January 27, 2020

Brass Tacks, January 21

Nick Bisanz was the host tonight at The Low Beat, with his guitar, so he started us off with a couple of songs, “En Avant” & “The Fox Holes of Hollywood,” to set the mood, so to speak.

I led off the open mic sign-up with a recently re-discovered piece “Big Tent Haibun,” then one of my modernized imitations of Han Shan “Open Mic,” & a poem imitating Lyn Lifshin’s poetry “Vegetarian Sex.”

Amanda Pelletier was back again with a couple of long pieces, like put-down letters, the first referencing the TV show Family Guy, the second titled “How Are the Giants Doing?” addressed to someone who is a Giants fan.

The poet who goes by the handle Slay The Dragon also read a piece in the form of a long letter, “It Came Back,” about his own darkness, what he described as a “mental health awareness poem,” then another piece addressed to a woman with blue eyes “Killer Frost.”

Ross was the last of the open mic readers. He had 3 pieces, “One Man’s Zenith,” “Manic” like an argument with a woman, & a long series of musings about himself & advice “Random But Honest.”

Then Nick ended the night with more songs, including channeling Buddy Holly with “Heartbeat.” Brass Tacks is an open mic for poets that takes place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM.

January 20, 2020

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 16

First third Thursday of 2020 & we start off the New Year at the Social Justice Center. The featured poet was Susan E. Oringel, & I had invited folks attending to pay tribute to the recently-gone poet & Literary Legend Lyn Lifshin by reading one of her poems, in addition to their own. I started it with invoking Lyn as the night’s Muse. I read her poem “Going Back to Where” from a mimeographed locally produced zine in which I also had poems, The Old Woman (no date, but probably the late 1960s, edited by Sue Shafarzek).

The first reader was not only new here at the SJC, but new to Albany, found us on AlbanyPoets.com, Naeema, who read a “justice poem” for the elephants. D. Alexander Holiday again read from the anthology Poems from Black Africa, edited by Langston Hughes, 2 poems. Mark W. O’Brien once again signed up in green ink, read a true story about mixing up “Nielson” with “Sullivan.” Alan Casline talked about being a small press publisher in the 1970s, publishing Lyn Lifshin, even dating her for a while, then read a poem he wrote about her.

The night’s featured poet, Susan E. Oringel, began with a poem by Lyn Lifshin “You Understand the Requirements” then started out with a poem from her own book My Coney Island (Finishing Line Press, 2019), “Poor Everybody” a prayer, she said, then the first poem in the book “Song of Coney Island,” based on a Garcia Lorca poem. Then on to others, “My Father’s War,” “My Father’s Workshop,” “The Fact of After,” “Romance Alf√≥mbrico” also patterned on a Lorca poem, “Last Responder,” & the title poem, last one in the book.  She finished with a new poem “Red Anemone” about a medical procedure, bringing back memories of the past.

After a break I returned to read a poem I wrote in the style of one of Lyn Lifshin’s older poems “Vegetarian Sex.” Jessica Rae joined us on her break from school, read the Lyn Lifshin poem “Lust Blowing Under the Door” then her own “coffee poem” (still without a title, still in progress). Karen Fabiane read Lyn’s “My Mother, the Demerol Wearing Off” then from her 1st book, Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011) “Slay Me.”

Harvey Havel read an excerpt from his recent novel The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill, a bedroom conversation. Tom Bonville followed, with Lyn’s poem "92 Rapple" on page 13 from 92 Rapple Drive, every poem in the book with the same title, then his own about his mother “Keeping Warm” passing on the wisdom of life, of keeping warm. Joe Krausman was the final reader for the night, read a short poem by Lyn about Picasso on his painting “Guernica” then his own poem on artists living through their work “Is he dead?”

Just like in the past, we will continue to meet on the third Thursday of the month at 7:30PM here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany — a featured poet & an open mic for community poets.

January 17, 2020

Bennington Area Arts Council 2nd Tuesday Open Mic & Mary Oliver Celebration, January 14

Trying something new this monthly open mic started last month with a tribute to Emily Dickinson & based on that success this night the tribute was to Mary Oliver. Apparently it worked as a few folks showed up for that reason & not to read in the open mic. The host is Charlie Rossiter who also hosts the poetry podcast Poetry Spoken Here. He began with one of Mary Oliver’s poems “When Death Comes.”

I had driven over for the event & read a couple of new poems “The Phrasing Must Change” inspired by a Rumi poem with the same title, then “Red Boots,” & “Reading Mary Oliver While Masturbating” which samples lines from many of her poems.

One of the regulars here, Laura Ellzey read Mary Oliver’s “Watering the Stones,” then one of her own “Intimacies with You is Heart to Heart.” Another regular, Kenn Ashe read Mary Oliver’s “The Moths” & “The Angels,” then his own, “My Knowledge of Now…”

Bridgit Elder read from a series of little poems written on 3x5 cards about being out in the Winter woods. Our host Charlie Rossiter read “Don’t Make that Resolution” which had appeared recently in the Bennington Banner, then another titled “Concerning the Muse,” then Mary Oliver’s “The Poet with His Face in His Hands.”

Charlie offered us a 2nd go-around, so I read my poem “for Peter” to the late Gloucester writer, Peter Anastas. Laura read about painting, knitting, doodling, “The Beauty of Mindlessness.” Kenn read about an encounter with himself one night, then sang his song “Getting Too Old to be Young.” Charlie read “Sometimes There is a Glimpse” originally written for Mark O’Brien’s Haibun project.

One of the folks who had shown up because of their interest in Mary Oliver, Ellen, grew inspired to come come up & recite a short poem “Ah Ha!” which was our reaction to this surprise ending.

But not quite yet, at the very last minute Walt Klinger showed up & read a divorce poem, “So Glad (that you’re not my Valentine).” & that was it.

This open mic — for anything, not just poetry, but all acoustic, no amplification — takes place at the Tap House, 309 County Rd., Bennington, VT, on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, 7:15PM.

January 13, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, January 12

It was a nice mix of the regulars, the occasional & the brand-new among the 15 signed up on the list as we had our 1st gathering in the new year at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. The hosts are Nancy Klepsch & yours-truly, MeInna Erlikh, who did not read today but has in the past translated some of us local poets for publication in Russian journals, provided luscious holiday cookies.

I had waited as folks started to sign-up but soon it became clear that no one wanted the #1 slot, so took it for myself, & read a section titled “The Pre-History” from my work-in-progress “Opening the Mic: a Personal History of the Early Days of the Albany Poetry Scene.” Mary Panza read an intense, moving piece titled “Rain” about a rape counselor’s conversation with a client that opened up memories for the counselor. Jill Hanifan’s poem “Last Minute Christmas” was filled with memories & forgiveness, while “Shape Shifter’s Lover” was a lush sexual fantasy. Bob Sharkey read a poem titled “Rome” about not getting there, with references to the film The Great Beauty & to the Roman poems of Dan Curley, who has gotten there.

Don Levy read a poem by one of his favorite poets, Frank O’Hara, “Why I Am Not a Painter” which is one of my favorite poems. The first of the new voices here today was Megeen Mulholland with 2 poems based on family photographs, “Hey Dad,” & “Top This” in which her father meets Albert Einstein. Kate Gillespie read a found/appropriated poem using the last line from poems from The Snail’s Pace Review, a biannual little magazine of contemporary poetry edited by Ken Denberg & Darby Penney from the 1990s, then another of the same ilk using the next-to-last lines titled “The Beads Are Hot My Daughter Says.”

Dan Curley, who was referenced in Bob Sharkey’s poem, read “New Year’s Resolutions” about things he won’t do, then the humorous & loving “My Wife Wearing New Glasses.” Another new voice was Kris Cottom & she read a piece of short fiction “Lost & Found” a portrait of a young girl, a foster child & her doll. My co-host Nancy Klepsch has been writing a series of poems based on impossible requests to Siri (or Alexis) & read us 2 examples “Send Me Sand” & “Send Me Magic.” Jessica Rae was back in town visiting on a semester break & read us a piece of short fiction about a young girl in a bar who is being hit on by an older guy, “Come Listen to My Records” (a brief excerpt can be found in her self-published zine Some Shit I Wrote).

Still another new voice was Tara Kistler who read us a sestina titled “Endurance” with images of sand dunes & colorful skies. Mary Anne Murray said she has been getting back into writing performance poetry & read us the eco-poem “Plastic.” Karen Fabiane graced us with 2 new poems, “More Today” a portrait of an urban gleaner, a woman going through Troy’s trash, & a dialogue about “Her Shoelaces.” The afternoon ended with still another new voice Maggie Brieden who read an excerpt from a longer mystery/thriller story of business intrigue.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose takes place at the Arts Center in Troy on River St. each month. In the past we had been in the 1st floor black box theater, but of late we have met in one of the studios on the 2nd floor which has the advantage of outside light & a view of the River, which we are growing to like. Ask a the desk & they’ll tell you where to go.

January 12, 2020

Brass Tacks, January 7

The first of what can only be many poetry events in 2020 was this casual & fun open mic at The Low Beat up Central Ave. The host was el presidente of AlbanyPoets Thom Francis. There was an impressive sign-up sheet of “old” & “new” poets, & the usual cast of characters.

Ian Macks was back with a couple pieces, both “new shit,” both personal reactions filled with intense energy, the 2nd & longer the auto-biographical “Weighted Blanket.” I followed with a transcription of the over-heard mutterings “The Window Cleaner Rides the Bus,” then the tale of “Red Boots.”

Marie Kathleen was a new voice here with 2 very different pieces, one on art & love beginning “I’m a work of art…” the other “Depression keeps me humble...” Jessica Rae was in town for a visit during her semester break & read 2 relationship poems, “The Next Morning” & “Anywhere Else” full of rich details amid wandering associations (I’ve liked a lot of her poems I’ve heard in the past, but her new work is more edgy, taking on a wider world). Kate Gillespie read one of her fascinating found poems culled from scientific abstracts, then another titled “The Ballad of Lovecraft County.”

Another surprising new voice was Amanda Pelletier who read first a poem cast as a dialogue with a therapist, about a bully, titled “Calamine,” then one about an abusive relationship “Statute of Statues, or To My Ex-Boyfriend’s Girlfriend.” Zakim is a regular here & at the stand-up comedy nights (also on Tuesdays) & at Brass Tacks likes to summarize films he has seen, such as tonight when his subject was the 2003 film Kangaroo Jack. Like his buddy Zakim, Reed also frequents the comedy nights & this poetry open mic & tonight talked about his anticipation for the appearance of Bruce Hornsby at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on February 28, & other upcoming music & comedy events. The poet who signs up as Slay the Dragon talked about his first chapbook but read 2 poems not in it, the first on Van Gogh’s ear & that artist’s self-portrait as a “selfie” (which of course it was) & “For E.D.” his ode to Emily Dickinson.

(Getting down to) Brass Tacks is an open mic on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, check out the calendar at AlbanyPoets.com for details.

January 10, 2020

I Thought I Saw Elvis

Ollie Atkins / Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

In honor of the birthday of The King, I thought I would post this poem, much performed with The 3 Guys from Albany.


I thought I saw Elvis the other night
at the supermarket comparing the price of steaks
but it was only an old woman with plastic bags for shoes stealing cans of dog food

I thought I saw Elvis on the street corner
with his 6 foot long white silk scarf
but it was only an old black man cleaning windshields with his shirt

I thought I saw Elvis on TV last night
shaking hands and smiling to the audience
but it was only a celebration for Christopher Columbus grabbing land and slaves for Spain

I thought I saw Elvis yesterday in the bank
standing in line to make a deposit
but it was only Corporate America gathering money with rakes

I thought I saw Elvis
I thought I saw Elvis
amphetamines like Christmas candies spilled on the floor
dead on his toilet
with a Bible in his hand

I thought I saw Elvis
but it was only
it was only



December 26, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 19

The end of another decade & the night of the annual holiday visit from Sanity Clause to the Social Justice Center. Tonight’s featured poet was Rebecca Schumejda, but before the start of the open mic Sanity invoked the night’s muse, the gone poet Enid Dame, with the annual reading of her “Holiday Poem.” Throughout the reading Sanity Clause had a gift of poetry for each of tonight’s readers.

The first open mic reader was Alan Catlin who struggled with deciding which poem to read, between noir & silly, so went with silly an ekphrastic poem about Super Awesome Things cards, “Smoking Monkies” bringing to mind Ronald Reagan.

Photo by BK
D. Alexander Holiday read from the anthology Hauling Up the Morning, poems & art by political prisoners & prisoners of war in the U.S., the poem by Ray Luc Levasseur about his grandmother “Mamere.” Bunkong Tuon (known affectionately as BK) has a new book out from Shabda Press of Pasadena, CA The Doctor Will Fix It filled with poems about his daughter, & read “Moon in Khmer," then gave me his copy of the book.

Photo by Hasan Atalay
After a series of male poets, Sanity Clause was most pleased that there was a woman next, Sally Rhoades, & she read her poem about growing up poor & the kindness of a friend’s family “Remembering Susan Sherwin’s Mother” (& she dedicated her reading to Doug Holiday). Tom Bonville’s “Birthday Candles” was a combination ode & memoir of birthdays in his family.

Photo by BK
Rebecca Schumejda began with poems from Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012), one for her daughter who accompanied her here tonight “First Steps,” then “Sober on a Snowy Day.” Her book Our One-Way Street (NYQ Books, 2017) was just that, poems about where she lived & her neighbors in Kingston, NY & she read the poems “The Best Christmas Card Ever” & “How to Work on Cars.” Then on to sections from her new book-length poem Something Like Forgiveness (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019) an emotional & at times grim story but masterfully written.

After a short break for Sanity Clause to get donations & Rebecca to sell her books, we finished off the open mic. I read my annual Xmas poem “Christmas Eve 1945,” published on Spillwords Press website on Christmas Eve. Joe Krausman read a poem about the variety of Season’s Greetings & sending out cards to remind others that you are still alive.

Photo by D. Alexander Holiday
Lance Le Grys had been here last month for the first time & I guess he wasn’t frightened off, so was back to read a poem about vultures titled “Cathartes Aura” (turkey vultures) & talked about his book Views from an Outbuilding (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019). He was followed by his daughter Alex Le Grys who read a portrait of an old man (or was it only imagined?) titled “Brown.”

Each poet who read walked away from Sanity Clause’s lap with a poetry book or zine, & even Sanity Clause actually came away with poetry books in return, including a copy of the New Directions anthology Black Mountain Poems from Alan Catlin, BK’s The Doctor Will Fix It, & Lance Le Grys a copy of his book Views from an Outbuilding. 'Tis the season to exchange poetry.

A note on tonight’s photos which were provided by poets in the audience, BK, D. Alexander Holiday, & Sally Rhoades (or Hasan Atalay).

Please join us in 2020, "the Year of Seeing Clearly," on the third Thursday of each month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY 7:30PM for a reading by a local, regional or national poet & an open mic for the rest of us. Your donation helps pay the featured poet, supports other poetry events in the area, & supports the work of the Social Justice Center.