August 15, 2022

Spoken Word Night, July 22

This was the first night of a 2-night/2-city poetry extravaganza involving visiting poets associated with Trailer Park Review & Hobo Camp Review, organized by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. The first event was held at Elixer 16, 45 2nd Street, Troy, & was hosted by James Duncan, editor of Hobo Camp Review.

Local poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt had a short-lived series here at back in the pre-pandemic days. It’s a long climb from the beer bar to the “performance space” on the 3rd floor, but high enough to get breezes through the big windows on a hot night in July.


First up was Cord Moreski, "a poet from the Jersey shore," who delivered working class narratives, with pop references (e.g., a bar poem with Big Bird) in loud, pressured speech, mostly short stuff. 


J. Lester Allen said he had read in Troy in years past, currently lives in the Finger Lakes Region. He also had some narrative pieces, never sure without seeing the line breaks if it’s “poetry” or “prose,” but then does it matter? One poem about Socrates & Paul Newman meeting in a bar at a horse race sounded like a poem by a local poet who often writes about God hanging out at a bar.


Editor & host James Duncan read a more upbeat poem than what we’ve heard so far, & read for a poet (whose name I missed) who could not be here.


The lone female poet on the night’s bill was Paula Bomer,  with a splash of color, & without the "uniform" who interestingly enough, read mostly from male poets, including the gay narratives of Dennis Cooper, from John Berryman, & then some of the re-writes of the sonnets of Ted Berrigan by Andrea Kneeland The Translations (Sentenia Books, 2015). Paula is the publisher of Sententia Books.


I had seen Dan Provost read some years ago at the Connecticut Poetry Festival where he was part of an informal group that dubbed itself “Da Beards!” awash in testosterone. He included in his reading tonight pieces from Foundations of Cheap Penance released in November 2021 by the local Dead Man’s Press, which mostly publishes the work of the afore mentioned R.M. Engelhardt.


Jason Baldinger, from Pittsburgh, was another unrelenting loud declaimer, which seemed to be common trait among the readers, his poems while declarative & assertively profound, were a bit more descriptive than what we’d heard up to this point.


Victor Clevenger, read pretty much the same, short, angry-man poems, some he called “Haiku” but sounded just like incomplete notebook jottings, also beard, ink, hat uniform.


John Dorsey, co-editor of River Dog Press with Victor Clevenger, former ring-leader of “Da Beards!” at the Connecticut Poetry Festival still has the beard, was still yet tonight another shouter, every piece read in the same style, a loud voice falling in poetry style at the end of the line, short poems more like notes, emotions towards a poem not quite finished.

It was a tedious night with little variety, as can be expected I suppose with folks published by 2 presses that generally take similar material. I have been published by both presses myself, & of course had sent them poems that were on similar themes & styles like those I had read on their Blogs. But to have all of these guys — only 1 woman poet in the locker room room tonight — with their beards, their caps, their ink, & their shouts — all together for 2 hours was a bit overwhelming, & culturally anachronistic. Indeed it seemed that Da Beards! had risen from the swamp tonight, now also Da Hats!, Da Ink! & invaded Troy (if you don’t have the uniform you don’t read).


There was a similar event, including many of the same readers, at The Linda in Albany on the following night, which I missed. This time the single female reader was Albany poet & former Vice-President of Mary Panza. I’m sure she did just fine, for, as some poet once wrote about a different venue down the blocks from The Linda, “When Mary Panza’s curses made cocks fall like dried leaves all along Central Ave…” 

 

July 31, 2022

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 21

It wasn’t only the weather that was HOT! so were the Poets! Sadly, we recently lost a poet in the community that often graced us with her work, particularly pantoums, at many of the open mics in the area, Carol H. Jewell (1959 - 2022). So tonight I invoked her presence as our Muse & read “The Embrace” from her collection Hits and Missives (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2017). Our featured reader was Jeffrey Stubits, but first we heard from the open mic poets.

First on the list was Aron, making a rare appearance, reading about his weird dreams lately, being haunted by the various versions of himself. Joe Krausman (responding to my poems titled “Joe Krausman”) read his poem titled “Dan Wilcox” in which we meet in Heaven but return to Earth where the action is.


A new name tonight Alyssa Talanker said she was just back from a 2-week trip to Alaska, talked about the effects of climate change there, read about the native hunters on thin ice, “One Seal Down.” Josh-the-Poet has made himself a regular here & tonight performed from memory "Voice to the World," thinking about his writing & the souls he touches with it.


Joan Goodman slipped in after we started to read her poem set wandering in an Israeli village thinking of her father, of ancestors, & of love. I brought the open mic to a close with a poem about the heat, “At Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago,” for my friend Charlie Rossiter & his son Jack. 


Jeffrey Stubits, tonight’s featured reader, has read at many of the open mic venues in the area & I’ve always enjoyed his performances, a word carefully chosen, as would be expected about someone who is an actor. The poems he read were also evidence that he is also a humorist. While his style is to read fast — eliciting one audience member to ask him to slow down — his diction is crystal clear making the poems easy to follow. He read exclusively (almost) from his self-published collection Lilies for Olivia by Jimmy Wonka; in fact the closest his name appears in the book is for the cover design & book design by a “Jeffrey S. Tubits.” He read the poems in order, there are 71 in all in the book, some like notes to his reactions to the world around him, others imaginative fables, sometimes tiny, sometimes extended jokes playing with tongue-in-cheek metaphors, sometimes effusive, always entertaining. He surprised me by expressing his admiration for the work of the poet Langston Hughes, but it’s there. The last poem he read was “Free to Be Me,” by a friend Travis Regan. After his reading he sold or traded or simply gave away copies of his book, as well as DVDs of some of his monologues, & crystals his gathered in his travels -- a night of goodies.

You never know what kind of ride it will be here at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, with a featured reader from the great pool of local (or regional) poets, & the faithful, & new, poets who show up for the open mic — 7:30 PM, $5.00 donation helps pay the feature, supports poetry events & the work of the Social Justice Center. Join us.



July 27, 2022

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

We had recently lost another poet to that great Open Mic in the sky (or wherever it is), Carol H. Jewell, who was a frequent reader here, as she was in other venues in the area. A Celebration of her life had been held just yesterday in Albany. My co-host, Nancy Klepsch read Carol’s poem “Nancy Wants Me to Go Deeper,” a pantoum from her 2017 book Hits and Missives (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), sure who the "Nancy" of the title was, but it fit.

First poet on the signup sheet was up & through her dark notebook jottings so quick that I never got my camera up until realized she was done — I hope Amber Lockhart comes back & spends a little more time. Me, I read my poem “Kerouac” which as been accepted for a centenary memorial anthology of poems about that great American poet & novels, then read one of my poem cards “In My Neighborhood.”

Joel Best has been showing up at the 2nd Sunday open mic since we were at the Arts Center down on River St., the poems he read today were titled “As Part of the Equation,” & “On the Porch” which he describe as “a leftover” from a story he was writing. The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, Avery, performed a piece about picking strawberries & eating them in the field.


Bob Sharkey read his Cento composed of lines from the poems that were finalists in this year’s Stephen A. Dibiase Poetry Contest the poem titled “Love Was the Vessel," then a pieces inspired by his re-reading of the 2014 novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, wandering through his home town, the names of streets & places, & the current mass shooting. Kate Crofton read a moving poem in 2 parts, the first about a birth, the 2nd the killing of George Floyd.


Julie Lomoe read a connected series of Haiku titled “Gaia Cries Out for Help” published in the 2022 anthology of Haiku from Moonstone Press of Philadelphia, then “a dead cat poem” titled “Quartet of Elders:” herself, her husband, the dog & the cat. Laura Ellzey read a couple of autobiographical poems, “Parabola” about growing up, singing, traveling, & “The First Move” a sonnet about her first kiss. 


Sally Rhoades read 2 poems about flying, the first about the 1st time we flew to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Oklahoma, the 2nd about coming home, anxious to be with her grandson Cole “I Want to Make Time Go Faster.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a political piece with grim images of the Trump era “Attack,” then one titled “Before You Know Gratitude” for Naomi Bindman (who is frequently here).


& there you are, & there we were, as we are each 2nd Sunday @ 2PM with an open mic for poetry + prose, at Collar City Mushrooms 333 Second Ave., Troy — no featured reader, just an open mic — & it’s Free! Join us, even if you haven’t done anything like this before.


July 26, 2022

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, July 6

Carol Graser has been hosting this reading/open mic for an amazing 19 years! This event attracts open mic poets from all over the upstate region so each event is full of surprises — & good poems. She began the night with a poem by the recently-gone local poet Carol H. Jewell, “The Embrace,” a pantoum a form for which Carol was known, from her book Hits and Missives (Clare Songbird Publishing House, 2017). We will miss her.

Caffè Lena is one of the few venues in having the Featured poet read first, & who is live-streamed, then a live open mic (not streamed). I assume to supplement the $5 admission that the live audience pays the home audience is asked to make a contribution, but I have no idea how many of those folks watching  actually make a contribution. Just counting the poets who read in the open mic they would have taken in $100, not counting the “+1”s not reading. Fortunately the usually get a good crowd here for poetry.


Tonight’s featured poet was Dan Hubbs, who began with song on his banjo “The Moon Tattoo,” then on to a bunch of poems about being a super in building in lower Manhattan, other jobs he has held, & at least one childhood memory piece, working class tales & stories of characters he has known. You can find the video of his reading here.


Then immediately on to the open mic with Rachel Baum, a regular here, the 1st reader with a narrative portrait of a “Rodeo Winner” & his girlfriend. Carol (not sure of her last name) read a piece titled “Iris” for a friend with pancreatic cancer, then a poem about a canyon in Sedona. Michael Carroll read “Sorry Not Sorry” & said he didn’t like that title, then a more interesting piece about religion titled “Snake Oil.” Amanda Blodgett strung together 3 Haiku as 1 short poem she called “Discovering Peace.”


Jan Tramontano read one of her own pieces about processing her rage over recent events, then read a Richard Blanco poem “Looking for the Gulf Motel.” Victoria Twomey read a poem titled “Stadium Gods” the title itself a poem, then a delirious description of “Standing in the Presence of a Cornfield." I was next & read 2 recently written poems, “June 3, 2022” (Allen Ginsberg’s birthday), then one that was a gloss on a section of the Tao “Bright But Not Dazzling.”


Leslie Sittner is a frequent reader here, tonight with a humorous piece taking us through the seasons titled “How to Procrastinate & Slide into Sloth,” then read a sonnet she said was written to her “pergola birds.” Naomi Bindman read of her recent poems that has become a personal favorite about a gift of tulips “No Small Thing,” then one titled “Wonder” full of birds & fireflies, sugar & strawberries, & dreams. 


Vivian Nesbit was reading here for the 1st time, read one of her own about resolving to live as things are, then one by her brother, a narrative of driving & death titled “The Ned I Knew.” ER Vogel read “The Way Language Works” which he said was from “a just-published book” but didn’t tell us the title/publisher (in case someone wants to look for it to buy it), then one titled “Lying to Myself” a humorous take on looking at his beard in a mirror, from a book-in-progress. Frank Phelps joined in by reading from his phone Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods.” 


I’ve been seeing Elaine Kenyon in lots of poetry venues lately, here she read “July 6” which she said was her late mother’s birthday. Cassie read from her journal a love poem to someone from a distance. Frank Desiderio was back in the area for his annual sojourn/assignment at Lake George did a piece from memory about a Buddhist sand painting, scattered in the wind, then an effusive recitation of Gerard Manley Hopkin’s “God’s Grandeur,” like a sermon. Rodney Parott read 2 politcal pieces, one about a visit from his friend Lonnie who was carrying a pistol “in his butt crack,” then one in which he imagines running for President & debating “DJT” on TV.


Jeanine Laverty read a poem by Ashley M. Jones, the Poet Laureate of Alabama, “Photosynthesis” thinking of her father gardening on land he owns, not a slave. Lance Legrys repeated himself in a poem about his fears of repeating himself, “Again.” Alex Legrys followed her father with a descriptive piece about the ski-town of Dover “Mountain of Masks.” Carol Graser brought the night to a close with another descriptive piece “Beach on the Great Sacandaga.”


Another grand night here at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs where each 1st Wednesday of the month the poets gather for their turn on the stage, starting promptly at 7:00PM with a featured poet (live-streamed for the stay-at-home audience), then on to an open mic for the rest of us — $5.00. See you there.


July 19, 2022

Frank X. Gaspar, at Arts Letters and Numbers, June 29

Back in October 2018 I attended a reading at HVCC by poet Frank X. Gaspar & I have enjoyed reading his collection of poems titled Late Rapturous (Autumn House Press, 2012) that I brought home from that reading. So when Bonnie Cook from HVCC recently contacted me about Frank’s upcoming reading back here again I agreed to help her publicize the event. The reading was held at the Arts Letters and Numbers studio at an old mill in Averill Park, NY; one can find out more about the organization at www.artslettersandnumbers.com.


Frank Gaspar grew up in Provincetown, MA of Portuguese parents. Tonight, he began with selections from the 2020 The Poems of Renata Ferreira (Tagus Press), “transcribed  and annotated, with a forward by Frank X. Gaspar.”  Purportedly, “[p]resenting the poems of this Portuguese-­American writer and detailing their surprising rediscovery in 2015… Renata Ferreira's poems were composed in the final years of Portugal's fascist regime, exposing and subverting the government's draconian edicts against women's rights, sexual freedoms, political dissent, and progressive thought.” Ferreira is obviously a “heteronym” created, or channeled by Gaspar like those poets created by the great Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa (1888 - 1935) whose poems Gaspar has translated.


Gaspar bounced around in his reading with poems from different collections, including some of his “black notebook poems,” the jottings that so many of us poets collect over time, from Los Angeles, from NYC, the Canadian Rockies, from Lisbon. The title poem from Late Rapturous, which he described as his ars poetica, is a walking-around-New-York poem meditating on the painter Willem de Kooning's technique of working his canvasses over & over.


Indeed, many of his poems read like pieces from a novel or collection of short stories, with a “he” (sometimes addressed to a “you”) observing the world around him, written in a strong narrative style. In the following Q&A session he talked about his friendship with the late poet Mary Oliver (1935 - 2019) often visiting her in Florida. He also described his latest book discussed above, The Poems of Renata Ferreira, as the “best book I ever wrote.”


It was good to hear his work again, & having recently enjoyed the massive biography of Fernando Pessoa by Richard Zenith, I am looking forward to reading the poems of Frank Gaspar’s heteronym Renata Ferreira.

 

July 14, 2022

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 16

The poets keep showing up each third Thursday at the Social Justice Center & that’s a good thing since that’s why we are here. The featured poet this night was Catherine Arra, who had actually read in the SJC previously, but she was reading in Poets in the Park in July 2016 & it rained so we retreated to the SJC. 

Tonight, we started with some of the open mic poets to get us warmed up. The first up was Catherine Dickert, who has been here before; tonight, she read a tale about a couch in old house, its life up to a student asleep in it after it had been left on the sidewalk. Local political activist Fred Pfeiffer was here & read for the first time ever — a poetry virgin! — pieces written at age 17 (daisies in Spring), then at 71 (about the space we occupy, until we die). Joe Krausman is definitely not a poetry virgin, recited “Scenes Passing,” from memory, poems & things & life. Tom Bonville squeezed in 2 pieces, “The Pictures in Each Frame” about the photos & memories, & an “Old Tree” like an old artist. Joan Goodman has snuck back into the poetry scene in recent months, gladly, to read a sestina, “Yes,” with its repetitions on love.


Catherine Arra was the night’s feature & said she got to see a lot of Albany getting lost getting here, but here she was. She introduced her new book, currently accepted for publication, Solitude, Tarot & the Corona Blues, in 2 sections, the first about being in lockdown, the second, persona poems in the voices of the figures of the Major Arcana of the Tarot Deck. She began with “Exodus” into the desert of quarantine, then “Beauty in the Time of Corona” with images of Florida, “Grief, a Hangover,” “Cooking in the Time of Corona” friends getting together, a lush menu, & “Corona Blues” hitting bottom, then a seque into the 2nd part. From the Tarot section, she started with “The Devil” in his voice, then to the opposite card, “The Lovers,” “Death” a card of change, & ended with the last card in the deck, “The World.” Her poems are like stories, conversations, grammatical, stories, a pleasant time spent with an imaginative, creative poet. I look forward to adding Solitude, Tarot & the Corona Blues to my collection of Catherine Arra’s books.


After a break we returned to the open mic, with your host, me, as the first reader, with my newest Joe Krausman poem “Joe Krausman II” (my first one titled “Joe Krausman” was written in 1989). Sylvia Barnard is a faithful reader here each third Thursday, tonight read the recent poem “Black Bear in at the Park.” Elaine Kenyon reads frequently at the Caffè Lena open mic & tonight was here to read a poem in 3 parts responding to a prompt “chair” mixing childhood memories & a Ted-talk. 


I first heard Josh the Poet, as he signed up, at the new poetry venue at Lark Hall on the first Monday of the month, run by Albany poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt; tonight Josh was here to perform his poem from memory a new poem titled “Being Black” being part of a good nation. Tina Barry was the final poet of the night, a former-feature here & part of the entourage to Albany to support the featured poet; tonight read a memoir poem of going to New York City as a child with her mother to the Museum of Modern Art then looking for the lilies today.


There are always wonderful poems read on the third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, at 7:30 — a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us. Join us. 


June 30, 2022

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic out of Bennington, June 14

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, who had started this open mic in Bennington at a brew pub pre-pandemic, never got 13 poets showing up to read, but tonight, on Zoom, that’s the number he got. As much as some people see Zoom as limiting “human contact,” or whatever, tonight he drew in poets from 4 states to share their creative work. I love the in-person open mics & readings, I love the hugs, but I also love hearing the work from poets too far away for me to get to their town, or for them to get to mine.

Charlie likes to do 2 rounds, generally 1 poem each round but you know how unruly some performers can be. I raised my hand first so I was first on the list with a new poem about my friend the Albany poet Joe Krausman & a piece about him (not an obituary) in the Albany Times Union. Bridget Elder, from Vermont, was right behind me with a poem about her cat from a new series she is writing “Out of the Corner of My Eye.” Sheryll Bedinfield was “here” from Connecticut with a piece about walking along a pond path, about her father, orchids & other plants.


Representing Western Pennsylvania (but not really representative of that area from my understanding), Bill Thwing sang a song, a hymn written 40 years ago “My Rest is in You Oh Lord.” New Yorker, Mark O’Brien, but just as rural as Bill, read a piece based on a piece in the Altamont Enterprise from 1882 about a horse startled by a steam engine (I guess there were no mass shootings to write about, thankfully). Linda Eagleton was here for the first time & her 1st round piece was a prayer titled “The Song for Everyone.” Kenn Ash is a regular here, lives close by, read a long  string of Haiku, about walking in the woods. 


Charlie Rossiter (not in Bennington)
Our Bennington, Vermont host, Charlie Rossiter read an old piece titled “Performance Art” with a woman in a cage giving art a bad name. Tom Nicotera, like Sherry Bedinfield, was in Connecticut, he read “A Fragmented Life” from a prompt at a workshop to write something with with a train in it, & worked that into nightmare poem about just making the train to work. Naomi Bindman is nearby in Vermont, read her essay accepted for the Friends (Quakers) Journal “Journeys End,” a chapter from her memoir, about where she went as a child every Summer, later as a counselor.


Laura Ellzey is also in Vermont, she read a memoir of her father, “The Swing." Elaina Barrett just moved yesterday to a place not far from Bennington, but still in New York State, & read the colorful “Green Defined in Websters.” Julie Lomoe frequently talks, & writes, about a sub dural hematoma she had a couple years ago, read an anaphoric piece about an X-ray of “My Mother’s Head.”


Back around for the 2nd time, I recited my original “Joe Krausman” poem dating from about 1990. Bridget Elder did a similar cat poem to the one she did in the 1st round. Bill Thwing sang a song he wrote from the lyrics written by Kenn Ash, “Getting too Old to be Young.” Mark O’Brien returned to an old newspaper article with the headline “The PostOffice Cat Was Dead” with sonnet he wrote based on it.


Linda Eagleton read about her work as a therapist in a piece title “Attention.” Kenn Ash added some variety by improvising on his muted pocket trumpet. Charlie Rossiter dug into the archives to read a revised older piece about going to the bird sanctuary in Grafton, New York “A Day at the Bird Farm.” Tom Nicotera was back with a quieter piece, a bird poem titled “Heron Mind.” 


Naomi Bindman in her 2nd round read a new poem on aging titled “Senescence” that I heard her read Sunday in Troy, good to hear good work again. Laura’s 2nd round poem was a quick drive by titled “Annihilation.” Julie Lomoe closed out the night with another sub-dural hematoma piece a linked series of “Thanksgiving Haiku.” 


If you want to join this multi-state, eclectic group on the 2nd Tuesday of each month you don’t have to drive, put on shoes, or pants, just get the Zoom link from Charlie by asking for it in an email to  charliemrossiter@gmail.com — hope to see you “there”