.” Jessica Rae was here for the first time with what she described as a “stream-of-consciousness” piece, “Over the Hill” worrying about how to fix the world & herself. Sharon Miller’s poem “Wood” was a sad piece contemplating a loss. Edie Abrams asserted herself in her poem “She Doesn’t Want To.” Although Mark O’Brien returned from Ireland in July he said he is “still processing Ireland,” as evidenced by his “Prayer of the Dispossessed.” Tom Corrado gave out copies of a chapbook of his 2013 poem in 10 parts Retracing Our Steps to Utopia & read part 1. Peter Boudreaux also referenced the panel's topic & read his poem “Commentary on Utopia” (& also on luminosity). Brian Kennedy, whom I haven’t seen perform in a long time, did a funny mash up of French & English.
|Photo by Dennis Sullivan|
Bernadette said she didn’t want to talk about Utopia, but about income inequality (from a page of notes), although she did quote Thomas More, the author of Utopia, at one point. She pondered the necessity to pay artists, the 18th Century rent wars in upstate New York, & her support for a guaranteed national income, which I suppose is Utopia in itself.
Karen, like Howard, had a written presentation, that began with a chilling story of a suicide attempt by someone close to her, then a deep exploration of her feelings from discovering a crypt in New Hampshire to the paintings of Charles Burchfield (1893 - 1967). She ended with her poem “Everything I Have Loved Has Stopped Me from Loving It.”
I worked from notes, first questioning the wording of the topic itself, then giving my own string of quotes from famous authors, like Charles Bukowski, Jean-Paul Sartre & Walt Whitman. My contention was that Utopia was Nowhere, then on to a few poems that “exceeded” me, ending with one of my own favorites, “Therese’s Balcony.” Then a series of questions/discussion from the audience — until I had to pee. I'm not sure anything was "settled" but I for one had a lot of fun.
Usually, Sunday Four Poetry is an open mic with a featured reader, held most 4th Sundays at 3:00PM, for a donation, at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY. Check it out.
January 28, 2015
Michael Peters presented slides & a somewhat manic reading from his project “The — Zoic Sphere.” The essay opened linking Peters’ first impression of the University at Albany campus with the stunning image of a half-buried Statue of Liberty from the original Planet of the Apes movie (1968). The project envisions placing a ball (a giant period) as port for space ships at the top of the carillon tower on the campus.
Chad Lowther, co-editor of Barzakh, was introduced by Chen with an erasure from a text for an intro, then performed a hip-hop piece accompanied by a recording.
Chad gave an “anti-phonic introduction” to Doug Rothschild, the best dressed reader of the evening. He read a series of short, very serious, often philosophical poems run together without intros or comments, including a double haiku, a pastiche of William Carlos Williams’ poems, & urban notebook jottings.
|Philip Good, Bernadette Mayer, Marie Warsh|
The Yes! Series takes place at the Albany Center Galleries, 39 Columbia St., Albany, NY on random Fridays, about 7PM — find them on FaceBook for more information.
January 22, 2015
“State of the Union” speech or poetry? — uhm? It was the night of the Bad Song Lyrics Slam so it was an easy choice. First there was a brief open mic, hosted by Kevin Peterson, who read a poem by Tony Hoagland, “I Have News for You.” Josh Ryan followed with string of jokes that earned him a string of heckling.
Mary Panza, vice-president of AlbanyPoets took over to host the Slam, & Nick had to adjust the mic stand (I think she just wanted to be on stage with him). It was a varied playlist of readers & songs, including Brian Dorn (“Blinded by the Light”), Jimmy did well with “Mickey,” Ringo, Shannon, K.P. (“I Whip my Hair”) in a knit cap, Tim (“You’re So Vain”), Samson, & me (The Ramones’ “I Don’t Want to Walk Around with You”). & the judges were wide ranging with their scores as well.
|Tim, Jimmy & Me|
But I scored high enough (28.0) to get into the final round, with Tim (who did one of my favorite songs, Melanie’s “I Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates”), Jimmy, K.P. (“Pussy Monster”). I did a song from 1972 by Harry Nilsson “You’re Breakin’ My Heart.”
That put Tim in 3rd place & me & Jimmy battling it out in a squeaker for #1, & his “Achy Breaky Heart” was a good choice but no match for me doing “Eat the Rich.” Now this night doesn’t count towards points for the Slam team but it sure gets me some primo bragging rights. Oh yeah!
Nitty Gritty Slam takes place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month, 7:30PM at The Low Beat on Central Ave. in Albany, NY, $5 (cheaper with a student ID) -- open mic if you don't want to Slam (or even if you do).
(Photo of the winners by Mary Panza)
January 21, 2015
There’s a new venue for poetry in town at Professor Javas Coffee Sanctuary on Wolf Road in Colonie. I missed the first couple of readings, but made it up there this night, at least for the 1st round, & the featured poet, Brian Dorn. The event was hosted (somewhat indifferently) by Zachary, apparently an employee of Professor Javas.
It was an open mic from then on, but I was unclear how many poems one could do so I just did my old piece on the QE2 readings, “Where Were the Professors?” Barbara Garro was in Brian’s entourage from the North Country (along with Brian’s wife & son), & began with a long story about a plumbing emergency which I thought was an explication of her poem “White Mare” but it wasn’t, then she went on to read 2 poems from her series of “Jesus books” “Holy Heritage” & “This Too is God.” Joe Krausman’s poem “Good News” was about public speaking, then read “Just the Monkey Shines” & a poem about a tattoo “Alice.”
At this point Zach, who had been busy perusing the internet, proposed going around a 2nd time, “since we have the room until 9:00,” as he said. But I had to leave & only caught one more poem by Brian, as the host disappeared & it wasn’t clear who was in charge anymore.
As far as I can tell this series, “Poet’s Night!” is held on the 3rd Saturday of the month, 6-9PM at Professor Javas Coffee Sanctuary, 217 Wolf Rd., Colonie. However, as of when I’m posting this, I don’t see it listed on Professor Javas’ website. It’s free.
January 19, 2015
It was a full house tonight, but only 8 read in the open mic, most came to hear the featured performer Poetyc Visionz. But first I invoked the Muse, tonight the spirit of recently-gone Michael Rutherford, by reading one of his poems from his 1973 chapbook Meat is My Business (The Conspiracy Press, Albany, NY).
Avery read his new poem written today “& The Music Played,” began slow then speeded up & was by before we could blink. Brian Dorn’s poem “Pitfalls” was in 3 parts, 3 characters. Just slipping in the door Maria Diotte read from a free-flow journal entry written on New Year’s Day. I ended the open mic with an older poem “My Advice (to Myself).”
Every third Thursday we gather for poetry — an open mic with a featured poet — at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, at 7:30P for a modest donation (or in immodest one if you’ve got it & want to support poetry programs & the Social Justice Center). Join us to listen or read or do both.
January 18, 2015
A cold night in Albany with a warm welcome from our host at the Pride Center, Don Levy.
Tim had brought is own cheering section of fellow poets from up North, Barbara Garro & Brian Dorn.
Barbara Garro read from a series of books she called “the Jesus series,” first a prosy memoir of her father “Holy Heritage” then “This too is God” about confronting challenges. Brian Dorn, who reads at lots of open mics, read a love poem he said he has never read out before, “Taking it Slow,” then another love poem “Arousing Reflection.” I read a couple poems written this Autumn, “Garrison Keilor” & for my friend Sylvain “September Song.”
Our host, Don Levy, read a poem you can find on his FaceBook page, “Poem for Leila” written for a teenage trans-gender person who committed suicide, then a poem that also brings in the Grand Jury decision in the Eric Garner case, “Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Plaza.” Then we all headed back out into the cold, but basking in the warmth of poetry.
Live from the Living Room takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month at 7:30PM at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave. (in the Garden Room downstairs), with a featured poet, & an open mic, for a quite modest donation.
January 14, 2015
The first of 2015, back with my co-host, Nancy Klepsch in the Black Box Theater, named after a famous crooked politician. Brian Dorn got us off on the right foot with 2 love poems, “Sublimely Connected” & the list poem to his Muse “Her Attributes.” Howard Kogan honored our colleague, Ron Drummond, who now lives in Ithaca, by reading Ron’s version of a translation of part of “Thunder, Perfect Mind,” one of my favorite texts in the Nag Hammadi library. Cathy Abbott read an amusing late seasonal piece about her daughter & mistletoe, then read from a flyer she found about the value of shared readings that she said reminded her of this event.
My co-host Nancy Klepsch read a poem about “un-coupling” (as she called it) “Non Repo Blues,” & a chant-like love poem “Shopping for a Goddess.” Adam Tedesco showed up with his young son (who said later that he was not writing poetry but likes going to readings with his Dad) read a poem about him “Nick Poops with the Door Open,” then a list poem “How to Make a Million Dollars by Always Telling the Truth.” Jamey Stevenson apologized for reading 2 break-up poems, said he had a 3rd that was more upbeat but respected the 2-poem limit; the poems he read were “Billboard in 3 Sections” & one he said was never read out before “Plan B.”
2nd Sunday @ 2 is held at just that in the Arts Center on River St. in Troy — 2 poems or no-more-than 5 minutes of prose — Free!
January 6, 2015
Tonight it was just an old-school open mic, no featured poet, plenty of old regulars, with our host Mary Panza keeping order.
Sylvia Barnard was our first reader reprising her poem “Spring,” then a very new poem written this morning about a trip last Summer to the London Zoo, a meditation on aging, “Tortoise.” Pat Irish read next with his surprising “Seattle Sonnet.” I followed with 2 poems written in recent months, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” & a poem inspired by a comment by my friend Sylvain, “September Song.” Another friend, Joe Krausman, followed with the reverse turn-around “Invention is the Mother of Necessity,” then the helpful “Be Prepared” (always carry a pen, a gun, a hankie, a Bible, a suitcase …).
Third Thursday reading at the Social Justice Center. Tonight she shared the poem “Knife Fork Spoon,” another about a scene in a bar, & a memoir of being on Alexander St. in Albany years ago “Clooney’s” — so good to see old friends once again.
Nick Bisanz is usually on the business end of a guitar, but tonight shared a couple poems from his notebook, “Pull It Up,” & one about meeting the rock bassist Mike Watt with the line “if you ain’t playin’ you’re payin’.“ Dave Kime never needs a mic & didn’t use one tonight for his political pieces, “Sound Bites” & “An Acronym for Cops…” Avery began with a poem by Jacky’s daughter Magnolia, “The Bunny” (next time I hope she reads it herself, face paint & all), then his own worded-up piece about his charge card being refused “Successfully Completing Another Adventure.” Magnolia’s Mom, aka Jacky Kirkpatrick, began with an untitled fashion statement, then a poem to her daughter, “My Cosmic Child.”
Kevin Peterson followed with some jottings about a woman who moved to St. Louis, then what he called “a few haikus on a neighbor.” Adam Tedesco brought the poetry & the night to a close with “Sometimes,” a “holiday poem” filled with grim images of one’s intestines, then a poem on studies (i.e., geology, geography, anthropology, etc.) “Don’t You Know God Loves You.”
It was quite a night with current poets & poets from the past, & good food & drinks, & gentle service by sweet Melissa & all the good things that come true at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany, each last Monday of the month, brought to you by Albany Poets.
January 4, 2015
The venerable Dennis Sullivan had to handle the MC/host duties on his own today & did a fine job. Here at this venue the featured poet reads after the open mic & the 1st open mic poet was a new voice (for me) Chris Black, who read a couple poems about hiking, from a collection of work from her writing group. Brian Dorn read a poem about looking for a 4-leaf clover “Over & Under,” & another about his muse, “Her Attributes.” Our host Dennis Sullivan read a dream poem “While I Was Musing Earlier Tonight” (a vision of his parents) & “I Watch the Weather on Television.” Joe Krausman’s first poem was the timely “New Year’s Eve,” then one about his car (& more) “Body & Fender.”
Peter Boudreaux read just one poem, the intricate “Deep Space.” Tim Verhaegen’s first poem “You Found Him” about looking for a mate was long enough for 2, then he tacked on another for a lost song “Holding Out.” I followed with 2 recent poems, the whimsical “Garrison Keilor” & the topical “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
Orb Press) but instead of reading he played his amplified string bass, a piece titled “Train, a Tone Poem,” as indeed it was.
The newly engaged Mark O’Brien read a Christmas poem on snow & his finacée, then another seasonal piece “My Christmas Hang.” Both of Howard Kogan’s poems contained birds & stars, “Turkeys in Late Summer” & “Homers” (on pigeons). Paul Amidon read a trio of seasonal poems “The Spirit of the Season” (as a Salvation Army Santa), “December Prayer,” & “The 3 Kings” about school friends off to war.
Joan Gran made a rare appearance on the business side of the microphone with 2 darkly amusing pieces, “Smashing Sophocles” (revenging the ex-husband) & “Right Click Delete” (on the death of a co-worker). Katrinka Moore read the first (& only) villanelle of the afternoon “Between or Before” (based on a chapter from Moby Dick) then a poem ending with a line from the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet Li Po “Parting.”
Megan Gillespie’s poem “Communing with Nature” was an ironic look at a campground, then she read a poem about racing pigeons, like Howard’s poem, but hers was engendered by the image of a porcelain figure of a pigeon. Ron Pavoldi was the last of the open mic poets with an intricate piece “The Physics of Fleeing” weaving in the repeating phrase “if one is fortunate enough to …”
Sunday Four Poetry starts at 3PM on the 4th Sunday of the month at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY — your donation pays the featured poet & supports Old Songs. Then join us after the reading at Smith’s Tavern for, as Dennis is wont to say, “a pint” &/or some fine pub food.