November 15, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, November 8


Up to Schenectady for this monthly open mic, with tonight’s featured poet, “the queen of pantoums,” Carol H. Jewell.  Our host, Catherine Norr, was back, & started us off with a verse from the venerable “Shaker Hymn.”  The sign-up sheet was already filling up when we got there.

Alan Catlin began the open mic with poems from a series of poems with titles of paintings, some that could be real, “The Graveyard of the Beach Chairs” & “Dark Tree in Front of Dark House.”  Richard Jerin read a couple poems about remembering the past, the first untitled, the second titled “Prayers & Diaries” (about the Holidays).  Judith Prest was back with a political piece “What I Want” & a poem about rape after 50 years “After.”  Ginny Folger read from a series of “postcard poems” “Childhood,” “Summer,” “After Sundown.”  

A new voice tonight was Tazjouna Pannell, an open mic “virgin” who read an alliterative, inspirational piece “It’s Interesting.”  Last month’s guest host, Jackie Craven, read a couple poems from a series in the persona of an angry/disappointed wife (she said that she is not either), “Autopsy” & “Shadows at 4PM.”  Bill Poppino made a most rare appearance here to read a family narrative about “man trappings.”

The featured poet, Carol H. Jewell, had with her for sale her attractive, new 36-page book of poems from Clare Songbirds Publishing House of Auburn, NY Hits and Missives, from which she read.  Of course, there were the pantoums, “The Embrace,” “The Dream,” “Crestfallen,” & the tour-de-force “Cento Pantoum #1” & “#2” both composed of lines from other, more famous poets.  Also from the book, “Attachment,” “Carolina ’81,” “Chestnuts 1967” (with her father, on the subway in NYC), “Brother Memory” & “The Cure for Everything” (with the great quote from Isak Dinesen about salt water).  & she threw in the new pantoum “Appetite.”  Support your local poet — buy her book.

When we returned after the break Catherine Norr sang a brief song praising the harvest.  Dawn Marar, who also has a new book a-birthing, began with a poem inspired by Edward Durrell Stone’s fountain at the UAlbany campus, & the city of Jordan “Gathering Rush” & a poem inspired by Istanbul “The Basilica Cistern.”  The perennial rhymer Betty Zerbst read a poem about her children growing up, away “Left Behind” then a tender poem for her mother “When You Were Here.”  Susan Jewell (no relation to our featured poet) read a couple poems about the Great Depression, one her mother’s story “A Child’s Story” the other from her mother’s father “A Father’s Tale.”  Malcolm Willison was saying goodbye as he escaped for the Winter to Key West with his poem “Envoi.”  Mary Panza made a welcome, rare appearance here to begin with a poem about memories in black & white photos, then a funny, metaphoric piece about using a Maxi-pad to soak up spilled coffee in her car’s cup holder.

Rick Frieberg breezed in off-list as he usually does with short, recited street pieces, rhymes & lines like fuzzy memories of songs.  I followed, much more formally on-the-page with, not a pantoum, but “The Sestina Sestina.”  Don Levy read a disappointed-in-love break-up poem titled “This is Not a Break-up Poem.”  Scott Morehouse read an evocative, cutting portrait of a society widow picking up guy in the blue light of The Blue Room.  Carol Graser brought us all home with a feminist manifesto “Discourse on Myself Addressed to the Patriarch.”

This open mic is the highlight of the Schenectady poetry scene, & it happens each 2nd Wednesday of the month at Arthur’s Market at the monument in the Stockade section of Schenectady, NY — 7:30PM — worth the drive from anywhere, even Schenectady.

November 13, 2017

Gloucester Writers Center Open Mic, November 6


Cape Ann is my favorite place for a retreat, & if I time my visit right, I can catch the monthly open mic, as I did for this recent trip to the sea. Amanda Cook, a member of the GWC Board, is the host. There’s always a mix of poetry & prose, both fiction & memoir, & tonight was no exception; some were writers I’d heard read here on previous visits.

When I signed up, it looked like someone had signed up first, then changed his mind & crossed his name off, so I took the empty spot; I read my poem to my daughter Anna, “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson,” my wine-stained copy of “The Day God Invented Wine,” & the short “Amithaba.” Chuck Francis read a sad & chilling story, “Herbie,” about a foster child. Phil Storey’s poem, “Midnight Mass 1975” was about a man dropping dead in church.

Rufus Collinson read from a published book of her poems, the pieces titled “Talking to Strangers,” the enchanted vision of “Sea Smoke,” “The Beginning of a Difference,” & “Delivery.” Elizabeth Endfield read her laptop a narrative poem, re-written today she said, titled “The Seagull & the Crab.” Don Kipp read a cluster of poems, “Amazing Machines” (about our bodies), “Only Their Tears Moved,” “Recipe” (about an encounter on a bus), “Moon,” & “The Waking Eyes.”

Joe Rukeyser read a quirky fantasy titled “The Good Life of Avram & Havah,” about a health-fanatic, over-the-top environmentalist couple who die in an accident & are offered a way back to life eternal on Earth. I’ve heard Virginia McKinnin read here before from her memoirs, tonight she read a letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, & a poem “Freedom is Not Free.” (Note: the current exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum of photo portraits by Jason Grow of local World War II vets includes one of her husband Robert McKinnin.) Ian McColl began with a statement about his writing as rain, then read/performed his piece “Insomnia,” including fighting, drinking, song lyrics & a brief summary of his life. Roger Davis began with talking about his process of writing, a quote from Mary Oliver, & talked about his grandmother reciting the poems of Robert Service, then read a poem of his own using Service’s rhythm & rhymes.

Our host, Amanda, read an amusing poem on memory, “I Am Forgetting the Names of Plants.” Bob Gutman’s long, rambling piece “You Gotta Love It” had something to do with horses, & began with a long dedication. The night’s final reader, Jorgelina Zeoli, read from part 2 of her 3-volume memoir about growing up in Argentina & her ongoing therapeutic conversations with God, The Way Out, this segment about her mother’s psychosis.

So if you happen to be on Cape Ann on the 1st Monday of the month, stop by the Gloucester Writers Center at 7:30PM for the open mic. It is located in Vincent Ferrini’s old house, at 126 East Main St. — Gloucester, it’s not just lobsters.

November 10, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, October 30


It was an extra-special night at this monthly open mic with my fellow 3 Guys from Albany poet, Charlie Rossiter as the featured poet, with host Mary Panza stirring disorder to create order. There were even some new names on the sign-up sheet. First, some open mic poets.

The first was me (Charlie & I had gotten there early for dinner), with 2 brand-new poems, “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock,” & “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson” dedicated to my daughter Anna. Joe Krausman followed with a tale of a lost car & a lost job “Holyoke 1973,” & the more humorous “Pandering to the Pandas in the National Zoo.”

Next up was a new voice, Carol Durant, who read 2 poems from her brand-new collection Whole Phat and Gluten Free Poetry (Troy Book Makers, 2017), “Lobed Out” & the defiant “PJ Promenade.” Samuel Weinstein read a poem about insanity “Big Pink Fluffy Hats” & an untitled piece written on the way here. Kareem did his poems from memory, both love/attraction pieces, the 2nd titled “A Dilemma Called Time.” Sylvia Barnard’s poems were both childhood memories, both scary encounters with animals, “Dogs” (which is a re-write from when she read it last), & “The Bull.” Carol H. Jewell announced that she has a book of poems coming out “next month;” tonight she read the anaphoric “I need a poem…” then a pantoum with cats (surprise!) “Appetite.”

Charlie Rossiter had been in Chicago for almost 20 years, is now back in the Northeast; he began his reading with 2 poems from the Windy City, a Carl Sandburg-style piece “Chicago” (but the city as a dog, not a cat), & a jazz poem “Night Life.” Then on to “The Tie that Binds,” the iconic “Of All the Cheap Motels I Best Remember,” & “The Giggling Teenage Girls of Wallace Lake, MO.” His poem titled “Grateful & Full of Affection” is an imitation of many Billy Collins poems,” then in his own voice “Listening to Ce’Cile, Thinking Sexy Thoughts,” & “How to Be an Atheist.” He ended with selections from Cold Mountain 2000: Han Shan in the City (FootHills Publishing, 2014).

Alan Casline continued on the open mic with “This Is How to Love Me,” & the associative, “post-modern” (as he said), “After the Predicted Storm.” Thom Francis & Carissa had a night out & he read an inventory of what he found in his pocket, then a poem about his daughter Molly being courageous in a crowd of strangers. Julie Lomoe, in a costume of sorts, read a Halloween piece written today, with some other poets in the audience correcting her pronunciation of “Samhain” (to Julie’s credit, since it is a Gaelic word, the pronunciation is nothing like it looks from the spelling).

Sally Rhoades read “an opinion piece” harkening back to her days as a young journalist “The President Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Brooke Kolcow read a couple pieces about an accident where she cut her thumb, “Reduce, Recycle & Shred,” & “Angel #9” counting the stitches on her thumb — then curtsies at the end.

Evelyn Augusto read poems on gun violence, “Belize” from her period of love poems, & one about how she doesn’t like guns, but her husband does; she wanted to read a 3rd poem, but Mary stuck to her guns, so to speak, with the 2-poem limit. Alifair Skebe read poems in honor of Samhain, “Painting a Meal” about the death of her grandfather before she was born & her grandmother’s cooking, & another about her grandmother some years later, dying. Rob Smith also had a poem for Halloween, a horror story about how our minds have all been grabbed by the Government — hmm, could be.

Poets Speak Loud! is a gathering of poets for a featured reader & an open mic on the last Monday of the month, at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM — come to read & eat & drink.

November 9, 2017

Poetry Thursdays at Russell Sage College, October 26


This is a new series at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY, coordinated & hosted by Matthew Klane, that started in September. This night the readers were Travis Macdonald & Iris Cushing, with a post-reading discussion, in the Carol Ann Donahue Poetry Room of the Shea Learning Center.

Travis Macdonald is the author of 2 books of procedural poetry, The O Mission Repo (Fact-Simile, 2008), an erasure of The 9/11 Commission Report & N7ostrdamus (BlazeVOX, 2010), a N+7 treatment of Nostradamus’ quatrains. He is also an editor at the journal Fact-Simile, where you can find the work of Matthew Klane (& James Belflower in the current issue). He read from The O Mission Repo from a treatment of the preface. Then on to a piece titled “How to Zing the Government.” While his reading was rather flat in tone, as is appropriate to the nature of the text I suppose, some of the phrases were surprising in their random (supposedly) meaning.

Iris Cushing had a high-tech glitch in the middle of her reading, the equivalent of leaving home with the wrong folder of poems. But she recovered & performed a couple of her karaoke poems, playing the tunes that inspired them on her smart phone, a political “That Man I Can’t Stand” (to “I Can’t Stand the Thought”) & another to the tune “All She Ever Wants to Do is Dance.” I would have liked to have heard her “2 Truths & a Lie” but, she said, she had sent herself a student essay instead. It was fun just the same.

The discussion after the reading was tedious, as these often are, burdened by some audience members making long statements (i.e., showing off) about what they think/believe rather than asking questions or engaging in discussion with the guest readers. I usually leave at this point but was trapped there. But there were some probing questions on music (for Iris), & enlightening responses from Travis about the why & how of using The 9/11 Commission Report (an old copy he picked up in a used-book store).

There is one more of these at the end of November &, hopefully, more in the coming semester, part of a poetry renaissance in Troy.

November 1, 2017

Troy Poetry Mission, October 25


If this was a grandchild, we would say it was "13 months old."  The hosts are long-time poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt, & editor of Hobo Camp Review James Duncan. The featured readers tonight had originally been scheduled to read at the Hudson River Coffee House in an event organized by Harvey Havel & Brian Dorn titled “A Night of Features.” However, the coffee house closed down just before the reading was was held & the organizers sought out other venues. Tonight there were 3 of the original 4 readers, but first a brief open mic.

Rob read a piece titled “In an Air of Smoke & Cinders,” what he described as his entry to a recent project to present poems about Troy as broadsides. I followed with my seasonal “Baseball in Palestine.” James Duncan read a piece about children in a hospital, “There is This Dream I Have.” Faith Green, the president of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, made a rare appearance at an open mic to read a couple poems on a related theme, “Blind Love” & the amusing “Terms of Endearment” a litany of the clich├ęs of love. Betty Zerbst read her self-advice “A Letter Back in Time to Myself Back in Time.” The last reader, Meg Marchin, even beat Betty to the bottom of the list, & read a piece titled “Letter from Rook Rd.," a memoir of a boyfriend with references to Bruce Springsteen songs.

Harvey Havel took over the duties to introduce the featured poets & first up was Avery Stempel who did a series of his New Age self-help-lectures-as-poems, some read, some performed from memory, with titles like “What No Longer Suits You,” “What Do You Choose,” “ & “Listen to the Trees Whisper.” He also performed from memory a piece based on the chakras “While the Wheels Turn” which was also available as an 16-page, full-color chapbook.

Shannon Shoemaker did all her poems from memory, pieces she has performed in the past, beginning with the self-assertive confrontation with mothers at school “Tongue in Cheek,” & “Poem for the Open Mic.” Then a series of sad love/sad or angry break-up poems, such as “Grown Cold,” “Night in Michigan,” “Worth Keeping,” “Columbus Day,” “Phone Booth” (imaging herself as Superman), & “Out of the Shadows,” ending with another self-assertive piece, her Slam anthem “My Name is Shannon Shoemaker.”

D. Colin is the host of the weekly poetry series in Troy, Poetic Vibe, & likes to sing as well as recite her poems. She started with poems from her 2015 collection Dreaming in Kreyol, including “Rainy Season,” “Artibonite River,” & “Unapologetic.” Then on to poems from a new collection, including a history & litany of black women heroes, “For Every Black Woman Who Has Been Called Angry,” another piece of black history, the ironically titled “When America Was Great,” then ending with an older piece, singing in Haitian, nostalgically “… dreaming in a language that sounds like home…”

This series takes place on the last Wednesday of each month, starting sometime after 7:30PM, at O’Brien’s Public House, 43 3rd St., Troy, NY.