April 30, 2015
Frequency North, coordinated & hosted by Prof. Daniel Nester.
Tonight’s reader was Stevie Edwards. She gave us ample selections from both of her books, Good Grief (Write Bloody 2012) & Humanly (forthcoming from Small Doggies Press), beginning with poems from Good Grief. These poems introduced her to us as Michigan working class, for example “2 Trailer Park Girls Go Around the Outside,” “For an Uncle I Know Only Through Letters & Collect Calls” (because he is serving a life sentence in prison), “The Hippy Church I Was Raised In Doesn’t Believe in Sin.” Apparently she had read earlier to classes here & she read by request, a poem with advice on love, “3 Rachels.”
This was a relaxed, unpretentious reading of poems that most folks could understand, if not relate to, even if you were not an academic or a student in the MFA program. Frequency North, like the Writers Institute, offers an opportunity for the community-at-large here in Albany to hear & meet established & up-&-coming writers of poetry & prose in relaxed settings, for free — such readings in New York City at venues such as the YMHA would cost $12 to $18. It beats tuition.
April 29, 2015
This was the first of the day’s “Standish Room readings,” this one held in the afternoon in the Standish Room of the Science Library at the UAlbany Uptown Campus, a seminar with poets Alicia Suskin Ostriker & local favorite Joan Murray. Later in the evening both poets would give a reading, but I attended the afternoon event so that I could go to another reading in yet another Standish Room at the College of St. Rose, just a couple miles down Western Ave.
|Joan Murray, Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Don Faulkner|
Ostriker described her early writing in form until she discovered free verse, or as she likes to call it, “open form.” Topics ranged from women writing about pregnancy & childbirth as a modern phenomenon, to political poems, to MFA programs v. communities of writers.
I’ve been drawn to Ostriker’s work since I first saw her read in 1986 at a bookshop in Hastings-on-the-Hudson, & a few years ago saw her read & be part of a panel discussion at Split This Rock in DC. I am less familiar with Murray’s work, but she has a strong following in the area of women who had been in a workshop with her some years ago & have continued meeting as a peer group since then.
The Writes Institute has a regular schedule of free readings, seminars & films throughout the academic semesters. Unfortunately readings by poets were rare this past year.
April 28, 2015
Tom Corrado served as the MC for the readers, reading selections of his very short poems from his chapbook 40 Women (Orb Press, 2013), in between each poet's reading. Alan Casline read poems about a landslide at the Helderberg escarpment, a slug, & corn. I read poems from my chapbooks Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011) & Coyote: poems of Suburban Living (A.P.D., 2014) in an effort to sell books later (in spite of the room filled with well-heeled Rensslearville ladies I only sold 1 book). Howard Kogan chose well, reading “Dick & Jane,” “A Close Family,” “Imagination,” all good poems. Katrinka Moore’s poems were short, meditative, including one in response to the poems on display downstairs in the art gallery (“Breathe”), & a cento (“Call into Being”).
|Pilot Light Poets|
|Underground Poetry Spot|
|Nitty Gritty Slam Team|
|Rhyme for Reason|
So, if the academic poets & right-wing word-haters don’t take over & turn paper into smoke (as Uncle Wiggly once said, I think), we will continue on — writing poems, going to open mics, organizing readings & arts events & we will see you next year for WordFest 2016 — deo volente.
April 25, 2015
|Our host Mary Panza|
Unfortunately I missed the first 2 poets, Judith Prest & Jessica Rae, 2 fine area poets you can sometimes find at open mics, & arrived as Alan Catlin was reading about a party in a backyard, Sylvia Barnard read about aging & the passage of time, while Debby Mayer explained “Why I Let My Dog Hang Her Head out the Car Window.”
|Charles Straney entourage|
There were some early no-shows on the list & host/MC/Ring Master/Dominatrix Mary Panza, often abetted by MC-in-training, Julia, established the ritual of calling out “They’ll rue the day!” whenever a name was called & no one answered. But Joe Hesch was there to read, as was Howard Kogan (his poem about imagined lives, “Bit Player,” perhaps my favorite of the night); Charles Straney should come more often & read more of his barn poems, while Joe Krausman makes it to lots of open mics & did a rare “accounting poem.”
|Thom Francis with Molly & Julia|
Cheryl Rice had poems for Groucho & her uncle, A.C. Everson had “new ones!” she proclaimed (later posted a marvelous video montage of the event); Brian Dorn read about all 40 poetry venues he visited this past year, & Jay Renzi’s phone rang while he read.
|Brian Dorn reading, Don Levy lurking|
L-Majesty mixed pomegranates & playgrounds, then Tim Verhaegen introduced us to his parents, “The Fuck Family,” & Bob Sharkey did a poem from past WordFests, & Don Levy was, well, Don Levy looking at “Hot Dudes Reading.” Steve Minchin had a gay tally sheet, Adam Tedesco got all auto-biographical on us, while Tess Lecuyer was proud of all new poems.
Ian Macks was a new face but read new poems & those from a chapbook, & Poetyc Visionz also had a new poem “The Black Experience,” while Anthony Bernini read of woodchucks, aging, youth & a tornado, then Caroline Curran included a marvelous piece of fiction about a clash with a student in class wearing headphones, & the poet going by the name Mystic breezed in with a cluster of short poems.
|L-Majesty & his audience|
The no-shows kept piling up & Shannon, who hadn’t signed up, got a chance to read about frogs & phone booths & happy endings. The last poet of the night was also a fill-in, Lizzie, who did 2 poems, the last a funny piece on therapy, ending the evening with a smile — for many reasons.
There was one more event left to the 2015 WordFest, & if I can decipher my pages of notes, I will write about it next.
April 24, 2015
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 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.
April 21, 2015
Each year Albany WordFest acknowledges the winners of the Metroland’s Readers Poll Best Local Poets with a reading featuring the lucky/hard-working word-smiths. This year the winners were, in 1st place, Brian Dorn, 2nd place, Mary Panza, & a tie for 3rd place between Elizabeth Gordon & Jay Renzi. The reading was held at The Women’s Building, 373 Central Ave., with R.M. Engelhardt, who is frequently (i.e., almost always) on the Best Local Poets list, as the host.
Elizabeth Gordon started off with a cluster of Haiku, then read the post-seasonal “Taking Down the Xmas Tree.” Her last poem is one of my personal favorites, about being new on the job (& a woman holding her own) “Carpenter’s Helper.”
Jay Renzi popped up out-of-the-blue last year on the Metroland list, but has now been coming around to some of the open mics. He began with a poem he does with dancers “Blessing the Virgin Oil,” then on to a newer poem “An End to Discord” (or, the door to Fraggle Rock). He then read a selection of mostly short, rhyming poems from his latest chapbook Remembering the Smoke -- you know, poets hang out at bars, drink, smoke & pick up strange women.
Mary Panza, who has been in the poetry scene here long before she was legal, read her classic “This is Not an Angry Poem,” then a poem that I must’ve heard before but was surprised when she quoted Charles Olson (!) “Understanding Christopher” (who was not in the audience), then her wonderfully vicious take-down of Shel Silverstein “Fuck the Giving Tree.”
Brian Dorn has for the last few years been going to more poetry readings than I get to. He read a small bouquet of his usual rhyming poems, then launched into the epic “40 Venues” which is a tour of all the places where readings are held that he has been to -- formidable.
There seemed to be some discussion as to whether there was an open mic, or not — it hadn’t been announced as such -- but some of the community folks in the room seemed to think so.
When the floor was opened up to other poets only Amani, who is part of the Nitty Gritty Slam team, stepped up to do a far-ranging piece from her phone, on Mother Nature Turn Down for What, but then that might not be the title.
But yet another WordFest event in the books & (lots) more to come, we’re just getting tuned up.
April 20, 2015
The Tuesday night event was held in the re-modeled dining room of Justin’s on Lark St., Samson Dikeman the host. Last year I defeated Samson to win (!) the Haiku Battle, not something I do very often.
But tonight it was a different story — same fine Haiku. The format is single-elimination rounds, best 2 out of 3 wins the round. In the first match-up it was Brian Dorn doing Haiku written with the other poets in the room as subjects, but he was knocked down by Melody Davis’ Nature Haiku. In the 2nd matchup, sex (K.P.’s Haikus) beat my love Haikus.
In the 2nd round Melody’s breakup Haikus took out K.P., while Jacky K. won her match with Jimmy Snay, her texting & ex’s Haiku beating his Winter weather.
In the final round it was the best of 5. Jacky K. was the winner with breakup, sex/love & Mulder & Scully winning the hearts of the judges over Melody’s efforts with Nature & 9/11.
There was more of the week left, so let’s see how many more readings I can get to — & write Blogs about. WordFest 2015 continues.
The start of the week-long poetry orgasm that is Albany WordFest began appropriately (or, in appropriately) enough at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Clinton Square on this Sunday evening with a launch of issue 3 of Up The River: A Journal of Poetry, Art & Photography. It was a great way to entice poets out who never come out — give them a copy of the zine with their poem in it & ask them to read! Mary Panza did her best to herd these cats to the mic, & Kevin Peterson did his best to remember to read their bios from the book.
Cecele Allen Kraus read a poem about a country store “Turning Point,” then her poem in UTR “What’s Mine Is Yours” (about a childhood friend who was a cutter). Alan Catlin, who also edits an online literary journal, Misfit Magazine, read from UTR “Dancing with Lunatics,” then a poem re-working the Hitchcock movie Rear Window. Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets, read his entry “Listerine” then “April” (the only 30/30 poem, he said, he has managed to write this year). Karen Schoemer read her UTR piece a tender poem tracing the stages of her daughter growing up “Summer Peaches About Its Wane,” then a relationship poem “Sanctuary.”
A most auspicious start to this year’s Albany WordFest with poets & poems from near & far. So, with the help of god, a pen, a camera & the internet I will be bringing you more Blogs about the goings on this week up & down the poetic streets of Albany.
Like we say here, “In Albany, Everyday is Poetry Month.”
April 19, 2015
This was the first half of a poetry double-header, with the start of the week-long Albany WordFest taking place later in the afternoon (more on that in subsequent Blogs). But it is a fact that the poetry scene in this area is an on-going, year-long event, & this open mic at the Arts Center was the 4th poetry event I had been to this week. It seems like every month is a WordFest.
Bob Sharkey, a regular at the area poetry events, was first up to read with a piece from 10 years ago, a poem about traffic in Latham “Bemused Snake Transfixed by Distant Bell,” then a brand-new poem, 8 lines from John Ashbery, 8 lines of his own “Black & Tan with Ashbery.” Peggy LeGee read a piece summed up by her first line “I can’t worry about socio-paths & psycho-paths …” Joe Krausman is another frequenter of open mics, read a poem he found that he forgot he wrote “Defense of Poetry,” then “Ode to My Arthritis” (said he doesn’t have arthritis, he just made it up). Don Levy began with a poem describing his family’s dinner on the 10th anniversary of his father’s death at “The King David Deli,” then his funny poem about getting sick watching a sex-education film in school “50 Shades of Vomit.” Cathy Abbott read two very short poems of her own, “Tacky Pataki” & “Rotaries,” then “The West Wind” by John Masefield.
Jim Slattery was next, read a short story titled “The Boy with a Thousand Arms” but not by him. Karen Fabiane began with a new poem like a letter “I’ll Get You Tomorrow” & a poem from her chapbook from Bright Hill Press also like a letter, this to a guitar player she knew.
2nd Sunday @ 2 is a reading for writers of prose & poetry held at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy at, like it says, 2:00PM on the 2nd Sunday of the month. Free. Your hosts are Nancy Klepsch & me, Dan Wilcox.
April 17, 2015
The first of the season’s readings at Pine Hollow Arboretum, sponsored by Rootdrinker Institute & hosted by Alan Casline, tonight walking with a stick.
Back to the open mic after a break, Thérèse Broderick began with a poem about being with Frank at Caffè Lena, then a commercial about her group that meets 1st Thursdays & you can find them, I think, on meetup.com (Albany Area Poetry Chat). Ron Pavoldi’s poem “The Big Bang Theory” was about death & war in the jungle. Susan Riback put us on the Space Station with “Have We Forgotten,” then a poem for Spring, & a third “Living Alone,” also reading from a pocket notebook.
This series continues on the 2nd Friday (mostly) of the month at the Pine Hollow Arboretum Visitor Center, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, 6:30PM — featured reader & an open mic.
April 16, 2015
Jane returned with a bouquet of her own poems (my problem with the Poetry Out Loud program is I’d rather hear what these high school kids are writing rather than a poem from a pre-selected, proscribed list from a "famous" poet) — “Flight” an poem of looking down & up, “Overpass” a love poem perhaps, “Captured” about a photographer & a bird, & a relationship poem “Plateau.” I hope to one day to have to buy her book of poems.
I was next, had prepared a reading that was a good variety of my poems, beginning with Bob Kaufman’s “Believe, Believe” then my poem/essay by the same name written for last year’s Poetry Unites program, then on to poems from the Scissortail Festival experience, “Oklahoma Sunday” & the recent “Didn’t We Do This in Saratoga?” A couple of political pieces, a couple of poems to promote recent chapbooks, “The Transit of Venus” just because I haven’t read it in a while & I like it, “Birthday Poem 2015” & ending with a poem for the season “What Passover Has Taught Me.” It’s always good to read here.
After our reading Bertha told an interesting anecdote about a phone call she had received from Burton Raffel, who had done a famous translation of Beowulf in the early 1960s. Bertha has done her own translation of Beowulf, a lovely letterpress edition with original artwork by Bertha published in 2000 by Birch Brook Press & she thought that was Raffel was calling about that, but instead he called about the readings, art exhibits & other literary/cultural work she makes happen at the Bright Hill Literary Center. & if you don’t know about it, & the Word Thursdays Reading Series, check it out at her website. In the photos you can see some of the artwork of the Iranian-American artist Roshan Houshmand, “Text & Context,” currently on view at the Center.
April 14, 2015
Back in Albany again I headed down to the Pride Center for the reading & open mic hosted by Don Levy.
There were 4 of us for the open mic & I went first, performed my poem “McDonald’s with Love” with a new variation, then the poem from Scissortail “Didn’t We Do This in Saratoga?” It was a pleasure to see Kim Henry make a rare appearance, with a recent untitled poem for Take Back the Night, about a 14-year old being raped. Jessica Rae was with us again with 2 poems, a re-written “Stop the Hurt” about being yourself, then her political/sex piece on fracking “The Rape of Our Mother.”
Our host, Don Levy, read Theodore Roethke’s poem “Elegy for Jane” from The Pocket Book of Modern Verse, then a recent poem, “Sermon in the Pizza Parlor,” a funny piece in which Jesus likes the pizza, tells the owners how to run their business (He showed up a lot tonight in the poems).
Each 2nd Wednesday of the month we gather at the Pride Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY, at 7:30PM for Live from the Living Room, a featured reader & an open mic, & warm, friendly conversation.
April 13, 2015
One of the grand things the Scissortail Festival does is sponsor the R. Darryl Fisher Creative Writing Contest for Oklahoma high school students, with an award ceremony on the last day of the Festival. Mark Walling made the awards for the fiction category, & Joshua Grasso did the honors for poetry. You can find the list of winners, honorable mentions & the names of their schools & teachers here.
The final reader of the Festival was Heid E. Erdrich, who introduced herself to the audience in the language of the Chickasaw people, & thanks to the folks in Ada & at ECU for welcoming her here.
She read a couple poems from her collection Cell Traffic: New & Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2012), “Thrifty Gene Lucky Gene” & “Brain Scan” showing tensions between what we are given & what we would like to be, between science & traditions.
She went on to read some poems from a new manuscript, including one on taste “The Honey Suckers,” another making fun of the zombie craze, & one about a Renaissance Fair “At the Anachronism Fair.”
Unfortunately at this point Sally & I had to leave to drive to Oklahoma City to catch our flight home, having said our good-byes earlier so we could just slip out when we had to. It was a great 3 days here in Ada & more good poetry & writing than I could ever include in these Blogs. Thank you Ken Hada & all the great staff & students at ECU who made this Scissortail Festival once again a great success, & for your hospitality. & thank you to all the great writers who traveled here to thrill us all with your writing, & your friendship.
As Uncle Wiggly (& my father) would say, I’ll see you again, deo volente.
April 12, 2015
Sunny Smith moderated the 1st morning session, of this, the last day of Scissortail.
+ + +
Ken Hada, Scissortail’s head honcho & shaman was the moderator for the final reading session (before the last featured reader & conclusion of what Ken called “a listening Festival,” as indeed it is). This was a lively & engaging set of poets to bring it on home, as they say at blues concert.