November 18, 2019

2nd Wednesday Poets, November 13


Back to Schenectady for poetry at C.R.E.A.T.E. space, tonight with 2 featured poets from the mid-Hudson area, Mike Jurkovic & Ken Holland. Our host, Jackie Craven, got us off to a seasonal start with a poem by Brian Fanelli, “Raking Leaves.”

Alan Catlin began the open mic with 2 poems from a manuscript titled Asylum Garden After Van Gogh that has just been accepted by Dos Madres Press, “Remains Unsuitable for Viewing (after Charles Simic)” & “This is Not Art” based on war zone photographs. I followed with a poem I didn’t include in my reading this past Monday “Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial,” &, to bring a bit of levity back into the room, “Opinions.”

Susan Kress read the poem “Annunciations,” about being in Italy, remembering an earlier trip there & her mother pregnant. Susan Carol Jewell announced that, once again, she did not win the Rattle Magazine ekphrastic poetry contest, & then read 2 poems based on the same photograph, “The Case for Keeping Closed,” & a longer version from a different perspective “A Sound Case.”

The first featured poet of the night was Mike Jurkovic who read mostly from a CD project he is working on with Albany musician Nick Bisanz, the CD titled American Mental. The poems are a grim view of dystopian Americana, based on real events & characters in the pseudonomous town of Shitlorn, cultural anthropology through the eyes of a cynic. “Marty is 81” is about a conversation while getting an oil change, “Can Man” was another portrait about an urban gleaner, “Cloud Land” was a commentary on Trump & “Wonderland Parade” was about the takeover of small-town America by retail chain stores. There was also a poem for his wife Emily, “Rude Impact,” another in the voice of a candy machine in an old theater, many others. He ended with a look back at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, NY “The Ir-reverseable Future.” It seemed very grim, but then we do live here. I’m looking forward to hearing the music with the poetry on the CD.

The other featured poet, Ken Holland, also read some poems about his confrontation with Americana, like & not like Mike Jurkovic’s. He began with a couple of childhood memoirs, “Son What Are You Afraid Of?” at a carnival, then “Iron & Air” about his grandparents & being poor, & one about his father in 1968 “Uprising.” There was a look back at a building being torn down, “Boom Times at the Shake Shanty” & a tender piece about his mother buying shoes “Mother Knows,” as well as a couple of poems inspired by weather, the impressionistic “Soundings of Rain,” & a shape poem “A High Storm Coming.” A couple of new poems were “I Sing the Body Blue” & “Bodies on Consignment,” & others. He ended with a poem about comfortable middle-class rebelling “A Bourgeois Revolution.”

The style of both poets was generally discursive story-telling, but Mike’s were aggressive, in-your-face while Ken’s were more quietly ironic, a good pairing & look at the past & the present.

After a short break there were 2 poets left on the sign-up, beginning with our host Jackie Craven, who read a poem she has been working on for a long time, feels it is now finished, about her sister “Her Tree Begins to Shed Words.”

Scot Morehouse’s work is always amusing, sometimes outrageous, a good way to end the night, he read a piece on TV human-interest stories “Happy Talk,” then the hilarious poem in rhyme “Bad Ideas for Poems” reminders that every poet needs to have on their desk.

2nd Wednesday Poets happens at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, 137 State St., Schenectady, NY, at 7:30PM on, well, you know, the 2nd Wednesday of most months. Bring a couple poems for the open mic, your donation helps support the space.

November 16, 2019

Poetic Vibe, November 11


This vibrant series happens every Monday, which just happened to fall on Veterans’ Day/Armistice Day, & I was pleased to be invited to be the featured poet on a day that has such meaning for me. But before that there was the open mic, & before that our host, D. Colin, started us off with an old poem she recently found in an old notebook, an anaphoric list (“His love is like …”) filled with rich images of missing her love. When we started there were only 3 readers signed up for the open mic, but the list was quickly added to for an eclectic night of poetry & song.

Harvey Havel read first, an excerpt from his independently published novella The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill, about the central character’s encounter with frat boys. L-Majesty used his empath powers to invoke his friends in “Friendsgiving,” then a poem about yearning “Instructions on Becoming Your Own Haunted House.” I had a hard time hearing the titles of Allie’s poems, but enjoyed them none-the-less, one about love & sex, the other mixing insomnia with angst & disillusion. Elizag memorialized the shooting at the AME church in Charlestown, explaining why she went to a family party instead of boycotting the 4th of July.

Jade began with a piece from the past from being at a Nitty Gritty Slam at The Low Beat, then a performance/re-enactment of being at a Citizens Action rally. John’s first poem was a description of a still life titled simply “The Painting Poem,” then one titled “An Inauspicious Day” about taking a sobriety test while on LSD. Jeannine read poems neatly written in a large notebook, 2 pieces about relationships gone bad, “It Wasn’t What I Wanted” about a trip to England gone bad, & “The Time Has Come” in which she looks forward.

Crystal read a post-coital poem titled “Unsigned Contract.” El said she had “new shit” written yesterday, about being in the basement at her job “A Fairy Tale for Those Who Believe in Monsters,” & one from a book of poems she had been reading. Hannah mumbled her way through the lyrics of a couple songs that she usually does with accompaniment, which may have helped.

D. Colin brought us back with a well-articulated reading of her poem “Soutien” (i.e., bra), a funny & tender memoir about breasts from her new book Said the Swing to the Hoop (Empress Bohemia Books, 2019) then on to the night’s “take-aways,” random words, phrases, lines from the readings by the open mic poets.

Then on to the night’s featured poet, me, Dan Wilcox. It being the holiday it was, I read a series of anti-war poems, beginning with the oldest of the pieces, “Richard Nixon Must Die,” then on to “A.J. Muste,” “John Lees,” “Buttons Not Bombs,” & “If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow.”

But the night wasn’t quite over. D. Colin brought up a last-minute addition to the list who free-styled with music background a piece he called “Human.” As she does at each Poetic Vibe open mic, our host had passed around a clipboard for the audience to compose a group poem, each participant writing one line based only on the previous writer’s line (cf. the Surrealist’s exercise, the exquisite corpse), & so at the end she read — what she could decipher — the collective voice of the audience, poets & audience alike. Someday a collection of these chance encounters on paper will make a fascinating anthology. I’m waiting anxiously.

So, if your Mondays are beret of poetry, find your way to The Troy Kitchen on Congress Street, Troy, NY, for Poetic Vibe — 7:00 PM sign-up, 7:30 start, always an open mic, often a featured poet. There is food & drinks available for purchase, & sometimes even books for sale by the poets.

November 12, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 10


Photo by Nancy Klepsch
We were upstairs in the dance studio of the Arts Center, with a wonderful mix of poets & prose writers to spend a Sunday afternoon, with Nancy Klepsch & I as the co-hosts.

I was up first with a couple poems from the poetry workshop at the Dogtown Writers Festival back in September, “Horizon” & a trip down memory lane on “The Porch.” Bob Sharkey dug his poems out of his back pocket & read a dream poem “Have You Had?" then one from his series of Chinese fortune cookie variations ”Postcard Fortunes.” Dave DeVries was dressed for the Veterans Day/Armistice Day weekend in his Army beret & spit-shined boots to read “My Old Black Boots,” then an amusing piece on the names of towns “Not There.”

Dianne Sefcik read a piece written in response to the “Dear Herman” contest Nancy & I had run for the Melville House in Lansingburgh, but not submitted, “Dear Herman: At Sea” (but she was one of the four winners with the piece she did submit). Joel Best began with a flashback to childhood, “The Night Before the Night it Ended,” then what sounded like a love poem.

Dan Curley had with him copies of his just-released book Conditional Future Perfect (Wolfson Press) & read the long title poem, a love poem for his wife, with plenty of examples of the conditional future perfect. Peggy LeGee — & her voice — was back with a Halloween piece “The Cat from Hell.” Nancy Klepsch read 2 pieces on themes drawn from Herman Melville, the first, “Fish,” a rant about an ex- who still hates her, then a piece based on Chapter 10, “A Bosom Friend,” from Moby Dick, from which she also read an excerpt of the chapter.

Karen Fabiane’s 2 poems were pieces of free-association about listening, “What I Hear Loose in the Walls” about the heat coming up, & “From the 3rd Floor” after the gallery downstairs is closed. Rene McGovern was back again & read about the joy of being a senior student in literature at the community college, then one for her sister & for Alice Walker “Sisters, the Phone Calls.”

This truly open mic (for poetry + prose) is held on the 2nd Sunday of most months at the Art Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY, 2:00PM — Free! [Please note that if you are reading this soon after it is posted, the next reading will be on Sunday, December 15, not the usual 2nd Sunday. Bring a couple poems or 5 minutes of prose.

November 10, 2019

[Getting Down to] Brass Tacks, November 5


It was a rare Brass Tacks open mic with a featured poet, even more rare considering who the feature was, R.M. Engelhardt, making a rare appearance in Albany. The host was el presidente of AlbanyPoets Thom Francis, who divided up the open mic list around Engelhardt’s reading.

Jim Washburn started us off musically with a “sound mash” of words & sounds from a keyboard-based sound machine. Mark W. O’Brien was here for the first time, as challenged recently by Bob Sharkey that poets entering the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest should go to a reading that they have not been to previously; he read “Peedy, My Best Friend,” an Haibun from his new book My Childhood Appropriated (FootHills Publishing). Tom Bonville was also here as a result of the challenge & read “A Procedure” a medical process written up in the language of sex.

R.M. Engelhardt, the featured poet, was joined on the stage by Jim Washburn’s musical accompaniment, while Rob lit a candle borrowed from the bar for what he called “trance poetry.” Then on to a performance of Jim Morrison’s “Whisky, Mystics and Men,” along with directed audience participation (“Dada Da”), then on to read 6 poems from his new book Darklands: Poems (Whisky City Press/Lulu), generalities, abstractions & New Age faux-mysticism. Then to a couple poems not in the book, notably a dream poem titled “Into the Ether” about the gone-poet Paul Weinman. He ended with what I took to be the “title poem” of the book, but have noticed when I went to the book that there are 2 poems in the book titled "Darklands," it was one of them I am sure. A few words on the book — it is 90+ pages of what could be a 30-page book: all the poems are double or triple spaced, most poems consist of single to 3-word lines, for example the poem titled “Man” runs for 3 pages of double-spaced lines consisting of a single word. Engelhardt is a master of the cliché (or as the Fugs once famously sang, “It’s an old cliché but it’s an old cliché”).

Returning to the open mic, I read an old piece on the Albany Police Department based on a song from Nick Jagger’s film Performance “Memo from a Rich Man;” I chose my next poem based on a misunderstanding of Rob’s “trance poetry,” I thought he had said “trans-poetry” & so read my poem “A Traney’s Story.” Rakeem Carter described what he did as “from the streets of the Soul Train Musical," but to me it was incomprehensible hip-hop rhymes — but, hey, this is an open mic. The last name on the list was Harris Mueller, but he had apparently left for his own personal reasons, & that was that.

Brass Tacks happens as an open mic on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month here at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM — bring poems, bring friends, pad the list, no one knows where the line-breaks are, etc., etc. …

November 7, 2019

Poets Speak Loud!, October 28


& tonight we/they sure did, in the back room of McGeary’s with our host Mary Panza keeping order.

First up was a new name & voice, Dave Treacy, with a couple poems, the first in rhyme, “My Friend Setting Sun,” the second untitled, both with short phrases, read slowly. Mark W. O’Brien read one of his Haibun, this not in his book, “In Between,” about his teenage jobs & an encounter in his blue suede cowboy boots with a dog who won’t let go. Sylvia Barnard read a just-written poem about the Grandma Moses Room at the Bennington Museum, then, from her book Trees, “Down by the Riverside.” If you hadn’t heard, Julie Lomoe survived a sub-dural hematoma last year at this time & tonight read her latest poem just written last night after midnight about “Halloween Lights.” Carrie C. also read some recent poems, “I Banish Thee” on alcohol addiction, & “I’m Tired” (on all the pressures on her). Don Levy read his poems from his phone, the poem about a couple of women with their Trump 2020 banner “At the Church Fair,” & “At the Clark” about people taking pictures of the paintings at the museum.

The featured poet, Christopher Burton, who easily lived up to the name of this series, once read here at McGeary’s in the open mic, so it was enlightening to hear him read a variety of pieces. His first was a litany of labels of America’s dark history from Manifest Destiny to Jim Crow  without the details that would turn the list into poetry. Others, all untitled as far as I could tell, ranged from wondering about the future, to a screaming rant on changes in laws relating to bail, & more gently to a love poem & one on the joys of beauty & love for what he said were his "Muslim Sufi friends." Another piece was a memoir of his 12-year old self causing trouble, then on to the metaphor of America as a sex-abused child. Most pieces were read from pages or his phone, but a couple were done from memory, or free-styled, it was hard to tell which. It helps to get your message across, whether or not it is a good poem, when you are loud & big, no subtlety here.

Then on to the rest of the open mic, with Tom Riley who needs to be here more often, with a poem about guys getting older “PSA,” the an unfinished piece about hands battling each other, suffering cuts, damages. Douglas Holiday read OPP (other people’s poems) with Etheridge Knight’s poem about a breakup “Feeling Fucked Up,” then, referencing his own poem “If I Were An Artist,” a poem by another poet. Joan Geitz read a couple poems based in Cairo, NY, the first titled “A Ghost Town,” the next about a neighbor who helps out others, then a poem about a random smile just written at the recent Lark Fest.

Glenn Cassidy came back with a piece done from memory about things & dreams contained in a “Satchel,” then one written 10 years ago titled “The Call of the Wild” about the former Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford who recently announced his intention to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in the 2020 election. Sally Rhoades read a descriptive piece “October in New York,” then one in tribute to her beloved Aunt Polly “Riding Shotgun.” My poem was an old Halloween piece written for a prompt & based on Alan Catlin’s Killer Cocktails “Zombie Gourd.”   

Joe Krausman, needing light from Mary Panza, brought us all home with a hilarious poem about metaphor & a poet at a baseball game, “Kill the Umpire,” then one in tribute to a former teacher at the Iowa creative writing program.

Poets Speak Loud! happens on the last Monday of most months at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, starting about 8:00PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

November 3, 2019

Stephen A. DiBiase Kick-Off Reading, October 27


To kick-off the submission period for the 5th Annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest organizer/poet Bob Sharkey put together a Sunday afternoon reading at the William K. Sanford Town Library in Loudonville. There were a couple of featured poets, readings by a variety of local poets, & a reading of select poems by international poets from this past year’s contest. Bob Sharkey was our affable host. He began with a poem by Maria Castro Dominguez from the Canary Islands, “Tambococha Puff.”

I led off the open mic list with a poem about the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral “Tourism.” Mark W. O’Brien read the Haibun “Shunpiker” from his new collection My Childhood Appropriated (FootHills Publishing, 2019). A new voice Shari Falkenheimer read a piece in rhyme about Spring & Judgment Day. Dianne Sefcik read the poem “Anasazi Valley” from her marvelous little book of photos & poems Utah: February 2019.

The first of the 2 special featured poets was Alan Casline who read from his hefty collection Summergreen (FootHills Publishing, 2019) the poems “Summergreen Vacation,” “Ode to a Slug,” “Amusement” (of slipping a poem into a conversation), “Avonomics,” “A Moment,” & “Mountain Song.” In between he also read one of the international entries to the 2019 DiBiase contest, “Dancing Tiger” by Fabiyas M V, Orumanayur, Kerala, India.

Back to the open mic, Bob read another international entry a stirring poem by Siddhi Kamble, from Mumbai, India, titled “Rise.” Mary Kathryn Jablonski read the ever-changing poem “Mare Frigoris” from her latest book, Sugar Maker Moon (Dos Madres Press, 2019). Joe Krausman read his poem “A Man on a Wire” (not for Philippe Petit, but for Bill Clinton). Dave DeVries, who hosts an open mic right here at the Colonie Town Library on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, read the quiet “Listen to Silence’s Psalm.” Cathy Smith read her evocative poem “Rhapsody in Blue at the Egg in Albany.” Betty Zerbst read “Cemetery” about planting bulbs for the Spring blooming.

The other featured poet, Dineen Carta, was back in town for a visit & said she was pleased to be here to read among friends. She read from both her 1st book, Loving the Ache: A Woman’s Journey (2015) & from the new Rumi’s Granddaughter (2019). Many of the poems don’t have actual titles, with the first line serving as a title. Like the poems of Rumi many in both books are short, with short lines, like prayers, bits of spiritual comments, advice, exclamations of love, of wonder, along a spiritual path often filled with pain & loss as much as with joy. In the new book there is a section at the back of mostly blank pages with a single line at the top as if the poet were challenging the reader to write our own poems to finish out her book.

Although the open mic list was finished, Bob opened it up to anyone who wanted to read another poem, & Shari read a lighter piece “One Leg Up,” & Betty ended the afternoon with an annual poem in memory to a child lost at birth.

As I write this, the official announcement of the 5th Annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest has gone out, deadline is January 15, 2020. You can find the complete rules, such as they are, here at the Hudson Valley Writers Guild website. It’s free — good luck!

November 2, 2019

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, October 26


The setting for this movable feast this date was the Local 217, a bar on Delaware Ave. in Albany. The host, Douglas Rothschild welcomed us in the back room, then introduced poet Kenny J.P. Garcia to introduce the night’s poets.

Lisa Mottolo is a writer from Schenectady who somehow has apparently avoided the myriad open mics in the area. She began with a piece titled “Fever Dreams” a descriptive narrative about attending a strip club. The other pieces, poetry &/or prose (impossible to know if there were line-breaks or where they were), ranged in topics from artist-friends, the color red, & a couple of eco-poems (“Bits of Green Remaining” & “The Birds Were Fools”). She ended where she began with “Fever Dream, Part 2” this time about an assault at the strip club.

The event was billed as having 3 readers, but one, Sandra Simonds, didn’t make the trip. However, gentlemanly Doug Rothschild read some of her poems, one titled “Night in the Insane Asylum of Plants,” like punk notebook entries, which mixed well with the background chatter & music from the bar, & a piece that sounded like a spin-off of Ginsberg “I Am a Terrible American.” The night suffered from not having Sandra here to read more & talk about her poems, she would've added a lot.

The final poet of the evening, Joe Elliot, had come up from NYC, but indicated he had hung out on Lark St. at some time in the past. He did a long set with clever poems filled with hipster-cynical humor, filled with “I”. There was a clever, descriptive piece about his shopping bag “The Two Fridas,” “Thank God for Laminated Books” which was either the title of the poem or a descriptive intro, even one poem he introduced by saying “this has a title but I don’t care for it so let’s go…” His last piece was a very long, repetitive poem titled “My Uncle’s Basement” in which there were multiple versions of the sighting & deaths of Osama bin Laden, funny in their juxtapositions, locations & methods of his death that were like a string of Saturday Night Live skits, one after the other, until I felt like saying “OK, I get it already,” & even the poet himself at one point commented “my god, that’s so stupid.”

It seems like this reading series, true to its patron saint, keeps getting dispossessed from one location to another. Look for it in a coffee shop, bar or laundromat somewhere in Albany (or elsewhere). Find its FaceBook page for details.