May 22, 2017

Bennington Translates: Eliot Weinberger, May 17


I’m a fan of the translations, essays & poetry of Eliot Weinberger so when my comrade-in-poesy & now Bennington, VT resident, Charlie Rossiter, told me that Weinberger would be giving a lecture in the series Bennington Translates at Bennington College we made a date to go. After drinks & a lovely dinner at the home of Charlie & his wife, Mary Ellen Munley, & their guests from Oak Park, Illinois, we drove to the nearby campus, to the Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) symposium room.

Mr. Weinberger was introduced by Marguerite Feitlowitz, founding director of Bennington Translates. He had prepared a lecture, but began it with reading a piece about dreams from the Lacandons, native people of Chiapas, Mexico. The lecture was titled “Ancestry” & was an erudite, scholarly meditation taking off from the poet Nathaniel Mackey’s book Blue Fasa (New Directions, 2015), which Mackey explains in his preface, “samples two distantly related black musical traditions, the West African griot epic The Dausi … and trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s hard bop classic ‘Blue Bossa’ …”


Weinberger led us through the story of “Gassire’s lute” (a myth of the Poet) & the lost city of Wagadu (as first presented to the West by Leo Frobenius), then on to the myth’s appearance in the poetry of early & mid-twentieth century poets, including Ezra Pound’s Cantos, to Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, the poets of the Negritude movement, even to Robert Johnson’s blues & the legend of the crossroads. He described it as “following one small word in many poems…”

This led to a consideration of writing & “crossing borders,” & the use of stories, ideas, sentiments from cultures not our own; he said, “in the arts anything can belong to anyone who thinks & takes the time to learn it.” Weinberger also discussed 2 ends of the poetic spectrum, the autobiographical “I” poets versus the poets concerned solely with the words, finding both lacking. Talking about the old saw, “write what you know,” Weinberger countered that Poetry is Imagination (sounding to my ears much like William Blake).

He ended with a long, chant-like piece “The Stars,” a collaboration from his book An Elemental Thing (New Directions, 2007), followed by a short question & answer period which ran from the erudite to the hyper-theory-ridiculous (to which Weinberger simply said that he didn’t understand the question).

One of my favorite books on the art of poetry & translation is Eliot Weinberger’s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, which examines 19 different translations of one of Wang Wei’s poems, sometimes translated as “The Deer Park.” It was originally published in 1987. Before coming over here I went to retrieve my copy to get it signed only to realize that I’d given it away (which shows how good I think it is). Happily, when speaking to Mr. Weinberger before the lecture he told me that there is a new edition just out from New Directions, which was for sale at the reading. The new edition includes “more ways” & some, at times hilarious, commentary.  I highly recommend it to any poets, but particularly to those interested in Chinese poetry or translations in general.

Nitty Gritty Slam #127, May 16


On the third Tuesday of each month the Nitty Gritty Slam (which also takes place as an open mic only on the 1st Tuesday of the month at The Low Beat) holds a, well, Slam, hosted by Amani O+, aided & assisted by Alfonso Rodriquez. But there is also an open mic. That’s more my speed.

Amani opened up the night with a reading of “Black G.U.R.L. Fly” from her book Here We Are At The Gate: Book 1 of the Amani O+ Rebelutionary Series. I read a couple poems, “What Makes America Great #14” (from a series of true stories from the Trump Era), then an even newer poem “The Day God Invented Wine.”

Mz Tu also has a book out & read 2 poems from it, “Eaten Alive” (a lion & a gazelle) & one about conflict on the job “The Confederate Symbol.” L-Majesty’s piece, “Malacaust,” about the website Grindr. Ramon had 2 pieces, a personal one using images of prison, then a political poem on the Statue of Liberty.

One of the features of The Low Beat is Selena’s Kitchen, serving up plates of chicken, rice & beans & other dishes. Amani & Alphonso read the menu as a savory performance piece. Elizag gave us her “7 Reasons Why I Can’t Write 30 Poems in 30 Days.” Alfonso was back with a solo piece, “Better,” on the death of his mother. Poetik read about magic, “make room for the best things…” Aliya/Ay She Writes began with a short piece of self-affirmation with wings & broomsticks, then another on low self-esteem.

In between it all, DJ Trumstrand kept the room filled with sound. On to the Slam, with Olivia McKee serving as the “sacrificial”/practice poet for the 3 judges to score & ended up with a near-perfect 29.5.

There were only 4 poets signed up for the Slam: Mz Tu, Elizag, L-Majesty, & Mariah Barber, so all 4 did the first 2 rounds, Mariah scoring a perfect 30 in the first round. But after the 2nd round it was Mariah & L-Majesty to go head to head for the final round in a closely scored contest with Mariah taking 1st place, L-Majesty 2nd & Elizag announced as the 3rd place winner.

The Low Beat is at 335 Central Ave. The Nitty Gritty Slam is there on the 1st Tuesday for an open mic & the 3rd Tuesday for the Slam & an open mic, starts 7:00/7:30PM.

May 18, 2017

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 14



This Mothers Day edition of the open mic at the Arts Center in Troy was held upstairs in the conference room, Karen Fabiane helped shed more natural light on us by moving the curtains. The co-hosts were, per usual, Nancy Klepsch & me, Dan Wilcox.

Diane Sefcik has been making it out to more open mics of late, she read a couple of animal poems, “Baboon” & “Elephant” & one from on the road in Iowa, “Rain.” Howard Kogan read once again the richly multi-cultural description of “Kitsilano Beach” in Vancouver, B.C., then the equally richly imagined “On the Eve of My Birth.”

Dave DeVries read a couple long poems celebrating the past, “American Made” contrasting the 1951 Chevy with his current 2013 Mini Cooper, then “1961” & baseball. Bob Sharkey also started off with a memoir piece “Ten Pounds,” & another of his variations on fortune cookies “Must Have Cost a Fortune.” I began with a new poem “Today’s Typo” based on a poem in American Poetry Review then, as a tribute to my mother, read “Going Postal.” Nancy Dunlop read a piece she had read at the Readings Against the End of the World, what she said was “an anti-Mothers Day poem,” “Persephone & Demeter,” then a poem on grieving & dying “Sisters.” Peggy LeGee read from the pad she had written the poem on, twisting & turning it like a performance piece “My Mothers Day Dedication.”

My co-host Nancy Klepsch read a poem that came out of Bernadette’s workshop, based on a conversation with Jil about an old Girl Scout manual, “Head Scout.” Karen Fabiane read 2 poems from a 30/30 poetry project, the first about a chance sighting on Cooper Square in NYC “Pepper,” the 2nd “The Tarts” basically a free-flowing description of what she was doing at the time: baking. Jil Hanifan read the mash-up “Departmental Politics/‘Commute’” then the 2-part piece remembering her prior life as a concert musician “Thus Spake Zarathustra.” Mike Conner brought it all home with 2 poems about voices, one not by him about a mother’s voice, & then his own rhetorical introspection “Whose Voice?”

One more open mic for this season at the Arts Center in Troy, next month on the 2nd Sunday @ 2PM, than a brief break for the Summer. We will be back in the Fall.

May 15, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, May 10


It’s been a few months since I was last at this reading/open mic in Schenectady, what with weather, travel, & other commitments, so I was glad to get back there. Our host is Catherine Norr, who has a lovely singing voice & began with singing just a verse from the sad Irish song “She Moved through the Fair.”

Alan Catlin read “Recurring Graduate School High Anxiety Dream Poem” which he had attempted to read read last month, but had the wrong 2nd page. Richard Jerin read “There Are Blue Skies” & a lost-love poem, both with the introductions carefully written out.

Susan Jewell read a 2-part poem that she said was an experiment with tempo, an intense, fast-paced 1st part, followed by a slower, calmer 2nd part. Scott Morehouse said he is inspired by coming here to the open mic, read “Lip Reading” a portrait of an aging woman by a description of her mouth. Mary Panza read an untitled piece thinking about the past as she ages, then a poem for her daughter “The Little Blond.” Jackie Craven read “a science fiction poem” published in a feminist journal “Darwin’s Daughter in the Year 2135.”

Today’s featured poet was Philomena Moriarty who began with a selection of poems from her “spiritual memoir” My Moon Self (Bodhicitta Press, 2015), “If Poems Were Wishes,” “Walking on Rice Paper,” “Walking Meditation,” “Prayer Is…,” “St. Philomena,” & “Romance.” Then on to a couple of memoir poems, “Survivor” (as child in Buffalo taking chances), & “Shape Shifting.” She ended by returning to the book’s final poem “Benefaction.” Although I am familiar with the poems in Philomena’s book, it is always a pleasure to hear her reading them aloud.

After a break, our host, Catherine Norr, read her poem “Coffee Break” then a poem from a workshop in 2009 “Cento for All of Us.” Manuel Bonilla read “My Future Wife,” a letter of what he would say to her. Phyllis Kulmatiski read a descriptive piece, with touches of humor, about where they stayed in Cancun.

Issa Pulley’s poem “Buyer Beware” was a narrative in rhyme. Betty Zerbst also read poems in rhyme, “Farewell Tune” & “Back in Time.” Malcolm Willison read a sad, humorous piece, like a long song lyric, “Leftovers,” then a haiku. I read “What Makes America Great #26” (about the Chipmunk Cafe) & “The Day God Invented Wine.” Ginny Folger read a descriptive piece from a visit to Rome “Eternal City.”

Each 2nd Wednesday of the month there is an open mic at 7:30PM at Arthur’s Market in the historic Stockade section of Schenectady, NY. Next month’s featured poet will be Me! Hope to see you there.

May 9, 2017

Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest Reading, May 7



This was the 2nd year of the Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest run by local poet Bob Sharkey & his family. It is a unique contest in that there is no fee, poets may submit only 1 poem, but it can be any length, any style, on any subject & may even be previously published. This year they received 155 submissions, down from last year’s numbers, but of an overall higher quality, according to Bob.



He had organized the reading with Honorable & High Honorable Mention winners, then the Winners, followed by other Finalists. In between Bob talked about his experience with running the contest. He selected Mark W. O’Brien to read first, “It Is In the Shelter of Each Other that People Live,” because the poem was like a blessing. Carol Graser followed with “Dissolving the Distance Between You,” then Jodi Ackerman Frank with “Dr. Kwan Kew Lai’s Refrigerator” (about a physician active in the fight against the Ebola epidemic).

Dineen Carta read her poem of 21st Century dating, the ironically titled “Lovestory,” Anthony Bernini “The Dance of Dish and Glass,” & Dianne Sefcik read an eco-poem “Pipe.” Bob noted that there were a number of entries of a political nature & one example was “Not My President” read by Karen Fabiane.

Fourth place winner was Andy Fogle, who could not attend, so Bob read Andy’s poem “Granted Dominion."  Third place was Phyllis Hillinger who read “What Was Once Solid.” Bob said that the largest category of poems were ones in exotic setting, & Second place winner Ken Holland read his poem, “The Osterias Are Tipping Prosecco,” set in Venice.

An added perk for the First Place winner, in addition to the check, was the opportunity to read more than just the winning entry. Cheryl A. Rice began with a poem written after the November election, “I Hear America.” Her winning poem, “Your Service,” was about her uncle, a World War II veteran, who is still alive & living in Florida. But before she read the poem there was a teary moment when she read a letter from him responding to her sending him a copy of the poem.

In mentioning the Best Out of State Winner, Marc Levy who could not attend to read his poem about recalling his experience in Viet Nam, “Anabasis By Night,” Bob talked about his friend Stephen A. DiBiase after whom the contest is named; Stephen was a Viet Nam vet much scarred by his experience there who urged Bob & his other friends to do all they could not to serve in Viet Nam. One friend spent time in a federal prison & Bob became a conscientious objector who did alternative service in the Albany Medical Center.

Paul Amidon was the first of the finalists, read “Directions for Success,” Thérèse Broderick read “Tents of Jordan,” & Tom Corrado explained that his poem “Where Utopians Sport Recoilless Doc Martins” was #334 in his ever-growing series “Screen Dumps.”

Virginia Bach Folger not only read her poem “Summer, Maine, 1968” (which gave Bob an excuse to talk about where he grew up in Portland, ME), but also read “Dream a Little Dream of Me: Visiting Louis Armstrong’s Birthplace” by another finalist, Catherine Norr, who was unable to attend.

& speaking of Portland, Maine, that’s where finalist Rebecca Irene drove down from to read her moving poem “Dear Daughters Our World Spins Round.” Nancy Klepsch read “Before You Know Gratitude,” then Joe Krausman had us laughing as he read “Organ Lessons.” Kathleen Smith read her poem “Litany,” & another out-of-town winner, Martin Willitts Jr. made the trip from Syracuse to read “Symphony.”

It was an especially good gathering of poets & poems, indicative of the high quality of work submitted to this year’s contest. By the way, Bob asks each entrant to the contest to mention the last book of poetry they had read & the poet mentioned by the most entrants was Mary Oliver, not that one could tell that by the poems read today -- each unique & indicative of the great diversity of the poets out there crafting their own poems.

May 8, 2017

Yes! a Reading Series, May 6


The last of the season (which seem to coincide with the academic year), at the new location of the Albany Center Gallery, Matthew Klane our solo host tonight.

Emily Barton Altman was the 1st of the 3 readers & she began with “Disassemblage” a long poem with ghosts, based loosely on fairy tales, then immediately into pieces titled “Of the Body” & “You Are Not in California.” These were short poems, read without any intro or seque, my first impression was that she doesn’t go to many poetry readings. A piece titled “A Performance” was unintentionally ironic, since her poems are definitely not performances — no gestures, no modulation of her voice, no engagement with the audience. She let the work stand for itself, but that is difficult when the poems fly by & the listener (as opposed to a reader) has no way to go back to it. It seemed to me that “Composition” was an elegy, & her poem “Bodies of Water” was like a conversation. She ended with a sonnet which was more intricate linguistically than her shorter pieces & although I liked it best I could’ve used to a guide to what I was hearing.

Both Emily & her partner Toby Altman are from Chicago, passing thru on a mini-tour it seems. Toby began from his book, Arcadia, Indiana (Plays Inverse, 2017), poems with Oedipus & the Sphinx as characters, more like short plays or linked monologues. From there on to a long poem full of wordplay & sex “Theory of Tragedy at the Crossroads of America” then from a new project on mid-century urban utopian projects, he also had a poem as a performance outline “Idea for Performance.”

Alifair Skebe read from each of her poetry collections, beginning with her 2004 Post Card: Les Lettres d’Amour/Love Letters: Les Cartes Postales, then a little from her long poem El Aqua Es la Sangre de la Tierra (Finishing Line Press, 2008). But mostly she read from the recent FootHills Publishing collection Thin Matter. Speaking of performance, Alifair is a good example of how to make a reading a performance without the bombast of a Slam, with her expressive gestures, modulation of her voice, eye contact with the audience, even stomping her feet a couple times, as well as odd printed signs glossing/foot-noting her poems at times. She included one of my favorites, “Desire,” a poem whose lines can be read in any order. Ironically, she offered a broadside of the poem for sale, freezing the lines into (one) order.

I do hope that Yes! will be back in the Fall with more intriguing, experimental poets from near & far.

May 7, 2017

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, May 5


This seasonal series started up last month but I missed it. Glad to be back at the Pine Hollow Arboretum for another series, with the Bird, Alan Casline, as our watershed host.

First up for the open mic was Dianne Sefcik who began with a poem filled with rivers, trees & fish, “Looking for America Too” inspired by the work of Michael Robinson (1948 - 2010) Cree artist & poet, then a work-in-progress, an opening ceremony titled “Clear the Way,” & another ceremony poem “Fire Keeper.” Mark O’Brien also read 3 poems, “A Snake Must Have Bit Me,” “The Power of Maintaining Life,” & the poem that got him a check from the Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, “It is in the Shelter of Each Other that People Live.” I followed with the haibun I contributed to Mark’s Blog, “Last Train to Clarksville,” & then the new poem “The Day God Invented Wine” (that I promptly spilled my glass of wine on). Howard Kogan read a poem, “Old Men Talking,” from his series of poems based in Stephentown, NY, then a poem about the international nature of a beach in Vancouver, BC.

Mike Connor read a couple of descriptive nocturnal poems, “Evening Ramble” & “Night-time,” then a poem titled “May 1st” from his new chapbook, Seasonal Musings. The man-behind-the-trees at Pine Hollow Arboretum, John Abbuhl, read a short essay, “The Weakness Within Politics” from his on-going series, The Philosophy of Reality. Tom Corrado read about “what I talk about when I talk about poetry” in his series of “Screen Dumps” #360 & #361. Alan Casline read 2 poems, “Moving Roots” & “Red the Cow” that had been published in an anthology River of Dreams. Philomena Moriarty began with her newest poem, an exercise titled “The Spaces Between Us,” then a poem filled with ice, mud & snow “The Walk,” & a rediscovered poem for a friend who died of liver cancer “Parcels, for Jeanne.” Peter Boudreaux read a timely poem, given today’s date, “Cinco de Mayo,” musings while working in a garden.

The featured poet was Adam Tedesco, the founding editor of the new poetics journal Reality Beach. He read the entirety of his new chapbook, Ablaza (Lithic Press, 2017), a poem written for the first guy with whom he ever smoked a joint. It is a solidly first person narrative (of sorts) full of “I” & “we.” He was accompanied by James Matlock on guitar, whose dreamy repetitions fit easily behind Adam’s low-key, elegaic reading, filled with memory, musings & pot-soaked links & leaps, at a slow, stoner’s pace.

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky continues, sometimes on the first Friday of the month, sometimes on the second Friday, through November, 6:30 PM (or come early for the pot-luck — no, not that kind of pot — dinner), at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY.

May 5, 2017

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, May 3


The sign-up for the open mic at Caffè Lena starts at 7:00, but when I got there about 7:15 the list had gone to a 2nd page so, as an act of mercy to those who be still there at the end, I didn’t sign up. Carol later said there were 32 on the list. The room was packed but there were available seats at friendly tables. At first I thought they were all there for featured poet Bernadette Mayer, benefitting the 2nd feature, Kate McNairy, by giving her a great audience too, & indeed that was some of it. But it turned out an English teacher from the high school brought a flock of her students to read in the open mic which accounted for almost a quarter of the open mic list.

Our host, Carol Graser, started off the night with Jane Hirshfeld’s political poem “On the 5th Day,” then limited the open mic readers to 1 poem. Barbara Garro usually manages to get herself to the end of the list, but tonight was first, with a poem about a horse from what she described as “the second book of the Barbara Garro series.” Nicola Marae Allain read a tale about a bird finding its way back to Tahiti. Joe Bruchac followed with a piece titled “7 Samurai Revisited.” Kat’s piece was about trying to be humble & not drowned in issues, while Margaret Bryant read about the new music at weddings, missing the standards from her generation. Sally Rhoades read a poem about “the last moonshine on the snow.” Dan Wohlmeiler read a humorous rap piece, “The Nerd Life.” You can find the piece that Mark O’Brien read about his 1st grandchild here on his blog.

The first of the night’s 2 featured poets was Kate McNairy, who read from both her books from Finishing Line Press, the recently issued Light to Light, & her 2014 June Bug. Her poems are short, many less than half a page, & she read them without introductions, sometimes rushing through them, asking us to hold applause to the end. While many of her poems are based in Nature, there are the occasional poems about drinking bourbon, or rum tea, & some tender & often off-beat love/sex poems. When read, some of the poems go by too fast so it is nice to have her books to return to them later.

I have been at some open mics & other readings recently where the poet says “this is a poem from Bernadette Mayer’s workshop…” Even I have a couple like that. Bernadette began her reading with a timely poem from her 2005 New Directions collection Scarlet Tanager the feisty “To A Politician.” She also read from a collaboration with Laynie Browne from a book about bees, & from the 2016 Works & Days. She also has a “rap” poem, “Words that Rhyme with Disease," & read a poem written on her 70th birthday, “Walking Like a Robin.” “Soul Sermon” is a long, free-association ramble, while “The Great Outdoors” was about what the title says, as was “Tassawassa Blues” playing on “blue.”

At the break all the “professors” left, although most of the open mic poets were yet to read, an all-too-frequent happening here. Carol Graser continued the open mic with her hopeful political poem “Women March on Washington All Over the World.” Alan Casline also read a political poem, “At the Far End” with it’s refrain “I had no idea…”

Philip Good read a poem reacting to the recent film Paterson “Thanks For Making the Film Better, Ron Padgett.” Anna Feldstein read 2 poems, because she is a volunteer here & was in the kitchen & didn't hear when Carol laid down the “one-poem” rule. Kim Yasick did a love poem from memory “Like the Sea.” Serena’s poem titled “Sleeping with Books Instead” was an exploration of what “Serena” means. Julia Kelly, a high school senior read, a poem inspired by Bob Dylan’s song “My Back Pages.”

Sophie Kelly (Julia’s sister) did a piece form memory about the perception of her self “Entwined.” Henry’s poem about “what Narcissus means to me” was inspired by a poem by Tony Hoagland. Max read a bit of wordplay “The Breaks.” Bridget Gallagher was the high school English teacher who had not only brought her students here tonight, but it seems inspired them as well, read a Slam-style piece “A Belly-Scratcher in the Morning.” Thomas Dimopoulos read an elegy about the 1982 death of the ground-breaking writer, Lester Bangs, who taught the world how to write about rock’n’roll. Nancy DeNofio read a love poem “The Night Before.” Carol Shipstar’s poem was titled “Moonlight.” Rodney Parrott read from his daily Tweets about Donald Trump. Anthony Bernini’s poem was set in Florida on “Jensen Beach.”

This was Julia McDonald’s first reading & she enthralled us with “Prison of Convenience” about using public bathrooms. On Julie Lomoe’s 44th wedding anniversary she read a poem about her obsession with jigsaw puzzles, both real & digital. Rob Smith, who was also celebrating the aforementioned anniversary, read a faux memoir of San Francisco by a heteronym Ember Stokes. W.D. Clarke read a memoir in rhyme “With a Mother’s Love at Breakfast.” Phana (or was it Chana?) read a piece about the things she will tell her daughter. The final reader, Suzanne Margano, ended the night quietly with a descriptive sonnet.

While not always as crowded as tonight, this open mic is held on the 1st Wednesday of each month at the refurbished Caffè Lena, still on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, 7:30PM start, so get there early & sign up.

April 30, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, April 24


WordFest 2017 may be over but poetry continues in Albany, Poetry Month or not. Our host, Mary Panza, was still recovering from co-hosting the 24-hour Reading Against the End of the World, but that didn’t diminish her usual verve. & it was a good list for the open mic. 3B was here, as usual, & provided me afterwards with some of his notes which are included below, verbatim.

Number 1 slot on the list was blank, so I signed up there & began with my Haibun “Last Train to Clarksville” & a brand new poem you can find on my Facebook page, “The Day God Invented Wine.” [3B: Wilcox talking about “Hi Buns” set the tone of sophisticated wordsmithing with pilfered Boyce & Hartly lyrics. Mocking Meet Me at the Station. Philistine.]

Alifair Skebe read a couple poems from her series on Thanatos & Psyche spinning off from the Greek myths; I’m already looking forward to the book. Dawn Marar reprised the intense, violent poem, “Bartender,” that she had read at her Third Thursday feature, this time explaining its basis in a novel she wrote. [3B: Dawn — music notes — Bang Coke — chicken wings Bar — Scumbags — Poughkeepsie in the 90s.] Carol Graser’s poem “Winter 2017,” cold & severe, was her way of writing about the current political situation. Don Levy read 2 poems based on his experience on Facebook, “Facebook Suggests” & “This Modest Mom.” [3B: Don Levy made folks laugh and ordered fish.]

Tonight’s featured poet was Carol Jewell, a graduate of the College of St. Rose’s short-lived MFA in Creative Writing program, & a master of the pantoum, of which she read half a dozen, including her first piece about gardening & worms. Other pantoums included “Revelation,” & her own invention, the cento pantoum, of which she read #1 & #2, which was composed of lines from other poets’ pantoums. Other “literary” pieces were the clever “Palindrome,” a short poem after Adrienne Rich, the humorous faux lecture “Literary Devices,” & a poem about trying to write a poem at the end of the semester “I Should Have.” There were some sexy poems about being in a hammock (“Embrace”), a fantasy of running thru the neighbor’s sprinklers (“Flashing”), & “Funtime,” & poems about the deceased. She ended with the defiant & anaphoric “This Is Not The Story” (“… of a girl who…”). A skillful variety of poems, enough to please everyone. [3B: “Hudson River School” ogre & vibe to her work. What’s a pantoon? is it a mashup?]

Sylvia Barnard was back here after a hard Winter & reprised her poem from last week “2 Blind Mice,” then thoughts on aging, considering a tortoise in the London Zoo. [3B: My beloved childhood dog was named Sylvia.] Joe Krausman successfully linked President Obama, the Pope & the Temple Wall in “Life is a Gamble So Talk to the Wall,” then read “Metamorphosis” about a skin disease. [3B: Joe Krausman — the knish of Poetry is big on foreplay.]

Magic surprised us with a just-written rhyme about being asked to read in the open mic tonight, then, with encouragement, did another rhyme about growing up. [3B: Mecca/Magic — Improv! Yeah! very punk rock!] Sally Rhoades read 2 father poems, “At the Heart of a Metaphor” written on the train to NYC, then “Wanting” in which she responds to the poet Jennifer Luckenbill with whom I read at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Oklahoma recently. Carrie Czwakiel read 2 poems about being alone, one titled “Break the Mold.” Karen Fabiane read again “Peeling” (for which I am grateful, getting a better understanding on re-hearing it), then a 2-part diner poem. Julie Lomoe, who got here a little late, read about asking favors “The Ben Franklin Effect.”

Poets Speak Loud! happens most last Mondays of the month (not in May!) at McGeary's down on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.  Get there early & have dinner!


April 26, 2017

Albany WordFest: Readings Against the End of the World, Friday to Saturday, April 21 - 22


The original version of Readings Against the End of the World happened annually from 1984 to 1993, pre-dated internet, cellphone photography, Blogs — for the back-story see my full write-up here & photos at my Flickr! site. There has been talk for years to bring this series back, but now the time (i.e., the abject political situation, like that of the Reagan era for the original Readings) & the access to space & support was right.

& the timing was perfect. For a number of years Albany WordFest, coordinated by AlbanyPoets.com, has been held the 3rd week of April, which sometimes coincides with Earth Day on April 22. It was as if Tom Nattell's stardust was dust sprinkled on us all to make this happen again, with the Science March on Saturday (Tom was a trained research scientist) & with the down-to-earth logistics arranged by Jil Hanifan of the UAlbany Writing Center. & student volunteers pulling all-nighters.

Photo by Sally Rhoades
We began on Friday, April 21 at Husted Hall on the UAlbany Downtown Campus, sometime after 7:00PM with 3 Guys from Albany (Charlie Rossiter & I) performing one of Tom Nattell’s last poems (& perhaps his last performance piece) “I Beat My Drum.” Then other veterans from the original Readings Against the End of the World, Darby Penney with some poems written at work, Ken Denberg reading of Winter & hawks, Nancy Klepsch who included her Tom tribute poem, & Charlie Rossiter who began his set with his inspiring “Reading Black Snake Solos listening to Haydn” accompanying himself with claves, to fill up the opening hour.

The schedule of 15 minute slots was filled up to 2:00AM, which is not to say there weren’t some no-shows along the way, but don’t expect to read here about every poet on the list — I like poetry, but, as Groucho Marx once said “I like my cigar but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.”

There was Sally Rhoades reading her poem about Joy Harjo (online here), & in her pink pussy hat reading about “Flamingos in Cyprus.” Mark O’Brien (also online) read a variety of old & new poems. R.M. Englehardt, among his usual poems, read a long environmental-themed poem about stupid monkeys. Tess Lecuyer took us on “a trip around the Sun” with poems written in each month.

Nancy Dunlop read her “Sentence Snatcher” piece, as well as other poems on writing, ending with “a prayer for poets.”  Thom Francis filled in, after Don Levy sent a text to host Mary Panza that he was having allergies & wouldn’t be there, then Avery, on the schedule later, also filled in & included a rhyming poem he was going to do if he followed Brian Dorn. At this point it was about 10:00PM & me & my guests (Charlie & Mary Ellen) needed a break, so home we went, some bourbon & to bed.

Charlie & came back the next morning, around 10:00AM, having missed a few regulars on the open mic scene, such as Howard Kogan, Joe Krausman & Julie Lomoe, & at the tale-end of a break for yet another gap. This is not at all unusual for the RAEW; it was common during the original series, particularly during the wee hours of the early AM, the schedule expanding & contracting (even wheezing sometimes) like an old accordion.

Anthony Bernini arrived not only with his entourage to swell the audience, but also wearing an original RAEW tee shirt — I had mine on & Charlie wore an even earlier version. Anthony read a poem he had read at RAEW on April 28, 1990 “The Banks of the Stream,” & included, as many did, a political poem, “After Election Day on 5th Ave.” Carol Graser also included a recent political piece, “On the Women’s March in Washington,” among poems about her mother’s closet, health insurance & Girl Scout Cookies.

Tom Riley, after being teased by host Mary Panza about his poems for the AlbanyPoets journal Up The River, Tom read poems from “59 years of accumulating people & things” & living in the house where he grew up. Cheryl A. Rice came up from Kingston to read “a couple of random poems,” including a project about the Ziegfield Follies of 1919, & her obsession with The Wizard of Oz, as well as a memoir of early years in Kingston.

We were ahead of schedule so Mary Panza read from a series of text messages & Facebook posts from Don Levy to stall, then, as the saying goes, “Speak of the Devil,” in strolled Don (with such magic power, I’m relieved Mary didn’t mention Donald Trump or Marine LePen), just in time to fill in for another no-show (“they’ll rue the day”). Don’s poems were classic Don including a reaction to a homophobic woman’s Facebook post about gay Disney characters “This Modest Mom,” & a poem about riding on the bus (subject of many of his Facebook posts).

Carol’s Girl Scout cookies poem was an assignment from Bernadette Mayer’s workshop & Karen Schoemer also read her poem in response to the assignment, a villanelle with the line "Spring is backwards" (which would make it gnirps I think), also a poem about an exhibit of photos by Diane Arbus. Mike Jurkovic, who had driven up from downstate with Cheryl eschewed the mic, as he is wont to do, for his poems, beginning with the reminder that “Gravity Gets Us All.”

The next hour, & more, was filled with readings by the Writing Center tutors. Unfortunately, they did not always clearly introduce each other, I guess assuming others knew who they were, but the rest of us did not — some of the names I “caught,” others I may have got wrong, feel free to post corrections in the comments section — & most read the works of others. The notable exception was the youngest reader who read wonderfully, albeit shyly, onomatopoeic pieces about rain, colors & “The Faucet” (when was the last time you thought to write a poem about a piece of plumbing?). Then her Mom read Ernesto Cardenal’s “The Word.” Joe Wozlonis read odes by Pablo Neruda. Kat (?) also read some Neruda (in both Spanish & English), as well as Tom Robbins, & poems by a friend & her friend’s Mom. Stacie Klinowski (who said she had been here since 5AM) read poems from a huge, fat anthology, poems by Carl Sandburg, Joy Harjo, Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich. Brenna read poems by the British poet Stevie Smith, while Amy Vincent read from a friend’s manuscript, a series of short poems titled “Plainspeak, Wyoming.”

Following that, Samuel Weinstein, who has read a couple times in Troy & at the Social Justice Center, introduced his friend Jacqueline, who read; one of Samuel’s poems was written when he was 10 years old, titled “Cheese.”

Frequent Albany open mic poet Thérèse Broderick began with an essay on Poetry & Science (the Science March was happening downtown here, & across the Earth today), then some poems published in the UAlbany journal Barzhak.

Speaking of the Science March, I had planned to take time off to be there, so headed out, got some lunch then joined thousands of other citizens in West Capitol Park, science-protectors of all ages. Plenty of students, parents, folks with imaginative signs, all of whom could have felt comfortable at the Readings Against the End of the World. The best sign I saw was one that bridged that gap: “Science is the Poetry of Reality.”

Later, I returned to the Readings as Siobahn Hotaling was reading some tender, anxious New York City-based love poems. Victorio Reyes shared some erasure poems based on hip-hop tracks, other poems for Sandra Bland, Jessica Hernandez, others, Rant 1 & 2, & a take on a Billy Collins poem “Emily D. & Some Dude.” Victorio introduced the next reader, Laurin DeChae, who began with Audre Lorde’s “Black Unicorn,” then other poems.

Tim Stowell, who was actually signed up, said this was his 2nd reading ever, & read the only poem he had read in public, about the death of a son, then took us on a tour of the favorite childrens’ books of his sons; in an interesting connection to the earlier schedule Tim included a poem written by Avery Stempl for the mother of his deceased son, Ben. Kareem the Dream was also on the schedule, & had to be coaxed into doing a second piece, both were hip-hop social justice commentary — the schedule was in a dead zone of multiple cancellation on the way to the final hour of the organizers’ readings. We took a break, then —

The final hour, or so, began with me. I bookended my reading with poems by Tom Nattell, one of his “Christopher Columbus Fantasies” & the Spring-time “Aviary Baptism;” in between I included a poem about one of Tom’s earliest planned readings at the QE2, “Where Were the Professors?” which is, sadly, still so relevant. In some ways it even applies to some of the folks involved in this project who read earlier but then never bothered to return to support other readers, to show solidarity with poets, students, & other poetry lovers who hung out, clapped for the readers, & celebrated the power of the creative act, theirs & those of others.

Jil Hanifan, who was so instrumental in putting the pieces together to make this happen, who served as tag-team host with Mary Panza, was next, with a selection of her urban wildlife poems about vacant lots, rabbits, Iroquois “little people,” even witches, & one of my favorite poems “St. Christopher’s School Bus.”

It was only (or mostly, or absolutely) appropriate that the reader to bring us on home to 7:00PM was the sleep-deprived Mary Panza, with a selection of 3 of her “House Wife Tuesdays” blogs to be found on AlbanyPoets.com. As it should be, it was Mary Against the World, or at least against the school mates & Moms who bullied her daughter (who, I must point out, handled herself very well — olives don’t fall far from the tree, etc., etc.).

& then it was done — after 24 years, another Readings Against the End of the World — for now, the world has not ended, “the creative act” has prevailed, & Tom Nattell’s stardust was sprinkled on us all.

So, as Uncle Wiggly once said, “if the rising seas don’t wipe out Los Angeles & New York City, & if the crazy-hair guys, Donald Trump & Kim Jong-un, don’t drop The Big One on us all, we will see you next year for Readings Against the End of the World, 2.2.

Peace!

[Note: More photos can be found here in the Readings Against the End of the World album on my flick site.]

April 24, 2017

Albany WordFest, Thursday, April 20


Back when the Albany WordFest was a weekend event, the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, which I run, was designated the “Unofficial Official Start of WordFest.” But now that WordFest is a week-long event, we are folded into the fold (so to speak). & it was great evening with new names/faces, the valiant regulars & an inspiring featured poet, Kathleen McCoy. But first we invoked the Muse, tonight, sadly, one of our own, the recently gone Moses A. Kash III; I read from one of his self-published zines & a manuscript page, as well as talked about his presence in the community.

First up for the open mic was a regular, Richard Jerin, to read a tribute poem to his “Friends.”

 Lois Sorrell was a new face & read another poem about friends, another kind, the ones who are judgmental & superficial, & not supportive. Kate McNairy read a short poem of love & sex, “He;” she has a new chapbook out from Finishing Line Press, Light to Light. Alan Catlin set the tone for the evening by reading an elegaic poem for his son’s 4th grade teacher, “The Burning Songbook: Requiem for Mixed Chorus Solo Voices & Orchestra.” Julie Lomoe’s poem was about singing in the chorus at the Troy Music Hall “Blinded by the Spotlights” trying to see the audience.

Tonight’s featured poet, Kathleen McCoy, read from her book of elegies for the women in her life, on the occasion of the death of her mother a few years ago, More Water than Words (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She began with “Hy-Brasil” a mythical island off the coast of Ireland (for a colleague who died of cancer), then a poem for her mother the version of “Green & Burning Oak: Glas Agus a Dhó” in the new chapbook, which is the tile poem of her 2016 Word Tech Edition collection, from which she read next. “Lindow Man” was a meditation on a bog mummy, then an elegy for her horse from 30 years ago, “The Chosen One.” “Dream of the Holy Hands” was a shaped poem, & “Demeter & Persephone” a poem for her daughter. At this point my recorder failed & what other marvelous poems she read after that, I have no record. But I do have these books to return to & the memory of her reading to remind me of her cadences.

After a short break to buy books, I read my Haibun recently published on Mark W. O’Brien’s Blog, 36 Views of Ononta’kahrhon “Last Train to Clarksville.” Brian Dorn read “Tears of Lake George” about the tragic sinking of the tourist boat Ethan Allen & the death of 20 passengers. Sue Oringel chose from 3 Spring poems to read “An Exorcism of Sorts” about Spring cleaning making room for her life. Sylvia Barnard read a new piece “2 Blind Mice” curled up in the drain cup of her sink, continuing what Sue said was “elegy night.”

Betty Zerbst came down here with Richard Jerin, she new here but has been writing poetry since a teenager; she read “A Letter Back in Time to Myself at 17” a autobiographical summary.

More WordFest to come & more third Thursdays, here at the Social Justice Center, 7:30, a donation supports poetry & the work of the SJC. A featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.


April 23, 2017

Albany WordFest, Wednesday, April 19


The 3rd night of the WordFest was the bi-monthly Albany Poets Presents! at Restaurant Navona on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY. It is a showcase for a writer who has had an impact upon the life & work of AlbanyPoets’ el presidente Thom Francis, who serves as host for the event. Tonight that poet was R.M. Engelhardt. Indeed, Rob was one of the founders of AlbanyPoets, & the host & coordinator of a number of series of open mics in the region, including Vox, School of Night, Saint Poem &, currently, Troy Poetry Mission.

Rob, in signature black, & a long dress, began his reading with a characteristic piece combing words, booze & coffee, “Interview with a Poet Isolationist,” & into a series of pieces that turned out to be one poem about being a romantic outsider, a favorite theme, as he in the next piece romanticized about being “old.” Then back to using titles (which I appreciate for note-taking), “Into the Great Unknown,” “Winter Smoke” (clove-flavored I’m sure), the long “Saint Poem,” one to his wife (who was not here) “Murmur,” another characteristic divine encounter “God Says,” a preachy “Coffee Ass Blues” about changing the world, an attempt at humor “Ah Poetic,” more preaching in “In the Kingdom of Night, or Be Thankful” & ending on another fantasy as an old man “Forget the Dust.”

"Robert Engelhardt," QE2, 4/22/91
The unique feature of this event is the Q&A with the writer after the reading, that always begins with Thom Francis asking “what got you into writing?” Rob’s answer was simple, “Comic books.” Then on to questions about going to the QE2 where not there was not only an ongoing punk music scene but regular poetry events. Other questions related to Rob’s early involvement with a poetry series at the suburban pastry & coffee shop, Stephanucci’s, & his other poetry venues. Rob explained that he wanted to do “something different,” thus his attempts at themed readings, such as the Edgar Allen Poe events around Halloween.

Rob has been active on the poetry scene off & on since 1991. He was perennially listed on the defunct Metroland’s list of Best Poet’s list somewhere in the top 3 year after most year. His latest venue is Troy Poetry Mission at O’Briens Public House on 3rd St. in Troy on the last Wednesday of each month — it says “7:30PM” but there’s no point in showing up too early, it’s on Rob time.

Albany WordFest, Tuesday, April 18


The 2nd night of WordFest was the annual Haiku Competition at Nitty Gritty Slam held at The Low Beat on Central Ave. Amani was our host here, as she is each month, setting us up with “poetry is revolutionary.” She did a did an up-beat, strangely new-age-y piece that she said was “from y’all to y’all” titled “Remember Who You Are.”  [Guest commentator, 3B at the bar, had these notes: "Spitting over some John Denver ambient.  Lot of words."]

There was, in addition to the Haiku Slam, an open mic, but I did as I usually do, just signed up for the Slam.

Mariah Barber was the first of the 3 open mic poets, started with a love-fantasy for a rap star, then a happy poem for the happy couples, & a poem for Michael Brown, from her book, Of Mics & Pens & Gods & Other College Courses (self-published thru Create Space, 2017).  [as 3B said, "I feel old; she won't be on Breitbart anytime soon."]

Liv McKee tried out an unedited piece about her family in New Jersey, “Heading South,” written today.


& last was Amanda Boyd with a couple of short pieces inspired by a word-of-the-day app, a poem on “Camber,” & one on “Gumption.”

[3B summed up the the  open mic: "A short & powerful open mic -- Wilcox's favorite words to explain himself."]

There are lots of ways of running a slam for Haiku but the most simple to my mind is to do head-to-head between 2 poets, which is what happened, with right-hand/left-hand scoring. Anyways, it was Amanda & me, then Liv & Mariah, then Liv & Amanda, then me & Mariah, & me & Amanda — there I was once again, as I was last year, the winner, but by only 1 vote, a tight fight. The usual Haiku topics of Nature, but others on women, even on war, & humor & poetry. It was fun & if you know me you know how much I like being with a bunch of women — it was most sweet.

The Nitty Gritty Slam continues each 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at The Low Beat, always an open mic & sometimes a Slam as well. Check the schedule at AlbanyPoets.com. More WordFest each night this week.

Albany WordFest, Monday, April 17


Back again to the Hudson River Coffee House for the start of Albany WordFest 2017, another reading put together by Havey Havel. There were 5 poets scheduled to read.

First to the mic was a frequent reader at downtown open mics, Sylvia Barnard. She began with some older Easter poems from her 2012 book Trees, “Easter 1988” & one on the Anglo-Saxon goddess “Eostre” who gave her name to our holiday. A more recent poem, “March,” was from a trip to England, then a couple poems, & some Haikus, set in Albany in Washington Park, including “Shiobahn In Washington Park Age 46.” There was a poem for her great-great-grandparents & one about the submerged land in the North Sea “Doggerland.” She read a poem for a recently deceased friend who had an imaginary spouse, then a trilogy of poems based on stories a friend had told her about growing up in Denmark during World War II, & a poem about a dead friend who is still on Facebook.

Another familiar face on the scene, as well as at readings her at the Coffee House, is Brian Dorn. He also began with Easter poems, one, “Skyline,” imagining The Egg at the Empire State Plaza decorated for Easter, another told the story of the Resurrection in a short rhyme. His poems were all about Albany people, places & things, including the history of modern era minor league baseball teams, TV personalities (Rachael Rae & Billy Fuccillo), & Gaslight Village & Frontier Town. He ended with a chant-like tribute piece that he wrote for featured reading at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady.

Jacqueline Kirkpatrick isn’t as frequent on the scene as she had been a while back so it was good to hear a chunk of her work tonight. Said it would be “dark” reading & indeed it was, beginning with “Not an Easter Poem” with its flashback of being beaten, then a series of short, grim poems. On to “Essentially” in all its implications, an appreciative poem to her team “Paramour,” one on being drunk in NYC after a concert, “Honesty” (writing a love poem) & others. Just wish she would come out to the open mics more often.

Speaking of not being at community events, these days Daniel Nester is mostly seen in the halls of Academe. Tonight he read from the 2 volumes of God Save My Queen (Soft Skull Press) in which the titles of each of the pieces are the titles of tunes from the Queen albums (if you need a quick refresher course on the band, here is a good place to start). Given the time when the band was active (& Freddy Mercury was still alive), & the writer’s age, the poems were filled with juvenile fantasies, masturbation, & drinking.

Poetyc Visionz, eager for affirmation, had to ask the audience 3 times “How you doin’?” (it had been a long night already). He said his favorite of his own poems was “7” so he thought he would do 7 poems, ending with “7”. His poems are the stuff of motivational speakers, with titles like “Be Great Full,” & imagining a place (on the 9th cloud) where dreams come true. He also performed a narrative piece whose plot was predicated on puns based on the names of celebrities, in another poem he used persistent alliteration to spell out “multiple talents.” For the poem “Poet” he divided the audience into 2 sections for the audience participation to sound out “po” “et”. The infamous “7” is a bit of spurious facts & faux mysticism, finding the number 7 in everything (are there really 7 “parts” to the heart? & I think it’s 9 holes for the human body).

A broad, eclectic mix of poets for the start of Albany WordFest 2017.

April 19, 2017

An Evening of Poetry & Prose, April 12


This event at the Hudson River Coffee House was under the umbrella of The American Initiative for Jewish-Muslim Love & Peace, a reading of Muslim & Jewish poets. It was coordinated by Havey Havel who was also the MC.


The first reader, Jarrar Hussain, said this was his first reading, read “I Miss You” a lament in memory of his loved ones, then one about his father, another in a funny, teasing mood to his wife.


Ejaz Hussain is a published poet writing in Urdu & Punjabi. He read a poem beginning “my eyes reflect the beauty of my love…” a sad poem, the a poem for the Spring season.


Jay Deitcher began with a prose piece in the form of a letter from “a very Jewish character” to an administrator on his job, very cranky & rambling. The a poem in rhyme “Shiva.” He said this was his first public reading.

Alaa Muhiddin was born in Syria, came to the US as a young child & is now a student at UAlbany. She began by reading the work of her father, Yasin Aref, who is currently in prison as a result of an FBI sting operation that resulted in a raid on the mosque in Albany, Masjid as-Salam, where he was the imam. His autobiography, Son of Mountains: My Life as a Kurd and a Terror Suspect was published in 2008. Alaa read her father’s poems about his arrest & being in prison, including “Guilty by Birth,” & the ironically titled “Freedom.” Also, poems originally written in Kurdish in the 1980s & 1990s, as well as some lighter love poems. She read some of her own poems in a variety of moods, including one to her father, another on the destruction of her father’s village where 5000 people were killed & refugees had to walk from Iraq to Iran, & some short, rhyming upbeat poems on love & desire.

Ejaz Hussain came back to read a few more poems, including a ghazal on love, one titled “I Had Time Living in the World,” & one about vicious people.

Joe Krausman was the last, & best known, of the readers. He read some poems that were much-published, “The Passionate Accountant to His Love,” or that he made money on, “Ship Wrecked.” & others that he’s read out & about at local readings, including “Riding Shotgun for Wells Fargo,” “Limits,” “My Heart is an Onion,” “Imagination,” “A Thrill is in the Air,” & others.

These Evenings of Poetry & Prose are coordinated by Havey Havel on a irregular basis — stay in touch at AlbanyPoets.com.