January 31, 2017


(for Willy & Jean Dugan)

The cutest peace-sign ever
in my phone’s inbox:
a dark-braided niña
in a flowered dress
a shy smile behind
her 2 raised fingers
in a peace sign
we all know so well
across mountains
& oceans, not
knowing each other’s
language or name.

(Each January Jean & Willy Dugan are part of a mission from Holy Family Parish in Gloucester, MA to the people of Cevicos, Dominican Republic.  They bring medicine & medical supplies & assist medical professionals to provide services to the people of Cevicos.  Dare I say, "This is what makes America Great"?)

January 29, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 19

The first of the new year’s third Thursdays meant we were back at the Social Justice Center for the open mic & a reading by novelist Harvey Havel. & we still hadn’t gotten caught up with the dead poets of 2016. Brooklyn-born Irish poet John Montague went to that poetry reading among the stars on December 10. John was a great friend to Albany poets, having run a (free) workshop for the Writers Institute for community poets, for many years. I was pleased to be in it in 1989 & in 1995, & to have John as a guest for dinner in my home on a couple of occasions. To honor his memory & to invoke him as tonight’s Muse, I read his poem “Sheela Na Gig.”

Alan Catlin, who had been in many of John’s workshops, was first up for the open mic, read from “Hollyweird,” a work in project, a piece spun off from the film American Psycho, a memoir of college years. Richard Jerin returned with a poem from 20 years ago, a piece titled “Take Back.” Joe Krausman is also an alumnus of the Montague workshops & read a poem that he has entered into the Jewish Currents Reynes prize contest “The Wall.” Thérèse Broderick was next “With Ease” a poem about going to the gym, doing yoga. Taking us on a political turn, Frank S. Robinson, reminded us that in spite of our (mis) (pre) conceptions of “Who We Are.”

Harvey Havel is a novelist & short story writer who frequently attends this Third Thursday open mic but rarely reads. Tonight he was our featured reader & he started with a short story, “The Mother & Her Son,” a fable-like grim tale of a boy battling a cobra to protect his mother. This he followed with “Ode to America” an actual poem, a descriptive rant full of dark & violent images, political & personal.

After a short break I returned to continue the open mic with my poem “A Shill at the Fair” responding to Howard Kogan’s latest book A Chill in the Air (Square Circle Press). Karen Fabiane followed with a poem she wrote for R.M. Englehardt’s call for entries for poems reacting to the election of Donald Trump “Kremlin Along the Potomac.” Bob Sharkey read “January 16th” a poem about reading someone else’s poem, a poem he said that “wrote itself.” The final poet for the night was Brian Dorn who read a poem from his book, “Prophecy,” that he has rarely read out (this was only the 2nd time).

The Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place each month at 7:30PM at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us — $3.00 (more or less) donation.

January 20, 2017

Albany Poets Presents: Don Levy, January 18

Don Levy, May, 1988, QE2, Albany, NY
This long-awaited event at the Restaurant Navona had been delayed due to the end-of-the-year holidays but here we were to listen to & to interrogate long-time Albany poet, Don Levy. I had first met Don at the monthly open mic at the QE2 (not yet settled in to the last Monday slot) in May, 1988. My notes indicate that he read after me & before Karl Gluck, but the notes don’t indicate what he read.

But tonight he included some older poems from earlier chapbooks, “He Wasn’t Always Such a Reluctant Astronaut” (from How Small Was My Big Eden) & a poem about the Wizard of Oz, “Begone Before Someone Drops a House on You” (from Super Queer Poet Saves the Day). Then on to a cluster of poems written in the last year, beginning with “Divers” about watching “Wide World of Sports” with his Dad, then to the even more direct “2 Men Kissing,” & “To the Victims of the Pulse Shooting."  Don spends a lot of time on social media & wrote about the “Death of a Digital Friend.” On to more directly political pieces, “Mike Pence Goes to Hamilton,” & a response to a FaceBook post, “Straight Pride Day is Every Day.” He ended with a couple pieces read from his phone, the meditative “Hopper Motel” & a poem that looked back to the poetry days of the QE2 “I’m a FuckingPoet!”

As good as the reading was, his interview by Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets.com, was even more fun. Thom asked, as he traditionally does, about how Don became a poet & Don explained that he started writing poet after high school when he was a student at HVCC. He went on to talk about his introduction to poetry open mics at the QE2, even reciting his notorious “Condom Poem.” He also gave a brief history of the reading series that he started at the Albany Art Gallery on Jefferson St., run by art impresario Bill Lemily, in November of 1989, & how it morphed thru the Fuzz Box & Lemily’s other gallery on Washington Ave., to the series at the Pride Center.

About his being a host Don said, “I’m a jukebox & I give people dimes to put in the jukebox."  Mary Panza, who had been the subject of one of these Albany Poets Presents events this past year, amusingly asked Don about the time he “came out” at the QE2 & remarked about what a ho-hum, un-Earth-shaking event that it had been. It’s always fun to have a conversation with Don Levy.

This series is usually held every other month, on the even-numbered months, on the third Wednesday, at the Restaurant Navona on New Scotland Ave., in Albany, NY. Check out AlbanyPoets.com for more information.


This Donald anon leet fle a fart.
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent…
— from “The Miller’s Tale“ by Geoffrey Chaucer

When Donald Trump farts it is like he is delivering a message of Freedom to the oppressed of the Aleutian Islands

When he farts in his limo or private corporate jet the farts get circulated until completely absorbed by the other passengers, his driver, his pilot

His children, Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric, even Tiffany & Baron have been hearing his farts for years
& like all children they got used to them, & now ignore his farts.

Ivana left him because when he farted he didn’t say “excuse me,” Marla because his farts were loud, violent
but Melania rather enjoys them & likes to say she doesn’t fart except in the bathroom & when she does they are “melodious”
but then she likes to copy what other people say.

Donald Trump says that he is for law & order but he lets his farts fly free without restriction

He says he wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out while he lets his farts migrate wherever he goes

Donald Trump says that he wants Muslims to wear a badge, this stinks even worse than his farts.

When Donald Trump becomes President it would be in the World’s best interest to make sure his diet avoids beans, beef, &, of course, beer
Because when Donald Trump farts, Vladimir Putin farts too

But when Donald Trump farts in the White House the whole World does not have to listen & all Americans should be buying anti-fascist air fresheners.

January 15, 2017

2nd Sunday @ 2 — Poetry + Prose, January 8

The first of the new year of poetry back at the Arts Center in Troy, but my co-host, Nancy Klepsch, on sick-leave, so I had to go it on my own. A great afternoon of poetry with regular readers & returning old-timers. Dianne Sefcik started us off with a poems invoking her native heritage, a meditation on our origin in the stars “Portal,” then a different sort of origin story, “When You Were Born.” Don Levy’s first poem was about an exchange on FaceBook “I’m a Fucking Poet,” then one on yet still another dead pop star “George” (Michaels).

Kathy Smith gave a performance of a monologue on the Biblical story of Sarah & Abraham. Mike Conner’s poem was on “Winter’s Wolf,” then read Billy Collins’ “The Death of Allegory.” Bob Sharkey pondered the arc of 20th Century American history, from the protests against the Viet Nam war to more recent drones & the CIA in his poem “My America,” then a cento of sorts composed of real & imagined fortunes from Chinese cookies “Let Us Marry Our Fortunes Together.” I read a recent Gloucester piece “The Maud/Olson Library,” then the much older “Shaker Hymn.”

Tim Verhaegen’s first piece was about his first ever, recent, trip to the hospital “Virgin Voyage,” then a poem looking back to his mother & to his favorite singer Joni Mitchell, “Joan & Joni.” Dave DeVries poem “There Is There” was full of anaphora, alliteration & rhyme, then on to a more free verse about “Footprints” in Winter & Summer. Peggy LeGee was wonderfully rambling, & confrontational reading her notebook pages “To Fight or Flight.”

Dan Curley began reading a poem by Faith Shearin, then one of his own on the closing of the mills in Corinth, NY. Karen Fabiane’s first poem was an old one, “Someone Laughed,” then “La La …” a poem filled with personal allusions. Trojan Ed Rinaldi read a couple poems about the Hudson River, “Winter Is A Tug of War” & “On the Night the Green Island Bridge Collapsed” (in the 1970s).

Nancy Dunlop said the last time she had read at an open mic was when she read “I Want to Be Nancy Sinatra…” in 2004 at the Lark Street Bookshop; today, back on the scene, she read a poem about the copy editor of your book-of-life “The Sentence Snatcher,” then a nautical piece about her father’s sail boat “In the Keep.” Anthony Bernini read what he said was an old poem that demanded revision “Lao Tse Comes to Grand St.,” then a recent poem “After Election Day on 5th Ave.” R.M. Englehardt ended the day with a poem spoken by the Grim Reaper “Death is Open for Business,” & the quasi-political “American Signs.”

We are at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY on the 2nd Sunday of each month, an open mic for all writers, & it’s free.

January 6, 2017

Nitty Gritty Slam, January 3

This was the 1st poetry event of the year for me & it was a great omen that it was a packed house with great words from near & far. Amani & Jayton served as hosts for the open mic; the Slam is held on the 3rd Tuesday. There was also food being served & game tables set up, even a confused guy in a plaid shirt & rain jacket who wandered in looking for comedy night. Amani set the tone with a reading of the poem “Ode to Existence” by former Albany poet Daniel Summerhill.

Avery was the first up with a performance of his piece based on the Heart Sutra, “What is that Subtle Background Hum?” On a slightly different sound, I read the latest version of “When Donald Trump Farts.” Ainsley performed from her smart phone the anaphoric “Live is like…”

Poetik, who was running one of the gaming tables, read an instructional (& self-affirmation) piece “To the Next Person Who Will Be the Love of My Life.” Apparently Elizag had gotten a traffic ticket because her piece was “To the Philmont Traffic Court.” D. Colin read 2 poems for Haiti’s Independence Day (January 1), “Souvenir” from her book Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015), & a piece beginning “We Are Beyond This…,” both celebrating Haiti’s history & culture.

Slim” said this was her first time reading & read a 3-part poem on the different stages of a relationship. Gabriel said he had no poems but did a short stand-up with jokes & stories about Xmas with his family.  Jayton, with Amani as back-up singer, did a free-style on audience-provided words “chocolate” & “magic.” Poetess did a dual piece dedicated to her parents. Amanda B. read 2 love poems, the first titled “In Dreams,” the second an early, untitled piece not read out before.

Ronnie was visiting from San Diego & performed a couple of slam pieces, “Daddy Issues” & “Identity.” Sakea was with Ronnie & also did pieces from memory, one that posed the question “I am Afra-Latina…what are you?” the other addressed to guys who hit on her, telling them “my face is not an invitation…” Sweetz read from her phone what she called an “old, untitled, romantic” piece.

It is great to see that Amani & Jayton are not only keeping the Nitty Gritty Slam going, but drawing in a good, diverse audience. It’s at The Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM each 1st & 3rd Tuesday — catch it.