August 31, 2016

Poetic Vibes, August 22

Poetic Vibes is a weekly reading/open mic series at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St. in Troy, NY. The usual host is D. Colin who is currently on a poetic tour of Europe. Tonight’s host was Poetyc Visionz, another “P.V.” — which is the kind of obsessive linking of data that he likes to exploit in his poems. The night’s featured poet was AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis.

Hanging out at the bar I signed up & despite at least 10 others on the list, the #1 slot was open, waiting for me; I did 2 new poems “Finding Pokémon” & a poem with a hopefully short expiration date, “When Donald Trump Farts.”

The very poetic Ainsley was next with a piece from memory about first kiss, first sex. Randee Renzi also did her piece from memory, about the break-down of a relationship, with lots of references/sampling of well-known hip-hop hits. Mary Panza read one of her Housewife Tuesday pieces published on, this episode titled “Ass Over Face.” Carrie Czwakiel read a new piece riffing on a date in August of her divorce, her ex’s birthday & the nasty things he called her. Kim said her poem, “It Is None of My Concern” was new today, & got her emotional reading it. Casey did a cluster of short pieces from his big notebook.  B. Classic sang & then got us finger-snapping along with her.

Thom Francis, the featured reader, began with 2 love poems, one to his daughter Molly, the other to his insulin pump. Other family oriented poems included “Easter Visit” about his grandfather in a nursing home, & one about his father & his mother “Listerine.” He included poems about characters he has known, “Paper Messiah,” & “Al,” & the Troy-based poem “Why I Look Out Windows,” as well as others, then ended with his own favorite poem, the classic, “Trucker.”

Back to the open mic Genia got us going again with a couple short break-up (again) poems, followed by Sharone with a long rant. Katelynne is a coached performer whose Slam piece was titled “The Things I Never Said.” Poetyc Visionz took his own turn with an audience participation piece on the birth of poetry & on becoming a “Po-et”.

Devon Simms took on both of the night’s “themes” with an angst-filled relationship poem & then with a therapy poem titled “Nativity” about being abused by her father. Jasmine decided to free-style, beginning with some singing, on being proud to be a black girl. Olivia was another Slam performer, this time with a love poem to words. Avery came back out to the streets of Troy read an exuberant poem “In Billowing Darkness.” Lauren Stork read about being pulled over for a traffic violation, white privilege, police violence & the Trump campaign of hate.

Dionte Jones stepped off the stage, did his hip-hop rhymes from the floor. Kat Carter referenced performers in her first piece, then read about her aunt in North Carolina (”Just Enough”), then the faux-apologies of “My Bad.” Earlier Thom’s daughter Molly had wanted to say her poem, then lost her nerve when she got on stage, but now she was ready so Thom brought her back up & with help from her Dad got through it, a piece about the animals she likes. Shania K.’s piece was about what a Christian is (useful for these times). Morgan H. read “A Letter” to a friend, but a really her own self-affirmation. Ed Rinaldi is back in town, read a new poem written only yesterday. Leneea read another piece of self-affirmation, this about working in a lab.

As the night wound down, P.V. brought Thom back to the stage for another classic, another Troy-based poem (written at 119 4th St.), “Female Pedestrian.” Somewhere at the beginning of the night P.V. had started circulating a page for the audience to compose a group poem (otherwise known as an “exquisite corpse”) that eventually went to 2 pages; when he got the finished product back he struggled to find where it began, but then, did it matter? This exercise is a tradition here & I do hope that someone is saving them, perhaps will post them (or at least a couple of them) online at some point. Then P.V. finished up with one of his signature pieces, a riff on the meanings of the number 7 (& maybe someday will write a similar piece on the various meanings of “P.V.”).

You can get food, beer, wine here at the Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress St., while you wait each Monday for the poetry to begin (around 7:30PM) — a featured poet & a wonderfully diverse & varied open mic. Do come.

August 25, 2016

Eighth Annual CAPS Marathon & Book Fair, August 20

Calling All Poets is a monthly reading series on the first Friday, formerly in Beacon, but with their annual Marathon Reading, has moved to The Roost Studio in New Paltz. There were over 40 readers scheduled between Noon & 10PM, with open mic poets scattered in the mix as time permitted. But there seemed to be a high rate of no-shows.

Alison Koffler-Wise
I was on for a slot in the 7 to 8 hour & got there sometime after 4PM, having just missed Roberta Gould, & caught a good part of Janet Hamill’s reading, including poems about Rimbaud & Hart Crane. My good buddy & fellow Veterans For Peace activist, Dayl Wise, read poems based on his experience in Viet Nam, then, & later delivering medical supplies. Alison Koffler Wise read from a series of poems-in-progress about the Bronx in the 1940s, “City of Women.”

The grand-ole-man of poetry, Donald Lev, was able to get to the podium & read a series of mostly short poems, aphoristic & quirky as is his wont.   Christie Shannon Kline (who I recalled seeing & hearing in Beacon a while back) read a couple poems about looking for her father (“DNA Dad,” “”).

Donald Lev
There was a break to feed the parking meter, for dinner, pizza, conversation, buying books, & time for an open mic poet, Guy Reed, who read from the Goat Hill Poets Anthology & began a string of readers, including me, who read work that appears in CAPS Poetry 2015 (edited by Marina Mati), reading his poem “1963 EVINRUDE” from the collection.  The perennially provocative Ron Witeurs began with a short piece (dedicated to Christie Shannon Kline, who unfortunately had left) claiming DNA testing showed he was her father, then his longer, more complex, & melodious “From the Mouth of the Rosendale Cave.”

Tony Pena read some of his rock’n’roll chronicle pieces, including one set in a retro-clothing store “Wardrobe Malfunction.” I followed, beginning with my entry in the CAPS Poetry 2015 anthology “Living in Wilcox,” & ending with a satirical poem with a hopefully short expiration date, “When Donald Trump Farts.” Glenn Werner included his CAPS Poetry 2015 poem “Wings” in his cluster of poems as well as the challenging “Murmurations” that can be read 3 ways. Penny Bruni was new to me & read what she said was her “best poem all year,” a descriptive piece with horses & native warriors.  Samuel Claiborne said he had “tons of new stuff” & read from a series titled “Allegories” & even a piece in rhyme.

Mike Jurkovic photographed by Christopher Wheeling
Mike Jurkovic had been at the Altamont Fair poetry event earlier in the week & read characteristic pieces with grim details, sex & self-deprecating humor, & included one of his “greatest hits” a poem about Screaming Jay Hawkins. I’m glad Dave Kime was able to slip in 2 pieces as an open mic poet, one a recitation of poet Jim Morrison’s “Horse Latitudes” from Strange Days, & his own take on the meaning of the acronym P.O.L.I.C.E.

Michelle Johnson’s reading included sex/relationship poems, poems for her parents & her sister & her piece from CAPS Poetry 2015. Of course Marina Mati, editor of CAPS Poetry 2015 included her poem “teachings” from the anthology as well as a tribute piece to the Howland Theater in Beacon where the CAPS reading took place for so many years. At that point the day had caught up with me & I still had an hour + drive home so headed out as another open mic poet, Jeremy Elrich, took to the mic. I know I missed some good poets, both on the front end & in the last hour, but those I heard were certainly well worth the trip.

The Calling All Poets Series will continue on the first Friday of each month at 8:00PM with featured poets, streaming guest poets, & an open mic at its new location: Roost Studios, 69 Main St., New Paltz, NY — your hosts Jim Eve, Mike Jurkovic, Robert Milby, & Glenn Werner.

August 23, 2016

Book Launch: Canyons, August 19th

It’s been a busy poetry week (check out my Blog if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but Friday night was open after a martini happy hour so I was off to Troy to a storefront on 2nd Street, Publications Studio, for a performance/reading/book launch for Canyons, a new book by Albany poets, artists, publishers James Belflower & Matthew Klane.

Matthew & James are known for organizing the Yes! reading series at the Albany Center Galleries & for their innovative pairing of readings with music, visual art, even dance. They are both writers of works that stretch & twist the boundaries of what we consider “texts”. Matthew is one of the publishers of flim forum press & both he & James have a number of chapbooks under their belts from various small, experimental presses.

Tonight’s performance included a table full of electronic devices & their attendant cables & wires that James used to produce a sound-scape from recordings of birds, conversations, street sounds as well as the requisite electronic bleeps, pops, screeches & feed-back, while Matthew & James took turns reading sections of the text, & with a multi-layered image projected on the store-front’s wall. It was a decidedly different experience from the book itself, though not divergent.

Canyons is a beautifully produced book (by Patrick Kiley at Publication Studio, Troy, NY) of text, images & text&images inspired/engendered by the explorations of the Grand Canyon by “Wes” Powell in 1869 (& later in 1871/2). I can’t tell how much of the text is sourced in Powell’s writing or the photos (taken for stereoscopes of the time), but Canyons is more of an independent work of art rather than a document of American history. I’m still enjoying my copy.

You can find images from Canyons & more information about the book at James Belflower’s website.  He also indicated that the recording of the sound-scape of the performance would eventually be posted there as well.

August 21, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 18

A hot night at the Social Justice Center, but some very cool poetry, with great support from members of the activist community for the featured poet, Schenectady poet & activist Martin Manley. Each month I invoke the Muse by reading a poem by some gone poet who is no longer here & this year the gone poets have been lining up faster than I can invoke them. Tonight’s Muse was the poet & activist Daniel Berrigan who died earlier this year; I read his poem “My Name” from the great anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness Against Forgetting, edited by Carolyn Forché.

Richard Jerin had been waiting for me when I arrived to set up so he ended up as the 1st poet on the open mic list; he read a piece titled “It’s Not Made Up” inspired by last month’s reading here by Amani O+. Philomena Moriarty, who will be the featured poet here in December, said she hasn’t written many poems about her day job as a psycho-therapist, but read one tonight on that theme titled “Restoration.” Sylvia Barnard read a poem about antiquity (& talked about her first job at LeMoyne College where she barely crossed paths with Daniel Berrigan); the poem, “Doggerland,” was about the ancient land bridge connecting Great Britain to mainland Europe. Malcolm Willison came over from Schenectady with a 2-part poem inspired by a piece in the New York Times “Please Don’t Thank Me For My Service” & writings about PTSD, “No Thanks/That Other Place.” Karen Fabiane read a poem titled “I’m Insane” complete with a pork pie hat & foot massages & etc. I followed with a new, seasonal piece, “When Donald Trump Farts.”

Martin Manley was tonight’s featured poet, an activist & poet from Schenectady who read from his new book Flint Knives. He paid tribute to his mother, Doris Vanderlipp (1924 - 2014), by reading one of her poems, “Ideas.” Before her death she had help create his book by typing & editing his hand-written manuscript. He also paid tribute to others in the community who helped with his book & to the myriad progressive organizations with which he as been involved over the years. The poems were arranged chronologically from 1973 to the present, mostly short, pointed observations on the human struggle for justice, like the jottings in a shirt pocket notebook of a church custodian & walker of picket lines, which indeed they are. He ended with a piece not in the book, written just a few months ago.  If you are interested in getting a copy of Flint Knives, email me at this Blog & I will hook you up, or look up Flint Knives on FaceBook.

Mojavi showed up too late to sign up for the open mic but I tacked him on at the end, & was glad he made it, to read a sad, bitter poem “Grieving from Paper.”

Join us at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday for an open mic with a featured reader from the local & regional poetry scene, 7:30PM a modest (or extravagant) donation supports poetry events & the work of the SJC.

Poetry at the Altamont Fair, August 18

photo provided by Mark O'Brien
This was billed as the 30th anniversary of poetry at the Altamont Fair, for some years now run by Alan Casline. It was formerly run — & perhaps founded — by the late William Robert Foltin. My earliest documentation of the event is photos from 1992 & includes not only a characteristically hirsute image of WRF, but also a photo of Charlie Rossiter reading with baby Jack in a back-pack baby carrier. No babies this year.

We were in the Carriage Museum, with its historical facades, at The (Poetry) Hotel Altamont, with Alan Casline as MC.

Mike Jurkovic made the drive up from the mid-Hudson region & read poems from his last 2 books, including the marvelously metaphysical “Half-Shitty Days.” Albany poet Alifair Skebe read poems from a forthcoming collection from FootHills Publishing, Thin Matter, full of nature & light, birds & the Hudson River. Alan introduced Bob Sharkey as “upstate New York’s most experimental poet.” Bob included his poem about reading the book Scary People to his granddaughter & the equally scary “Things” that were in the back of W.T. Grants. Mark O’Brien read some memoir poems & a chicken version of a famous Poe poem, “Edgar Allen Wyandotte.”

Anne Rokeach, although she never met WRF, connected to him through the open mic at the Colonie Town Library that he founded & that is still going on. She read a poem from one of that group’s “word” assignments, as well as a poem for her dead dog, & one for “You.” I included in my reading my “Altamont Fair Poem” that might have been written for that reading back in 1992. Diane Sefcik’s poems were on themes from native people, including a pine grove, the desert, red ochre & the tradition of the “Give-away.” Alan Casline read a brief segment from his series “The Exile Poems” about the central figure of the poem at the end of his life.

After a break for some beer & equally poetic conversation we re-convened for what Alan has dubbed “The Legends Round Robin” in which we take turns reading poems by gone poets, local & international. The poet so honored included Catherine Connolly, Art Willis, the recently gone Dan Lawlor, Jim Williams, Mabel Bennett, Tom Nattell, Will Christman, Daniel Smythe, Tomaz Salamun, Hornell Long & William Robert Foltin.

All things considered I’d rather read at the Altamont Fair than be read at the Altamont Fair.

August 20, 2016

Albany Poets Presents!, August 17

This series continues at Narvrona Restaurant with our host Thom Francis presenting Albany poet, performer & poetry entrepreneur Mojavi. I have known Mojavi since the earliest days of open mics in Albany & he was one of a handful of the artists who worked to link the black & white communities to share out work.

By way of introduction Mojavi talked about his early days confronting the nascent Albany poetry scene, braving the QE2 open mic, going on in the late 1990s to create Soul Kitchen at Clayton’s, then the Urban Guerrilla Theater at The Linda, then on to a piece that was a true story of the cruelty of children, his stutter & a teacher who taught him to speak. “I Will Save Myself” was a 10-part piece on his ex, then a moving letter to his son. On to poems of sex, love & sex & love, everything from the curvy ladies to a kid needing a hug. His last piece was one of his classic Slam performances, “The 1st & Last Time I Smoked a Joint.”

During the questions & answers with Thom Francis, Mojavi talked more about his childhood problems with speech, how he began at age 7 to write in notebooks so that he didn’t have to talk. He also talked in more detail about Soul Kitchen, even recalling a performance there by “those 3 white guys” Three Guys from Albany. He said Urban Guerrilla Theater was a chance to do his own thing, follow his vision & link up with some really good people. He was also part of the earliest Nitty Gritty Slam Team giving him a chance to take his art to other parts of the country.

Albany Poets Presents! is an on-going series every-other month at Navrona Restaurant, 289 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY during which a poet/performer who has had an impact upon the local community is showcased with a reading, then an interview & questions & answers from the audience.  For more details check out

August 14, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, August 10

There’s always a good turnout here & especially so with the friends & family of the featured poet, Judith Prest (“if your friends & family don’t come to your readings, who will?”). Our host Catherine Norr keeping order.

There’s an exciting collection of young poets here at Arthur’s Market to talk, workshop & just plain hang out before the open mic & many sign up to read. First up was Sydney Lussier with a couple of journal type entries on “Mislaid Lessons” & on her anxiety of hanging out with friends. This was Megan Sherry’s first time here & she read a piece titled “Exoskeleton” remembering a friend who died last year. Sam Maurice explained that he attempted to write a female Hemingway hero, the result titled “For Everything Lost.” Samuel DeSantis read a complex piece, “That Dragon Cancer,” about a woman, roaring rain, & the disease like an invasive plant.

Shayla Clarke read 2 pieces from her laptop, “Will of the People” about a wished-for magical world, & a more personal piece on the misery of trying to compete “Xed out.” Margaret Bryant read a poem from her book written in a workshop run by Judith Prest, communicating with a rock. Richard Jerin was back with a poem about pen pals learning about each other, another about following a rainbow. Leslie Neustadt (who will be the featured poet here in September) read 2 found poems from the New York Times, “How to Plunge into the Abyss” & “Any Hidden Face.”

Judith Prest read poems from her books Elemental Connections & Late Day Light as well as unpublished pieces, beginning with “Chocolate.” Elemental Connections (Spirit Wind Books) is her latest collection & contains not only her poems but her photos as well, nature poems with herons, the Adirondacks, the ocean in a beautifully produced book. From the 2011 Late Day Light (also Spirit Wind Books) she read poems as memory — of her youth during the Viet Nam War, a poem for her son, one in the voice of her great Aunt speaking from an asylum — & her memories as her entourage. It was a great way for her to celebrate her birthday, reading her poems to a rapt, appreciative audience.

Our host Catherine Norr returned us to the open mic after a break with a new poem, “August.”

Next up, the poet who signed up as Asher Wilcox read her poem “Little Red Bird” based on Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” (Johnson #254), then a very brief & sad “Broken Sky.” I followed with one just written today “Finding Pokémon” then a poem for the season “When Donald Trump Farts.” Ann Stocker read a descriptive piece on the death of a bird, then one she described as “unfinished” titled “A Way of the Cross” about her aunt.

Taylor Pangman read an intricate piece with images jumping from one to the other, titled “Counter Activity.” Raaf could only find 1 of the poems, about a baby platypus, that he intended to read. This was Dan Vollweiler’s first time here & began with “a silly poem” “Ode to Political Wingnuts,” then another silly piece in rhyme “Getting Dressed in Mom Jeans.” Jackie Craven read an old poem, the ironically titled “Priority Mail,” about waiting for books at the New York Public Library.

Susan Jewell’s poem “On Giving Carl Dennis a Ride to the Hilton” was based on a recent, true incident in Saratoga & filled with not only literary allusions but also warnings from her mother. Malcolm Willison read from his intriguing series of descriptive poems about a house in Key West, FL once owned by Elizabeth Bishop, “Afterword” (#13). Karen Fabiane ended the night with one of her classics, “Seeing You Again,” then a new, in-progress piece about intimacies after a party.

This regular monthly reading & open mic takes place at Arthur’s Market in the Schenectady Stockade Section on the 2nd Wednesday, sign-up at 7:00PM, start at 7:30PM, with your host Catherine Norr.

August 11, 2016

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, August 3

During the restoration of Caffè Lena on Phila St. the open mic is being held at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway, & tonight the guest host, filling in for Carol Graser, was — me! I was glad to be able to help out Carol, but doubly pleased because the featured poet was my friend from Ada, OK, the poet Ken Hada, who is also the Director of the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at East Central University in Ada. In honor of the great Okie poets I’ve met at Scissortail I began the night by reading the poem “A Moment in Life” by the late Jim Spurr, who ran a monthly open mic on the third Thursday in Shawnee, OK (which has continued).

Local poet & artist Barbara Garro was the first on the sign-up sheet & read a poem titled “Swan Song.” Sally Rhoades has made the trip to Oklahoma a number of times, & read a couple of related poems, “Fireflies in Cicada” & one from a series written on the Sunday morning after each Scissortail Festival.

He’s back! Charlie Rossiter made his first appearance at a local open mic since moving recently from Chicago, & did one of his old favorites about reading Quincy Troupe & listening to Hayden (complete with drumming on the wooden podium), then a memoir piece “Campus Politics.” When Eric Krantz arrived to sign up he said he had “something completely different” which he did, a humorous political piece, “Di-Di-Oxin,” based on a Hanukkah song.

Ken Hada was back at the Caffè Lena (such as it was tonight) stage as tonight’s featured poet. He began with a new, philosophical piece that quotes Seneca “I Would Like to Say.” His latest book is Persimmon Sunday (Purple Flag Press, 2015). He said the poems in the book are arranged by the 4 seasons, & he read a selection filled with hawks, song birds, the night sky, fish, even rodents & cornstalks. From his 2013 collection Margaritas and Redfish (Lamar University Press) he read 3 poems, including a tale of getting to know wary men at their favorite fishing hole, “Yellow Cottonwoods.” I particularly like his early collection Spare Parts (2010, Mongrel Empire Press) from which he read the short, poignant “Security Guard” & “A Prayer for Old Men.” After reading “Words,” a poem from a new manuscript, he returned to Persimmon Sunday to end with “First Frost” & the title poem. Ken’s reading was warm, contemplative, just like the man himself.

After a short break, I returned to the open mic with a new, political piece “When Donald Trump Farts.”

One of the pleasant surprises of the night was the young poet Nicole Presti who read an intricate piece about celebrity role models who are not, about how to behave in the world, with an impressive use of rhyme for emphasis. Rodney Parrott, who is a regular at these open mics, read another piece from his chapbook Momentary Romances. R.K. Cowles brought a stack of books (notebooks?) to the podium, then did just a couple of short, quirky pieces, spending time to flip through the books looking for poems as part of his performance.

The final — & reluctant — performer made a most rare appearance in front of the mic, cajoled by his wife (Sally Rhoades) & others; Hasan Atalay read a political satire song about Hillary Clinton, “At 70,” based on Janis Ian’s hit “At 17” — the folks who rejected it for a satirical revue missed the boat on this one.

The poetry open mic normally held at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. on the first Wednesday of the month has been held at the Northshire Bookstore the last few months. I’m not sure when the expected return to Caffè Lena will be, but stay tuned for the location & keep the first Wednesday open on your calendar for poetry in Saratoga Springs.

August 5, 2016

Poets in the Park, July 30

This was the last of the season, again with a fabulous local poet & an equally fabulous national poet — Bunkong Tuon & Sarah Browning. We were in Washington Park in front of the Robert Burns statue — before the rain.

B-K Tuon started by paying an appreciative tribute to the local poetry community for its support, then went on to give a fine reading that showed why we like his work (not to mention why we like him). His first poem was “First Snow” from his book Gruel (NYQ Books, 2015). His poems are infused with his experience as a refugee, someone who has gone on to a middle-class life & become a professor of English at Union College. His poem “ESL Lesson” was from his younger days & addressed a confrontation of Cambodian & Vietnamese refugees, whose families could have been on opposite sides in the war, & the poem “Fishing for Trey Platoo” which was also from his book. The new poem, “On a Motorbike in Saigon,” was from an experience during a semester abroad with students. “Heavy like a Sack of Rice” was a horrifying monologue in the voice of a migrant sea-slave worker, based on a New York Times article, while “How Much Does Poetry Make?” was a lighter piece from his refugee family’s point of view, & “Still Water” (from Misfit magazine) told of an adult encounter with bullies while walking with his grandmother. He ended with a poem that he read for audience members with whom he had been discussing language before the reading, “Reciting Alphabets” about learning Khmer from his grandfather.

I first met Sarah Browning when I attended the first Split This Rock Poetry Festival back in 2008; she is a co-founder (with Melissa Tuckey, who read at Poets in the Park in 2013) & currently is the Executive Director of the festival. Today she had been chased up the Thruway by the rain storms heading this way. She began her reading with a couple of poems about the US invasion of Iraq & the city of Baghdad from her book Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007), then on to a couple also in the book about growing up on Chicago’s Southside, “Southside Mermaids” & “That Summer.” The poem “Calling Down the Airwaves” was like a commentary on the Trump candidacy with a character named Hate. Then on to some poems from her forthcoming book titled (currently) Killing Summer, the title poem in 3-parts on racial violence & death in our cities, & “Langston Hughes Joins the Merchant Marine 1923” (& gets rid of all his books except Leaves of Grass!). Sarah described how she is a descendant of slave-owners, & read a couple poems exploring her feelings about this, the poem titled “This is the Poem” telling a friend about her ancestry, & “Drinking as a Political Act,” remembering her father’s mint julips & its plantation origin. She ended with “In Your Darkness” a marriage break-up poem, & then the related, but more humorous “Dr. Bigbeef, or Internet Dating Over 50.” We were so glad she made it here through the storms & the storms here held off for her reading.

It was a stellar season of Poets in the Park, & I hope to be back next year to carry on the tradition started oh so many years ago by Tom Nattell (who I think must’ve helped to save me a couple of primo parking spots this year). Thanks to the Hudson Valley Writers Guild for financial support & to all the folks in our literate, literary community for their support.