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.