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.