August 9, 2018

Brass Tacks: Poetry & Spoken Word, August 7

Bar flies at The Low Beat
Otherwise known as getting down to the low beat. Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets was is host for a most eclectic mix of poets, in styles, age, sobriety, appropriateness, physical appeal, etc., etc.

The first of the new voices, Emily Litwin, read 2 poems about an ex-boyfriend (emphasis clearly on the “ex-“), the first titled “Melonballer” summed up in the last line “you were just a tool,” then another attack titled “Field Corn.” Luciano Ferrara must be a musician because he said he’d been on this stage before but never to read his poetry, did 4 poems, “Overreaching Reactor” in sort of half hip-hop rhymes, others playing off music of the words, another from a series, like pressured writing, sometimes rhymed, bouncing from image to sound to image.

I had more mercy on the audience, just read one poem, “A Traney’s Story.” Julie Lomoe took the opposite tack (not brass) with a long, rambling intro, then read parts 1 & 2 of a prose memoir/journal entry “Rocky Mountain High” about buying pot cookies in Leadville, CO. Caroline Bardwell brought back rhymes with another ex- poem “Liar,” then one titled “Indecision” about her worries about the future with her new-found freedom.

Sarah Fountain said she had never read her poems out in public before tonight but did a fine job with 2 thoughtful poems, “Drivers” about bus riders (like her) versus people in cars with the running refrain “clang, clang…” then “The Past” pondering what people mean when they suggest “just let it go.” Algorhythm started with a positive, intense love story for his wife, then a short work-in-progress, & ended a piece on horror drug memories, mostly from memory.

Algorhythm can't believe he took his shirt off!
Joshua RA Dundas has already established a reputation for taking his shirt off at readings & did it again tonight for his 2nd poem, but first read a poem from his “light side” then one from his dark side called Sin Byron, reading from his book which he hypes as a life-changer. Yusuf followed, he more of a musician than a poet, read 2 parts of a piece wondering if there is a purpose anymore. Amanda was also a nervous, first-time reader like her friend Sarah, but gave a unique performance singing from a journal-like piece titled “Just Some Thoughts” talking about herself, her hesitation, her hiding inside.

It was mostly fine up to this point, then Vincente Maurice took the stage thinking it was a Tuesday comedy night, with some purposefully outrageous ramblings that make people laugh more from nervousness than from any humor, & I left. Besides, I’d finished my beer.

So you too can get down to Brass Tacks: poetry, spoken word, each 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY — but not so-called comedy, that’s the other Tuesdays, please!

Poets Speak Loud!, July 30

As always here at McGeary’s it was a special night on the last Monday of the month. There was a variety of open mic poets, even a first-timer, & a featured poet, D. Alexander Holiday, who might be called the “Jiminy Cricket" on race issues for the poetry scene. &, of course, the host, Mary Panza.

I was the first on the sign-up list (even though others had signed the list before me) & I read the brand new “What Makes America Great #17” based on signs from the #MarchForOurLives rallies, & the bar-jotting poem “My Lucky Hat.” Being on Summer vacation Samuel Weinstein read a couple Summer poems “A Sunny Day” &, from a prompt from a friend, “Smokey Summer Emerald Eyes.”

Mary Panza takes Joe Krauman's picture
Joe Krausman passed around a picture of his father taken in Lebanon (the country, not the rural town in New York) in 1924 & read his poem about it “Is the Guy on the Left [his father] Charlie Chaplin?” then a poem titled “Gratitude.” Linda Boulette read the related poems “The Angel of Death Speaks” & “The Spirit of Life Speaks.”  

Marianna Boncek made a rare appearance here with a poem titled “Iftar” (the daily meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan) about a well built as a tribute to the dead, the a forward-looking poem “The End of Patriarchy.”

Our featured poet, D. Alexander Holiday, has been on the scene since the early 1990s, & is the author of a number of books of poetry & prose, the most recent Kith & Kin: A Klannish, Klownish, Tragic Komedy, written as G. Douglas Davis, IV. Often a serious poet on topical/political themes, tonight’s performance had more than the usual share of humor, but it’s point just as sharp, perhaps sharper. He began with “The Tee Shirt” that he bought at an Irish Festival that said “Irish Livers Matter," then on to a couple poems about Roseanne Barr, one in the voice of the ghosts Confederate soldiers “that made her” send her tweets. After discussing Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America, he said he was dedicating the rest of his reading to the children in detention centers, & read from his 2011 book E-mails from Satan’s Daughter, then to “13 Years a Slave, Me” from Kith & Kin. He concluded with the political commentary “Invisible Music” complete with dancing to what he was hearing on his earphones & a fancy Church-lady fan.

Then on to the rest of the open mic, with Dave Kime, also making a welcome, rare appearance, reading (no mic needed) “Nightfall” & the anti-corporate TV screed “Blue Light.” Don Levy’s poem “Home Movies 1947” was a look at the history of gays in America before it was safe(r) to come out. Frank Robinson’s poem “The Wanderers” took us into his & Therese’s home as boxes of files of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild moved from their basement, to the kitchen, to the dining room, etc., then a political parable based on the story in Genesis “Original Sin, the 2nd Bite.” Therese Broderick read about burning her face from sunglasses left in the sun on the dashboard of her car “Sunglasses Gone the Way of the Dodo.”

Bob Sharkey’s poem “Malone” was about a road-trip when he was working for NY State, then the travel-guide “Things to Do in East Latham” (who knew?!). Jeff Stubits made a return appearance with a poem entitled “Poetry” which he likened to berries, then wondered “When Will the Moon Be Renovated?” (in order to be closer to God).

Our last reader was Joan Geitz who had showed up to listen & hadn’t planned to read but Mary convinced her & she read the political rant/curse “For the War Mongers,” fitting right in with the readers tonight.

You are never sure who (or what) will show up in McGeary’s backroom for Poets Speak Loud! most last Mondays of the year, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us. McGeary’s is on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, across the street from the Palace Theater.

August 8, 2018


A traney walks into a bar
orders a burger, “medium rare.”

The waiter asks, what kind
of cheese: cheddar, Swiss
provolone, or vegan cheese?”
“Vegan, please,” she says.

The waiter looks at her funny
“On a burger?” he asks.

She says, “Yes, I’m transitioning.”

August 6, 2018

Poets in the Park 2018

July 14 - Ghost Fishing: an Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology Reading
Back in Albany’s Washington Park, at the foot of the statue of Robert Burns for another edition of Poets in the Park, the 29th year of this series started by Tom Nattell. Tonight’s reading was by poets in the recently published anthology of eco-justice poetry Ghost Fishing, published by the University of Georgia Press & edited by Melissa Tuckey, who was our first reader.

Melissa described the book as containing “poetry at the intersection of social justice & the environment,” with diverse work with roots in many cultural traditions. The first poem she read, the first in the book positioned like a dedication, was by Ross Gay, “A Small Needful Fact,” about Eric Garner; then her own poem in the voice of the chemical company “Monsanto Drunk in the Garden.” She ended with Chen Chen’s poem “Set the Garden on Fire”.

Karen Skolfield, who had read here last year with the late Jay Wenk, read her poem “Mid-Western Zoo” from the anthology with a conversation with her son about a polar bear. Then on to
a coupl poems from her book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013) “Art Project: Earth” a school project with her son, & then “Lost Mountain.” Another poem also starting with a moment with her family & expanding to the larger issues was “Mining a Bath is Not the Same as a Bath.”

Gretchen Primack’s poem from Ghost Fishing was a grim true story of finding the bodies of coyotes that had been shot, “The Dogs & I Walk the Woods.” She talked about being a vegan, & on to related poems, including one from her next book about an imaginary prison like where she has taught, “Knowledge,” a prisoner’s hard task to be a vegan while confined, then the list poem “The Caged” & “Restriction” on the pleasure of food.

I also have a poem in Ghost Fishing, “Water” conflating Hurricane Katrina & a lake in Saratoga. I’m sure that if Tom Nattell, who created this event back in 1989 was still alive that he would have a poem or too in Ghost Fishing, so performed his chant “Save It” — thanks, Tom.

July 21 - Coast to Coast: The Route 20 Anthology Reading
The following week we were back at the Robert Burns statue for a reading by some poets from the just published FootHills Publishing anthology, Coast to Coast edited by Charles Rossiter & Michael Czarnecki. As folks gathered with their folding chairs for the reading, Dave Seely a musician from Louisville, KY, whose parents had poems in the anthology, entertained us with his songs & guitar.

Standing barely a tenth of a mile from Route 20, aka Madison Ave., Michael talked about his love affair with America’s longest highway, running 3,365 miles from Kenmore Square in Boston to Newport, OR on the Pacific coast. Her served as host to introduce poets local & from as far away as Buffalo who read in the order their poems appear in the collection. These were Tom Seely “Thanks, Route 20,” Alan Casline “The Bear’s Song,” Me (Dan Wilcox) “County Fair Poem,” Martha Deed “Housatonic Sam,” Tom Corrado “Eating a Footlong in the Car on the Way to Ballet,” Peggy Seely “Ghost Hunting” & “Coming Home Late One Night on Route 20,” Mark W. O’Brien “Shunpiker,” Michael Czarnecki “Seeking ’the West’” & “Soaking in the Hot Springs,” Charles Rossiter “At the Idaho/Montana Border” & “Somewhere East of Bend,” & Alan Casline again “Carla, Jewel of the Ocean.”

Michael ended with a reading of just the titles of a number of the poems, making another poem of sorts in homage of Route 20.

July 28 - poetik & Bob Sharkey
The final reading in this year’s series took us back to the traditional format of 2 poets, tonight both local, poetik & Bob Sharkey. Unfortunately when I arrived there was a loud revival meeting of sorts going on in the parade ground just beyond the statue with music loud enough to fill the Park & Willett St. & beyond. It’s hard to compete with Jesus, but then we are poets who have had to compete with punk rockers at Valentines & we did it.

I’d been impressed by poetik’s poems & performance the times I’ve seen her at open mics at Nitty Gritty Slam in Albany & at Poetic Vibe in Troy. Tonight she was up against Jesus & she held her own. She read mostly from her 2017 book Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being, her poems are unabashedly 1st person, strong, assertive, even humorous & sexy when need be. She began with the title poem, then on to “confessions of a fat black girl,” saying she writes a lot about bodies, & continued to prove it with “i dream about brunch.” Then on to a couple poems about people she hadn’t met yet, “to a child named kadyn” & “to the next person who will be the love of my life,” both letters to the future. One more from the book was #26 from the series “following the steps…” & she finished with a new, untitled, poem about being a poet, with the refrain, “i’m trying to be a different kind of poet…” characteristically in your face & personal.

Bob Sharkey has been on the open mic scene for a number of years, frequently reads at area open mics, &, with his family, runs the annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, getting submissions from all over the globe. His first poem was the boyhood adventure tale “Cave,” then to a rhapsodic family history/memoir/fantasy “Bridget [Connelly] Visits East Latham” taking his ancestor from Galway on tour; next one of his series of re-written fortune cookies poems “Washington Park Fortunes.” Inspired by a poem by Barbara Ungar, Bob's poem “Their Own People” is a series of answers to questions that he had, relating to Syria & the Syrian civil war, & contrasting other world facts about the US, East Latham & the world. “Questioning” was about his longings, identity, with one of his granddaughters making an appearance; another granddaughter is the subject of “Johanna in the Maze” at the Clark art museum & their delight together. He ended with a Cento he wrote from lines from poems submitted to the most recent
Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, many of the lines from local poets.

This year’s Poets in the Park, as other years in the past, was co-sponsored by a grant from the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. We hope to be here next year for our 30th year of bringing poetry to the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park, Albany, NY on Saturdays in July. Thank you to the poets & poetry fans in Albany for your support.

(Additional photos from Poets in the Park can be found here at my Flickr site.)

July 30, 2018

The Tin Angel by Paul Pines

This is my book!

“Big deal,” you say. Yeah, a big synchronicity deal.  

Joe Krausman found it today (July 30) in the Albany Public Library give-away bin. It had a sticker inside the back cover with my name & address & an inscription on the title page, “To Dan — Who was on the scene - all best, Paul Pines 9/11/88”.

I had given this copy to someone, perhaps around 2010, who had also hung out at the NYC jazz club the Tin Palace, the setting of the fictional Tin Angel, on Bowery & 2nd St., as I had, back when Paul was the proprietor. I had planned, after giving the older copy away, to buy the new edition of The Tin Angel, but never did.

Over the years I got to know Paul more; he read at the Third Thursday Poetry Night in April 2010, at Poets in the Park in July 2015, & I have many more signed books since when he signed The Tin Angel.

That book had been on my mind since Paul died in late June, & I had forgotten he had signed my copy. Now, in a Jungian gesture that Paul would appreciate, I had it back, thanks to my old friend, Joe Krausman, who says, “It’s just a coincidence.”

Thanks Joe -- & thanks Paul Pines.

July 27, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night: James Duncan, July 19

James Duncan, featured poet
A Summertime Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center. We had a short sign-up sheet, then some last minute add-ons, so our featured poet, James Duncan, went last. But first we had to invoke the Muse, tonight the recently-gone beloved poet & jazz impresario, Paul Pines.

I had first encountered Paul at the bar he owned in NYC on the corner of 2nd St. & Bowery, The Tin Palace, back int the mid-1970s. I lived 2 blocks away on 2nd St. & 1st Ave. & it became my neighborhood bar even after Paul sold it & moved on. It was a jazz joint with the occasional poetry event on Saturday afternoons. By the time I moved back up here in the mid-1980s Paul was already here, still writing poetry & organizing the Lake George Jazz Festival. In the years up to now, I was pleased to get to know him, his fine poetry, & to work with him when he directed the theater event Ajax in America in 2016 at Skidmore College. Paul cared deeply about art but more importantly about people. I honored him tonight by reading his poem “The Death of Eddie Jefferson” from Paul’s book Message from the Memoirist (Dos Madres Press, 2015), a poem that harkened back to the days of the Tin Palace. Paul had read here at the Third Thursday in 2010 & later at Poets in the Park in 2015.

Douglas Holiday started off the open mic in pure Holiday fashion with a brand-new piece inspired by the current President “A Montenegro Matter,” full of often humorous but mostly upsetting satire. Samuel Weinstein was back again to read tonight a piece written for his grandparents, a dialogue, “I’ll Miss You I’ll Be Seeing You I Love You.” Alan Catlin has a new chapbook out from Presa Press, Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance, poems responding to the work of August Sander the early 20th Century photographer & read the brief “A Student of Philosophy” about a photo from 1926.

Joe Krausman discussed the work of Paul Pines in the context of the Jungian concept of synchronicity then read a short poem by Pines “After a Mayan Folksong by Antonio Medez Bolio” from Reflections in a Smoking Mirror (Dos Madres Press, 2011). Bob Sharkey read “June 16, 114 Years Later” imagining walking through Troy with Leopold Bloom. The poet known as Screamer returned to read the humorous list poem “Reasons I Burned My Toast” many due to her dog (but then she is someone who rescues such critters).

The poet known as Algorhythm also made a rare appearance here (after just seeing him at the Low Beat earlier this week), read from his phone, about a trip to Spain in 2012, “The Hill of Pardon,” grieving his mother, & finding happiness climbing a mountain. Jeff Stubits read his piece combining personal essay & stand-up comedy about his roommate, “Feeding My Guru.” I brought the open mic to a close with another nod to our Muse tonight by reading “A Small Bouquet for Paul” composed of 2 short parts each responding to poems by Paul Pines.

James Duncan, tonight’s featured poet, has quietly become more involved in the local poetry scene, co-hosting The Troy Poetry Mission at the (now closed) O’Brien’s Pub, with an occasional appearance at area local mics. He began his reading tonight with a poem from the recent Up the River “Spiders at Night” then on to another poem of nighttime & grim urban images about a “sidewalk town.” Trying to think about something happier he read “After the Long Nights” about a visit to his father in Texas. “Soft White Infinity” was a Winter poem referencing Jack Kerouac. He ended with a selection of poems from We Are All Terminal But This Exit is Mine (2017), “There’s This Dream I Have” about chemotherapy as an 11 year old child, another childhood memory “That Gum You Like” about zebra-stripe gum, then one about looking for the painting he lost in 3rd grade along I-90, on to “Virginia Slims” (the favorite smoke of trailer park kids), & “Hudson” about the trailer park again.

The Third Thursday Poetry Night happens on, well, the third Thursday of each month, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM with a featured poet & an open mic for community poets — your donations support poetry programing, including paying the featured poet, & supports the work of the Social Justice Center. Bring a poem & join us.

July 19, 2018

Brass Tacks: Poetry & Spoken Word, July 17

As Mr. Natural once said, What goes around, comes around. Once upon a time sponsored a monthly open mic & Slam at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. When Valentines was eaten up by Albany Medical Center Nitty Gritty Slam moved to The Low Beat on Central Ave. in early 2014. In the evolution of such events, the Nitty Gritty Slam moved to the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays, other folks took over, then went on to other venues. Tonight, Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets, was the host of a new poetry/spoken word series at The Low Beat on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays, what’s old is new again.

As I walked in what was particularly interesting was that I noticed a couple of local poets who were new to The Low Beat or hadn't been here in a while, as well as about a half dozen younger folk who I hadn’t seen before here, who were shy/reluctant to sign up for the open mic. & so there it was once again, #1 on the sign up sheet, & here I was with a couple poems in my pocket (so to speak), “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson” & “Buttons Not Bombs” to be precise, to read first.

Then, it was good to see Caroline Bardwell as one of the familiar faces who found their way to this new open mic, & she read the moving poem “If Anger Were a Sculpture” then her obsessively alliterative piece on the 4 seasons. Todd Fabozzi hasn’t been to a poetry open mic in Albany for some time; he talked about his 2 new books, Poems & Antipoems (shades of Nicanor Parra), volumes 1 & 2 which selected poems from his first two books, then a smaller collection of new poems Poems & Antipoems Vol. III, & read us a couple.

Algorhythm also showed up tonight & performed some intense pieces, “Conflict, What Is It?” (in dialect), “Midnight Haunting” & the last untitled piece “one of the last real poets…” even more intense. Tim Verhaegen is always a welcome sight but he picks his venues carefully for those that he feels most comfortable in, consequently hadn’t been here when it was Nitty Gritty Slam, tonight he read a memoir piece “13 Years Old 1974” about watching the “cool guys,” riding his bike with his shirt off, before he realized he was gay. Our host Thom Francis joined in with a poem about his sad/hurt relationship with his father, then another about Monday at work.

The night ended with a couple of new, young poets who, perhaps, were inspired by the open, supportive spirit of the open mic. First was Shannon Spollen, who admitted to being a poetry “virgin,” her 1st time time reading out, her first poem a fantasy in rhyme, then one about praying to the Sea.

Savannah Goodman also braved the stage (it’s not so bad, right?) with a poem written when she was 15, as if she were a sweater.

It was quite a night for this inaugural event, in a string of open mics sponsored by Brass Tacks at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY — on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at 7:30PM, an open mic for poets, perhaps featured poets in the future, but a relaxed event to just come & read from your spiral notebooks, your cellphones, that napkin you just wrote on at the bar. See you there.