February 3, 2017

Poets Speak Loud! — The Tom Nattell Memorial Open Mic, January 30

The last Monday in January is always a special — & busy — night. It is the night that we celebrate the memory of Tom Nattell, Albany poet & peace/environmental/social justice activist. Tom died on the morning of January 31, 2005 & had been scheduled to read that night at the very first Poets Speak Loud! at the Lark Tavern.   The open mic that night turned into a poetic wake. Since then we remember him on the last Monday in January with a ceremonial beret toss at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park & then I host Poets Speak Loud!, now held at McGeary’s.

Mary Panza, the usual host, introduced me as tonight’s host & this year it was the very first time that Charlie Rossiter, fellow member of 3 Guys from Albany with Tom & me, had joined the celebration. Charlie had been living in Chicago at the time Tom died & only recently moved back to the Northeast. Tonight he was here with us. I began with a 3 Guys from Albany intro with Charlie (& Tom) & read my poem to him “Theology 101.”

It was a mix of young & old poets, many of whom had known Tom, & yet a number who never knew him, but are now partaking of the legacy he created for the poets of Albany. Carrie Czwakiel is one of those poets in the latter category, began with what she described as her 1st rhyming poem in years, on recovering from suffering, then another in the same vein “Perspective.”

Nancy Klepsch performed her marvelous chant “Holy Tom,” then a funny ramble “I Wrote this Poem Thinking of Garrison Keilor.” I threw in one of Tom’s “Christopher Columbus Fantasies” because he would have loved to be writing poems today about Donald Trump. Mary Panza read her next entry to Housewife Tuesday on AlbanyPoets.com “Shit Show.” Nancy Dunlop read a poem dedicated to her husband’s good advice “Flaying into Walls,” then “The Sentence Snatcher” which she said was about alternate facts & that she dedicated to Tom Nattell. Sally Rhoades read a couple poems scented with politics, “Aghast at a World Lit Up by Protest” & “Flamingoes in Cyprus” inspired by a rare snowfall there.

I read another of Tom’s “Christopher Columbus Fantasies” then Charlie Rossiter read his poem “Ready” about how Tom had rearranged his bedroom to be able to use his computer, be surrounded by his “shamans” (books), & be able to welcome visitors as he died. I followed with my tribute poem “Chasing Tom” with its epigraph from Timothy Leary, “We don’t want to get too serious about all this.” Tess Lecuyer said she hasn’t been writing many poems lately so read “Snow” by Anne Sexton. Adam Tedesco got political with a piece beginning “pretty soon they’re going to have to equalize it for the whites…” then philosophical on the subject of violence in “Bliss.”

Karen Fabiane read 2 poems “honoring Donald Trump,” “Grizzlies at the Door” & “Not My President.” I read a brief scatological poem Tom had sent me on a postcard from Utah. Joe Krausman waxed grimly philosophical with “Freak Accident” then a poem with a funny take on the amenities of jail “Freedom.” Julie Lomoe wore a pink Planned Parenthood scarf as a hijab & read a poem written afternoon “Donald the Bantam Rooster Speaks His Mind.”

James Duncan was a new face/voice in the crowd & began with a poem set in San Antonio & dedicated to his father “Sanctuary,” then read his Trump poem “Inauguration Afternoon.” R.M. Engelhardt came in late & thus missed the rules, read his tirade “I Hear America Screaming,” then a take on Tom’s “Christopher Columbus Fantasies” & then a tribute poem “Think Beautiful, for Tom Nattell."

Charlie Rossiter & I did one of the last performance pieces Tom wrote, “I Beat My Drum,” then we gave Tom the last word with a recording of him performing his proto-eco-poem “Save It.” As Tom said, “Stardust is Us” & his spirit not only lingers on, but thrives!

Meanwhile, Poets Speak Loud! continues each last Monday of the month at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

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