September 16, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, September 18


The start of our 10th year! — Time flies when you are having fun. Today we, Nancy Klepsch & I, & 13 other readers, were upstairs at the Arts Center.

& I read first, 2 recent poems, the Summertime piece “Shopping for White Underpants” & “Purple Prose Poem.” Kate Laity read a piece published on the Punk Noir Magazine website “The Romance of the Battered Underwood” a meditation inspired by the notice of the auctioning of Mark E. Smith’s (of the band The Fall) old typewriter. Bob Sharkey’s piece “Summertime” was a wander through a visit from his granddaughter. Dan Curley, who had brought the libations today (Thanks!) began back with “The Trojan War” playing with the end of the lines, then one on windows (& more, of course) “Six Over One.”  Kate Gillespie read a prose tale titled “Ground in Water” a meditation on the power of the ocean, in the surf during a hurricane watch.  

Dianne Sefcik’s piece “Legacy” was about paying tribute, her next piece was inspired by Rebecca Ellison & was a litany “If all there was …” Carol Jewell’s poem titled “In a Gloved Hand” was a memoir of a Russian friend, then an untitled piece about the cotton candy sky. Joel Best said he wrote “Martian Shoes” on an old typewriter, his second piece was a memory “Lie Still.” Dave DeVries also read a bit of memoir, “Study Hall” about lusting after a girl in high school.

Julie Lomoe’s prose meanderings were about yellow-jackets in her garden, & about a sunny Sunday afternoon. Mary Panza’s 2 pieces were memoirs of growing up in South Troy, “Parked Cars” & “She Asked How to Walk in High Heels” leading to a conversation with her daughter. Jil Hanifan began with a school poem “Mentoring,” then on to a true urban story of a drunk doing his laundry “Mad Lark Laundry.”

Sally Rhoades’ poem “Between Hope & Despair” was a series of questions, then on to a descriptive piece of a beach in Northern Cyprus. Nancy Klepsch read her 50-year Pride poem, then the Melville-inspired “Queequeg.” Thom Francis finished up the day with a poem about his daughter Molly’s 1st day at 1st grade — there it starts.

So there we were, now into 10 years of 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, at the Arts Center in Troy, free! & open to writers in any genre. Bring something to read.

September 6, 2019

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, September 4


It’s many months since I’ve been able to get to this long-running poetry event in the historic Caffè Lena. Tonight the featured reader was a poet I’ve known since the early days of the Readings Against the End of the World & whose work I gladly follow, Suzanne S. Rancourt. But first a bit of the open mic, introduced by our poetic host Carol Graser.

First up was a duo, Sue & Doug McKenzie, with Sue reading a marvelous descriptive piece about rooftops based on the current show at the Hyde Collection “From the Rooftops: John Sloan and the Art of a New Urban Space” while Doug provided musical punctuation on his guitar. D. Alexander Holiday began with memories of the late Toni Morrison, then read 2 poems both with the lines “If I were an artist…” one by him, the other by someone else, & finished with the last lines from Morrison’s Beloved. Brett Petersen began with a piece of local interest, “The Entity I Saw in the Woods at Sacandaga,” then a bit of more characteristic automatic writing “Shedding a Tear for De-coherence.”

Leslie Sittner’s poems both had a touch of humor, “Glass Mushroom” on lust, & “The Full Buck Moon.” This was Joyce Rubin’s first time here, although she has apparently published a book of poems, & she read about “Different Gardens” then one from a workshop prompt “A Nursery Rhyme for Adults” based on “Jack & Jill.”

Suzanne Rancourt read exclusively from her new book from Unsolicited Press, Murmurs at the Gate. She began with the harrowing poem “The Execution” about a famous photo from the ‘60s of a general administering street justice in Viet Nam. Then a couple poems of childhood memories “Fathers Gone” & “Survivability,’ but most were about violence, as in “Gates of Ur,” even the final poem “The Smell of Blood.” She read 8 in all, with her connecting commentaries. After the first poem she instructed the audience on how to listen & to not applaud (which I reluctantly consented to), but ironically urged us to question authority (so then perhaps should I have clapped?).

After the break, Carol Graser was back to reference Brett Petersen’s poem & read “Back at the Great Sacandaga Lake.” Alex Gilmore was a new face/voice to me, he read the aptly titled “The Love Affair” & a portrait of perhaps a poet &/or lover “The Illusionist.” Jeffrey Stubits has a unique voice & style of reading, & tonight he said he read a couple assignments from a class (with poet D. Colin), “Assembled Poetry” from poets’ post-it notes, & a ballad “Unnamed Baby.”

Amanda Blodgett read a piece about a painter & a poet “The Two Artists,” then one about her childhood memory of her grandfather “The Unforgettable Voice.” Effie Redman is one my favorite Caffè Lena open mic-ers & read a bold piece about an encounter on a bus “Don’t Look.” Jackie Craven, who hosts the open mic in Schenectady on the 2nd Wednesday of the month read the intriguing “The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion,” then a poem titled “Undersea Calder Mobile 1969” a series of images connecting her back to her parents.

I have seen Frank Desiderio read often with his sister the poet Mimi Moriarty, but tonight he was on his own & read 2 very descriptive pieces, “Exiled to Lake George for Good Behavior” from his laminated copy of the poem, & “My Driveway is a Wide Place.” Malcolm Willison read the beginning & ending poems from his forth-coming book about Elizabeth Bishop’s former house in Key West, Florida (where Malcolm & Martha Winter), A House of Her Own, the “Prologue” & the “Coda.” Rodney Parrott read from his philosophical pondering “Universal Loss of the Universe” a piece about handshakes being the sound of “OM.”  I read 2 pieces I wrote in an exercise with Melissa Tuckey at the Kateri Peace Conference last month, “The Meadow” & “The Meadow: Prose Poem,” on the place where we go to listen.

Carol introduced Mary Ann Rockwell as a librarian, who coordinates the program here at Caffè Lena just before the open mic, who read “The Moon Rises” by Federico Garcia Lorca. The final poet, Austen Morehouse, was the youngest to read here tonight, a brave piece about her dog & its healing presence when she struggled with her own demons.

The Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic happens each 1st Wednesday of the month at the historic venue at 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY, $5.00, free to students, sign-up at 7:00PM, readings start at 7:30P.

September 4, 2019

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, September 3


A new month & a new round of poetry open mics & readings, the first Tuesdays means this open mic at The Low Beat. Our host was the el presidente of the ever-expanding AlbanyPoets, Thom Francis.

Just because I was there I ended up as #1 on the list & read a poem I have been known to read in Saratoga Springs in August, tonight as a tribute to the gone equine philanthropist “…An the Mary Lou Whitney You Rode In On,” then pondered a Summer-time necessity “Shopping for White Underpants,” & a Haiku that contained both the Buddha & a martini.

Reed, who regularly summarizes movie or TV series, tonight took us into the 1st season of Full House, delving into season 19 in detail, complete with dialogue.

Joan Geitz was here for the 1st time, although she has been to other open mic venues, & read a poem about somebody taking control, then to one titled “Reaching Out” with the message that making connections is the path to love.

Christa De Marco has not been around for most of the Summer read her poems from her phone, the first a soliloquy about sex, then “A Conversation on Elohim” essentially with herself about the nature & the name of “God” finally naming herself, finding a new name for her new god.

As so often happens, an open mic with topics ranging far & wide. Getting Down to Brass Tacks happens each 1st & 3rd Tuesdays, 7:30PM, at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY. If nothing else, come & keep Kim the bartender company.

August 28, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 15


Another Summer night at the Social Justice Center for poetry. The featured poet was Perry Nicholas & an open mic for the rest of the folks there. But first I invoked the Muse, tonight the gone poet Colette Inez (1931 - 2018). I read her poem “Service for Two, I Shall Dine with Myself.”

With only a handful of poets in the house, the “only rule” was cancelled & the open mic poets were allowed 2 poems. Tom Bonville was first on the list & he read a short, tender piece “Shadows of Love,” then “The Day After” set in Walmart.

This was Joe Krausman’s birthday (he has been telling folks he is "39" but I realized that perhaps he is dyslexic...) & he celebrated by reading poems about death, “The Great Chain of Being,” & “Bacon & Eggs,” that with the eggs sunnyside up makes makes a happy face.

Kim Henry made a rare appearance here to read an untitled piece about an old woman dying, saying “my soul is tired,” & another poem on the theme of crying & parting.

Don Levy was also able to get here tonight & read off his phone a recent new poem “I Heard the Black Mermaid Singing,” then read from an anthology Muriel Rukeyser’s apocalyptic “Nuns in the Wind.”

I read a new Summer poem “Shopping for White Underpants,” & a Haiku mixing the Buddha & a martini.

Perry S. Nicholas is a poet & a professor at the Erie Community College North in Buffalo who is on a tour that included readings in Schenectady & in New Paltz. He started with poems written on a trip to Greece in 2013, the first a description of the hotel he stayed in as he came back to Greece, then one about his neighbors “The Loud Greek Family Next Door,” & a poem about returning to the US “There Aren’t Enough Stars.” A boyhood memoir “Water on Mars” was about his mother speaking Greek. “In the Shadow of David” was a poem about his daughter & their distance, & his next was a love poem, “I Picture You All Ages.”  He moved on to his new chapbook Why I Learned to Spell (The Writers Den, 2019), read the title poem a true story about his immigrant family, then the unsettling experience of “A Greek-American Reads Poetry at an Americana Bar,” & on to last year’s birthday poem “A Brand New World” remembering his father. Poems about religion included “Good Friday” about his upbringing as Greek Orthodox then on to now “The Church in My Head.” He ended with a love/non-love sonnet “I Disremember.” In addition to Why I Learned to Spell he also had for sale a CD And I Was Just a Boy, poems from 2013 to 2018.

Third Thursday Poetry Night happens each month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, starting about 7:30PM, depending on when the tour bus arrives, & your donation supports the work of the Poetry Motel Foundation & that of the Social Justice Center. Bring a poem for the open mic.

August 23, 2019

The Past in Poetry, August 12


My last Blog was about a poetry event in an unusual venue (the Albany Pump Station) with not your usual collaborators (scientists), this event, literally next door at The Olde English Pub, was a collaboration with Historic Cherry Hill. We were gathered in the Pub’s shady garden under the shadow of the 787 off ramp to Clinton Ave.

Our co-host was the Cherry Hill Executive Director Deborah Emmons-Andarawis, who noted that the Pub was the 2nd oldest standing house in Albany. She introduced the readers of historic selections, the first being Tony Pallone, who read poems by Rensselaer Van Rensselaer (1802 - 1850), including a love poem, one in Spanish, & “An Emblem” about a river in Columbia.

Co-host Mary Panza introduced the contemporary poets, starting with Bob Sharkey, who read a family “scolding” titled “The Clum’s Corner Manifesto.” Nancy Klepsch read a handful of poems, including the sad “Home from the War” & one invoking the spirit of Herman Melville “Call Me Ishmael.”

Deborah talked about one of the descendants of the Van Rensselaer family, Catherine Putnam Rankin (1857 - 1948) then Suzanna Bornn read one of Catherine’s poems, written when she was 26, “At an Auction."

Mary introduced Thom Francis who read poems about his family, “I Want to Go Home,” then a memoir of an early apartment they lived in. His poem “Family Tree” said it was not a tree, but a pile of sticks & lawn-clippings, & he ended with a poem about his grandfather in a nursing home “Easter Visit.” I was next & my 2 poems of the past were “Therese’s Balcony” mixing an imagined past & a fantasy, then one about the early days of the Albany poetry scene “Where Were the Professors.”

Deborah talked about the popularity of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Old Clock on the Stair” read by Janet Kimlicko. Some folks believe that Cherry Hill is haunted, Deborah explained, which led to another Longfellow poem read by Janet, with the line, “All houses where men love, lived and died are haunted…”

Mary was back to read a poem about growing up in South Troy at 13 years old, contrasted with the very different life her daughter has now, at 13.

& then this wonderful reading that included writers of the historic past of Albany, & writers of the present Albany reading poems about the past, was now in the Past itself.

Be sure to check out the exhibits & programs at Historic Cherry Hill in Albany — five generations, one household, 1787 - 1963. & for all your current poetry needs go to AlbanyPoets.com



August 21, 2019

Poetry in Science CapSci, August 6


Back in March I was one of the readers in this series of lectures, readings & other events sponsored by CapSciNY which is a non-profit organization that aims to advance the public understanding of science in the New York Capital Region. Their mission is to promote interactions between scientists and non-scientists, to foster science-based public policy and scientifically literate policy makers, and to nurture diversity within the scientific community.

This night we were back at the Albany Pump Station for poetry — & beer. Poet & Assistant Professor of Biotechnology at SUNY Cobleskill Kate Gillespie served as host, & got us off to a good start with what she called “Lost Scientific Abstract Poems” in which the language of scientific abstracts is used to create poems.

Charlie Rossiter read a handful of poems with titles such as “The Poet Thinks About Science,” & “Looking for Leonids,” & an old favorite of mine that he performed with the 3 Guys from Albany “Natural History” about seeing the fossil Lucy’s bones in the Museum.

Laura Ellzey, a relatively new writer of poetry, began with a hand-out of a math-poem, "Poetry Entered in..." calculating the percentage of her life spent writing poetry. Other poems dealt with math & music, of the physics of playing the piano, & of the physiology of her dog’s shoulder.

Marshall Witten read philosophical pieces on delving into the nature of “Reality” (in blank verse) & the Hubble telescope (a sonnet, perhaps).

Frank S. Robinson was also philosophical, ranging on a variety of topics from evolution to free will, industry, even a piece titled “Death & Life.” But he ended with poems from from his 2014 collection Love Poems to his wife.

Eli Sands is a founding member of CapSci & is a member of the executive board. He introduced his work with a poem about deep learning, “Deep Me,” then on to others including love, again, & pieces from a collection about his computer.

Ian brought us home with 2 related, humorous poems in rhyme (science, like poetry, isn’t always serious) about the endocrine system, “I Love You from the Bottom of my Heart.” It’s always good for a performer to leave the audience laughing.

For future CapSci events check out their Facebook page or their website.

(I apologize for not having more photos of this event, but I had a problem with my camera which prevented it from focusing; I hope to have it repaired, but in the meantime will be using other equipment.)

August 20, 2019

The Front Desk, August 3


I’ve been a fan of “rock opera” ever since The Who’s Tommy came out in 1969. I still have the 2 LP set that my friends & I played over & over again. I’m not sure it’s ever been surpassed. This night at The Low Beat I had the pleasure of experiencing another fine piece in this genre, although a much more modest production, The Front Desk by poet & bass player Pat Irish. When Pat was living in Albany a few years back I had heard him read selections at open mics & even saw a performance at Pauly’s Hotel.

Tonight Pat performed on bass & read the text, Nick Bisanz was on guitar & vocals & Michael Worsa on drums. The evening opened with solo performances on guitar & vocals by John Devries & John Glenn.

As stated in the program, “The Front Desk is a story about events taking place at & around the front desk of a hotel. There are 24 songs in all with each song representing an hour of the day.” Some of the titles of the vignettes are “Front Desk Agent,” “Check Outs & Check Ins,” “Room Service,” “Famous Guests,” & “Leave the Keys.” It was over & done in less than an hour. While I didn’t attentively follow the schedule of vignettes I did notice a couple of bar patrons checking their programs to see where they were.

The text predominates with the music adding a background or a musical commentary, & while the text could easily stand alone as a poetry chapbook, the music without the words would not survive as just a music CD. It may not be Tommy, but I would certainly buy a CD of the entire music & poetry piece.