May 27, 2015
You can tell the really good featured poets before they even read by the size of the audience. The featured poet, Barbara Ungar, drew in lots of her students & loyal friends. After invoking the Muse, the gone Galway Kinnell, with his sexy poem “Last Gods,” we went on to the first part of the open mic.
Alan Catlin started us off with one of his “dream-dates” poems, “kind of rude” he said, about Virginia Woolf as a college classmate. Jacky Kirkpatrick read “The Summer of Nothing,” a dysfunctional family memoir. Samson Dikeman got a rousing welcome, then read “World’s Fair 1958” (in Brussels), on the stolen last work of Mozart. Billy Stanley free-styled, in his mud-rich accent, a political/cutural commentary. Don Levy’s poem, “Boring Old Gay People,” was inspired by a remark by the painter David Hockney. Sue Oringel made a rare appearance here, said she found a poem she written last year about the travels of dating, “Another Fairy Tale,” but added she is in a better place now.
After the break I read a poem I like to do each year for the Memorial Day weekend, the war/anti-war fantasy memoir “John Lees” (on the Vietnam Memorial at 3W-83). I was followed by Lee Geiselmann who read “There Is A Moment” about being in an airplane & about love. Amber O’Sullivan continued with the Memorial Day theme, a military funeral “When It Was Done.”
Each Third Thursday we gather at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY to read our own poems, & to listen to a featured reader, 7:30PM, for a modest donation supporting the featured poet, other poetry programming & the Social Justice Center. Join us.
May 24, 2015
I had gotten there on time which means early so I was signed up 1st on the list & read my telephone conversation poem, “Garrison Keillor.” Eliza Ryan made the trip over from Western Mass. to do a Slam-style list poem, on 3 things her mother taught her that she could forget/3 others she doesn’t want to forget.
The Slam had been announced & advertised as being just the 8 top scorers of the season, not an open Slam, so I thought it was bad form to allow some of those same performers to read in the open mic as well. Although, Samson did redeem himself with a lengthy (too long for a Slam), hilarious piece that was a history of the wrestling champions, a string of in-jokes for the wrestling fans in the audience.
So let the Grand Slam begin, with Thom Francis, el presidente, as ring-master. The “sacrificial poet” used to calibrate the judges was the aforementioned “Midnight” with a comedy routine on racism titled “An Open Letter to Aliens Who Want to Visit Planet Earth.”
The first round consisted of Amani, D. Colin (with a funny piece about her hair -- it is marvelous), Daniel Summerhill, Elizag, K.P. (with a piece he read from paper that was a real poem, about what’s it all about), L-Majesty (his fine piece beginning with imaginary friends, about believing in yourself), Poetyc Visionz, & Samson (a funny piece about ISIS recruiting white suburban teenagers). Out of that pack came the contenders in Round 2.
Perhaps it’s a function of the competition, but another poet pointed out later that although she hadn’t been to the Nitty Gritty Slam for a while she heard mostly work she had heard these poets do before. In the 2nd round, Poetyc Visionz was first with another of his “numbers” pieces, then Elizag followed with her piece on white privilege, then Daniel Summerhill on what is an artist in this racist society, & Amani (her work typically piles up image after image & would be more compelling except that she recites it way too fast, & seems to filling up the 3-minute limit).
|Thom Francis presents the 2015 Nitty Gritty Slam Team|
The poetry continues at the Nitty Gritty Slam & open mic at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY each 1st & 3rd Tuesday, 7:30PM (or later), $5.00.
May 18, 2015
Back in “the Garden Room” once again for some poetry among friends.
Then on to the open mic. I was first on the list with a new poem “What Is Your Pilgrimage?” (inspired by an essay by Alifair Skebe in the latest Rootdrinker Newsletter), & an older piece that quotes both Pindar & Black Elk, "Rain." Kim Henry was a welcome sight & read 2 poems, both untitled, about looking at old photos from of her mother’s scrapbook taken by Kim’s grandfather during World War II.
Joe Krausman had 2 poems about dresses, “Marilyn Monroe’s Dress” & “My Mother’s Wedding Dress.” Jessica Rae first read a poem from a year ago “Tulip Fest” then a recent one “Parts of Me that Write Poetry.” Our host, Don Levy, ended the evening with 2 poems on similar themes, “Day of Silence” (on the bullying of LBGT youth), & “Bruce” a letter to Bruce Jenner.
This reading happens each month on the 2nd Wednesday at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, downstairs in the Garden Room at 7:30PM, with a featured poet followed by an open mic, for a modest donation. & always, as Don says, “straight friendly.”
May 17, 2015
Mothers Day in Troy but there were still a dozen writers, even some mothers, here to read, poetry or prose, with the dual hosts Nancy Klepsch & me, Dan Wilcox.
& I was up first with Julia Ward Howe’s 1870 “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, then my own short poem about a homeless woman in Washington Park “Whose Mother is That?” Peggy LeGee was next with a tribute piece, on death & eating, “Ode to My Grandmother on Mothers Day.” Bob Sharkey read an extended excerpt from his manuscript-in-progress “Sustenance” about a made-up city populated by mostly young people, in this section pondering the Move bombing in Philly & politics. Howard Kogan began with his poem “Missing My Mother,” then on to others work, a poem by Faith Shearin “Spelling Bee,” & the epilogue to Moby Dick.
Cathy Abbott read a couple of short, poignant pieces, one about understanding per mother. Alane Hohenberg was new here, read a prose narrative about having lunch with her sister in the Moonshine Gulch Saloon, in Rochford, South Dakota.
Karen Fabiane’s “Junkie Pathetique” was a cynical conversation set in a bar, & then she read “But Now Gentle Folk Come.” My co-host Nancy Klepsch read from the 1994 collection Open Mic: the Albany Anthology her poem “Planting” then a recent piece from her workshop with Bernadette Mayer, the insult poem “The Equal Opportunity Insult Poem.”
Joe Krausman’s poem “Buddha Dreams” was new & was about that interval between deaths we call “life,” then a little piece on the circles of the season, & a poem about all the “could’ves but didn’ts” “Coming of Age.” William Robert Foltin was brief with his poems but long with his rambling, ending with a silly rhyme “Macho Man.”
Jay Renzi read a portrait of a place (just written today) “The Pastures,” then another poem “Sundial.” Druis Beasley stepped away from the mic to give praise to Mothers, who give life, then some pieces from long manuscript she has been working on for a long time, “Diatribe on Love,” “Dormant Seed” (of love), & the last piece in the manuscript “The Smile of Bright.”
This open mic for poetry & prose takes place on most 2nd Sundays, except for July & August, at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY at 2PM. It’s free!
May 10, 2015
Surprised when I got here to find a much larger host for this open mic, not the usual host Carol Graser on steroids, but the equally genial Alan Casline as guest host tonight. He began with a poem by Stephen Lewandowski, “Not Alone,” they way Carol always invokes the Muse with a poem by some other.
On to the open mic, with Rodney Parrott with “a poem about possibility,” a prosey story of a friend whose briefcase gets stolen, & returned, in Barcelona. Todd Fabozzi followed with a couple of “eco-poems” the first called “Progress” about the decline in bird populations & of poisons in the environment, & another “Swirling” on the legendary mass of plastic floating in the ocean.
Next was a group of young dance students & their teacher with 3 pieces, apparently written by Sarah, one of the students, who read "Layers" while the teacher read the others; the teacher explained that they were interpreting poems through movement & sound, which in itself sounds like a definition of poetry. Dave Defreese read the philosophical “Waiting” then a narrative piece, “The Vicar’s Wife,” based on a novel. Albany’s Don Levy read “Hibernation” about what he didn’t do this Winter, then the hysterical narrative of high school (hetero-)sex education “50 Shades of Vomit.” Kim Henry carried on the great tradition of State worker poets writing poems at work with a touching untitled piece written today, at work of course, a memoir of her mother & her green thumb. Margot Messing read a poem about St. Paddy’s day in Saratoga, “March Again.”
Susan Kress said her poem was a “kind of a fairy tale” & clearly based on Cinderella, from a different point of view, “When the Other Shoe Dropped.” Kat, who has made a couple of appearances at the Third Thursday reading at the Social Justice Center in Albany, read a piece on writing & healing “Gathering Seed.”
The Heartland Review — based on text in a catalog of course offerings. Frank was back with poems in “another poetic style,” “Going Home,” & a take on Emma Lazarus’s sonnet commenting, on the new fees for immigrants “The New New Colossus.” Thérèse followed with “Great Aunt Marie” & talked about studying the work of the poet Frannie Lindsay, then passes around copies of a poem printed both on conventional paper as well as on a cornhusk (like a poetic tamale?), & ended with “Steps for Gently Removing a Sock from Your Mother’s Aging Foot” from her 2013 Benevolent Bird chapbook Dislodged: Poems for My Mother’s Weeks of Subluxation. Frank ended the session with the satiric “Mr. I Predict.” Thérèse & Frank often show up together at poetry open mics & it was quite appropriate, & entertaining, for them to share the stage as featured poets.
There was a short break during which, a la Woodstock, half the audience cleared out, snubbing the remaining open mic poets — but we were there for each other. Barbara Garro was very “throaty” with a cold, read the rhyming “Baby Spring” & the expansive “Ah, Love.” Tim Sneider choked up reading the title poem of his Changing Roads: Motorcycle Poetry and More (AuthorHouse, 2014).
Cornell University Press, tonight he read a cluster of Haiku. Jessica Rae read her powerful eco-poem “The Rape of Our Mother” about fracking, then observations & descriptions on “Tulip Fest.” I read just one poem, from 2010, about May 1970 “44,000.” Jackie Craven had been patient to be the last reader of the night, with 2 poems about mirrors & the people we see in them.
This open mic is on the 1st Wednesday of the month at historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM, $5.00 -- a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.
May 7, 2015
Sylvia Barnard was the first of the open mic poets with an introduction about women writing about childbirth, then a short 4-line stanza in rhyme written in 1796 by Naomi Chandler Barnard, & her own poem in response, using the same meter. I followed with my “poem in a bag” “McDonald’s with Love”, then the poem I wrote in Oklahoma, “Didn’t We Do This in Saratoga?” Joe Krausman has been going through old files of poems & found one he’d forgotten he’d written, a sonnet in rhyme “The Pigeons in Eden Eat it All,” then the creepy “Ted Williams’ Head.” Jessica Rae read her powerful anti-fracking poem “The Rape of our Mother” which she explained was actually inspired by an engineer’s description of the fracking process, then a descriptive litany “Tulip Fest” with its disorderly crowd.
Returning to the open mic poets, Annie Sauter read a very short poem from 1971 in San Francisco, then a very long poem “A Few Survived” about old friends visiting. Tess Lecuyer read a little trio of haiku on Spring from her poem-a-day project. Adam Tedesco’s first poem was titled “Doc Gooden” (like the Mets star from some years back), then a grim “Love Poem” with the phrase, “un-fuck yourself.” A new, young voice, Kathy, was convinced to read her sad poem for a boy who doesn’t even know she is there.
Poets Speak Loud! happens, most months, on the last Monday of the month, here at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Sq. in Albany, NY, 7:30PM, featured poet & an open mic.
[A note on how many poetry readings there were here this month: I take notes about the readings I attend in a reporter’s notebook, & the one I’m currently using I started a month ago & am now half-way through it; the previous notebook took 4 months to fill — that means I’ve already been to 2 months worth of poetry readings in just 1 month. Phew! As we say, “In Albany, Everyday is Poetry Month.”]
May 5, 2015
This was the last Yes! reading of the season, at a new venue, The Brakes Coffeehouse & Provisions on Lark St. Matthew Klane did the intros while James Belflower manned the live-streaming camera.
Emily Mitchell Ayers, owner of The Brakes welcomed us, talked about their new business, about trying to create a relaxed cafe setting with a vegan menu. It was founded with the intention to motivate and empower people to reduce their carbon footprint on the planet to stabilize the global climate. Have your coffee & help the planet too, I guess.
Sarah Deniz Akant began with a poem for Matthew which imitated his fragmented, breathless style in his own readings & in his introductions at these readings. She read from a sequence from her first full-length collection Babette, forthcoming from Rescue Press. Some of the poems were done from memory, all untitled, fragmentary & enigmatic. & what was Cheburashka doing in there?
The final reader was Tony Mancus, who began with a poem written today based on a photo of Civil War enactors outside Ford’s Theater on Washington, D.C. Then on to fragmentary, perhaps descriptive, pieces published in the Seattle Review, & others from loose pages, all without giving titles, if indeed any of his work had titles. His descriptive poems are distant, cold, as if viewing a scene in a coffee house, & read in a flat, unexpressive style, about as far from slam/performance poetry as one can get while still talking.
This series typically brings experimental poets to the venues of Albany, helping to keep the scene varied & challenging, it’s own kind of diversity to the mix. But they are taking the Summer off, & will be back in the Fall.