February 26, 2017
As a young, red-haired student David Kirschenbaum was one of the poets who frequented the QE2 Open Mic on the last Monday of each month back in the late 1980s & 1990s. He went on to form BOOG Literature, a poetic umbrella group published small-sized poetry chapbooks, & established a long-running series of readings in New York City, series that include music, book fairs as well as readings. David’s information for 10.5 states “It will feature 51 poets, 17 musical acts, 3 poet theater plays, 2 poets in conversation with one another, & a d.a. levy lives press” from Friday February 17, through Sunday February 19. David has graciously included me in these festivals in the past & invited me again to read on Saturday, February 18 at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn.
As the late crowd was gathering the Megan DiBello read a couple long pieces which were, to steal one of her lines, a “biography” of her last week. Sam Jablon’s 4 poems, with titles like “Beautiful Nothing” & “Everything Dies,” used repetition well in their short spaces.
Gil Ott (1950 - 2004) & included “Traffic” a long poem that seemed to be about itself that was inspired by reading Ott’s work. Thomas Devaney was the other Philly poet, he also spoke of Ott, read some Winter poems, including one an urban piece “The Blue Stoop” that Ott had once described as Devaney’s signature poem. Sarah Bartlett was here from Portland, OR, read from her phone selections from her book Sometimes We Walk With Our Nails Out (Subito, 2016); one line I noted was “there is no graveyard for desire.”
A couple of scheduled performers had not yet shown up & it was time for a break so I headed out to Vanderbilt Ave., found a most pleasant watering hole, the Breeder Bar, for a beer, then returned to reminisce with David about “the old days” in the Albany poetry scene, & some of its (many) characters.
Back to the performers, Emmerson Pierson did a set with her acoustic guitar of songs she had written as well as a cover.
One of the hallmarks of the Boog City Festivals is the celebration of “renegade presses,” the small-small presses that keep poetry of the streets & experimenters alive, titled “d.a. levy lives,” honoring the poet & small press publisher who flourished in Cleveland, OH, d. a. levy (1942 - 1968). Today’s honored press was Argos Books.
Samantha Zighelboim was the first from this group with a reading from a forthcoming collection The Fat Sonnets, intense, personal poems about struggling with weight, many poems with funny titles, including some from a series of 14 word “poems on a diet.”
Isaac Fornarola did a set of songs with his guitar, what he called “folk songs” that were mostly his own compositions, played with a skillful use of finger-picking.
The festival, which had begun Friday night, continued on Saturday evening & on Sunday. But my time was limited in the City so I headed out to wander the streets of the Village & have dinner before heading back on the train to Albany.
February 24, 2017
Back to the third Thursday at the Social Justice Center for the open mic & our featured poet, Daniella Toosie-Watson, & a cluster of Daniels. In honor of lots of things, I selected for our Muse tonight the gone poet June Jordan (1936 - 2002) & read her poem “To My Sister, Ethel Ennis, who Sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Second Inauguration of Richard Milhous Nixon, January 20, 1973,” after all, it was our first third Thursday after the events of January 20 & 21 of this year.
Alan Catlin dedicated his poem to poet Michele Battiste (a former-feature here), about her parents market in Schenectady, “666.”
After the break, I returned to the inauguration theme with sections from my new poem “Inauguration Raga” published as a chapbook by A.P.D. (a presidential disaster), starting with the beginning of the poem, a recollection of the inauguration of Richard Nixon, as in June Jordan’s poem. D(anielle). Colin, host of the every-Monday “Poetic Vibe” in Troy, also had an inauguration poem but one filled with crows, “On the Pulse of Ancestors,” a play on Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning” that she read at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Brian Dorn commented on the proliferation of Daniels here tonight then read a “kind of a” love poem, “Arousing Reflection.” Anthony Bernini’s dream-like poem was about “Meteorological Spring.”
Each third Thursday of the month we meet for a featured poet & an open mic at 7:30PM at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY — bring a poem for the open mic & a donation to support the featured poet, the SJC & other poetry events in this city of poems.
February 20, 2017
This was held at the Restaurant Navona on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY.
As is the custom here, the evening began with a reading by the honored poet, who began appropriately enough with a poem looking at language as dangerous. A couple poems on mortality included “Gravity Gets Us All,” & “Breathing Issue” from a hospital visit. Mike can be a soapbox poet (in the best sense) & read poems about the new administration in Washington, including “Cloud Land,” “I’m the Next Guy” (the one who wipes the toilet seats in Trump Tower), & a poem of revolt beginning “I can’t control myself these days…” Of course there was a poem for his wife, “Gather Here,” & one composed of lines that never made it in to poems, “Cleaning House,” & others titled “Still Live with Magnolias,” “Device,” “Passing Showers” (on extinctions), “Cheering the Ponies with God,” & “Cold Shot.” He included a poem about him, “Bored” written by Guy Reed, that sounded as if he could have written it himself, then ended with “Poetic Justice,” about Poet Laureate Billy Collins some years ago looking for a seat at the Woodstock Poetry Festival.
To a question about how today is different from 20 years ago, Mike said that what’s changed is technology, that now the poetry scene is more active than ever. Nick Bisanz talked about growing up in the mid-Hudson area, about following Mike’s band & it’s influence upon him & his friends, about seeing them in the 1980’s at the 8th Step in Albany, & even quoted lyrics from one of the band’s song. In response to a question from Mary Panza Mike responded that “Mary taught me how to curse in poetry.”
Stay in touch with AlbanyPoets.com to find out about the next Albany Poets Presents.
February 12, 2017
I like to treat myself to a couple days on Cape Ann for my birthday, which is January 26. This year I decided to wait a week so that I could attend the Open Mic at the Gloucester Writers Center held on the first Monday of each month. I have been to a couple of these open mics this past year & have always enjoyed the variety of voices & experiences. Tonight was no different. Our host Amanda Cook & another woman talked about some of the events being planned for the GWC, including writing groups, as well a workshops on memoir writing & poetry.
The writers who filled Vincent Ferrini’s old living room were overwhelmingly old white guys, so I fit right in. & I was the first reader & read, for the first time anywhere, selections from my new chapbook Inauguration Raga. Sandra Williams, one of the 3 women to read, read 2 poems by Langston Hughes for Black History Month. Chuck Francis said he was working on flash fiction, read a piece about a friend who who stepped back from a ledge, another, “The Cribbage Player,” a memoir of an uncle. Evan Beilin determined that he was the youngest (29 years-old) person in the room, & read poems titled “Recovery” (from bad times) & “The Bi-Polar Bear” in rhyme.
The Economic Process.
A most eclectic night of good writing — must be the salt air. The Gloucester Writers Center has an open mic on the 1st Monday of each month, 7:30PM, at 126 East Main St., Gloucester, MA.
February 8, 2017
Our host, Carol Graser, started us off on the right (i.e., correct) foot with Alice Walker’s poem “Every Revolution Need Fresh Poems.” Then to the open mic sign-up, a long list tonight, & the first poet up was Ivy Darling who read a poem written when she was 12-years old “Eldorado.” Ainsley, who comes out to the open mics in Albany & Troy said that this was her first time here at Caffè Lena, read a piece about being out partying with a friend with a drinking problem. Kate McNairy shared a poem of love & lust & mountain climbing in Winter “Final Assent” then a Fall poem. Sue Jefts made a rare appearance out of the woods & read a poem written after the Women’s March on January 21 “The Tremble.” Eric Krantz began with a rhymed poem, “Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal,” then another in even funnier rhymes on climate change “March Came In Like a Lamb,” then challenged the rules with a third poem titled “Rained Out No Bike Ride Today” that played on the phrase “rained out.”
Tonight’s featured poets, Carol Jewell & Allison Paster-Torres, are that rare breed of writers who are graduates from the short-lived MFA program in creative writing at the College of St. Rose. Both read a set composed of mostly short poems, with little, if any, introductions or glosses on their poems.
After a break, Carol Graser read one of her own poems “The Icicle” where the title character was not an object described but a character in the poem. Mike Basfore read a tender poem about/to his Mom. Joe DiBari began with a piece about being on a mountaintop in Winter, then to a relationship poem in half-rhymes. Anna Feldstein said her first poem, about being on a lake, was from 2011, while her second poem was written last night, a prose poem about a clock tower & bell. Jodi Davis read a memoir piece about teen-dating violence, then one based on the Greek myths of Aphrodite & Ares, “Love & War.”
This was Mz. Tu’s first time here & she gave a dramatic & breathless recitation about lust entitled “Reality & Forbidden Consequents.” James has been coming to the open mic here for years & is known for his haiku & tonight’s cluster included ones about Winter, being in bed, in a restaurant & about his daughter. Another habitué here is Barbara Garro who introduced her new book, Love Bites: a Collection of Poetry (Cambridge Books, 2016) & read the poem “Road Paved with Words” from the book, then a portrait of a “Medicine Woman.” [My reaction to the book’s title, Love Bites, is that the title has an unfortunate (& apparently unforeseen) double entendre in the sense that “bites” is a word that has the negative colloquial meaning of something bad, from its meaning of a wound inflicted by teeth, or an insect, of pain — so perhaps the author has written an entire book of poems about how love bites, or at least how disappointed she has been in her love life.] Effie Redman brought us bravely home with a poem that I think was titled “Quiet Tulips,” a sort of portrait, or even a biography, of the flower hovered over by a bee, or perhaps a metaphor of sex.
& yes, the old graffiti covered bathrooms of the old Caffè Lena are gone, the new ones down the hall, but, pleased to say, the new graffiti has begun, so bring your Sharpies. & come some 1st Wednesday of any month at 7:30PM (sign-up starts at 7:00PM) for the poetry open mic at Caffè Lena on Phila St., a big new sign will point you to the correct door & check it out for yourself.
February 3, 2017
Mary Panza, the usual host, introduced me as tonight’s host & this year it was the very first time that Charlie Rossiter, fellow member of 3 Guys from Albany with Tom & me, had joined the celebration. Charlie had been living in Chicago at the time Tom died & only recently moved back to the Northeast. Tonight he was here with us. I began with a 3 Guys from Albany intro with Charlie (& Tom) & read my poem to him “Theology 101.”
It was a mix of young & old poets, many of whom had known Tom, & yet a number who never knew him, but are now partaking of the legacy he created for the poets of Albany. Carrie Czwakiel is one of those poets in the latter category, began with what she described as her 1st rhyming poem in years, on recovering from suffering, then another in the same vein “Perspective.”
Housewife Tuesday on AlbanyPoets.com “Shit Show.” Nancy Dunlop read a poem dedicated to her husband’s good advice “Flaying into Walls,” then “The Sentence Snatcher” which she said was about alternate facts & that she dedicated to Tom Nattell. Sally Rhoades read a couple poems scented with politics, “Aghast at a World Lit Up by Protest” & “Flamingoes in Cyprus” inspired by a rare snowfall there.
Karen Fabiane read 2 poems “honoring Donald Trump,” “Grizzlies at the Door” & “Not My President.” I read a brief scatological poem Tom had sent me on a postcard from Utah. Joe Krausman waxed grimly philosophical with “Freak Accident” then a poem with a funny take on the amenities of jail “Freedom.” Julie Lomoe wore a pink Planned Parenthood scarf as a hijab & read a poem written afternoon “Donald the Bantam Rooster Speaks His Mind.”
Charlie Rossiter & I did one of the last performance pieces Tom wrote, “I Beat My Drum,” then we gave Tom the last word with a recording of him performing his proto-eco-poem “Save It.” As Tom said, “Stardust is Us” & his spirit not only lingers on, but thrives!
Meanwhile, Poets Speak Loud! continues each last Monday of the month at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.
February 2, 2017
This was a one-time event created by the esteemed & venerable Dennis Sullivan as a celebration in honor of Howard Kogan’s new book of poems, A Chill in the Air (Square Circle Press). But before Howard read, Dennis said we would have an open mic run like a Quaker Meeting — no sign up sheet, just stand to read, a one poem limit.
Joe Krausman was the first to his feet, read his circus-themed poem titled “A Thrill in the Air” (dedicated to Bill Clinton). I followed with a poem whose title also played against the title of Howard’s book, mine a political metaphor “A Shill at the Fair.” Alan Casline’s poem “May 11, 1975, Old Jake” was a nod to Howard’s poems about the conversations of old guys.
Ron Pavoldi showed up to read an old poem, sticking to the theme, “Wind Chill.” Paul Amidon had a chill of a different sort in his cynical piece “Humbug & Other Holidays.” Ice & snow was a focus of Mark O’Brien’s poem “A Helderberg Journey” that also included the warmth of the neighbors.
This moving reading was followed somewhat anti-climaticly by a brief Q& A session where Howard revealed he has always been writing but for a long time not publishing. He also talked about the challenge from poet Bernadette Mayer to write a poem that didn’t make any sense that he was unable to meet. This reading was a demonstration that we don’t have to always meet challenges tossed our way — & that we are glad Howard is reading out & publishing his poems so we can take them with us. Buy the book -- Support Your Local Poet.