January 30, 2015
Annual Tom Nattell Memorial Open Mic & Beret Toss, January 26
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.