January 31, 2016

Poets Speak Loud! & etc., January 25

The last Monday in January is always a special — & busy — night. It is the night that we celebrate the memory of Tom Nattell, Albany poet & peace/environmental/social justice activist. Tom died on the morning of January 31, 2005 & had been scheduled to read that night at the very first Poets Speak Loud! at the Lark Tavern, & the open mic turned into a poetic wake. Since then we remember him on the last Monday in January with a ceremonial beret toss at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park & then I host Poets Speak Loud!, now held at McGeary’s.

Tonight’s gathering in the Park included Thom Francis & Molly, Tess Lecuryer, Mary Panza & Nick Bisanz, & Sally Rhoades. Tess’ very first toss landed the beret by Robert Burns’ arm, which held his sculpted tam as well. Someone pointed out it was also Robert Burns’ birthday. We left the flowers & some candles & proceeded down to McGeary’s.

Mary Panza is the usual host on the last Monday, but I was the guest host tonight & had invited my friend & publisher Dayl Wise to read & to promote Poems for Peace Poems for Justice (Post Traumatic Press, Woodstock, NY 2015), an anthology of poems by military veterans Jay Wenk, Larry Winters, Dayl & me. I began the readings invoking Tom Nattell with my poem “Theology 101” & a Tibetan bell.

 But first the open mic, & despite how many times I practiced it, I still mis-pronounced Carrie Czawkiel’s last name; she read a poem from saved text messages whose message was to be herself, then one titled “Coffee is the Devil.” K.P. (Kevin Peterson) read a poem he found on the internet, not one of his own (too bad). Joe Krausman read a poem about “experts” then one he called “an old man’s poem” (he should know); something he didn’t say was that he has a new chapbook of poems out from Benevolent Bird Press, Monkeyshines; ask him about it when you see him. Julie Lomoe read a new poem just written this afternoon, referencing Sylvia Plath, “Sylvia & the Squirrel.”

Dayl Wise & I read together, alternating poems. Dayl began with section 6 (on eating lima beans) from a series of childhood memoir poems “My Mother’s Pantry” then section 7 about lusting after the Morton salt girl. I had noticed Sally Rhoades in the audience so I read a poem in the collection dedicated to her & Ken Hada “Didn’t We Do This In Saratoga?” Dayl read a dream poem, then the innocently titled “Woman Gardener” (with grim images of death in Vietnam).
 I read one of Jay Wenk’s poems from the collection, “Wounded Knee” (because Tom Nattell had also written a piece with the same title). Dayl read one of Larry Winter’s poems, “Vietnam” (cemetery worker at Viet Cong memorial), then a series of short pieces that he called “unfinished poems.” I read my poem from the collection dedicated to Ed Bloch “A.J. Muste.” Dayl’s last pieces were 2 Vietnam-themed poems, “I Was A Dancer Once” & “Ho Che Minh Requests My Friendship on Facebook.” I ended the set with a poem I like to read each year here, “Chasing Tom.”

Mary Panza doesn’t read when she hosts the open mic, so tonight she felt she could & began with a bit of characteristic social commentary on “she,” then to the wonderfully titled “Free Balling in Work Pants” (& you can guess the tone of both poems); she also brought a birthday cake for me, with the inappropriately appropriate inscription “69 + 1”. In Tom’s honor Sally Rhoades read the poem she had read the first time she read at the open mic Tom ran at the QE2 in March 1990, “On that Moonlit Night,” then a memoir of her mother’s 2nd wedding “My Mother Used to Pray.” Karen Fabiane read a poem she had recently revised, “Ellipses,” then a party poem written in Seattle, WA in 1978.

We bookended the night with a recording of Tom (from the 3 Guys from Albany CD) performing “Save It” twirling his whistling plastic tubes. Then we ate cake (thanks Mary — & AlbanyPoets for helping to help celebrate the legacy of Tom Nattell).

Tonight’s donations, & the proceeds from the sale of Poems for Peace Poems for Justice, were donated to the Homeless Action Committee, $81.00 worth — thank you poets of Albany!

Come back on the last Monday of the month to McGeary’s for more Poets Speak Loud!, 7:30, a featured poet (usually) & an open mic for everyone else. Check out the calendar at AlbanyPoets.com.

[An interesting note: I stopped by the Robert Burns statue the next morning & the flowers & candles were still there & the beret had fallen off the statue, so I was able to save it to recycle it for next January.  Tom would have liked that.]

January 28, 2016

Sunday Four Poetry, January 24

I’d missed these readings in the last few months of 2015 so was glad to be back in the early days of the new year. As always we began with the open mic, with the esteemed & venerable Dennis Sullivan as our pastoral host.

Although signed up as #2 I read as the 1st reader my bar poem “Joe the Bartender,” then a poem from 10 years ago, allegedly written by me & found by Pierre Joris on the way to my birthday celebration, so they say. Our host, Dennis Sullivan followed me with 3 poems, a poem for the poet Thomas Merton “The Visitation,” then one based on a poem by the Latin poet Horace “Beatus Ille,” & one dedicated to local poet Howard Kogan “The Exegesis of Emptiness.” Appropriately enough, Howard Kogan was the next reader with a childhood memoir about hanging out at the the local “pigeon store.” Joe Krausman gave us “The Key to Life” which was based on Freud’s description of love & work, then read “Legitimate Theater” on dreams, & another poem on secrets.

Mark W. O’Brien read poems from his various books he said, the first on hearing voices on the banks of the street in his backyard (too much Irish?), then “And Is It You Are Weary Then?” & “The Sound of Moonlight in Your Hair” (a love poem). Philomena Moriarty said she was reading “old ones,” a poem on transformation “Turning the Corner,” “Adaptation,” & the true-story “Fuck-Me Pumps.”

Linda Sonia Miller’s 3 poems were of a quieter nature, beginning with “Delivery” a meditation in images, then a description of watching a child in a puddle, & “Full Circle” prompted by a painting. Tom Corrado is continuing his random mash-ups he calls “Screen Dumps,” today he read #260 mixing images from movies with Lord Byron, then #259 which, I think, was about Art. Peter Bourdreaux’s untitled piece was a conversation with a woman while doing Xmas cards.

It was time for the featured poet, Perry S. Nicholas, who teaches in Buffalo. He began with 2 poems about his father, “Aura,” recalling his paint & cigarette smell, & “December 28” recalling his father’s death. His mother made an appearance in “Baking Greek Cookies” which he followed up with a poem about a pleasant hotel in Greece. “God Doesn’t Mind” was a whimsical Xmas poem, “Wish by a Waterfall” was the first of a number of love poems to his wife, & he took on Moby Dick in “I’ve Never Seen a White Whale” about writing & art. He described how he had read recently in Woodstock & read 2 poems related to that, “Please Lord Don’t Let me Die in a Hotel in Woodstock” & “The Last Night We Heard Bob Dylan Play.” Confronting his mortality in the poems “Matthew’s Casket” & “Thoughts During an Emergency Room Visit to Buffalo General,” he also talked about his first sight of death & other childhood images in “And I Was Just a Boy.” He ended his reading with some newer, short poems “I Want to Say” (on the Xmas moon), “Rules for a Greek Wake,” & one about his drum “Djembe.”

Nicholas's poems were mostly short, & easily accessible on first-hearing, based on vivid images from life, touched with humor & with that poetic “leaping” that turns stories into poetry. You can find out more about Perry Nicholas on his website.

This series continues each 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY (there’s only one), with a featured poet & an open mic.

January 23, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 21

The first third Thursday for the new year here at the Social Justice Center. But the year has started off with the loss of a number of music artists & poets, particularly the deaths of Amiri Baraka & C.D Wright, so tonight I invoked the Muse of Amiri Baraka (once known as Leroi Jones) & read his jazz poem “The Rare Birds.”

First up for the open mic as he often is was Alan Casline to read a poem about one of 2015’s gone poets, Paul Weinman on his softball prowess, “Hall of Famer,” from Alan’s latest collection, Last Man Standing (Lummox Press). Sylvia Barnard read a poem she had read at Don Levy’s open mic about seeing Picasso’s “Guernica” in Spain on a visit there recently with her daughter. Brian Dorn will be the featured poet here next month & tonight read “23 Reasons Why this Poem Doesn’t Rhyme” along with his editorial comments/verbal footnotes. Carole Rossi had come here last month to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap but came back again to read a poem from an ongoing series, “120 Days of Dreaming” & the rhyming poem “Dreaming Day 16: The Captain of Evermore.”

Our featured poet was Bunkong Tuon, whom I’d heard read at a “Community of Writers” Reading in Schenectady & knew immediately I would have to have him read here. In 2015 New York Quarterly Books published his collection Gruel about his experience as a young child as a refugee from Cambodia, & the experience of his family adjusting to life in America. Tonight he read mostly from this book, beginning with “The House of Many Voices,” then to the title poem (which ends the book). On to the poems in between, “First Snow,” then a poem about immigrants & refugees going back to their lifestyle, “Fishing for Trey Platoo.” In between his poems he spoke about dropping out of school & discovering the poetry of Charles Bukowski, about the importance of the humanities in our lives, as he talks about in “How Everything Changed.” The poem “Inheritance” returned to his family’s time in Cambodia & the death of his mother. His book is dedicated to his grandmother Yoeum Preng, who raised him & who died this year; he ended with a new poem not in the book about a walk with her in which they are confronted by racism but find “Still Water.” I had only to hear a few poems by B.K. in Schenectady when I knew he would be a wonderful featured poet here at the Social Justice Center & his reading tonight was moving & a quiet reminder of how what makes America great is the diversity & strength of its people.

After a short break to pass the hat, I followed with a new memoir poem “Joe the Bartender.” Don Levy read his new hilarious & pointed poem “Ammosexuals at the Bird Sanctuary.” It was great that Anthony Bernini was here again tonight to read, with a poem titled “Pause at Day Break” about being up early with nothing going on (or is it?). Karen Fabiane was our last poet for the night with a piece she said she had not read before, a version of an earlier poem, “Brain Storming,” twisting & turning.

Join us each third Thursday here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30 for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us, for a modest (or extravagant) donation.

January 22, 2016

Winter Fest, January 16

This was not a literary event per se, but a party at the home of Jennifer Pearce & Alan Casline that so many local poets & writers were invited to that naturally there had to be round-robin open mic. There was a table full of hors d’oeuvres when we arrived, beer, wine & a wonderful spread of roast turkey, root-veggies, various salads — & an over-flowing dessert table.

Charlie the dog reading from Alan's book
In between & amongst the eating & drinking there were 2 sessions of readings of a mix of prose & poetry. I read my poem “A.J. Muste” & later a “Birthday Poem” I had allegedly written for my birthday in 2006 & that was “found” by Pierre Joris on his way to my surprise party. There were a couple poems by Joe Krausman, “Ted William’s Head” & “Tattoo,” a troilet by Therese Broderick for her mother’s funeral, a “numismatic poem” (the first I can recall) by Frank Robinson, & a couple of pieces by Tim Verhaegen, “Summer Sounds in Amagansett” & his friendship poem “My Buddy James.”

Donna Williams read a poem, “Pantum” by her late husband, Jim Williams, that I had found in my files because he had dedicated the poem to me; later she recited a poem by Emily Dickinson. Joyce hadn’t expected to read but found some poems on her laptop, an anti-war piece, & another about hunting, “Male Rituals.” Someone read from a longer prose piece titled “Happy Hour,” set in Florida, while Mimi Moriarty’s poems were both about birds, “Pigeons on Cornice” & “Crows.”

Adam Tedesco read the seasonal “The Weatherman Gut Checks” & a section from his “Heart Sutra,” Paul Amidon read of a more pleasant season “Summer at Lake Abenaki,” Obeeduid wore his Irish hat for a funeral piece (I did say “Irish,” right?), & another about an old house in Voorheesville & its animals, & our host, Alan Casline read a couple poems from the end of his book 64 Changes (FootHills Publishing), “On a Cold Morning Walk” (#64) & “The Spaces of the World” (#63).

The sharing of food, drink, warmth, & words is an ancient tradition, they say — & this was a most enjoyable evening in that tradition, with thanks to Alan & Jennifer.

January 17, 2016

Live from the Living Room, January 13

This was the ante-penultimate reading in this long-running series at the Pride Center (& that hasn’t been in the living room of the Pride Center for a long time). Characteristically it is an intimate gathering of friends & poets & friends of poetry. Tonight there were 6 of us gathered including the featured poet, Noah Kucij, who had traveled by bus to Albany from Schenectady.

Noah Kucij had read here a few years ago & responded recently to Don’s call for poets. He read a pleasant mix of carefully crafted poems, beginning with the philosophical “Another Essay on Man,” then on to a couple poems from his experience working with refugees, “English” & “The Substitutes.” Then a couple of more personal poems, the longing poem “Assignment” & “Prescribed Burn” a relationship poem titled from a sign he'd seen in the woods. “Radio Pantoum” & “Ode to Cassettes” were what could be best described as “technology nostalgia.” Speaking of nostalgia, but of a more conventional type, the poem “To the Girls who Pour Coffee” was about growing up in Schenectady, & he ended with a gentle poem to his infant daughter, “The Philologist’s Daughter.”

Then on to an open mic. This being January I read a couple of my “Birthday Poems,” 2013 & 2015. Sally Rhoades responded to Noah’s waitress poem with her own “My Mother was a Waitress,” then a poem she said she had forgotten she had written (isn’t that gift?) on the night “It Quakes at Midnight.” Sylvia Barnard read a revised “Grandchester” combining her own experience being a student at Cambridge with references to Sylvia Plath & Rupert Brooke, then read a new poem for the first time, “Guernica,” about seeing the great Picasso mural in Spain (but remembering it as in colors, from when she saw it in NYC). Sue Oringel will be the featured poet here in March & tonight read a Winter poem “Solstice” then a grieving poem “New York City Without You.” Our host, Don Levy, finished off the night with a very new poem, a tribute to the recently-gone David Bowie, “Starman,” then a funny piece about the stand-off in Oregon, “Ammosexuals at the Bird Sanctuary.”

Live from the Living Room is held each 2nd Wednesday (for the next 2 months only!) at 7:30PM in the downstairs Garden Room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY — a featured poet followed by an open mic, with our straight-friendly host, Don Levy.

January 13, 2016

2nd Sunday @ 2, January 10

First reading/open mic I have been able to get to, & a good thing too since I am a co-host here with Troy poet Nancy Klepsch. There were 14 writers on the sign-up sheet.

First up was Bob Sharkey, with a descriptive piece set in New York City “Walking to Golda Meir Square,” then a memoir, “1957,” from his continuing series of pieces on the Libby Town section of Portland, Maine where he grew up. Peggy LeGee read an essay she said was written under the influence of a fever, a personal piece on gender identity “An American Herstory.”

Anne Rokeach was equally bold as this was her first time ever reading, & she said she had just started writing poetry this Summer, so she read a poem, “You”, that she said was a love poem to everyone she knows, then a piece on the death of her father-in-law. Mike Conner read, “Waves of Life,” a piece from his early Blog, then what he called “a visual snap shot” from this kitchen window “Day is Done.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a funny political piece “If in Iowa…” then “Before You Know Gratitude” based on a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Cathy Abbott does short pieces, one to her daughter & another on the elections.

Dave DeVries announced that he had taken over the hosting of the 3rd Tuesday poetry open mic at the Colonie Town Library, a long-running series that had been started by the late William Robert Foltin, then read “My Day” a poem to his birthday, then one from the perspective of a “Hawk’s Eye.” Jay Renzi has been going thru old poems & making revisions & read a couple of the results, “The Moment” & “She Was Fond of Fondness.” Howard Kogan read 2 poems from his series about where he lives, Stephentown, both dealt with poverty, “Food Pantry” & “Gleaning 2015.” M. McCauley was back with a continuation of a reading from a prose memoir, this segment about reading fashion magazines & trying to fix her hair.

Sandra Rouse has confronted her fear of birds by writing from their point-of-view, & today she read “Robin” & “Red-Tailed Hawk.” Tim Verhaegen read a poem about reading a poem at an open mic & getting no response from the audience, then read the poem he had read, “Just Friends with my Buddy James.” I followed with a new piece about my years in bars, “Joe the Bartender.” Karen Fabiane read a couple of her stream-of-consciousness poems, “Origami” on poems, words & music, then “Most of the World” from her book Dancing Bear.

This series continues each 2nd Sunday at 2:00PM at the Arts Center in Troy, NY, an open mic for poets & prose writers — free.

January 5, 2016

Poets Speak Loud!, December 28

A mid-Holidays bitch & moan session, as always at McGeary’s back room, with our cranky host Mary Panza, & no feature, & just whatever poets wandered in.

& the first up was a new face & voice, Brian Whittle, with a poem in rhyme, with a chorus like a song lyric, cynical & funny about a middle-aged white guy. I followed with an ancient collaborative piece, a profane version of “The 12-Days of Xmas.” Joe Krausman was next with another seasonal piece, “New Year’s Ever” on resolutions, a piece on flying “Taking Off” & one about going to Hollywood as a script writer “Movie Mania.”

Women were definitely in the minority this night & Tess Lecuyer was the first with “Elvis Among the Forsythia,” then a piece about donuts & dancing “Work Day Burlesque.” Last month’s featured poet, Jamie Weeks, was back for the open mic to with “Something She Learned in 2015” (you’ll have to ask her), & a piece in rhyme she had just written “Words to Ophelia.”

Another new poet, Wally, read from his notebooks a piece titled “Language” then an untitled one on religion & money; later he gave me a copy of one of those one-sheet folded broadsides, this titled “Sub Verse: The Universe of What Could Be…” Karen Fabiane read “Never Does” for the first time, & another older poem “If at Dawn.” Julie Lomoe said her piece, titled “The Xmas Goat & the T'aint” was inspired by an article by Red Smith in the Times-Union, & it had us in hysterics.

Robb Smith included his harmonica in a rambling political piece on the Republican candidates. Ian Macks read from a new notebook 2 poems on relationships, “Islands” & “Reflected.” Nick Bisanz announced that his new CD with his band The Last Conspirators “Hold That Thought Forever” was now out & available for sale, then closed out the night a tribute to the just-dead Motorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister, “Dancing on your Grave.”

So that was it for 2015 but Poets Speak Loud! will be back in 2016 on the last Monday, as always, at McGeary’s at Sheridan Square in Albany, about 7:30, certainly not before.

January 3, 2016

Harmony Café, December 21

The host, Michael Platsky, of this weekly open mic at the Wok and Roll Chinese Restaurant in Woodstock, NY asked me to be the featured poet for this night. It’s always fun to come down here & meet up with old friends — nearly everyone who read in the open mic is a poet I’ve heard before & some have read in events that I coordinate in Albany.

Michael read first & his first poem, “Reality’s Well,” was perhaps a Catholic poem, then on to an old piece about smoking crack on the A train, & a sad piece on a recent death in Woodstock due to heroin. Roberta Gould began with a recent poem “Ready to Fall Off,” then “Haunted & Humming” (at the piano), & a poem to her dog “Best Friends,” followed by Lord Byron’s poem to his dog. Cheryl Rice’s first poem was titled simply “Dawn,” but her second poem was a bit more gross, “Inchworms at Opus 40.” Victoria Sullivan’s poem was seasonal & funny “To My Jewish Boyfriend at Xmas.”

The grand poetic elder, Donald Lev, who reads here every week & always goes before the featured poet, tonight read a string of poems, beginning with “December 21” full of peace & growls, then a piece about falling off a ladder, followed by “Riding the D Train” written by his late wife, poet Enid Dame; back to his own poems, “The Nature of His Crime” was about baseball gambler Pete Rose, a poem on Hemingway “Spanish Wine," a bird Haiku, & ended with “Poem” on poetry & Time.

photo by Dayl Wise
Then on to my reading, designed especially for the Woodstock audience. So I started with a favorite from the 3 Guys from Albany playlist (our first ever gig was here in Woodstock at the Tinker Street Bar), “On Reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead” complete with a Tibetan bell. Alison Koffler was in the audience & she has written a memorable poem about Coyote in the Bronx, so I read “Coyote 2” from my A.P.D. chapbook, Coyote: Poems of Suburban Living. Of course a poem from my new chapbook Gloucester Notes, then from a recent collection of poems by Jay Wenk, Larry Winters, Dayl Wise & me, Poems for Peace … Poems for Justice (Post Traumatic Press, 2015) “A.J. Muste.” On to a bit of levity with my poem titled “Garrison Keillor” which referenced another of my poems “trailer park.” I ended, in loving tribute, with Enid Dame’s peaceful seasonal poem “Holiday Poem,” which I so love to read this time of year.

Continuing on with the open mic Leslie Gerber, who runs a poetry series at the New World Restaurant down the road, read 5 poems, ranging from one about taking down an old building, to his dog, to revising a poem, as well as a couple others. Alison Koffler’s poem “The Museum of Isinglass” was a descriptive piece that felt like being right there in the museum shop, then she read a seasonal poem “February.”

Dayl Wise (in his new VA shoes) read a poem mixing the vast, poetic words in his house & a crow, then another about a dance & a shooter. The always-entertaining Ron Whiteurs performed a poem titled “Trumpeter Swans” a word-playful piece mixing horn music, Walt Whitman & Ottorino Respighi's "The Fountains of Rome."  Fred Poole read a lush prose memoir of the 1980s in NYC about drawing on a new pad with old pens. Lenny, who I had not heard before, read a poem titled “Old Age New Age,” then one on the Solstice & light, & a brief philosophical poem.

Shiv Mirabito, who is the proprietor of the Shivastan Poetry Ashram of Woodstock & who was on his way soon to India, ended the night with a poem just written at the bar, a memory of Italian Xmases past, “All I Ever Really Wanted for Xmas.”

If nights in Woodstock ever come to an end, this one did as I drove back to Albany, but I thank my Woodstock poet/friends for being there, & Michael Platsky for asking me back to read — they even paid me, which will go to my A.P.D. fund to publish poets.