March 30, 2020

Open Mic of the Air #1


Poetry Spoken Here is an audio project on Soundcloud.com that poet Charlie Rossiter embarked on after moving from Chicago to Bennington, VT — in fact this segment is actually Episode #121 in the canon. He also runs a poetry open on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at the Tap House in Bennington, but now that we are in the Time of COVID-19 he created this open mic with more-than-appropriate social distancing (with participants ranging throughout the USA as well as Brazil, India, & Mexico).

G.E. Schwartz (r.) with Solomon's Ramada
Albany Art Gallery, February, 1990
I was a willing attendant, but unfortunately since this is an audio-only event & I was stuck in Albany & there are no photos. But I was pleased to see on the list poet G.E. Schwartz who had been a regular at poetry venues in Albany, particularly the QE2 rock club on Central Ave., & a member of the poetry/art rock group Solomon’s Ramada.

This was like any other open mic — good poems, eeh poems, & everything in between — the way community poetry is anywhere I’ve been in this most poetic country of ours, &, I suspect, throughout the world.

This Week's Readers (or one might say, the "sign-up sheet"):

2:52 Dan Wilcox, Albany, New York – “Hanging Over the Edge”
4:20 Andrew Shaw, Port Townsend, Washington – “On the Nature of Motifs”
6:38 Leonides Jongui, San Luis Potosi, Mexico – “Momnto et Pasado”
8:39 John Berry, Winchester, Virginia – “How to Teach Poetry”
10:42 Jeannie E. Roberts, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin – “The Tempo of Gratitude”
12:47 G.E. Schwartz, Henrietta, New York – “The Searchers”
16:22 Charles Castle, Eugene, Oregon – “Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus”
18:47 Ralph Carusillo, Hudson River Valley, New York – “The Last Avenue”
23:36 Vandana Parashar, Panchkula, India – “A Leap of Faith”
25:48 Sandy Rochelle, New Jersey – “To Mothers All Alone in a Sandbox”
27:26 Dottie Joslyn, Springfield, Missouri – “Virus Two”
28:34 Michael Glassman, Newburgh, New York – “Drop Zone”
31:33 Louiza Mussnich, Rio de Janiero, Brazil – “Accident (to Iris Murdoch)” and “For Sale”
33:56 Romy Maimon, Cape Cod, Massachusetts – “I Wish”

Listen to it here
 
& submit your work for future Open Mics of the Air here  & if you see a guy show up with a camera taking notes, you’re hallucinating.

March 29, 2020

The Poetry of Oklahoma


The Scissortail Creative Writing Festival happens each year at East Central University in Ada, OK. I have attended every-other year or so since 2011. This year’s festival, scheduled for April 2 thru 4, was, of course, cancelled. However, just in time, a book arrived in the mail, Bull Buffalo and Indian Paintbrush, The Poetry of Oklahoma, edited by Oklahoma poet Ron Wallace of Durant, OK.

By my rough count, nearly half of the poets in the anthology I have see & heard at Scissortail at one time or another. There are some names with national reputations, such as our current Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the novelist Louis L’Amour, N. Scott Momaday & Rilla Askew. & many I count proudly as my friends, including Ken Hada the director of the festival, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish who 1st introduced me to Oklahoma in 2010 when Charlie Rossiter & I made a trip to Albany, OK, Jim Spurr (sadly no longer with us), feisty Dorothy Alexander, Rilla Askew, former New Yorker Paul Austin, & the editor himself Yankee fan Ron Wallace. Others whose books I have on my shelf of Oklahoma writers, or with whom I’ve shared dinner & drinks & conversation.

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, Oklahoma Poet Laureate 2017 - 2019, once lived in Albany, where her son Michael was born, & on visits back to the East she has stayed at “The Poetry Motel.” It was Jeanetta who made it possible for Charlie & I to visit Oklahoma & even be part of the Oklahoma Labor Fest when we were there. Ken Hada has also made trips to the East & also been a guest at “The Poetry Motel.”  Both have read at poetry venues in the area, such as at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs.

It’s a marvelous group of writers & I look forward to seeing them again, maybe next year. But this anthology brought these, & other writers I haven’t met (yet) into my home in Albany, NY.

You can order Bull Buffalo and Indian Paintbrush directly from Ron at his website www.ronwallace.com — tell him Dan Wilcox sent you.


March 18, 2020

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, March 11


Schenectady’s monthly open mic at C.R.E.A.T.E. Space, 137 State St., doing poetry in the time of COVID-19, there were still 6 of his here, no need for a sign-up sheet, we all knew each other — & then part way through there was a surprise, but more on that later.

The host here each 2nd Wednesday is poet Jackie Craven who started us off with a poem by West Coast poet Suzanne Lummis, “How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery.”

Alan Catlin was the first to read & began with a poem by Bunkong Tuon (aka BK) who had been scheduled as the featured poet but had to cancel, “Thoughts When I Found Out I Was Going to Have a Daughter” (which you can find at the Misfit Magazine website). Then on to poems from his work-in-progress of poems based on the work of American photographer Diane Arbus (1923 - 1971), “House of Horrors: Coney Island,” & “Untitled #10” (from Arbus’ series of photos taken in asylums), then a poem written yesterday about a neighbor dying “Across the Street…” Alan has a new book just out from Dos Madres Press Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh, he read the title poem & a series of poems titled “Aspects of Vincent.”

Judith Prest began with a selection of poems from After (Finishing Line Press, 2019), including the title poem, “Unsafe,” “Recovery Poem 1,” & “Witness.” Then a newer poem written in November “Prayer for St. Janis” (based on Ernesto Cardenal’s poem “Prayer for Marilyn Monroe”).

Scott Morehouse usually (always?) leaves us laughing ’til we gasp with his outrageously humorous tales, tonight was no exception with the story of a widow, her friend, & a custody trial over a monkey, set in 1925, “Society’s Darling” made all the better by Scott’s theatrical rendition.

Susan Jewell talked about a panel discussion by scientists on poetry at the recent AWP convention, & read Jim Johnstone’s piece on virus “Identity as a Reproducible Method.”  (For anyone interested in the conjunction of poetry & science, check out the CapSci Facebook page or their website www.capsciny.org. Susan is a persistent writer of ekphrastic poetry & read a couple tonight, “Abandoned Ware” (about the end of an affair), & one titled “How Did the Birds Not Shit on Me.”

While Susan was reading 3 young women wandered in, a bit uncertain & shy. One, Tamoya (spelling?) said she had been looking for a poetry open mic in Schenectady. With encouragement from us more seasoned readers she read an untitled piece written this morning, a moving letter to her mother discussing her childhood & their troubled relationship — a surprising gift to us all.

I was up next with a couple new poems, “First Date” (based on a poem a lady gave me on our first date), “The Helicopters of Peace” (from my recent retreat on Cape Ann), & an older piece, “Epidemic,” on earlier epidemics, the bird flu & the swine flu.

Our host Jackie Craven finished off the night by telling us about a series of successes she’s had recently in getting her poems published. She read a series of “sister poems,” the first with birds, then one based on the Pleaides, based on a Nancy Drew novel with the same title “The Mystery at the Moss Covered Mansion,” then ended with “Cyborg Sister.”

As it turned out this was the last poetry event I attended before the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic began to shut everything down. By that weekend most entertainment venues had closed down, & I decided to cancel the Third Thursday Poetry Night I host at the Social Justice Center. As the days have progressed bars & restaurants, movie theater & gyms have closed & “social distancing” has become not a description of pathological behavior but an accepted, protective behavior.

Writing is something that is done alone, in private, like, well you get it. But poetry open mics have become a way for us solitary poets to get our work out there in our community, to try out our work & perhaps take it back home to revise or re-work it & try it out again, or to promote our poems when they are published in a zine or as a chapbook or collection, & to hear the work of others, to learn from them what to do (or not do), to respond to, to emulate (or copy, or imitate, or steal). What began in private becomes transformed into public statement, into community, into friendships, or into the conflicts that create change.

I will have to see how this Blog will change in the time of COVID-19 until we begin meeting again in bars, coffee houses & other community spaces. But the important thing is for all of us to keep writing, to stay connected by social media, telephone, messaging, email, one-on-one encounters, to send your best work out there to the many online & print venues that exist. & to create new ways of sharing our work via the magic of electronic media — we’re all made out of electrons anyways.

Now go write that poem you’ve been wanting to for as long as you can remember. Peace.

March 17, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, March 8


Poetry in the Time of the Coronavirus, but clearly less than 50 people here, hosts Nancy Klepsch (“Pandemics make me cranky”) & me (Dan Wilcox).

& I was up first on the sign-up sheet with a poem, “The Poet’s [Poet’s] Decalogue” based on a poem by Sharon Mesmer, in American Poetry Review, November/December 2019, based on a poem by Gabriela Mistral, then a flash-back to past epidemics, in 2 parts.  Dave DeVries is the host of the long-running open mic at the Colonie Town Library on the 3rd Tuesday where they sometimes select words for folks to incorporate into a poem to read at the next gathering, his first poem “Blurred Vision” was one of those poems, his 2nd poem in funny rhymes was titled “A 2nd Chance.” Bob Sharkey’s poem “After St. Patrick’s Day” was printed appropriately enough on green paper (Bob said he couldn’t remember reading it out before, but I distinctly remember it with its description of a unique snow globe); earlier in the week he had announced the winners & other honorees of the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest & read today cento composed of lines from some of his favorite entries “Lie Down Here in the Green Green Field.”

Kate Laity made a welcome return to the 2nd Sunday @ 2 to read a piece of short, noir fiction, “Lavender” originally published here in Punk Noir Magazine.  Certainly not “noir” Sally Rhoades read a piece from her ongoing memoir about growing up in foster homes, a piece she wrote only a few hours ago. Co-host Nancy Klepsch began with a piece I’ve heard before (& like) “My Clit Thinks for Me,” then the anaphoric (“Send me …”) “I Am the Algorithm.”

Karen Fabiane began with a piece on music written yesterday “Most of the Notes,” another new piece, a long series of ex’s “You’re In the Big City Now,” & ended with “Clingy Men” who created the Bible. Tara seems to like to work in forms, today a piece titled “Invalid” which she said combined a Haiku with a villanelle not sure what she meant but I only heard it once, as I did her 2nd piece, a short untitled poem. Earlier Nancy had been discussing the possibility of doing this gathering online on one of the conferencing platforms out there, Lauren Pinsley had wanted to tell a story about that & was added to the bottom of the list, a hilarious tale of someone falling asleep during a conference call whose loud snoring triggered the camera — it could happen soon at an online poetry open mic, stay awake.

We are not certain what will transpire for Poetry in the Time of the Coronavirus here on the 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose at the Arts Center in Troy, but we hope to let you know.

March 14, 2020

Epidemic


EPIDEMIC

Bird flew --
it’s what
they do


EPIDEMIC (II)

Everything is
coming true:
Swine flew

Poetic Vibe, March 2


Troy on Monday nights means Poetic Vibe at the Troy Kitchen, with the poetic dynamo D. Colin as host. Of course, I got there early & filled in the #1 slot to what was eventually a long list.

[Note: at the end of readings I try to consult, or photograph, the sign-up sheet to verify the names of the poets who read, names that sometimes are obliterated aurally by applause, or are not spelled the way I think I heard it, but at the end of the night, the list could not be found, so apologies to poets whose names I’ve misspelled in the following account — corrections are appreciated & will be made.]

I was first (always get this one correct) with a poem from last year “Red Boots,” then one from my recent trip to Gloucester “The Helicopters of Peace.”  

Dave Treacy read a poem written this afternoon “Sam’s Home Cooking,” then a piece in rhyme about hanging out on his deck. Hannah Rose, a regular here, likes to sing, tonight with a piece about black love between woman, another about love written at a stay at Four Winds. Marie Kathleen began reading from her phone “Jazz in Real Time,” then from paper a short “Ocean Breeze."  Joshua RA Dundas is known for shouting, stomping across the stage & for taking his shirt off, all of which he did tonight, largely incoherent.

Asia talked about Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, how she had auditioned for the show when she was a 9-year old, then did “Cunt” from the play, & one of her own, I think, a re-definition of the term “slut.” The poet known as “Slay the Dragon” read “Vicious Ending,” a dramatic monologue of the last days of Sid Vicious, from the punk band The Sex Pistols, that a more personal piece about having his heart broken at age 16.

Truth started with an introduction beginning “I am right where I supposed to be…” encouraging the audience to snap along with his hip-hop rhyme, then a piece perhaps titled “The Grass is Greener,” with a some shouting at the beginning. One Poetic Vibe’s piece was an argument on the theme “how many times can you re-write a poem?” DJ Air Alert was another performer in the hip-hop style his pieces titled “Alpha Bitch” & “I Can Sue” (about his prison experience).

I’m not sure but I think the next poet was introduced as “P.” who said he was doing “a couple of bars from a book of rhymes,” which they were, one a love poem. Sean/Shawn (not sure which spelling) said he was a musician, did a couple of short poems, one a breakup poem. Another poet’s whose name I missed completely had an argument poem, after a breakup.

The next reader announced was “Donfons” (AKA Alfonso Rodriquez) who gave up his slot to make space for Amani O+ (who wasn’t on the list) & practiced a piece she was planning to do at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas this weekend, the piece addressed “to future monogamous boyfriends” was about what possession means. Liv, also on her way to WOWPS did a piece on body image beginning “The handyman called me skinny…” The next poet was either D or V, & she did a couple pieces that were basically self-help lectures. Then Donfons was back for his own slot with what he called “a tune” another in the hip-hop style.

I didn’t know if there was to be a featured poet tonight & it turns out to my delight to be our host D. Colin, who also was on her way to Dallas for the WOWPS, & I think used the opportunity to practice. But first she read a found poem what she calls the “take-away” from the night’s open mic, as she does each week, lines, phrases that struck her from each of the readers — so you know this host is paying attention. She began with singing lyrics in Kreyol, then the piece “The girl dream” (from Said the Swing to the Hoop, Empress Bohemia Books, 2019) for her mother, who had been told as a child that a girl is supposed to be a boy’s dream, not dream like one. Then from Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2019) “Dear Anacia.” Then on to “Red Leaf Tree in Summer” &  more singing, explaining that she has been experimenting with music. Back to Said the Swing to the Hoop she performed “American on our breath” & “Broke just like that” spinning off a tune by Nina Simone, then ended with the defiant “for every Black Woman who has been called Angry.” Danielle’s poems stand in stark contrast to the locked-in-a-box hip-hop rhymes & rhythms often heard here & at other open mics, borrowed from some high-paid entertainment star, while her rhythms, her phrasing, even when she rhymes, are her own, musical, flowing from her life & experience. There is a lot to learn from this original, energetic, & even humorous voice, a poetry dynamo right here.

Poetic Vibe is each Monday at Troy Kitchen on Congress St. in Troy, NY at 7:30PM, & generally poetry events are well under the 50 person limit for mass gatherings in this Age of Coronavirus, but each venue is different — check social media & calendars of poetry events for up-to-date information — but in the meantime, keep writing that perfect poem.

March 3, 2020

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, February 29


Not at the laundromat on Lark St., but at Urban Aftermath on the low end of Hamilton St., whose owner Hassan welcomed us, jammed into the tiny performance area (which is a good thing for a poetry reading, not rock concert). Then Douglas Rothschild gave an elliptical ramble about his style of doing introductions, of which there was little evidence (more on that later). He did introduce Alan Casline, a long-time host of poetry events himself.

Alan Casline began with a selection of poems from Grandfather Carp (bRAINdROP bOOKbENDERS, 2009) referencing the myth & folklore of carp & dragons. Then on to poems from Summergreen (FootHills Publishing, 2019), including “Dark Moon Corn” which is dated February 29, 2012, & others. A new poem “from this year” was “Record Your Thoughts While Digging a Hole,” while “Pile On” was from a Bernadette Mayer workshop (there is a whole genre of poems that are introduced as “this is from a Bernadette Mayer workshop”). Alan said he had worked for many years as a counselor in Hudson & read a couple poems from that experience, “3 Lines for Charlie” & “Ghost Dance on Warren St.” Then one titled “Poem as Confessional” & ended with “I Dreamed Last Night of the Circling of Stars.”

The next reader was Sarah Noor Steadman, but you wouldn’t have known that if you were there; I had to look up the event later on Facebook to find out her name.* It was fascinating to watch her turn through orange & white pages of her poems, beginning with a ramble titled “Burl,” then “Absolute Authority,” poems composed by piling up images, perhaps randomly selected, or not, as in “Wifey” which begins with a mention of a prom, then on to making communion hosts, dandelion wine, & mentioning peacocks & a penis. She also had a “pile poem” from Bernadette’s workshop, hers titled “Pile Mine.” The best use of her technique was in the poem titled "International Business Machine," about a trip to Endicott, NY to visit the site of the former IBM Headquarters.

Philip Good was the last of the 3 readers who brought a pile of books with him, who did get a proper introduction (I guess 2 out of 3 ain't bad). He began with a piece from Untitled Writings from a Member of the Blank Generation (Trembling Pillow Press, 2011). A more recent publication is Poets In A Box or Pluto in Motion (Reality Beach Press, 2018) which was inspired by a box of broadsides put together as a fundraiser for Bernadette Mayer after she had her stroke, each poem made up of 2 - 13 line stanzas, the first about Bernadette’s life & work, the second stanza about the individual broadside. Philip read the poems relating to the broadsides by Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Lyn Hejinian, Anne Waldman, & Rod Padgett. Then on to selections from a new, long poem “Slow Capture” thinking about how a camera captures an image, then a piece titled “The Speed of Sound.” On to “A New Way of Looking At Coffee” from his limited edition chapbook Coffee Poems. &, of course, Philip also had a poem from a Bernadette Mayer workshop, his was titled “Garbage.”

Notes on the reading by Misty Lemay
A fine evening of fine poetry. But, unlike other readings in town, here, as in academic settings, there is no clapping between poems, only when the poet is finished reading at the end; I had to keep checking myself to not let out an instinctual clap, like suppressing a fart.

St. Rocco’s Reading for the Dispossessed seems to have found a home here at Urban Aftermath, 295 Hamilton St., Albany, NY — find out when, what time next from their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/stroccoalbany/


* [Whether by her design, or the host’s ineptitude, after Alan read, Sarah got up to the stage without the host even mentioning her name. If by her design she didn’t then introduce herself either. As for the host, I find it incredibly rude & demeaning to not introduce the reader so that we, the audience, at least knows the featured reader’s name — their full name, not just “& here’s Sarah” as I’ve also experienced in the past.]