June 30, 2016

Poets Speak Loud!, June 27


On the last Monday of the month, after the weekly peace vigil in Delmar, I like to drive back into Albany to McGeary’s, have a drink & dinner at the bar, then head to the back room for the monthly reading & open mic. Tonight’s featured poet was the ever-more-lovely Carrie Czawkiel. But first, the open mic, hosted by Mary Panza.

Sylvia Barnard was the first reader with a memory piece, slightly revised, “Travel,” then a new piece for the assassinated British member of Parliament, “Tribute to Jo Cox.” I was next with an older poem about an experience in an airport “Southwest Flight 2095, Seat 8A” (Hot pants!) & poem about writing a poem on my break at work (from back in the day), “Those Big APR Poems.” Annie Sauter read “Cable Fever Word Fail,” then a fantasy ramble “Sleeping with Spider Man’s Flannel Sheets.”

The open mic here a McGeary’s seems to be a favorite of Carrie Czwakiel, & one of the earliest places she has read her poems so it was a pleasure to hear her as a featured poet reading more than 1 or 2 poems. She said that her reading tonight was a series of poems that she wrote about getting away from her abusive ex-husband, beginning with a piece from memory, “No More.” The poem “Reflections in the Mirror” was about quieting the voices of self-doubt, while “Poison” was about removing the toxin of her ex. She included a raw version of a piece based on “Five” by the band Machine Head. Perhaps the best of her pieces was what she called “a forgiveness poem” with contrasting images of good & bad, about how “a drunk killed the man I loved.” She ended with a poem titled “Life is Beautiful,” a nice arc to the reading. While these poems could be classed as “therapy poems,” her use of language & images suggest that if she broadens her themes as she continues to write we should expect some engaging poetry from Carrie in the future.

Back to the open mic, Randee Renzi (in fabulous shoes) continued Carrie’s main theme with “Stronger Than Your Fists,” then an old poem, seeking poems “to take you down a road of dreams.” Duke$ (that’s how he signed up) tells a story with a moral about a bird, a cat & pile of shit. Tom Riley read a couple of poems from a series he is writing about where he lives, the first, “A Body in Motion,” portraits of friends, then a similar, but longer piece about a lesson learned from a friend. Karen Fabiane read a new piece she had read at her recent feature at the Social Justice Center, “The Best Thing You Said Was I Am Really Tired of It Now,” then, as requested by Carrie, “I Fucked St. Joan.” Karen will be the featured poet here next month.

Poets Speak Loud! happens on the last Monday of the month at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, 7:30PM (or thereabouts), with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, sponsored by AlbanyPoets.com. See you there.

June 29, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 16


Tonight’s featured poet was Karen Fabiane. & because today is the international festival of “Bloomsday” our muse for the night was James Joyce, a bit of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from Ulysses. & as the mythical tour-bus was still circling the mythical streets looking for that mythical parking spot, tonight’s open mic poets had the option of reading 2 — count ‘em! — 2 poems in the open mic.

First up was Richard Propp reading poems from the Spanish Jewish physician, poet & philosopher Judah Halevi (1075 - 1141). Alan Catlin read a memoir poem inspired by a reading of a book on the killings at Kent State in 1970 “After Reading 67 Shots, the Killings at Kent State,” then from his recent book American Odyssey “Our Lady of the Sub-Basement.” Annie read, with her dark glasses on, a piece exploring love “Narcissus eats Goldmun & Spits Him Out,” then “10 of Cups” beginning with a quote from Jimi Hendrix. Philomena read from her recent chapbook of poems, My Moon Self, first the poem about a blackout, “Inadequacies,” then the last poem in the book “Benefaction,” a bus poem on gratitude.

Bob Sharkey, who of course knew today was Bloomsday, read a new poem, “Pulse of My Heart,” a meditation on gender-identity, on Orlando, all in the context of Ulysses & Bloomsday. Kaly had shown up early, signed up, then cut out for a while, but was back in time to perform a free-form sermon on love & victims. I ended the open mic with the poem “Beach” from my chapbook Gloucester Notes.

Karen Fabiane has been doing a number of featured readings in the last few months & is a frequent reader at open mics around town. Tonight she was the featured poet here.  She began with a new poem about miscommunication, “Was That You?” Then from her first book, Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011) she read “There Was a Very Smooth Aspect to Her,” “Slay Me,” & “Rain Today.” From the anthology from 2nd Sunday @ 2, 2, she read both her entries, “This Hardship of Loving” & “Noticeably Difficult.” On to poems from Seeing You Again (Grey Book Press, 2014), including “I Fucked St. Joan,” “Begone,” & the title poem. She then shifted to a poem written today “The Best Thing You Said Was I Am Really Tired of it Now,” another phone conversation like her first poem, this with a woman going through a break-up, even referencing the very reading she is given now. She ended with a brief “The Rest of Us.”

Join us with a poem each third Thursday at the Social Justice Center (33 Central Ave., Albany) for a featured poet & an open mic, 7:30PM. Your donation of $3.00, or as generous as you want to be, helps pay the featured poet & supports the Social Justice Center.

June 24, 2016

Albany Poets Presents: Mary Panza, June 15


This is a bi-monthly continuing series held since last December at Restaurant Navrona in Albany (NY). Tonight’s presentee was Albany poet, vice-(emphasis on vice) president of Albany Poets, bar-tender, masseuse, mother & bitch-on-wheels Mary Panza. El presidente Thom Francis began by talking about the first open mic he ever attended at Borders with Mary as host, & how terrified he was. He then turned the mic over to Mary for a reading of her poems, including recent ones, & a couple of her “Housewife Tuesday” Blogs from AlbanyPoets.com.

Mary began with a poem about her daughter, “The Little Blond,” then on to a funny (as she often is) Housewife Tuesday about family & grocery shopping. A poem for poet Chris Rizzo was based on Charles Olson’s famous statement from his essay Projective Verse, “Form is never more than an extension of content.” She wrote about hope in “Prisoners of a Cardboard Story,” & about herself & self-realization in a piece set in a club “I Want You To Know.” She ended with a Housewife Tuesday piece from a recent trip to Hawaii that brought her back to forgiveness & her roots as a Catholic through a Buddhist monk’s chanting.

The reading was followed by a series of questions, from host Thom Francis & various audience members. “You are so creepy,” was Mary’s response to Thom’s questions about favorite/least-favorite words & what turns her on (vodka, by the way), but she did admit that Nick Bisanz was her favorite harmonica player, & that she regretted being “mean.” She said what got her started was soap opera, the QE2 & the open mic she ran at Borders on Wolf Rd. Now, she finds the poetry scene different, the “family” spread apart, but that it keeps on going. As for herself, she likes reading other people’s stuff, appreciates their sensibility, & has grown to like editing.

I have seen Mary Panza grow & mature from her (& my own) tentative early days at the QE2 open mics, to become the confident, hard-working writer & Mom who is one of the Elders of the Albany poetry scene. & it is a credit to Thom Francis for presenting this series every-other month about & for the poets who keep active in the area writing & spoken-word scene.

June 21, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, June 8


A new pattern to my 2nd Wednesday of the month — to Schenectady’s Stockade Section for poetry. Our host, Catherine Norr, began the night with an original song that asked (& answered) the question, “Why would you take an artist?”

Shayla C. began with “Chill” playing on words, then a piece prompted by going through her mother’s things “Not Welcome.” Alan Catlin also read about memories, but this from his student days at the time of the Kent State killings in 1970, then from his latest book of poems American Odyssey (FutureCycle Press, 2016) “Our Lady of the Appliances.” B-K Tuon read a poem about his daughter at 9-months dancing to music & into her imagined future “Bieber Fever.”


The venerable Malcolm Willison began with a discussion about the poet Elizabeth Bishop, how he is reading all of her work, & about her house in Brazil, read his own poem about that house, “Casa Mariana,” then “Elizabeth Bishop Takes Another Trip.” Donna Lagone’s first piece “Puzzles” was based on pictures of the dead in Viet Nam, while her second poem was less grim, about a conversation with a loon (named Margot). J.J. Johnson read 2 poems addressed to his “muse,” “Thunder Rumbles in Space Silently” & a poem in which he rhymed “lofty” with “poetry” titled “Metaphorically Inking.”

Catherine Norr described the featured poet Donna Dakota (aka Donna Wojcik) as an enthusiastic member of the local poetry community, an avid workshop member & leader. She began with a poem for her daughter, another titled “Come Hell or Hygiene,” others written while driving (she says she writes on her windshield with a washable marker, but that’s a stretch too), a poem titled “Zen Doodle,” & another from a series of love poems to a person she has not met. But her form of choice, suited to her short, pithy style, is what she calls “bargain basement Haiku,” improvised poems written on postcards to other poets, some philosophical, some just plain silly, & she read a representative cluster, with often amusing titles, such as "God Sets the Bar."

After a short break, Catherine Norr read a couple of her own poems, one styled after ancient Chinese poetry “To a Friend,” then the descriptive “Deck Overlooking the Fish Pond.” Sydney Lussier read a poem about hugging her younger brother “Jacob,” then an untitled piece on insomnia.

Felicia O’Neal said this was her first time reading, but she performed well a self-assertive piece about this girl, herself. I followed with a poem/essay “Believe, Believe” about Bob Kaufman’s poem with the same title. Jackie Craven read what might be described as an eco-poem, or what she called “a strange weather poem” that was about remembering her mother. Jonathan Col√≥n read an illusive poem about god & rain. Raph, who got inserted into the list at the last moment, read an untitled notebook jotting. Colleen Wygal, who serves as a mentor to some of the younger writers, played on words in “Your Honor.” And that was it for this 2nd Wednesday in Schenectady.

But this open mic, with a featured poet, takes place each 2nd Wednesday at 7:30PM in Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry St., Schenectady — check it out.

June 10, 2016

Poetic Vibe, May 23


I finally made it over to Troy for this weekly series at Troy Kitchen, which in itself is worth the trip. A large, open space, set up like a food court. There were 3 stalls open this night, not counting the ever-tempting bakery & candy counter, & a beer & wine bar. The seating is communal/mixed at black, stylish tables with fixed benches, like up-scale picnic tables, but, sadly, no bar-stools at the bar. The series’ host is poet D. Colin (Danielle), who began the night with a couple of her own poems, a free write hanging on the phrase “do you see me?” & a poem from her book Dreaming in Kreyol for her grandmother whom she never met.

The sign-up sheet for the open mic was a mix of some of the area’s experienced readers & first-timers. And #1 on the list was the night’s first virgin (pretty bold to sign up first), Michelle, with a piece about how she used to hate being black.

She was followed by Siobhan with a relationship poem “Plateau.” Ainsley’s first poem was on boys & the blood moon, then a poem about the presence of another in her life as a reminder of love & lost love. Joshua’s love poem was read way too fast, as was his free style performance. I followed with a poem-in-a-poem from last year, “McDonald’s with Love.” Somewhere along the line D. Colin started an “exquisite corpse” circulating among the poets & listeners who wanted to participate. Morgan Hayward was another virgin, with a piece titled “Dear Stan.”

The poet signed up as Arthur “Agony” began with a play on a Doors song “Writers of the Storm,” then “Almost a 1000 Words” which I think was. Slam-Mistress Amani did a piece she called a “coffee cup doodle” that was a meditation on black history & fantasy romance inspired by a subway ride. Croilot read a meditation on self-hatred, on being Haitian, light-skinned. Daniel Summerhill read 2 from his book Crafted, “Bastard Boy” & (from memory) “Ain’t We” (what do you mean you don’t have his book yet?). I hadn’t seen Bless Wize Words in a long time & miss his well-crafted poems in his deep bass voice; tonight a lush piece on soul food & its degradation in the market place.

Following the open mic there were 2 featured poets. The first, a local poet, Daniela Toosie Watson, who performed & read a series of moving poems springing directly from her growing up mixed Puerto Rican & Iranian, beginning with being in school not knowing English, “The Linguistics of Broken English.” Another piece was about her mother, then one on depression & redemption “Love Found Me.” She ended with an intense, personal poem on rape & sexual assault, “Name It Say It Any Way You Can.” A brave & moving performance, that moved Danielle to do a poem “in solidarity” before bringing up the 2nd featured reader.

The Slam performer “Rainmaker” (Peter Charles Seaton) has read in this area in the past, & he performs most of his work from memory. After a struggle with his first piece he did one about his Jamaican grandmother, then on to on war & politics, arms sales & fathers. Other poems included “To the Men Who Want to Make Love to My Woman,” an eco-/love poem, a narrative about groupies at a poetry reading (!), an affirmation poem from a workshop he gave, & a love poem about love as action.

Then, as a closing statement, Danielle read the collective poem, the exquisite corpse created by the audience & poets — wished I had a copy to share with you. Anyway, Poetic Vibe takes place each Monday in Troy, NY at Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress St., 7PM — poetry, food, beer, wine, chocolates, beautiful people, all the good things in life.