August 22, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, July 31

For the last Monday (& the last day) in July we were at McGeary’s for the monthly open mic hosted by Mary Panza. The featured poet, Dawn Marar, helped to pack the house for her reading, but first part of the open mic sign up list.

Sylvia Barnard was first up with a “rabbit poem” with Roman references, then another animal poem “2 Blind Mice.”

Carol Graser had 2 poems from prompts, the first “Cleaning Out My Mother’s Closet,” then one from Bernadette Mayer’s workshop “What If.” Mark W. O’Brien opted to read a poem by next month’s feature here, the Irish poet Gene Barry. Nancy Dunlop read 2 poems from her series about patients at Four Winds, one tragic, “The Woman in the Grey Sweater,” one funny “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."  Linda Boulette returned with a new poem “The Funeral, Fantasy 192,” then an anti-Trump piece “Legacy.” Joe Krausman’s poem “In the Parking Lot” was a meditation on getting old(er), then he read a piece on dying & on being born.

Tonight’s featured poet, Dawn Marar, did just what every featured poet needs to do: bring their family & friends to their readings. Dawn’s poems are a fertile mix of the personal & the political (which many would say is the same thing). Her first poem was on the dredging of the Hudson River, “Post-Modern Tom & Huck, followed by the poem “Sparkles” set in a bar, mixing Green Island & Baghdad, then on to a poem about a niece, & others, who died too young, “Only This.” She also shared a poem from a series-in-progress currently titled “Race in the White Imagination,” “Whining & Writers” on pop culture & melanin & a family gathering in the kitchen. Her poem “You Citizen” on the burial of a Civil War soldier has her thinking of family members who were veterans. She ended with what she called “a curse & a blessing” with a leaf blower making her think of military drones bringing death.

Dawn’s husband Hani made his debut at a poetry open mic reading a poem someone else had written, “Efflorescence” a tribute to Dawn’s forthcoming chapbook of poetry. I read an older poem, “Obliteration,” a meditation on forms of burial, & the somewhat newer “Traveling America.”

Another virgin here tonight was Emma Collins who read a short piece of self-affirmation “A Female Revolution,” followed by the similar “Original.” Amanda McDowell read a piece about the frustration of filing a police report after an assault, then the cosmic “Ocean Speaks.” Carrie Czwakiel read a long prose memoir about a lech of a boss on her first job, then a more tender “prayer for an autistic child.” Carol Jewell, the master pantoumist, read “Route 20 Pantoum,” & a puppy poem “1st Bug Poem.” Former-feature here, Brooke, read a poem in Dr. Seuss rhyme, “My Roommate,” then, using images & languages from classic stories, a poem of advice for a way out of depression “Fairy Tale.”

Bob Sharkey has been collecting fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies & writing poems from them, & he read the latest, “It’s Fortune or Fame…” Karen Fabiane read a new poem written today, “Karen’s Steaks & Chops.” Julie Lomoe was celebrating a birthday (somewhere between 25 & 100), a country song & her garden “Sunny & 75.”

It’s always dark & wordy, with the smell of booze, here at Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY on the last Monday of most months, 7:30PM — an open mic surrounding a featured poet, spurred on by Mary Panza.


It looked more fake than the real thing.
                                    — Andy Warhol

The eclipse is on TV
the Great American Eclipse
they say. I listen to Sun Ra
“Space is the Place” of course
where else is there?

I like the New Moon best
because I have to believe
it is there each month
just as the clouds challenge
my belief that it is the Moon
blocking the Sun, not
just storm clouds rolling in.

On TV the 8-year old says,
“I’ve never seen anything like it!”
she has yet to see Prom night
the back seat of that Honda
a missed period, throwing up
in the last pew of church.

TV repeats the eclipse in places
no one goes to, instant reruns
the Sun & I have a Corona.

Watching the Great American Eclipse
on my computer is internet porn:
much better than the real thing.

In Carhenge Nebraska
200 miles from Nothing
239,000 miles from the Moon
who smiles to be so far away
93 million miles from the Sun
Someone says, “It’s like
watching Day turn into Night”
which I do each & every Day.

In my backyard, even the birds
think it’s just another cloudy day.

August 19, 2017

Poets in the Park, July 2017

Carrying on the series started by Albany poet & activist Tom Nattell back in 1989, the poetry readings at the Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park were held this year on July 15, July 22 & July 29. While there were a few sprinkles of rain on July 22, that ended before the poets read, the evenings were mostly clear, the weather pleasant, the poets inspiring.

On July 15 Karen Skolfield & Jay Wenk opted to read in alternating half-sets, giving a bit of back-&-forth to the program. Karen began with a poem about the necklace of “skulls” she was wearing, imagining what they remembered & talked about, then a poem based on the curious fact that there are only 2 escalators in Wyoming, “Upward Mobility,” in which they talk to each other; continuing the conversation theme, the new poem “Vectors” was about a conversation with a neighbor. Another conversation of sorts was “I Ask My Son to Send a Word for a Poem & He Sends Nothing,” filled with Biblical references.

Jay also had a whimsical beginning, “When I Get to Stonehenge,” then read the historically descriptive “Wounded Knee.”  “Christmas 1914” was set in the trenches of World War I, the soldiers singing carols in German & English & French. Then to a poem from "his war" (World War II), at the end going home & the political aftermath, his war never ended.

In her second set Karen read some poems from her military experience, many looking at the origin of words used in the military, such the poem “Enlist” on recruitment, “Kevlar” (invented by a woman) built on her memories of basic training, & “Discharge” on getting out. The short poem “The Army Smart Book: Inspirational Quotes” has a drill sergeant pondering the “breaking” of female recruits. She also included poems about war in other eras — an ekphrastic poem based on a woodcut “The Great Sacrifice of the Romans on Undertaking a War,” & the related poems “Civil War Reenactment” with her kids at a playground, a meditation on war, & “Sailor’s Creek Battlefield,” hummingbirds at a civil war battlefield.

Jay returned with “Pluck that Pregnant Dandelion” a philosophical piece about scattering seeds to the wind, the unfinished & untitled poem on the myth of Cassandra & Apollo as told in the Iliad combined with images from the Gettysburg museum, the timely & moving “Thank You For Your Service” on military suicides, & concluded with “The Clowns” considering comedy from ancient Greeks to modern times, enough to make you pee in your pants (or toga).

* * *

The second of the three events, on July 22, featured 2 local poets Ian Macks & Liv McKee.

Ian began with a piece about a friend & an abusive relationship, a theme he returned to throughout his reading, this one with the Albany skyline as a backdrop. Others on that theme included “When You Can’t Restrain Yourself” (written today), one based on A Streetcar Named Desire, another set in Troy overhearing a police encounter. There were other poems set in Troy, or Brooklyn (a descriptive piece set in a dive bar), one a meditation on the homeless. His poems were personal, such as one about an infatuation, or about the consolation of his art on leaving home. They were mostly short, mostly untitled, many read from his journal, with rhymes & half-rhymes popping up at times. There were even a few poems about Pittsburgh, of all places, filled with angst & introspection. He ended as he began with a poem critical of his friend’s abusive relationship.

Liv’s work was quite different coming from the Slam tradition of public, performative pieces around the 3-minute length. She began with a welcoming poem inspired by Shel Silverstein, with an opening call-&-response with the audience “I will speak” & accompanied by her brother Elijah McKee on alto sax. He joined her later in the program for an homage to her grandmother “Poem for Her Anecdotes.” Of course, a number of her pieces were political/social commentary, such as “My Friend Who Called Herself a Great & Dark Irony” inspired by her travels in Israel & Palestine, the cutting “Letter to the Easy Riding Earth Mama Hippie Man who is Still Racist,” & a piece combining her reaction to the UAlbany women convicted of falsely reporting an incident with a dream. These were punctuated by some haikus on politics, love & satire, including "Haiku for Mike Pence."  She ended appropriately enough with piece on her early ballet training then learning to dance free.
* * *

The final Poets in the Park reading on July 29 once again featured 2 US military veterans, Suzanne Rancourt & Richard Levine. I had had the pleasure of reading with both Suzanne & Richard last Fall at the Bright Hills Literary Center in Treadwell, NY for a program of readings by veterans, “Writing War & Peace.”

Suzanne began with reading some poems from Billboard in the Clouds (Curbstone Books, 2004), first “Whose Mouth Do I Speak With?” a tale of her Dad bringing them “spruce gum,” the sap of trees to chew on, then “A Light Wind Beyond Temple” for Denise Levertov who lived down the road from Suzanne’s family home in Temple, Maine. Suzanne’s introductions helped set the stage for her poems, giving us a context. She then read from a manuscript currently making the rounds of publishers, “Murmurs at the Gate,” memories of her upbringing in a poor, hard-working rural environment, including “The Viewing” a memory of a men killing bears, then “Opening” where a box contains memories of a relationship, & a magical portrait of Raven “The Darkest Spot is Light.” She ended with a poem on her obsession with fabric, weaving as an image & metaphor for time & for love.

The city sounds of sirens, traffic, even helicopters heading for Albany Med are a part of the ambiance of Poets in the Park, but worked especially well for Richard, who began with a cluster of city poem set in Brooklyn, “Bread” a memoir of his grandfather, then the early TV “Saturday Night Fights” (sponsored by Gillette) about his father as a boxer & Richard’s own fight, then a tribute to musician Tito Puente, “Para Ti, Tito,” & a descriptive piece late night in the City “Quiet the Way.” Then on to some love poems: “Ever Guilty,” “Portraits of Unrequited Love,” & “Without Angles.” He followed that up with a few war poems: the grim “Field Bandage,” “Just Sleeping,” & one of my favorites “Convoys” a chilling tale of being out drinking in Brooklyn with buddies mixed in with memories of VN ghost soldiers. He ended with the short love poem “Fall,” & “Harvest” a family poem, raking his garden.

More photos from Poets in the Park can be found at my Flickr! site.

Poets in the Park was sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & the Poetry Motel Foundation, both ultimately supported by the generosity of local writers & readers — “Give us your tired dollars, your millions crying for poetry.”

August 3, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 20

Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center in the Summer — had to crank up the sound system a bit because the door was open letting in the sounds of The Street. Our Muse tonight was, sadly, the recently-gone local poet, Cathy Anderson; I read her poem “Hornswoggled” from the 2006 collection of poems from The Every Other Thursday Night Poets of Voorheesville, NY Poetry Don’t Pump Gas.  A couple other poets from that group & in that anthology were in the audience.

In fact, one of them was the first up to read, Alan Casline, with a love poem about walking in the woods. Mark W. O’Brien was the other poet from that same collection, tonight he read a poem from a prompt in Bernadette Mayer’ workshop, a haibun memoir of catching a baseball hit by Yadier Molina. Samuel Weinstein was back with a long poem he said was written in the style of Allen Ginsberg. Our resident Andre Breton, John Thomas Allen, joined us with a poem titled “Behind the Green Door.”

Douglas Rothschild (who signed up as “Rth;chld, Dgls N.”) used the music stand to make a show of hanging up his jacket which he had just put on before stepping up to read the mythic “Artemisian the Moon’s Children.”

Tonight’s featured poet was Anna Kreienberg, a young poet with an experienced voice. She began with “Message for Rachel” which was like a letter with tea & pet names, then a shorter poem titled “Margaret Atwood,” then, as she said, “banged-out” a longer poem, “Seattle,” about her poetry, like others addressed to a “you” perhaps friends, in images with private import. Similarly a poem titled “Chrome Phobia” & then “Odyssey,” another long piece also addressed to someone, like a defensive sarcastic thank-you note filled daily details of life in NYC, which ended suddenly. What added to the difficulty is that there were no personal/spatial introductions before the poems, dropping the listener into a place we needed to quickly orient ourselves to.

After the break & the passing of the poet’s hat, we continued on with the open mic, & I read my entry to the New York State Fair Poetry Contest, “At the Silarian Cafe: Summer’s Best in Show.” Richard Jerin followed with his intro & then the poem. Jay Gaunt was a new name, read an untitled love poem. Rhymer Betty Zerbst was next with a poem about becoming a poet “Spreading My Wings.”

Aimee Harrison was a new voice, jumped right in to read about neighbors & family fighting, & her own turmoil, turning into a poem of longing. Adam Tedesco, who is well-known on the poetry scene & a former feature here, read a intensely woven piece of river & water. Karen Fabiane, also a former feature here & elsewhere, read her piece about a vacant lot on the Lower East Side, “Outdoor Cafe.” One of my favorites, who hasn’t been here in awhile, Jill Crammond, was back to read her mashup of Joyce Carol Oates’s Blackwater “Thoughts While Drowning.” Kevin McLellan, a new voice, read a love/breakup poem “From the Inside Out” to bring us to an end for tonight.

Every third Thursday there is a poetry open mic with a featured reader at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY. We start at 7:30PM & your donations support the SJC, the Poetry Motel Foundation & helps pay the featured poet.

July 23, 2017

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, July 14

Back among the trees, with our host Alan Casline to warm up the space with a little open mic before the featured poet, the Venerable Dennis Sullivan.

Joe Krausman got the #1 spot on the sign-up sheet & began with a poem about playing the silence “Cello Lesson,” then recited a short rhyme on Love. Paul Amidon read a descriptive memoir “Spring at Lake Abenaki” then a poem on aging & death “Double Down.” John Abuhl read his most recent poem “Repetition” (in Nature), then one on death written in May “Salvation,” & a short philosophical essay “We Seek the Everlasting.” Howard Kogan’s 2 poem were on related themes, “Reading as Writing” & “Poets at the Open Mic.”

Don Levy made a rare appearance here, began with one of his own “#CoffeHouseReads” about taking pictures of books, then a poem by mid-20th Century poet Weldon Kees, “Aspects of Robinson.” A.C. Everson’s poem was a tasty one about the chutney & creamed cheese she brought tonight from “Joan’s Kitchen.” Mike Conner read pieces on a variety of topics, “Green Tea” after the death of a friend, “Mid-Summer Night Dream” on the heat, & a political essay “Civility & Diversity.” Dianne Sercik’s poem “Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Moon” included the fertility deity Kokopelli, then read a piece considering “original sin” “Fortress of Innocence.”

Dennis Sullivan is one of the former hosts of the former “Sunday Four Poetry” in Voorheesville. His poetry is usually in the pensive, mediative mode, as were the poems he read tonight, beginning with “Recapitulation Theory,” then a poem for Gregory Corso “The Sweet & Endless Season. Even his titles are philosophical: “Exegesis of the Heart,” “Complexity It Is,” & “When Life is No Longer a Hobby.” The love poem titled “I Can Think of Nothing Else” was to his wife Georgia Gray, & he ended with “Elegy Upon the Death of a Public House” for the now-shuttered Smith’s Tavern in Voorheesville, sorely missed by poets & other drinkers.

After a convivial break, Tom Bonville brought us back to poetry with 2 memoirs of Troy & his Grandfather, “The Pull of the Water,” & “Fire on the River, Troy 1959.” Tim Verhaegen also read a memoir piece, this from 1994 dating black guys.

Mike Burke, another former host of “Sunday Four Poetry,” began with a descriptive piece of the grandstand at the Saratoga race track, then a poem about the last days of “Suzie the Good Dog,” & read Cathy Anderson’s poem “Ocean in Winter” to honor this recently-gone local poet. Frank Robinson waxed philosophical with “The Hard Problem” considering the question “what’s it like to be me?” Hey, I always tell people “be you.” My poems were “Obliteration,” “That Apparition” (which responds to a poem by Dennis Sullivan), & the very brief “Amitabha.” Alan Casline also read a poem by Cathy Anderson “The Last Good Day” about sex & dinner in the afternoon, then his own poem for Cathy “Whirl on the Dance Floor,” & the ironically titled “Recipe for Disaster.” Tom Corrado read from a new series of 14 line poems “Butt-Dialing Uber & Other Sanitized Shorts,” he read Season 4 & Season 15 (but they sounded like his “Screen Dumps”). Julie Lomoe was the last reader on the list & talked to us apropos of nothing about her new website, & then read a piece of prose “Eclipse of the Super Bowl Moon.”

This series continues into November on either the 1st or 2nd Friday of the month, at 6:30 PM in the guest house/visitor center of the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands — come early for the pot luck.

July 20, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, July 12

Back to Schenectady again & this welcoming reading series with our host, chanteuse Catherine Norr. First, some of the open mic before the scheduled featured poet, with Alan Catlin reading 2 poems with the same title “Last Night I Dreamed This Would Happen” both posted on the Blog 36 View of Ononta’kahrhon.  Richard Jerin read 2 poems, like letters written to others, the first titled “Rebel Heart” with its images of Winter, the 2nd addressed to his daughter.

Paul Amidon read a memoir of childhood “Playpen,” then one about himself & his poetry “Minor League Poet.” Ginny Folger told us about “What the Birds Know.” Scott Morehouse did a performance, from a novel set in the 1920s, as Red Hot Momma & sang “The Dinner Pail Blues.” Scott Hicks said he was reading 2 poems from his Wester heritage, “Woman on the Edge of a Field” & “Day Cloud” as a youth, railing against loneliness & emptiness.

The featured poet, Sandra Manchester, was new to me, but well-known to Catherine & others as a long-time member of a Schenectady poetry group. She began with a poem remembering watching fog as a child & her family’s poverty, then a couple more poems about her mother, “Morning to Dusk” & “A Month Since Mom’s Passing” filled with the details of everyday life. From a poetry workshop she read another memoir piece, written 3 different ways. Other poems from the everyday included the verbatim “What I Overheard at the Laundromat,” “4th of July Parade Cobleskill,” & “Lemon Pie.” Other poems from a workshop were a bouquet of Nature/rural poems, then she ended with a poem about her first memory — in Kindergarten.

After a break, Catherine Norr returned with a couple poems of her own, one the story of her partner Dave’s Dad in Montana going off to war, the other a praise litany that she said was a “gratitude poem.” Susan Jewell read “The Myth of the Wild Oyster,” inspired by Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. Jackie Craven read a persona poem in which a wife complained of her ill husband. Betty Zerbst read 2 poems inspired by the suicide of a young person, “Why, Michael?” & a sort of answer to that question “Deep Despair.”

Angelina J. squeezed in 3 poems, “Mother,” “Strawberries” (a provocative mix of gardening & sex), & a piece about “Bridal Barbie,” childhood & marriage, “The Beauty in the Box.” Rich Frieberg did a quick piece from memory. I ended up as the last poet of the night & in honor of the anniversary of the birth (& death) in July of Frida Kahlo, I read 2 poems from my series on Frida & her affair with Leon Trotsky, “Distributing Arms” & “Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky: Between the Curtains.”

This is the place to be on the 2nd Wednesday of each month in Schenectady: Arthur’s Market by the monument in the Stockade Section, 7:30PM — featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

July 18, 2017

Poetic Vibe, July 10

It’s been months since I’ve been able to get to this weekly word scene at the Troy Kitchen, Monday’s are a busy night for me. But I always have good intentions to go & tonight I put the action with the intention. I was pleased to see that Ian Macks was the featured poet, who will be reading at Poets in the Park July 22 with Liv McKee. But first the open mic.

Our lovely poetic host D. (for Danielle) Colin got the words flowing with her poems, the first celebrating the color of her skin, black & beautiful, another on her quiet pen & listening to the other sounds around. I ended up first on the list (which gradually filled as the night wore on) & did my jazz “Saturday Hawk” & “What Makes America Great #20” from my series of True Stories of the Trump Era. Mz Tu performed her outrageous “Balls & Bitches” then a piece on anger “Poison & Venom” (one does not want to piss off this lady).  Dawn Howard was visiting the area from the South & read 2 poems, both like religious or self-help preaching, “Flawless” & “Love Is.”

Hope said this was her first time (a Virgin!), began with a love poem, then another titled “I Want To” envisioning what love should be like. Kwesi had shown up a few times at the Social Justice Center, recited “A 70s Love Story,” started to introduce another piece but abandoned it. Jay began with a short piece titled “Living Room” then one titled “Real World” a critical piece about social media that, ironically, he read from his smart phone.  Elizag did a 3-minute Slam piece on Muhammad Ali & racism.

Tyler read a poem to his sister “Don’t Kid.” Dachele was here for the 1st time & did another piece on social media (& being lonely). Kaylie was also a virgin 1st timer & read a relationship rant. Poetik is an experienced reader/performer on the scene & I hope I got the title of her piece correct because it was marvelous “Education Dirty Poem.” Still another 1st timer, Jordyn, read a love poem just written today. Allie read a journal entry, then a poem based on it that she just wrote at the bar, a bit of self-affirmation.

Shed, another 1st timer, was also into self-affirmation, read a piece on the importance of loving yourself. His daughter, Mariah (Barber), a familiar voice from other venues, returned us to the social media theme (also read from her phone), then a tender piece on her father & his advice. Katelynn, who is obviously used to performing & coached, did a piece “Free Falling” then “Midnight Blue GT500” as she slips into a Slam accent.

The night’s featured poet was Troy-native Ian Macks; he began with a poem about being yourself, not trusting idols, then other personal poems about relationship gone bad, & others about a good friend messing up his life. He read a couple of short poems from a 2014 book, “Dr. Manhattan” & “Cradle.” Some poems about Troy included “When Machinery Engulfs Everything” based on a street mural, another on the 4th of July in Troy, & a grim picture of a guy living under a tarp behind a Troy strip mall. & there there more about relationships & about couch surfing during hard times.

One feature of this venue is the “group poem” created during the reading, an exquisite corpse, that Danielle read at the end — & against the call from one of the food vendors “69, number 69!” as if it were a part of the poem, or at least an invitation. It’s a wonderful venue, but Danielle has the annoying pattern of asking us to applause as she reads the name of the next reader, which often overwhelms the announcement making the name inaudible.

Poetic Vibe is every Monday at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St., 7:30PM, for a donation that helps pay the featured poet.

July 9, 2017

Protest & Survive, June 29

A message on my machine alerted me to this event & with nothing else scheduled that night I drove down to check it out. I immediately found my friend poet & publisher Dayl Wise & we grabbed seats up front behind Andy Clausen & Pamela Twining, then we were joined by VFP Board Member & editor of the VFP newspaper Peace in Our Times, Tarak Kauff, & Ellen Davidson, photographer for PIOT. It was an evening of (mostly) poetry, with some music, prose & a video thrown in. The Woodstock Community Center quickly filled to capacity, with more chairs being added.

To set the tone of irreverent commentary & deep historical relevance, Mikhail Horowitz & Giles Malkine began with their take on the Bob Dylan tune “The Times they are a-Changin’”, then, with jazz vocalist Pam Pentony, a version of the Pete Seeger tune “The Bells of Rhymney” re-cast as “The Cops of LA.”

Yarna Martin followed with a political rant on the phrase “In Chief...” Michael Brownstein read from journalist Greg Pallast, then a series of his own pieces, from Kali Ma to “After Patriarchy Collapses & Capitalism Crumbles.” Peter Lamborn Wilson's little prose pieces challenged our way of thinking about everything, as he usually does. Chuck Stein, in identical black hat & cane a Tweelde-Dee to Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Tweelde-Dum, did a couple of pieces including the “Twin Lakes Goddess Poem.” Robert Kelly was led to the stage to read somewhat hoarsely from a long anti-fascist rant that included his editorial remark, “poets speak when no one listens - that’s how we know it’s poetry.”

Ed Sanders informed us this was the 50th anniversary of the levitation of the Pentagon by the Fugs & a gang of hippies & peaceniks during the protests against the Viet Nam war, showed a video of the White House & led the entire room in the chant “Out Demons Out!” Brenda Coultas read 2 poems, “If Whiteness” & a piece on fracking “A Gaze.”

World War II vet & anti-war/anti-fascist activist poet Jay Wenk began with expressing his love of his home, Woodstock, then read his stunning piece on the suicides of veterans “Thank you for Your Service,” then a story about ways of dying in his war in Germany “I’m Gonna Tell You.” Sparrow did his usual goofball schtick of one-line punch-lines without jokes. Pamela Twining’s poems ranged from the short childhood memoir “Duck & Cover” to the more up-to-date “Water Wars.” Andy Clausen rang out the night with an excerpt from a long poem, “Insurgency,” filled with extensive lists of iconic names & Whitmanesque catalogs, a perfect way to fill out a long poem.

In addition to the poets on stage, there were many other mid-Hudson poets in the audience — this was in Woodstock afterall. Let’s just hope that Ed Sanders’ chant — “Out Demons Out” — will take effect. Perhaps it just needs a few days to work itself down the I-95 corridor.

For more photos from this event check out my flickr! site.

July 7, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, June 26

In spite of my recent days on the beach, I was glad to be back among the poets of Albany & to settle in for food, beer & words at this raucous open mic at McGeary’s, with our host Mary Panza adding the spice.

First up in the open mic, Sylvia Barnard, read 2 sets of haiku, one on Nature & the Park, the other set reacting to a mix of places & events. I read my entry to the New York State Fair Poetry Exhibition “At the Silarian Cafe,” then another of my series “What Makes America Great” #20.

Nancy Dunlop read a couple poems from her Hospital Series, these about experiences at Four Winds, “Spilled Milk” & “The Handsome Man” (patients watching patients). Julie Lomoe gave a long introduction that made us wondering if there was a poem in there, & there was: about being interviewed by a New York Times reporter when she voted in November. Don Levy read his thank-you poem, “It Takes a Village to Move Don Levy," then one about his first celebrity crush “Rockin’ Robin.” Dawn Marar (who will be July’s featured poet) read a couple poems on race, “Black & White-ploitation” in which she re-visits her poem on Mapplethorpe’s photos of black & white dicks, & one from a series on whiteness inspired by Claudia Rankine “Which Driver is a Honkey.” Joe Krausman’s poem “Mixed Messages” pondered losing weight & death inspired by Women’s magazines in the checkout line.

I was not familiar with the featured poet Brooke Kolcow, mainly because she is new to the area. She read/recited a couple poems & then was coaxed to do a few more. The first 2, from memory, were “The Sound of the Rain,” & a funny list “What Will You Do With an MFA?” (you can find my own take on that very topic here). Then a rare formal piece in terza rima, based on Dante’s circle 8 of Hell reserved for flatterers & others of that ilk, & finished with a poem titled “Precipitate” published recently in Hoot Review. Seems like an interesting new voice for the area.

Chase said this was his first time reading out (i.e., “a virgin”) & read a love poem titled “Thief” about a stolen kiss & a stolen heart. Sally Rhoades read a poem from her recent trip to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, Oklahoma “Moon Rising,” then a related “Star Gazing.” Bob Sharkey read a couple of love poems, beginning with “Take It” a memory of an early subway encounter, then the introspective “State of Affairs.” Carrie Czwakiel read 2 pieces “Two Minutes Suicide” & “Isolation” about an abusive relationship in the past. Another new voice was Kallie Swyer who read a couple of powerful pieces about women standing up, one from the Salem witch trials “Night During Witch Trials” the other more recent “Letter From” about the astronaut Sally Ride. Robbie Held was still another virgin with a poem about the Normans Kill “White Underwater” & another with a title beginning “Returning from my Cruxifiction…”

Linda Boulette was a poet active in the most early days of the open mic scene here in Albany at the QE2 & other venues; it was a thrill to see her join us at McGeary’s tonight & she began with an old eco-poem “Requiem for the Earth’s Passing,” then “In Praise of this Day.” Karen Fabiane likes to read at the end, began with a long relationship poem about gardening & Summer with a Buddhist “The Potato,” & another relationship poem “She Drinks.”:

Poets Speak Loud! is a monthly (mostly) open mic with a featured poet each last Monday of the month at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, about 7:30 PM, but come early for good food & professionally poured drinks.

July 4, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 15

It’s always good to hear the “regulars” here each month & tonight even a new voice, & tonight’s featured poet Jordan Smith. But first, to invoke the Muse, a tribute to a recently gone local poet Esther Willison. I read a poem Esther had written not long before she died “A Limb, Out On.” Malcolm Willison, Esther’s former husband, also read a poem, a tribute he had written this morning “Esther.” Esther was a poet & a Mom & a social activist. We miss her.

Alan Catlin read “On Hearing 2 Army Rangers are Killed by Friendly Fire in Afghanistan” a poem about the death of the football player Pat Tillman & it’s coverup. A new face & voice was Jon Conlan who introduced himself with “Ladies & Gentlemen” “…I’ve got something to say” a forward-looking political dream. Joe Krausman responded to a poem, titled “Joe Krausman,” that I had read last night at Arthur’s Market, with his poem “Dan Wilcox” a conversation in Heaven.

The poet best known as BK, who had been a featured poet here, was back to read a love poem about what poetry doesn’t do, & what it really is. W.D. Clarke read his historical ballad about the Battle of Greasy Grass, “Their Last Stand,” the Battle of the Little Big Horn from the native people’s point of view.

Tonight’s featured poet was Jordan Smith who teaches at Union College & has a number of poetry books available in bookstores & as an e-book (e.g., Clare’s Empire). He began with a couple poems from Clare’s Empire, a work based on the life of the English poet John Clare (1793 - 1864), “An Economy of Poetry” & “Clare’s Badger & the Arrest of Big Bill Haywood.” Then on to new poems, the first a memoir of a friend at an open mic in Rochester, NY years ago, then “Another Problem with Mindfulness,” a political poem “November 2016” which evoked Lorca & Whitman, & one from a writing assignment “MacBeth Revisited.” A brief episode of syncope inspired a poem on being self-absorbed & seeing the coverage of the riots in Ferguson, Mo., then a poem on the voice of God “Who Would Have Thought the Saxophone (for Charles Lloyd),” the poem “Sleep” referenced Plato’s “The Republic,” & he ended his reading with a short philosophical piece, “The Ecstatic Moment.”  A relaxed, but engaged reading fit for the Social Justice Center.

After the break I read my poem “Lew Welch in Albany,” inspired by a poem by Jordan Smith. Rich Jerin returned tonight to read “Relative Walker,” for which he read a prepared, poetic introduction. Rick Harrienger included handouts of “Parisburg,” a political poem he constructed this afternoon, having members of the audience each read a stanza. The last poet of the night Betty Zerbst said that her poem “Summer Dance” is proof that the other poets here tonight “write like guys while I write like a girl,” a piece in rhyme about deer.

Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each month, at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

June 29, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, June 14

This was one reading I had to be at — I was the featured poet. But then, I always enjoy going to this gathering of community poets hosted by Catherine Norr.

Richard Jerin was the first up with a short, “dreamy, romantic” piece, then a much longer work in 3 parts titled “Summer Winds.” Alan Catlin read 2 poems that recalled the draft from the 1960s, “College Bar 1968,” & “Veterans For Peace 1970 Revisited” (about recent Viet Nam veterans attending college).

 Ginny Folger read 2 poems as portraits, “Sleeping In” (about an older couple) & “Muscle Memory” (about a woman cooking plums). J.J. Johnson was back after a few months hiatus with a couple of poems on the current political situation “I’m Ashamed to Be an American” & “Czar Trump Stops the Presses.” Joe Krausman began with a circus poem “Having a Ball” then on to a funny piece about a serial liar & his conversation in bed with his wife. Brian Dorn read a poem he hadn’t read before, one about a person with autism. Barry Finley doesn’t make it out much to readings & due to his visual impairment asked Catherine to read his poem-in-progress “A Terrorist for Bernie.”

Then it was my turn as featured poet. I had planned my reading to promote Inauguration Raga & read a number of selections from that chapbook, surrounded by other pieces. I began & ended with poems (#87 & #20) from my new series “What Makes America Great.” Also, “Joe Krausman” from boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press, 2010), an old piece recalling a buddy from my Army training “John Lees,” & “Shaken, Stirred” from Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing, 2015).

After the break Catherine Norr read a bouquet of American haiku on topics ranging from the attack on the World Trade Center, to language, gardening & few on her beloved mountain cabin. Bob Sharkey’s first poem was about observing the distress of a mother when no one shows up for her son’s pool-side birthday party, then “Boys” about visiting his hometown & Maine & wondering what he would be have become had he stayed. Betty Zerbst read a couple poems in rhyme, a prairie poem “A Splash of Pink,” & “Bits & Pieces” about a family reunion.

Don Levy recently moved to a new apartment & tonight read a “thank-you” poem to those who made his move possible, “It Takes a Village to Move Don Levy.” Malcolm Willison read 2 poems on deaths, the first “Realms” was about moving stuff after his mother’s death, & “Dusk” written the day his former wife Esther Willison died.

Arthur’s Market Open Mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month at 7:30PM at Arthur’s Market at the monument in Schenectady’s Stockade section — a featured poet & an open mic.

June 27, 2017

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, June 11

This was the last session for the season; Nancy Klepsch & I will be back in September for our 8th year at the Arts Center.

Joe Krausman started us off with 2 versions of his poem titled “To Go It Alone.” Mike Conner read a seasonal piece titled “Springing Forth,” then the autobiographical “My Character Molded Like Clay.” I followed with a new little poem about the Buddha in my yard “Amithaba,” then the latest in the series “What Makes America Great” #20. Nancy Dunlop read 2 poems from her series of Hospital poems, “The Best that Money Can Buy” about a patient watching TV, then one about another patient who was a reader “The Kid.”

Peggy LeGee read a new episode, “Enter the Shopping Cart Man,” to her dumpster cat graphic novel. Dan Curley’s list poem “I Wish” also included cats, & corporations, & more. My co-host Nancy Klepsch began with a biographical portrait of “A Shipbuilder,” then one about her father, with a title taken from Joni Mitchell, “God Must Be A Boogie Man.”

Kathy Smith also used a line from a pop song for her poem “If It Be Your Will” this from Leonard Cohen, then what she introduced as her first political poem “An Immigrant Song.” Howard Kogan began with a funny story about an upscale cooking-utensil store “Sunday in the Exit Lane,” then a piece about an encounter in Utah “Rattled.” Rick was new to this venue & gave an emotional recitation of a memoir in rhyme of being in Viet Nam “American Refugee,” then another piece in rhyme, new, “John Philips Who” juxtaposing musical instruments & weapons. Jil Hanifan, for Rick, recited “In Flanders Field,” then read from a longer work about being a classical musician, with new lines recently added.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose will be back in September on — you guessed it! — the 2nd Sunday, here at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy NY — 2 poems or a piece of prose no longer than 5 minutes.

June 26, 2017

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree and Sky, June 9

Another festive gathering of poets at the Pine Hollow Arboretum for the featured poet Dianne Sefcik & to read our own work in the open mic.

First up was Tom Bonville with a memoir of high school “Summer Nights 1970.” Howard Kogan’s “Elegy for Smitty’s” was a tribute to the now-gone Voorheesville watering hole & an opportunity to recall a similar place, Teddy’s, where he had his first legal drink, then a piece about a reading by Bernadette Mayer in Hudson “T.S.L” Dawn Marar’s poem was about a Civil War soldier’s burial in Saratoga, a work-in-progress with the working title “Citizen Dawn.” Philomena Moriarty said her poem “Finding America” was inspired by a poem by Dianne Sefcik, then an older poem “The Ramifications of Taking My Father Out to a Chinese Restaurant.” Mimi Moriarty (no relation to Philomena) began with a poem from a prompt “My Best Decade” (her first), then the affirmative “Tap Dancing” & “Children’s Chorus.” Bob Sharkey read a poem about finding peace over time “State of Affairs,” then another in his continuing quest for the perfect fortune cookie fortune “Must Have Cost a Fortune.” I read a poem dedicated to Howard Kogan “A Shill at the Fair” then another in the continuing series of poems about “What Makes America Great” this #6.

Paul Amidon read a couple of memoir poems, the first “Old Friends” about a 90-year-old veteran, then a piece about collecting the comics from “Bazooka Joe” gum. Speaking of Joe, Joe Krausman read his laconic “Freak Accident” & a true story “On Being Un-employed in My 40th Year.” Our host at the Arboretum John Abhul often reads philosophical essays, tonight read philosophical poems, “The Majesty of Being,” “Thoughts” (from 2009) & the recent “The Standard.” Mark O’Brien aka Obeeduid began with a piece on the birth of his granddaughter from his Blog, then to one for Michael Czarnecki’s forthcoming anthology of poems about Route 20, & one from Bernadette Mayer’s workshop “Frozen Cookies.”

This was Dianne Sefcik’s first featured reading; she has been coming out to the open mics in the last year or so. She began her reading with a poem titled, appropriately enough, “Indigenous,” then her poem from the Rensselaerville Library’s April Poem-a-Day project (more on that later) “Red Ochre.” “Vision Quest” was dedicated to Crazy Horse, then “Birches” that can be found on Mark O’Brien’s Blog Thirty Six Views of Ononta’kahrhon, “Council Fires” & a poem about how our spirits travel “Portal.” She read a poem about the Four Corners Monument, another about “hard-headed hoodoos” from a workshop list of words, & one about “When the Spirits Come Back.” The poem “Journey” was awash in cosmic images while “Bear Two” told of an encounter with a bear in a gravel pit, & she ended with a story, “In the Early World.” Her poems are richly descriptive of the natural world, but also of the spirit world around & within. It is good to have this gentle poetic voice among us.

After a break, the open mic continued with Tim Verhaegen reading a characteristically hysterical story of a recent encounter at a bus stop that brought back memories of parties & sex from the past. Our host Alan Casline read 3 poems about the South-West, the first “Gate Closed” about checking out a spring, another about looking for a poet’s house in Santa Fe, & the last about a clay turtle (the actual object in question passed around to the audience). Peter Bourdreaux read about hero anxiety “Yes No Maybe.” Tom Corrado finished off the open mic with still another in the infinite series of “Screen Dumps,” this #369.

Speaking of Tom Corrado, he had set up, in conjunction with the Rensselaerville Library, the 2017 Poem-a-Day Project so that during April there was a new poem every day from this region’s stellar poets, some of whom were in the room. Tonight he handed out to those of us who had contributed a poem a collection of the complete set of April’s poems printed up by the Library. He said that there were lots of “hits” to the website, hopefully by folks looking to read some poetry; but if I still had a Mom I’d say, “Thanks Mom for going to the website & my poem 5 times a day!”

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree and Sky continues at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY into November -- usually, but not always, on the 1st Friday of the month.

June 16, 2017

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, June 7

Another packed house for poetry in Saratoga. Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with an early poem of Walt Whitman’s “O Me! O Life!” Then on to the open mic list.

Rodney Parrott read excerpts from Langston Hughes’s still poignant “Let America Be America Again.” Barbara Garro was dressed as “Mother Goose” to read 2 new Mother Goose rhymes, “Little Suzie Sycamore” & “It” (makes me wonder if Mother Goose does “it”).

It was refreshing to see Susan Riback reading at an open mic, beginning with a piece about perusing one of those airline magazines on a British Airways flight, then a piece on computer dating “Passport to Confidence.” Austin Halpern-Graser was back once again with his stand-up comedy routine, this on growing up & being away at college. Eric Krantz read a memoir about taking his aged parents back to Queens to look at the house they used to live in. & speaking of houses, Thomas Dimopoulos read a story about a homeless guy in Saratoga Springs from his collection Saratoga Stories: Magic & Loss (available at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway).

Tonight’s featured poet was Alifair Skebe, whom I find it difficult to get enough of. In & around her own work she shared poems by others, such as Dwayne Wilder, Susan Deer Cloud, & David Landry. Her own poems included “With Tiger Force,” “Kerrville” (from the early Love Letters: Les Cartes Postales), & a poem based on Lucille Clifton’s “What the Mirror Said.” From Thin Matter (FootHills Publishing, 2017) she read “Mirror Riddles,” “Poem for ISI[S][L],” “Seen This Before,” “When I Died” (based on Emily Dickinson), “US War Production Board,” “Freedom,” & the tour-de-force political piece “The Dead & Dying Poem” after Muriel Rukeyser’s “Twentynine Poems.” Alifair also has a new chapbook just out from Benevolent Bird Press The Voyage of the Beagle, an excerpt (An Interlace Poem), short pieces using the text from Charles Darwin’s work, from which she read “Here You Are.” Always different & always worth hearing.

After a break, Carol Graser returned us to the open mic with her poem “Ghosts of Ambitions” on writing & being a poet. Carol Jewell read a very short poem (5 words) titled “Puzzle” then read “Poem without a Title.” Serena tempted us with the wonderfully provocative “Do You Want It?” in which she explored euphemisms for having sex, then a piece written to buoy up a friend “And So God Lived God Became.” It was good to see some of these regional poets like Katrinka Moore who doesn’t make it out to open mics to read, tonight “King Lear In a Nutshell.” Dawn Marar’s poem “On the Road to Damascus” was an ironic piece on danger from a visit to Syria, “Knots & Bolts” on seeing an old lover. Anna Feldstein, one of the Caffè Lena workers, read “Late Train” an unsettling story about an encounter on a train & remembering a father she never had. Maya read a complex love poem remembering a love “70 in February in Upstate New York.”

Brigit Gallagher is a high school English teacher who inspired & brought some of her students tonight (& last month as well); she read a piece inspired by her young daughter “Every Kindergarten Girl is a Feminist.” Dan Bonville read a couple poems in rhyme, one for boys “Life of Reduction,” the other about the Sun “Summer.” Will read 2 pieces out of his battered notebook. I read selections from Inauguration Raga (A.P.D., 2017). Mary Kathryn Jablonski does not read out near enough so it was a thrill to see & hear her tonight read “On Hearing that Crayola was Retiring ‘Dandelion’.” Nicola Marae Allain read from a series of poems based on growing up in Tahiti, rich in lush images & characters.

Thanks to Ms. Gallagher — & to the Caffè Lena ambiance in general — there were tonight some talented young people reading excellent poems; one of those was Becky Steele with a poem composed as a series of questions “Silence.” A more experienced poet, Joe Bruchac, contributes frequently to the open mic & tonight read a poem about the sacred place we know as the Black Hills. Jesse Mews does a combination of memorized pieces enhanced by free-style, usually without titles, tonight’s pieces were about being awake at 4:00 in the morning, the other on observing a pigeon in an alley. Another young woman poet, J. (or was it Jaye?) Woods read a piece about an ex “Letter from the Arctic Circle.”

Ava Champion said she usually writes short fiction (which I’m sure would’ve been OK to read) but instead read one of her poems “Smothered Love.” Sage was our last poet for the night with a poem about needing inspiration & passion “I Can’t Write Poetry” then a series of questions “If Not…”

This reading is held each 1st Monday of each month in the newly renovated space of Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, at 7:30PM — $5.00. It includes featured poets & an open mic for the rest of us.

June 10, 2017

Nitty Gritty Slam - Open Mic, June 6

I was in the mood for a night at The Low Beat & poetry. Turns out it was a “going-away-party” for Amani O+ who is taking the Summer off to work on Soul Fire Farm in Grafton (not that far away), turning the hosting duties to a couple of other women poets, including Mariah Barber, whose poem “Fuck Butterflies” Amani read to get us going.

In many ways it was rough night for my note-taking, with the names of the open mic poets sometimes lost in the background music, or not clearly said by the rotating string of guest hosts. I did the best I could.

I was first up, reading “John Lees,” a memoir of sorts of my days in the Army that I like to read around Memorial Day. Poetik began with a letter to Donald Trump, then “Grab a Chain” a piece on vulnerability. Then a string of rotating hosts introducing the poets, some of whom seemed to be known to others, but needed to be introduced themselves for folks like me who had no idea who they were. Victorio Reyes did his rousing piece “This is a Rant Not a Poem” parts 1 & 2, then he also had “An Open Letter to the 45th President.”

Mariah introduced Andrew who read the provocative “WMB” (i.e., “weapons of mass bondage”) then a piece on being in New Orleans. MzTu was back & read poems from her new book which title I missed, the first “Anger Became My Friend,” then a torrid relationship poem “360 degrees” (the temperature, I think).

Another poet new to me was Morgan Haywood who read a piece written today “To My Soul” about a shitty day. The next reader (Ashley?) said she was trying out stage names, but I missed that too, began by singing, then read a sad break up poem. Liv McKee, who will be one of the readers in this year’s Poets in the Park (July 22) did a couple of short poems on love, a piece titled “I Always Get What I Want” then a Haiku series for the unborn, & another love poem.

Amani was introduced as the featured poet by Mariah, for a self-indulgent good-bye-but-I’ll-be-back reading, beginning with her signature piece, “Amanita,” about being assimilated & asserting her heritage, done as an audience participation piece. Then on to poems about her cats moving into a new place, about falling in love at a Slam Championship (“He Came With Love”), about Soul Fire Farm “Mother Nature Turned Down for What,” & a piece titled “Patience.” In between she talked about her time here at Nitty Gritty Slam, & about her visit to Cuba. Later she came back to do more poems, but in between Mariah did some “commercial break poems” written to the sound of rain on the roof, & about her family.

Nitty Gritty Slam continues each 1st (open mic) & 3rd (Slam) Tuesdays at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY — $5.00 (but if you are a student, ask, I think you get in for free).

June 7, 2017

Poetry Theatre - American Music Festival, June 2

The Albany Symphony American Music Festival was held May 31 to June 4 with multiple events each day. I decided early on that I would get a full festival pass rather than just attend 1 or 2 performance as I had in the past. By the time Sunday rolled around I had been to 7 performances from Thursday on, including this Friday evening poetry event. Poetry Theatre was held at the Troy Kitchen, where Poetic Vibe takes place each Monday. The event was run under the auspices of “Next Gen,” apparently a way for the ASO fund-raisers to tap into the affluence of the upwardly mobile millennials (I think we used to call them "Yuppies" back in the last Century).

Interestingly enough, Poetry Theatre turned out to be a local poetry event where there was nobody I knew. Oh, I recognized some of the folks associated from past ASO events, but I didn’t know them & they didn’t know me. & most folks there were much better dressed than I was. Yet, like some other notorious Trojan poetry events, they started more than a half-hour late, but unlike some other notorious local poetry events kept the poets on a short leash. Perhaps the delay was intentional as the event was really a meet-&-greet, & quite likely the first poetry reading for everyone there, except for the poets & me. There were 3 readers, apparently also, appropriately enough, “millennials.’

Justin Cook, ASO Marketing Manager, finally introduced us into the 1st movement with poet Erica Kaufman, who is the Associate Director of the Institute for Writing & Thinking at Bard College (who knew there would be a director for thinking at an institution of higher learning?). She began with the last poem from her book Instant Classic (Roof Books, 2013) based on, quite tangentially Milton’s Paradise Lost. Then on to a new book in progress, Post Classic, based on Homer & Gilgamesh, a series of short poems, in faux persona “I”s. She seemed to be put off by the ambient noise from the food court half of the Troy Kitchen, which is de rigeur for poets experienced to reading in bars & coffee houses.

Brooklyn poet Danniel Schoonebeek began with selections from his first book of poems, American Barricade (YesYes Books, 2014): “When a Thief Dies,” “Whole Foods” (a fantasy of looting of the store, quoting Milton (again) at the end), & a poem referencing Emma Lazarus. Perhaps he was the token bomb-thrower in the party of the future Robber Barons, as he continued with poems from his forthcoming book Trébuchet (from University of Georgia Press), including one titled appropriately enough “Trojan,” & one about facts about Andrew Jackson, & the title poem hurling nasty things on publishers & the ruling class, all his poems filled with the thrill of outlandish images.

Both of the first two poets read poems heavy with an a prominent, but not always autobiographical, “I” & the poems of Sara Wintz, from Rhinebeck, continued that trend. She read from a work-in-progress titled “Everyday Fashions,” then on to a string of short poems without titles, juxtaposed with the vendors of the Food Court calling out numbers for the customers’ orders, sort of like the piling up of everyday details for importance that characterize her poems. An intriguing & characteristic piece in this manner was a love/sex story about looking for the Cedar Tavern on a date in the Village, “On the Night We Met in New York.”

For me, it was then on to EMPAC for the annual Dogs of Desire concert tonight & many more performances throughout the end of the week. Perhaps if the ASO decides to include a poetry reading as part of its annual American Music Festival next year they can be convinced to include some of the local wordsmiths in their program & attract local poets to their festival so that I won’t have to be so all alone.