November 28, 2017
This was NG Slam #119 or #122, no one was quite sure; my notes from a NG Slam in May indicate that was #127. A cadre of the hard-core Slammers have been meeting lately in an effort to re-vitalize Albany’s competitive Slam with plans to go to the Nationals. Tonight there was a short open mic list & an equally short Slam list here at The Low Beat on Central Ave.
Amani started us off with a long poem from 3 years ago about suicide awareness, & how to make our Heaven on Earth. I followed with an old poem set in the old Justin’s “Jim Morrison,” then a new poem to my daughter Anna “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Elizag read from her 2014 collection of poems Love Cohoes “What I Hate About Cats.” Liv read one of her social commentaries about the contradictions among the hip that she is so good at, one beginning “Dear Hipster Eatery…” Sean J. got the audience clapping with a short piece that he stumbled through.
There were 4 signed up for the Slam & some confusion, it seemed, as to how to run that through to the end (more on that later). Amani was the “sacrificial poet” to calibrate the judges & did a piece on urban gardening. Elizag scored a 10 with “First Date,” then D. Colin got 2 10s with a piece about her first period. Liv did “prodigal” from her chapbook, & Sean J.’s machine-gun delivery was appropriate for “Death by War.”
The scores weren’t announced but Round 2 consisted of all 4 back to read from the highest to the lowest — D. Colin, Elizag, Sean & Liv, who this time got 3 10s.
Then just to extend the evening, D. Colin did a “Victory Lap” with 2 pieces, one on her name & the popular piece “Little Black Girls” jumping rope.
I’m glad that some folks are working to bring more organization & direction to the Slam scene here. As with all arts groups I think it is important that it not result in being perceived as a closed group, & that the flow of the night & scoring be spelled out for the audience, since hopefully there will be new people unfamiliar with Slam rules & practices showing up. I think that each round be an elimination round. Taking tonight’s rounds as example, after the first round of 4, the second round should consist of 3 performers, ending up with 2 going head to determine the winner. If there are more than 4 in the first round, the second round could go to 4 & the third (final) to 2. That’s enough poetry for anybody for one night.
Watch for notices about upcoming Slams on social media & the local poetry calendars, such as on AlbanyPoets.com. Anyway, I hope to get out to more of the Slam events in the coming year & help cheer on a local poet to the National Slam Championships.
November 27, 2017
This is perhaps the longest running annual event sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, featuring a number of local writers in various genres, coordinated & hosted by Alan Catlin, & held at the Schenectady County Public Library on Clinton St. This year there were 7 writers.
Once again a wonderfully diverse reading from the great well-spring of local literary talent in the Capital Region. For more information about the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, visit their website at www.hvwg.org.
November 26, 2017
One of my axioms, perhaps the main one, for poetry readings is “If your friends & relatives don’t come to your reading, who will?” Tonight’s featured poet at the Social Justice Center, Tom Riley, did just that — filled the house with his friends & relatives, providing an audience for his reading as well as for the open mic poets. But first, to invoke the Muse, the late Derek Walcott (1930 - 2017), who had read here in Albany at the NYS Writers Institute in 1989, before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; I read his wonderfully rich — in images & language — poem “Gauguin I” from his 1984 book Midsummer. Then on to the open mic, tonight a special treat to read 2 (!) poems.
Brian Dorn was first up reading 2 love poems “Luck” & “Clear Into Space” in his signature rhymes. Richard Jerin read 2 poems from his 1970s era book Chronicles & Ice Cream, the anti-war “Column” & one about the change of seasons & evening. Another regular poet here, Joe Krausman was next with a poem about lies & lovers’ imagining “Legitimate Theater.”
Come to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30PM for a poetry open mic, & a reading by a local or regional poet, donations support poetry events in the area & the work of the SJC.
November 19, 2017
Here we were again with a wonderfully full sign-up sheet, at the Arts Center in Troy, back in the Black Box Theater.
I was up first, read an old Halloween poem “Zombie Gourd,” then the brand-new poem for my daughter Anna, “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Joe Krausman was topical with a couple poems on lies (i.e., fake news/alternative facts), one a conversation in bed, the other about teeth titled “Falsies.”
My long-time co-host here, Nancy Klepsch, read a couple of love poems, “We Can Be Each Other's Silly Love Poems” (from her forthcoming book), then one based on Tarot cards, “Happy Ritual #3, for Prietesses & Goddesses.” Peggy LeGee, with her cat’s ears head band, read “Shopping Bag Lady” (with cats). Sally Rhoades brought us home with 2 poems, “As Darkness Comes” on healing, then one written September 13 the self-assertive “The Long Trip Home.”
You can come read poetry or prose at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, River St., Troy, NY each 2nd Sunday of the month at — you guessed it — 2:00PM — Free!
November 17, 2017
I was one of the featured poets, along with Sharon Israel & her husband Robert Cucinotta (on sound-scape) at the Word Of Mouth Poetry Series at the Art Bar Gallery in Kingston, NY. Teresa Costa is the host of this series & she started off the night with a poem by 1960s poet Lynne Savitt (whose work became a running theme throughout the night).
Sharon Israel’s publisher, Dayl Wise of Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, arrived just before the reading started with a box of her new book of poems, Voice Lessons, & that’s what she read (mostly) from. She began with the opening poem from the book “Type Triple A,” the on to the title poem, & a poem of family lore “Red Coat.” Others from the book were “Melodrama at the Biograph,” & a tender piece about her father, a butcher on the Lower East Side & a painter, “Butcher Shop.” Her husband, Robert Cucinotta, joined her with his “sound scapes,” mixes of music samples, sounds from nature & chain saws, etc., for “Tango Triolet,” “Souvenir Shop at Manitou Springs,” “Rare Sightings” (Northern Hawk Owl), & “Pie Bird.” In between she included some new poems, “Brachial Plexus” (another poem about her painter father), & the eco-poem “Zoom Floom Water Park.” A new favorite poet to follow.
My reading was more straight forward, less sound more images. I planned my reading around being
in an art gallery, which I think is perhaps the best place, next to Washington Park, for poetry. Most of what I read could be described as “ekphrastic poetry,” poems based on works of art, either visual art or poems. It included “The Hopper Painting,” “Arts Festival Del Ray Beach,” “My Matisse” (on a painting by Thomasa Nielsen), “Last Train to Clarksville,” “After Cavafy,” & “Reading Memoir in the Laundromat” (Patricia Hampl). I ended with “At the Silarian Cafe,” “When Donald Trump Farts” (the obligatory political poem) & “The Day God Invented Wine.” I had fun.
After a break we dove into the open mic, a great anthology of mid-Hudson poets, beginning with the venerable Roberta Gould, who read about “Stink Bugs 2017,” “Intervention,” & the funny ironic “Longevity, A Scientific Perspective.” Gary Siegel read introspective poems, including an eco-poem of surrender “In the Night of Winds & Sand.” Richard read more poems of Lynne Savitt.
The venerable poet Elder Donald Lev read from his 2012 (NYQ Books) A Very Funny Fellow, then some new ones, wry, humorous as always, thinking of his roots. Elizabeth Gordon’s poem “Grilled Salmon” was about a blind cat, & “In Detour Sheer Joe” was an erasure Haibun. Ron Whiteurs is always a trip, read 2 “topical poems” Nickel-Plate Revolver” (this a harmless cap-gun, with a version of Blake’s “Sunflower”) & “Turkey Shuffle & Shotgun Dance.”
Fred Poole’s poems are generally short, philosophical, about looking at the sky, a descriptive “The Morning,” a foray into art, sex, book & hopelessness, & one titled “Politics,” another mid-Hudson poetic Elder. Suze Bottigliero reminded us to turn our clocks back, read from her notebooks, thoughts, fragments, dreams. David Anderson was topical, too, rhymes & questions on Puerto Rico & Harvey Weinstein. Our host, Teresa returned us to the ’60s poetry of Lynne Savitt, raunchy & sexy. Alison Koffler is always one of my favorite poets & tonight wowed me with a new work in progress, a nostalgic memoir “On the Road with Thomas Cole.”
Dayl Wise is a poet, activist (with Veterans For Peace) & publisher of regional poets of note under the imprint Post Traumatic Press; his poems tonight were memoirs of his service in Viet Nam, the first his longest title (which I didn’t get all of), “What Ken Burns … Missed,” then the boy soldier dream-fantasy “Backwash.”
I was not only pleased to read here among poetry friends (both those who read & those who listened) but to hear the rich variety of the voices of the Hudson Valley. W*O*M*P*S is at the bohemian Art Bar Gallery on Broadway in Kingston, NY, each 2nd Thursday of the month, sign-up at 6:30PM, the poets read at 7:00.
November 15, 2017
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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 clichés 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.
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.