January 24, 2023

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

Back in Troy at Collar City Mushrooms for poetry on a Sunday afternoon, no snow storm this time. It was a short sign-up list as far as number of poets, but no shortage of good poems.

I was the solo host this month & started off the list with a couple of poems written in the past year, “I Have Some Masks” modeled on Joy Harjo’s poem “She Had Some Horses,” then one about an encounter in Saratoga “The Rescue.”

Alexander Perez has been busy making the rounds of the local open mics & apparently has been busy sending poems out since he read poems published recently, from Ouch “Cicadas” & one titled “Forestlings” that also included cicadas, then from a British zine, Lit 202, a descriptive poem titled “In the Town Square.”

Tom Bonville read a poem inspired by an encounter at a book signing, “Her Next Poem.”

Avery Stempel is the proprietor here at Collar City Mushrooms & showed off a new publication, Amongst the Mushrooms, an anthology of poems by local poets, & performed one of his as a chant in the “voice” of a mushroom, “When Will Prototaxites Return?” then another titled “Violet in the Forest” about another mushroom.

Tim Verhaegen regaled us with more of his hilarious tales, this one still being workshopped with his group, titled “Transcendentalish,” was an exercise inspired by Tom Corrado’s work of random lines, leaping from image to image, starting with Catherine di Medici, to her dwarfs, to dogs, on to more contemporary images, & pondering of the past — phew!

Tom Corrado finished out the afternoon showing us how he does it with one of his “screen dumps,” this number 699(!), a typical example of what was the model for Tim’s piece. Tom gave me the latest of his chapbooks of these screen dumps, this numbers 601 to 650, thus not including the one he just read.

This is a monthly gathering of writers at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 2nd Ave., Troy on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2:00PM — you can even buy mushrooms for dinner if you need them, as well as read your work to an attentive audience of writers. Free.

January 18, 2023

The Year in Review, 2022, December 17

The first Year in Review took place here at The Linda in 2021, now one one can safely (& appropriately) say that this was the 2nd annual The Year in Review. This night's program included 6 local writers in a variety of styles, genres & skills; all of them have been involved in one degree or another in the busy local poetry scene. Mary Panza served as the MC/Ring Mistress for the night.

The first poet to the mic was Alyssa Michelle who read from her 3 poetry collections, starting with one titled The Awakening, including one very moving “Widow Mother” about raising her child after the death from an overdose of the baby’s father. Her 2022 book Blooming Season is available from Amazon from which she read 3 poems, including the stunning performance piece “My Melanin” which I’ve heard her read at Invocation of the Muse . From her 1st chapbook, Growing Pains (2019), also available on Amazon, she also read 3 poems, “Solitude Thoughts,” “Don’t Give up on Love,” & “Humble.” Her poems are like discussions of self-help advice, using her experience to guide others.

The next reader couldn’t have been more different in nearly every aspect. Bret Peterson, the author of The Parasite from Proto Space & Other Stories (Clash Books, 2020) likes to dress up as, what I call, the Pepto-Bismo Bunny when he gives a reading. He read a story (much like those in the afore-mentioned collection) titled “The Spirit Conjuring Workshop.” It was was like a menage of old black & white horror movies mixed with images of Nazi-era color home movies. The story had something to do with an attempt to bring his grandfather back from the dead with an incantation to the god Ammon in order to get himself a girl friend. Fortunately he sees through the phoniness of the process — & wakes from a dream. Or something like that.

Carol Durant
has 4 books up on Amazon, published between 2017 & 2021, & she read a mix of poems from them, with some recent work mixed in, such as “Mississippi” on the water crises there (or was that Flint, Michigan). She amped up the performance level a bit over the previous readers, even including a (dreaded) audience participation piece titled “The Year in Review.” The content of her poems depended heavily on social commentary, such as the one titled “Hey Cellphone,” & one about plastic Santa titled “Fake Sentiment.”

Elizabeth Gordon
, otherwise known on the Slam circuit as Elizag, not surprisingly brought the performance level up a few more notches with her pieces of radical social engagement, such as her opening piece beginning “It was the Summer tuna cost less than cat food…” & a meditation on shopping with her younger self. She too had a poem about her cellphone, & another an “Ode to My Painting Pants,” followed by the linking alliteration of a poem on Putin. She ended with a poem from memory in her best Slam performance style, “A Hiding Place,” on the shooting at a gay bar in Orlando.

I had recently seen Thom Francis as a featured poet at this month’s Invocation of the Muse at Lark Hall. While he read half a dozen of the same poems her had done that night, it’s always good to hear good poems again, the poems go by so fast it is easy to miss details, specifics — & if you go to a Rolling Stones concert you are bound to hear “Satisfaction,” & are glad of it no matter how many times you’ve heard it before. The poems were very personal, about the alcoholism in his family & in his own life, but also on grief, & the quiet joy of being in love. Thom has been an ongoing force in the poetry scene, running AlbanyPoets, serving on the board of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & organizing events such as this one tonight, & last year’s Poetic License - Albany

Another poetic force in the community, D. Colin, was the last featured reader of the night, bringing us on home in a grand fashion, while the video behind her showed the streets of the Village in NYC around NYU. This past year she was an artist in residence at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy where she composed the piece “When Blackbirds Came to Roost.” Another piece was about violence against women, on abortion & anger at the father(s), & similarly an excerpt from “The Chronicles of a Pastor’s Kid” (for Robert, from the early days of their relationship). An eco-poem, on losing our contact with the Earth, was inspired by walking a trail in the Berkshires. And she ended with a piece for her mother, fulfilling the dreams her mother had.

It was a night of all kinds of different writing reflecting some of the diversity in the vibrant poetry/spoken word scene here in Albany. If you want to see/here/experience it for yourself, check out the calendar of events on www.hvwg.org I’m sure you can find something, somewhere that will fit your schedule, you location, & if it’s an open mic, bring a few of your own poems to read. I hope to see you there.

January 11, 2023

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 15

at the Albany Social Justice Center, where the new ceiling is up & the space is returning to its own urban storefront self. Our featured reader this night was fiction writer & poet Lâle Davidson. Each December I read “Holiday Poet” by Enid Dame (1943 - 2003) & thus she becomes our Muse for the evening. & each December Sanity Clause visits to give a gift of poetry to all the bad boys & girls who read (or not) in the open mic.

But before Lâle Davidson took the mic, we started off with some open mic poets. First on the list was Caitlin Conlon, who had taken my flyer at the Invocation of the Muse open mic earlier in the month at Lark Hall; she showed up tonight to read her poem of memory “Cluttered Intimacy.” Alexander Perez, new to the scene but very busy, read “Underground Man,” a persona poem, eating mossy words, living on solitude. Ellen White Rook will be the featured poet in April, & tonight read “Kissing Time” built around the iconic photo of the end of World War II, now our wars never end, but we can have a celebration each year of the last, & first, kiss. Sierra DeMulder also picked up my flyer at Lark Hall, came here tonight to read a poem about grief & anger over the loss of a pregnancy. 

Lâle Davidson reading at the
8th Step Coffee House, March, 1991

I have photos of our featured reader, Lâle Davidson, from the early 1990s at such poetry events like the Readings Against the End of the World, & when she was in performance groups like the Snickering Witches. Now she teaches creative writing at SUNY Adirondack. She has a new novel out Against the Grain (Emperor Books, 2022), described as “an environmental novel with a mystical twist,” based on actual events in the redwood forests of northern California in the 1990s.  She read a couple of excerpts from that, including one section from the point of view of the trees, using Sanskrit as the basis for the trees’ chant-like language. She also read from the opening pages of her first novel Blue Woman Burning (Emperor Books, 2021), then a short piece of surrealistic fiction, “Price Chopper Resurrected,” from her book of short stories & flash fiction, Strange Appetites (Red Penguin Books, 2021). Poetic prose richly imagined. 

Melissa Anderson read a seasonal piece inspired by Xmas music she listened to growing up, “Remembering Holidays at My Childhood Home, an Interlude for I’ll Be Home for Christmas” combining singing with spoken word. Sally Rhoades has a long history of sitting on Sanity Clause’s lap, this year there is an extra chair; tonight she read a piece written for a theater application, imagining being on an island among the trees. Josh-the-Poet has become a regular here, as well as elsewhere, & tonight read a new poem about women’s empowerment “Scared Girl with Strong Heart.” Liz Grisaru had recently had some of her poems published on the HVWG website; here she read “Improvisation on Reading Breton” (with the intervention of a cat), inspired by André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto.

Kate Crofton first joined us when I was hosting an event called The Holy Local before the SJC re-opened after the pandemic & structural repairs; the poem she read tonight was “The Driest Month,” a sensuous contemplation of drinking mint tea in a bath, & remembering her Grandmother. — And that was it for 2022, glad to have been back here for the entire year.

Join us each third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM for a feature reading by a local or regional writer & and bring a poem for the open mic.

January 4, 2023

Writers Mic, December 14

This Zoom open mic has a hard-core of regulars with an occasional new voice, & this night there were a few, a sure way to judge its success. Our host is Jackie Craven.

Susan Jewell, definitely a regular, is a chronic participant in the Rattle Magazine monthly ekphrastic challenge & started off the night with her entry from October in the “duplex” form (invented by poet Jericho Brown: starts & ends with the same line, in couplets, 2 things going on at once) titled “Married to Sisyphus.”

I also read only 1 poem, a piece by the great, gone poet Enid Dame (1943 - 2003), a season piece titled “Holiday Poem,” ending with the moving lines, 

“… But

we don’t need the solace of bought objects.

We need each other’s light.” 

Mia Tharrington
was new to this gathering, said that she used to drive tractor trailers, & read a poem titled “I Know” about the places she has known, her experiences moving forward.

Scot Morehouse’s piece tonight he said was true, “for the most part,” titled “A Letter from Helen,” a funny holiday letter like some folks send out with their Xmas cards, about Helen & the goings on of her family. 

It was good to see Catherine Norr, who used to host this open mic when it was at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady, now dialing in from Arizona; she read “Goat Farm Road,” from time spent this Summer in upstate NY, that she said is from a forth-coming collection.

Nathan Smith read a poem titled “My Heart is a Poet” which he said is from his first poetry book titled Cotton Candy Sun.

Suzanne Rancourt was also here for the 1st time, said she has a new book coming out in October, Songs of Archilochus from Unsolicited Press (the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, 680 - 645), read pieces for the anniversary of Sandy Hook, “Ordinarily She Marched, Uvalde,” & “When the Elephant in the Room stops Singing,” about a bugler. (Coincidently I had been reading some of the poetry of Archilochus who was referenced in a poem by Carolyn Forché in her latest collection In the Lateness of the World.)

Alexander Perez popped up again (see my last 2 Blogs), with an introductory piece titled “A Simple Poem,” then a poem he wrote today “Feeling Good.” 


Jackie Craven read a new piece, “Memory,” in which she invites Memory to move in with her.

Jackie noted there was still time left & invited folks to read another poem. Catherine Norr was the first to take her up on it with a poem in her persona as a 6 or 7-year old. Susan Jewell read one written for Rattle in 2019 “Love in the Time of Elon Musk.” Mia Tharrington read another poem written on the road titled “Haiku” that was not a Haiku but a longer piece in fractured rhymes. 

Writers Mic is a Zoom open mic held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, starting at 7:30PM. You can find the link on the Facebook page for Writers Mic https://www.facebook.com/groups/378958103086510

January 3, 2023

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open MIC OUT OF BENNINGTON, December 13

At 5:55PM, my computer informed me that “Traffic is moderate. It will take 59 min. to arrive on time." I had a better idea: I stayed home, a good choice because this event is on Zoom, there is no there to arrive to. I guess the computer was directing me to Charlie’s house.

So, Charlie Rossiter, our host, signed me up as the first reader & as a tribute to the late Bernadette Mayer I read a couple poems, one in each of the 2 rounds (as is the custom here), written at a poetry workshop held in Bernadette’s home in East Nassau, NY; in the first round “Saturday Hawk,” then later in the 2nd round “Triple Time Jacket.”

Cheryl Rice
was “here” for the 1st time from Kingston, NY, & in her 1st round read a poem about a sign in the bathroom on a plane, “Turbulence;” then in her 2nd round a poem inspired by Diane Di Prima, “Ask For Everything,” wondering what to ask for. 

Bill Thwing dials in regularly from Western Pennsylvania & tonight read in his 1st round his Haiku responses to reading from Japanese Death Poems (Tuttle Publishing, 2018); then in his 2nd round a string of political Haiku.

Alexander Perez, who had shown up recently at Collar City Mushrooms 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic in Troy, NY joined us for his 1st time in the 1st round with a poem titled “The Fire Dies Out Anyways” in which he screams at the fence post about mortality. In his 2nd round he read companion poems “Christmas Poem for My Dead Mother,” & “Hand Me Down,” his partner’s, his fathers, his own.

Our host Charlie Rossiter’s 1st round piece was a Vermont list poem “I Meant to Write About An Italian Deli Hotel Room Feast;” then in the 2nd round a seasonal poem, “The Xmas Letter,” a parody of such things.

Nancy Dunlop in her 1st round read Robert Creeley’s “I know a Man” (a poem about being in a car with a friend), then her poem based on it “A Dream with a Car in It.” In her round 2 she read a piece titled “Ex Machina.”

Sheryll Bedingfield, who is also a regular here, read a sweet piece about her 2 sons as grown men, “Dessert;” then in her 2nd round an older poem, another sweet one, about her parents, “Your Mother With Her Head on Upside Down Your Father Secretly a Poet” based on Chagall’s painting “The Yellow Room.”

Tom Nicotera began with a descriptive Xmas poem with blue birds; then in round 2 another one with birds, this about his daughter in his old sweater looking like a crow.

Julie Lomoe entertained us in the 1st round with singing her rendition of “It’s the Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year;” then in the 2nd round, ending the evening, from 2016, a memoir of her apartment on Broome St., NYC, & a cat, “Bela & the Rats.” 

That wasn’t quite it, as the reading devolved into a critique group, which, fortunately, it doesn’t usually. This is a Zoom event each 2nd Tuesday of the month at 7:00PM. If you are not yet on Charlie’s Zoom list & you want to join us, email Charlie at charliemrossiter@gmail.com & ask for the link.

December 30, 2022

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 11

A snowy afternoon, but it was early & we all know how to drive in this, right? No problems getting from Albany, thru Troy to Collar City Mushrooms, & by the time we were done, 2nd Avenue & I-787 had been plowed & I was home again. There were 5 of us for the open mic.

First on the sign-up sheet was Kate Crofton, over from Albany, who read 1 extended piece, “Store #224,” apologies to a lover while shopping in the Summer at Price Chopper on Central Ave.

Alexander Perez
was here for the 1st time, also from Albany, began with a poem in the persona of a spider, “The Spinster,” then another with images of insects, bees, “On Bitterness,” then ended with “On War.”

Tim Verhaegen, who has been here often, read an essay about working for the State of New York for 30 years, & the endless meetings interrupted by meetings, “The New York State Division of Blah-Blah-Blah.”

I was the host for the open mic, as my co-host, Nancy Klepsch, hunkered down at home during the storm. I read, as I like to do each Xmas Holiday Season, Enid Dame’s (1943 - 2003) moving “Holiday Poem” with it’s stunning ending, “… we don’t need the solace of bought objects. We need each other’s light.”

The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, Avery Stempel, began with a poem about crows in Troy mocking him, then moved to images of Albany from the past, “A Trojan Reflects,” then brought us on home with a poem titled “Finding the Globe” captured by the song “The Last Dragon.”

& so that was the last of the year’s open mics at Collar City Mushrooms, but we plan to be back in 2023 each 2nd Sunday @ 2PM — bring your poetry &/or prose & read among the mushrooms. Happy New Year!

December 21, 2022

Invocation of the Muse, December 5

Our host R.M. Engelhardt introduced this night of poetry by invoking the “Muse,” a not-dead-yet poet from Canada, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, you can find some of his poems at his website 

Then on to also living poets in the room who had signed up for the open mic, with me being first, to pay tribute to a recently-dead poet, Bernadette Mayer (1945 - 2022); at many open mics I’ve heard poets introduce a poem by saying, “I wrote this in a poetry workshop with Bernadette Mayer,” & I had my chance this night to say the same thing before reading 2 poems inspired by being in a couple of workshops with Bernadette, “Saturday Hawk” & “Triple Time Jacket” (inspired by Ravel’s Bolero).

Catlin Conlon was new to me; she read “3 Vignettes on Loss” about her mother who she is “mother of,” & a piece titled “Buffalo, New York 2022.” Sierra DeMulder was also new to me, always interested in new voices, new faces; she read a piece about reading Mary Oliver’s poems to her grandmother in hospice, then one about regretting her wedding vows, & what she should have said.

Tonight’s featured poet was Thom Francis, who has a long history in the Albany poetry scene, dating back when he was a high school student reading in the open mics at Border’s in Colonie Center in the mid-1990s. He has been a host of open mics & Slams at various venues in town, was one of the founding members, & President, of Albany Poets, until its merger with the Hudson Valley Writers Guild where he is currently co-President. His skills as an “IT guy” web designer created the invaluable events calendar & dynamic website we all depend upon (hvwg.org) to find out who is reading where. 

He began his reading with a new piece, “Being,” about his head now cleared, then went back to a piece from the past, “Shower,” another recent one written yesterday in Stewarts, “Glazed,” on being sober & it’s struggle,  on a similar theme “I Used to Drink at this Bar on the Corner,” & “Rust in Hope.” Then on to older poems about his parents, about his father living nearby but might as well "be on another planet," & about his mother, “Listerine.” His love poem “Dirt” was about working in a garden, & he ended with the notebook jottings he titles “Time.”

After a short break we returned to the open mic list. Archie Marker said it was his first poetry open mic, read a couple of Limericks on Halloween, & other pieces, “The Modern Performer,” “and You Don’t Understand,” & “Change Your Religion.”

Our host R.M. Engelhardt read poems from his recent poetry books, from the more recent We Rise Like Smoke, published in July, 2021, & from Where There Is No Vision: Poem 2020, from June, 2020, both available from Amazon.

The next poet signed up as “Dan W.” but it wasn’t me, I had already read.; he has read here in the past, tonight, a piece titled “Haiku” (but it didn’t sound like a Haiku), & one titled “Let Go.”

The final poet of the night, Sandra D., read a piece I think was untitled about music playing through the rain drops, & another untitled drug poem.

Invocation of the Muse takes place (usually) on the 1st Monday of the month, but is sometimes moved to another Monday due to a holiday), 7:30 sign-up/8:00PM start, at Lark Hall, on the corner of Lark St. & Hudson Ave., enter on Hudson Ave.