December 11, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 9


We were kicked upstairs due to a performance in our usual space, the black box theater (named after yet another crooked politician), but it was brighter, sunnier up there & not just because of the sunlight, but also because of the luminous poets & listeners. The hosts were Nancy Klepsch & myself, DWx.

First up was Bob Sharkey who read a magical poem about a visitation from his great-grandmother Brigid Connolly “Brigid Visits East Latham.” Joel Best followed with a poem perhaps titled “Nighting” that was perhaps a ghost story, then a poem about family “We Are 9 Old Chairs.” Dave DeVries began with a memoir of a ’58 Chevy “Car Fever,” then on to one titled “Questions” which was just that.

As you can see from the photo we were sitting around tables arranged with an opening in the center & lithe Kendall Hoeft was the only who was limber enough to crawl into the center where she read her first poem with dance moves “How to Match the Sky,” then a new piece that she read from back on the perimeter “Of Eden” back in the Garden. I didn’t read one of my own poems but instead read my favorite holiday-season poem by the marvelous (but gone) Enid Dame (1943 - 2003) “Holiday Poem” (“… we don’t need the solace of bought objects. We need other’s light.”). Mike Conner, who is the master of the seasonal poem, read one about Autumn “The Smell of Memory,” then a prose memoir of living in Japan in the ’90s “Shinkuchan Wandering.” Stealing a page from Peter Lamborn Wilson (who is also Hakim Bey) Jay Dalaba signed up as Hex’m Jai & read a poem about the cold “That Blue Bastard” then one then engendered some intimate discussion among the audience “Since It’s Sunday It’s Laundry Day.”

Mary Ellen Kelleher is an old friend of Nancy’s who began with a calendar poem titled “The Six Sisters & Their Brothers” inspired by a poem by Billy Collins, then an old poem about watching a woman across from her at a conference “Academic Itch.” Karen Fabiane read a new piece never read out before today “No Water There” about change & crossing over, then “Collars & Cuffs” which began with an old coat & spun out from there. My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read 2 poems on loss, “At 94” about a friend who didn’t make it to 94, & an untitled piece beginning “I am shaped by dreams …”; but the best part was when she said “We write alone but do not live alone.Jil Hanifan returned us to the seasonal/holiday theme with a piece about the parking lot of Walmart’s for last-minute shopping, then another that she began with a snippet of a Xmas carol.

R.M. Engelhardt is the host of the monthly Troy Poetry Mission, now at Elixir 16 on 2nd St. in Troy, & is the only person I’ve ever seen who puts on tinted reading glasses when it’s his turn, perhaps he’s going blind; he read from his phone the poems “Done Me Wrong” & “Not Fade Away” which is another in his long series of God poems, unfortunately “stepping on his punch line,” as Jil said.

So if you write alone but want to share some of it there is this monthly gathering 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free!

December 7, 2018

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, December 4


According to Thom Francis (el presidente), who should know, this was the 10th gathering of this open mic series at The Low Beat. It was also the public start of a week-long celebration of Thom’s birthday.

First up for the open mic was the long-absent Matt Galletta who read a wrestling poem as a sort of birthday present for Thom “Going Pro,” then an older piece “This Will Happen to You.” I’ve been sickened by the gush-fest for the most recent Dead President, Georg H.W. Bush, who gave us the invasions of Panama & Iraq, the pardon of Iran-Contra conspirators, & who ignored the AIDS crises, among other Patrician-class attacks, & so read my poem written after attending a rally against “Oil War I” in January 1991 in Washington, DC “Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial.” Christa DeMarco read 2 poems about elderly folks she has been caring for on her job, “6-Minute Egg” & “Impact.”

Always one to have cake for any celebration, Mary Panza passed around mini-cupcakes to kick off the celebration of Thom’s birthday (actually on Sunday, December 9) which strangely went well with the beer I was drinking & of course we all sang the Happy Birthday song.

Brett Petersen, wiping cake from his beard, read a couple poems from his Blog, like exercises in automatic writing, or a punk version of John Ashbery, “The Bottom of the Pool is Hungry for your Brain Damage” & “Have a Drink, Literally, On Me.” Alyssa Michelle has established herself as a regular here, with her first person poems, the first “Introvert” in which she tries to explain herself to extroverts, & the next about driving & watching the lights in the rain “Pause.” Kendall Hoeft read a poem titled “When the Body Breaks” then one starting with a quote from Anna Karenina & was about fear & desire & oysters & pearls “Of Sea & Sky.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Poetyc Visionz out & about & he read a new piece “I Met God on Lark St.” which was a sort of re-make of his Number 7 poem, then another in his signature wordplay (& an example of why he has been dubbed “the Pastor of Positivity”) “Be Grateful.” The Birthday Boy, Thom Francis, shared a poem about water flowing down 4th Street “Jesus Walks on the Water.”

Sarah Fountain has been to the Brass Tacks readings since the beginning but doesn’t always read, & was coaxed to read tonight; she read an intensely personal poem written after talking to her mother for the last time “Never Enough” & it was clear to see why they haven't spoken since.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks is a open mic (primarily) held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at The Low Beat on Central Ave., starts about 7:30PM. Another fine poetry event brought to you by the folks at AlbanyPoets.

December 5, 2018

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, December 1


On a late Saturday afternoon I went to the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany for a reading by 3 women poets. After a late start Doug Rothschild did a lengthy, & somewhat repetitive run through of the upcoming readings in this series (more on this later), then on to the poets, Kenning JP Garcia doing the intros, such as they were.

First up was Marina Blitshteyn who read from a new book just out Two Hunters, beginning with a poem titled “Welfare Princess,” then one based on a song from the ‘90s “White Town - Your Women.” The poem titled “Little Soldiers” introduced her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, who figures in most of the rest of the poems she read, her family from Moldova, which the poet left in 1991, & referenced in "Love in Moldova” in which she incorporates words in Russian. There were a couple of poems of sociological commentary from an immigrant's perspective all titled “The Americans,” some poems about her mother (“Pride,” “Toys,” “My Little Mother”), & she ended with a poem whose title summed up her reading “The Immigrant Experience.” During the reading I was certain I had seen Marina read previously some where, & later talking to her realized it had been in Brooklyn in February 2017 at the BOOG City 10.5 Festival.

Hawa Allan read from a triptych of projects, the first being found poems from an old sociological text, appropriating selected phrases, terms, even apparently complete sentences; even the titles of individual pieces seemed drawn from the text, “Believe in the Part One’s Playing,” “Idealization,” “Maintenance as Expressive Control,” etc. The second section were political poems: “A Single Step” about Haitians who migrated from Brazil to Mexico, “Gentrification,” & “Grenfell” about the June 2017 fire in the Grenfell Tower in London. The third section were, as she said, “love poems I guess you can call them” with titles that included, among others, “To All the Men that Wouldn’t Love Me,” “Not Cold Hearted,” & “Well Woman.”

The final reader, Dylan Krieger, from New Orleans, is on the final leg of a reading tour. She read a variety of work from her books, including the recently published The Mother War (the poem “The Night Miami Vice Taught Me What Rape Means”), from a series of poems on chronic pain (“Bedside Mechanic” & “ What Doesn’t Kill You Will Eventually”), a true story about being home schooled by a follower of David Koresh (“Fall Down Faithful”), as well as a poem about the Apocalypse. Being from Louisiana, there was a cockroach poem, another addressed to Louisiana in the style of Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” a breakup poem, others, & she ended with a new piece about where she is at now that was more fractured & random than the other poems she read.

This series, like the Sage’s The Rev, often brings in poets from outside this area to introduce their work to the local scene. Interestingly enough, during Doug Rothschild's opening peroration, he mentioned that he was also interested in featuring local poets in this series, & has put that information out to the community. But, he said, he often hears from local poets whom he doesn’t know, meaning, he said, that they have not been to the readings. I think he meant to his readings. I attend between 8 & 10 or so reading each month in the region (you can verify this by checking my Blog), but I rarely — dare I say “never”? — see Doug at any of them. I can only conclude that the only readings he goes to are the ones he is involved in organizing — which means, of course, that he doesn’t know who any of the other poets are in this community since he doesn’t get out of his comfort zone. It’s a dilemma.

Saint Rocco was born about 1340 in France; he is venerated as the protector against the plague & other contagious diseases; other sources say he is the patron saint of bachelors & of (in the 20th century) laundromats. Be that as it may, you can find notices about this series at their Facebook page.

December 2, 2018

The Rev, November 29


This reading series out of Sage Colleges is usually held in Troy, but tonight was in the colorful, bright Opalka Gallery at the Albany Sage campus on New Scotland Ave. The series is coordinated & hosted by poet Matthew Klane, formerly of the Yes! reading series.  There were 2 readers.

Jeff T. Johnson had set up his laptop, wires, the usual cluster of tech stuff, for his reading that he began with selections from his book Trouble Songs; A Musicological Poetics (Punctum Books, 2017), a book-length meditation on the use of the word “trouble” in 20th & 21st century music, accompanied by vocal & instrumental versions of “Secret Rider” (i.e., ‘trouble in mind”), as well as other songs. Then he read from a new work-in-progress "Portal" random, serious, often tedious philosophical reflections, written like random notebook jottings but on the Cloud so he could write them wherever he was, on whatever device he was using -- so 21st century. It included some ramblings about TV, particularly “Twin Peaks;” another section was read with a recording of him reading other sections from the manuscript.

I found the poems of Emily Sieu Liebowitz much more interesting & engaging, perhaps because her work was more descriptive, imagistic, & while equally self-absorbed at times & filled with the lyric “I,” as Jeff Johnson’s, she is less abstractly philosophical. She read mostly from her new book National Park (Gramma Poetry, 2018), including the ode “You Never Forget How to Ride Your Bike,” another, “I’m Always Leaving Together…” which she said was “stolen from AndrĂ© Breton."  The last poem she read, from the book, was titled “Days Separate” & played on repetitions of “I am,” “we were,” “we are,” musical & haunting. In between she read from a new manuscript collection titled “Goodbye,” with each of the sections are numbered & all titled "Goodbye," from which she jumped around, the main character called “X,” like a conversation, or letters, perhaps writing to herself the “you,” like an internal dialogue.

The reading was followed by a mercifully brief Q&A, that somehow got into the topic of the apocalypse, which seems to be in the air, hopefully only for discussion.

The Rev reading series is taking the traditional academic break until next semester.  I for one look forward to next semester’s program. Kudos to the Sage Colleges & to Matthew for making this happen.

November 29, 2018

Poets Speak Loud!, November 26


The old folks commandeered the center cluster of tables (I guess so they didn’t have to walk too far to the mic) while others, including some new faces, & audience/just-to-listeners were spread about the rest of the room, & others came in as the reading went on. Our host was Mary Panza, who at one point shared her experience in the rural hinterlands of Gloversville, NY when she performed recently at “Dorn’s Space;” hey, you can send a girl from South Troy to Gloversville, but you can’t make her move there either.

First to the open mic was Sylvia Barnard who read an older poem from her 2012 collection of poems Trees “Easter 1988,” then a new piece about the legendary British folk-lore figure “Green Man.” Joe Krausman’s first poem was about being alone, while his next poem pondered the end of Summer in the “garden of Good & Evil.”

A new face & voice tonight, who was in fact a poetry-virgin, was Sally Delesandro who read 3 love poems, “The Wait” (on longing), “Naked,” & “Home,” & she made it through all 3 just fine. I didn’t have any problems reading my poems either, both new, “Are Ewe a Frank Robinson?” & the commentary on MFA programs “To the consternation…”

Tonight’s featured poet was Luciano Ferarra, whom I’d first seen back in August at the Low Beat (& subsequently only there). He read 9 of the 13 poems in his recently self-published chapbook Romanticizing the Art of Being Honest: An Experience of Meeting People, in a frantic rush that ran all the words together, the poems a string of automatic writings, self-indulgent jottings out of a late-night, post-party spiral notebook that used to have notes from a history class. The book contains not only his poems but a portfolio of photographs he’s taken, including 2 of pet dogs, & a couple of performance shots (he plays guitar) taken by others. It was printed by one of those ubiquitous publishing services that have cropped up online in recent years. Buy his books so he can buy beers & not hold up a convenience store.

Don Levy was up to continue the open mic with a seasonal poem “Up Your Chimney, Santa” responding to the character of Santa in that gay-classic TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Bob Sharkey’s poem “One Day this Kid Will” was inspired by a photo exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York & a photo by David Wojnarowicz, & then a cento from entries from last year’s Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Contest titled “We Are Delivered by Wonders.”

Christa DeMarco, who will be the featured poet here in February, began with a poem, like a letter to her mom about their conflicts, her next poem styled as a computer message about a system shutdown, titled “Destruction Imminent,” made some of us wish her voice was used as the voice of the computer. We were pleased to see Julie Lomoe back from subdural hematoma less than a month ago, & she has a new writing project titled “Subdural” that seemed to be composed of a string of short poems she called Haiku, then on to a prose narrative about Thanksgiving Day at the U.U. with her family — Julie is back. Samuel Weinstein came in with his father, as he often does, then dismissed him before reading from his long poem “In a Pinch” (“about schizophrenia” he said, & sex), then one titled “A Bit Brighter.”

Another Poets Speak Loud! in the books, so to speak, usually on the last Monday of the month, but not in December when it falls between the craziness of family & the craziness of drunken amateur night, but otherwise (i.e., the last Monday of January) join this odd community of poets at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square on the last Monday of the other months at 7:30PM — check out the schedule at AlbanyPoets.com

November 27, 2018

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, November 20


This was certainly the shortest open mic I’ve been at, perhaps ever, but, as a former girlfriend once said to me, “shortest doesn’t mean it’s not fun…”

We were at The Low Beat for the 3rd Tuesday open mic & in addition to the poets on the very short list there were folks hanging out at the bar to listen to poetry, & that's not bad. Our host was AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis.

& I was first on the list, which was easy to do tonight. I have been going through my files & found a poem written in response to a call for entries in 1997 from the guys running Chronicles of Disorder to celebrate the birthday of James Joyce by writing on February 2, 1997 a piece that responded to the topic “The Literal Soundtrack of a Day on Earth.” My records don’t show if there was any eventual publication but my copy of the flyer indicates I did extensive research in my private diaries & I wrote “The Track of a Sound of a Day: Today & Over the Years” which I read tonight; I also read 2 new pieces “Are Ewe a Frank Robinson?” & the MFA-bashing “To the consternation…”

Thom Francis jumped in to read the “holiday poem” that began “I don’t have a family tree…” playing on the expected images of trees, wood, & dysfunctional family relationships, etc.

Christa DeMarco, who can often be found here for the open mics, began with a piece inspired by Mary Panza’s recent reading at Dorn’s Space in Gloversville “You’re Damn Right I’m Angry,” then a screed addressed to men who are either “Silent or Violent,” then a very short comment on relationships.

& then it was over — but the open mic is back each 1st & 3rd Tuesday at The Low Beat, on Central Ave., 7:30PM, bring poems & join us.

November 26, 2018

Community of Writers, November 18


Perhaps the longest running series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild is the “Community of Writers” readings, this one held each year in November at the Schenectady County Public Library. The host today was Schenectady-poet-about-town, Alan Catlin, & there were 6 writers in a variety of genres.

The afternoon began with Mary Cuffe Perez who read from her collection of stories of her neighbors in rural Galway, NY, Barn Stories: Reflections from a Saratoga County Horse Farm (North Country Books, 2017). What she read was an hysterical tale of 2 brothers, combative, inept & ultimately lazy, titled “Butch & Wally’s Used Ladder World.” It was a light -hearted way to start the event.

Sarah Giragosian, I must admit, is one of my favorite “new” poets; she has been the featured reader at my Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany. Her 2017 book from Dream Horse Press, Queer Fish, won the American Poetry Journal Book Prize & she began with a selection of poems from it, including “The Decorator Crab,” “The Anglerfish Finds Her Muse,” “All at Sea,” “When the Horseshoe Crab Grieves,” & “King of Saxony Bird of Paradise.” She also has a new book pending from Black Lawrence Press, The Death Spiral, from which she read the title poem & “The Second Moon Colony Won’t Fail.” Her poems deal with love & relationships, often in the context of the environmental crises of climate change.

Some folks may recognize the name Wanda Fischer as the host of the WAMC folk music program “The Hudson River Sampler,” but she is also the author of a novel, Empty Seats (Spring Training Media, 2017). An avid baseball fan since a child, she once announced a full baseball game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox & the Twins in 2012. Her novel follows a couple of young minor league players through a season, & she read from the opening chapter, “Two Jimmys” & another brief section she called “Cookies.”

Back to poetry, next was another of my long-time favorite local poets Jill Crammond, who read a selection of poems that she says she writes in the voice of Mary (the mother of Jesus), Barbie or from the voices in her head. From a series she calls “The Queen of Resurrection” she read a piece titled “Gone Missing.” Inspired by Joyce Carol Oates’ book Black Water about the Edward Kennedy/Mary Jo Kopechne tragedy in July 1969, Jill also read a poem in the voice of Ms. Kopechne.

The only male reader followed, Rich Holt, a former teacher at Niskayuna High School & Schenectady County Community College. He read from his memoir in poetry & prose, As After Sunset Fadeth in the West published by The Troy Book Makers just this year. He got emotional reading a section about the boarding house his mother ran when he was still in school, describing his relationship, or shall we say crush, with a young woman tenant/guest; & he continued with a few poems also on the theme of memoir.

We began with humor & we ended with humor. Although I’ve read many pieces by Jo Page in the Albany Times Union & the former Metroland I believe this is the first time I’ve actually heard her read. And although she lives in Schenectady, & is a pastor of a Lutheran congregation here, she said this was the first time she has read in Schenectady from her book Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor (State University of New York Press, 2016). She read from the chapter “Happy Christians” about an encounter with a woman while waiting for a school concert to begin in which the woman, unaware that the person she was speaking to was a pastor, babels on about the early Christian Church, while the author comments in funny, ironic & self-critical asides.

& did I mention that in addition to the varied & refreshing readings there were some luscious sweets & other refreshments to make the afternoon even more enjoyable? The combination of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & the Schenectady County Public Library & the Friends made for a pleasant literary afternoon. For more information on either or both check out www.hvwg.org & www.scpl.org.