May 22, 2017
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I do hope that Yes! will be back in the Fall with more intriguing, experimental poets from near & far.
May 7, 2017
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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.]
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.]
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
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|
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.
[Note: More photos can be found here in the Readings Against the End of the World album on my flick site.]
April 24, 2017
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.”
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.”
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
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.
|"Robert Engelhardt," QE2, 4/22/91|
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.
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."]
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.
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.
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.
A broad, eclectic mix of poets for the start of Albany WordFest 2017.
April 19, 2017
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.
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.
These Evenings of Poetry & Prose are coordinated by Havey Havel on a irregular basis — stay in touch at AlbanyPoets.com.