April 24, 2015

Albany WordFest - Third Thursday Poetry Night, April 16

I am always pleased & honored to the have this third Thursday series I run at the Social Justice Center included in the annual WordFest schedule; in one way or another this has happened for years. Tonight we had 18 people signed up for the open mic & to listen to returning visiting poet Michele Battiste who was the featured reader.

& I was very happy to see that Mary McCarthy signed up to be the first poet in the open mic; back after a too-long absence she read a poem for Easter, decrying the violence in our society, even in religious images. Jill Crammond also was back with a poem based a her daughter’s list of spelling words, with a nod to William Carlos Williams. Dave Kime made long drive north taking on, without the mic, a deconstruction of both Republicans & Democrats into acronyms. Kim Henry made it to still another open mic this week, read an untitled piece on child molestation, appropriate for next week’s Take Back the Night. Don Levy read a poem titled “Hibernation” (or, What I did in the Winter). Susan Riback showed up to read from her little notebook a poem about Spring & “tapping” I.V.s. Jessica Rae read a poem about how to respond to her least favorite question, “What Do You Do?” Shannon Shoemaker sat right up front & read an untitled, short, new piece, about chasing endings.

Michele Battiste read in this Third Thursday series when it was at CafĂ© Web back in 1998, later in other readings elsewhere in the area, & we were so glad to welcome her back during her visit here (to her “poetry tribe” she said). She started with 2 Moon poems, the first based on artwork done as war-shields, “The Rebel Tells of her Creation” in a variety of versions, then “When the Light Falters” with the Moon as being out-of-practice. From her new book Uprising (Black Lawrence Press, 2014) she read 3 poems, each in the voice of a different persona, beginning early just after World War II, then in the voice of one of the Jewish survivor/refugees in 1951 ("Miksa Beckmann"), & then one from the period during the chaos of the Hungarian Uprising in October 1956. This book is a stunning example of what some critics have dubbed “docu-poetry” (or, as Ed Sanders called it “investigative poetry”) in which the poet writes about moments in history, incorporating the voices & experiences of people who lived through those moments.  Michele has used her extraordinary skills & talents to make the story of the Hungarian revolt real.
She ended her reading with a poem from a new chapbook, LEFT: Letters to Strangers (Grey Book Press, 2014) that grew out of a writers’ group of which she was a member, each poem in the book in the form of a letter to a member of the group, wonderful, playful, quirky poems. How proud we are of this poet who first shared her work with us on the stage of the QE2 back in November, 1997.

I returned us to the open mic reading my new poem “Didn’t We Do This in Saratoga?” Then Kevin Peterson read a Neruda poem then one of his own that a friend thought was like the Neruda poem, both tender love poems. Kat returned for the second time, from Saratoga, to read her poem “Gathering Our Seed.” Alan Catlin followed with a poem “The White Giant’s Thigh” (or, you can take the poet out of the bar, but you can’t take the bar out of the poet). Karen Fabiane was next & read a poem she began in 1975, eventually finished in spite of changes requested by an editor, the deliciously irreverent “I Fucked St. Joan.” Joe Krausman’s poem was a counting piece for which he had to use his fingers. Bob Sharkey read his tender poem about his granddaughter & her doll, “Walking with Baby.” This year’s Metroland Reader’ Poll Best Local Poet, Brian Dorn, read a piece appropriate for WordFest “Her Attributes.” A.C. Everson, who ushers at local music venues, read a poem from Saturday night’s gig about watching young children running, having fun. We ended the night with a new face & voice, Don Fons, who read a poem “Will You Forgive Me?” that he said was written in his “pre-rapper” days.

It was another fantastic night of poetry & poets here on yet another Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY — 7:30PM, $3.00 donation that supports poetry events & the Social Justice Center.

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