April 18, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2 — Poetry + Prose, April 11


Almost warm enough to bring the poetry outside, but then it is April, the month of showers. Our host Nancy Klepsch was in Troy but the rest of us were elsewhere, a good turnout of 10 listeners/readers.


I began the open mic with reading a poem by the recently gone Laura Boss titled “My Lover is Typing” tender & funny, from her book Reports from the Front (Cross-Cultural Communications, 1995).


Kendall Hoeft was here from far, far away & read 2 poems of her own, “The Star,” an ekphrastic piece after Edgar Degas’ painting of a dancer, “L’Etoile,” then one titled “Liberation Song,” both poems filled with the rich details of a poet’s eye.


Joel Best also read 2 poems, “Malconto” which he described as “just the thoughts clanging around in my head” which could also accurately describe his 2nd poem “The King Particles.”


Bob Sharkey read a poem written while digging a hole in his yard “Dig It Some No Place” (which is a quote from Bernadette Mayer) descriptive of his property, the birds there, what he finds in the dirt, etc., a rambling, poetic description.


I was so pleased to see Joe Krausman “here” today, I guess he finally figured out Zoom, he read 2 poems also, “Therapeutic Touch” about an old couple’s intimate moment, & “Gratitude” a funny rhyme about his being given life by his parents; I was glad to hear these "old chestnuts" again.


Julie Lomoe said she was reading prose “for a change” a piece titled “Spring Awakening” a long ramble about the details of her life, & crying over a sick cat.


Cheryl Rice read what she called “2 new ones,” “Salmon Run” imagining herself as the fish, & “Imagine Your House is On Fire” inspired by an anthology of poems using that prompt, about what she would you take with her.


Nancy Klepsch asked, “does this poem make sense” about her first, meditative piece, which I took as a love poem, then one she read last month, “Home is the Place that Flies” mushrooms, & her place, & good to hear this piece again.


Sydney Allen read poems written by her father, “Mid-Western Memories” about family members & details of the family, in Ohio in a neighborhood wiped out by I-71, then “Uncut Seasons” about hearing children play & recalling memories of Ohio.


Kathleen Gillespie read from what she wrote at a fiction writers workshop, a persona piece about heading out on the open road “’Tis the Season.”


& that was that for this month. You can find the Zoom link & other information about this monthly open mic on the Facebook group page 2nd Sunday @ 2 — please join us, from wherever you are.

 

April 14, 2021

Caffe Lena Poetry Night, April 7


1st Wednesday of the month poetry night, formerly with an open mic, but now with only featured readers. Tonight’s readers were Rana Bitar & Robert Bensen. Stuart Bartow had originally been included but that was not to be the case. The host was our traditional host & founder Carol Graser.


Rana Bitar read first. She is a physician practicing in hematology & oncology, & is originally from Syria. She has published her poetry in a variety journals & her poetry chapbook, A Loaf of Bread, is from  Unsolicited Press, 2019. She read poems from a manuscript titled “Corona & Cancer,” on the impact of the pandemic on everyday life, her parents & her patients. She followed with a moving, un-polemical poem about the death of George Floyd, & ended with a tender love poem, “Savoring.”


Robert Bensen is a well-published poet who has taught at SUNY-Oneonta among other places, & conducted poetry workshops at Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell, NY. He began with Rana Bitar still on stage to join in a reading of a translation of “Lesson in Drawing” by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani (1923 - 1998), with Rana reading the Arabic, the poem a moving conversation, a question & answer really, between the poet & his son. It was a treat to hear the words in the poet’s own language, not just the Englishe version. From there Robert went on to a series of his own poems, that went from music, the rain forest of St. Lucia, home repairs, memory of Little League, & what happens “Before You Know It.”


In pre-pandemic times there would be an open mic, but, alas, no more, but at least on this night there was a small audience in attendance as Caffe Lena has been able to open up to in-person audiences — see their website for details. 


But with the pandemic there is frequently a dark cloud & a silver lining, which in this case the silver lining is that these readings are recorded & available on YouTube. Check out this link for a recording of the night’s reading https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zHDNg7SSrk


Distinguished Author Lecture: Sapphire, April 6


The Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library (FFAPL) presented the noted novelist & poet Sapphire as the Distinguished Author Lecture during National Library Week in a Zoom reading on April 6, 2021. 


Roger Green, from FFAPL, served as our host & the introduction to Sapphire was done by staff person Seyvion. Sapphire is best known as the author of the novels Push and The Kid, with Push having been made into the film Precious, but I recall first discovering her poems in poetry journals & zines years before that.


Sapphire began her reading with a short essay on the ruins of the pandemic titled “One Ventilator & 3 Patients, a Meditation on COVID-19 from Downtown Brooklyn,” then on to read some short early poems, & ended with a meditative look-back at Push on the 25th anniversary of its publication. As always, powerful confrontations with, against racism.


FFAPL also sponsors monthly “online literary salons” with the 2020 Literary Legend Elisa Albert — check the APL website for the events calendar of this & all APL events, & their Facebook pages.

March 30, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, March 14


We all have our favorite age, today was our host Nancy Klepsch’s 29th birthday, so she said. A gathering of mostly regulars for this monthly open mic, now on Zoom.

I was first on the sign-up sheet, did 2 related poems for St. Paddy’s Day, “Brigid,” & “The Sheila-na-gig.”


Julie Lomoe referenced a book edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, More Truly and More Strange: 100 Contemporary Self-Portrait Poems, which inspired her to write “Self-Portrait thru The Eyes of my Cat Lunestra,” which was actually a persona poem in the cat’s voice, so technically not a self-portrait, unless it was of Lunestra. 


Tara Kistler read a Haiku in Spanish, & then a a love poem sonnet. 


Bob Sharkey read a memoir piece about buying a copy of Ferlinghetti’s A  Coney Island of the Mind, in 1970, then, from 2002 at the NYC St Patrick’s Day parade in front of the Met with Earl, “Parade 241.” 


John Teevan from his new book, The Spy’s White Dress, the short story “Crumbling the Constitution & Bending the Rules,” a thriller.

 

Mary Anne Murray read a couple of seasonal pieces, “Late Winter Snow” & “Vanishing Landscape.”  


Nancy Klepsch's piece titled “Home is the Place that Flies” described her home, the space, her place in it, & the importance of the old buildings in the city. 


Sydney Allen said that her untitled piece was “between a draft & ramblings,” about conversations on the phone with her mother.


& that was it for this month. But find us again on the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Facebook page for the link to join us on Zoom. Always free & open.





 

March 27, 2021

Writers Mic, March 10


Once upon a time, I would drive up early to Schenectady to have dinner, somewhere, before the open mic, now I cook my own meal, but at least I don’t have to drive. Jackie Craven is still our host.


I was first on the list & started with a couple of “seasonal” i.e., St. Patrick’s Day themed poems, “Brigit” from my 1975 chapbook Ireland, then an unpublished piece, "Sheela-na-gig," & ended with a COVID-themed “Vaccine Haiku,” me & Dolly Parton.


Alan Catlin read a poem for his son & wife, “Epithalalium,” a tender piece about true love, then the working class tale in 2 parts “Storm Story.” 


David Graham dialed-in to read 2 new ones, unpublished & maybe unfinished, he said, the first about a clerk at the Post Office who greats everyone as “Honey,” then the elegy/tribute to a recently gone great American poet “Ferlinghetti’s Dead.” 


Susan Kress used her poem, “What I Cannot Tell You,” to call back the memory of a friend dying in Covent Gardens. 


Daniel Sennis read a couple of new poems, “Go Hawk Eyes” about a trip to Iowa to visit family, & “From Oy to Joy” on the anger of his parents & growing up.  

Scott Morehouse gave a funny theatrical reading of a piece titled “So You Want to Be a Star” about a character named Tony hiring a “clapper” for a store.


Our host Jackie Craven read a surrealistic, political piece, responding to the killings of George Floyd & others, “Surveillance Video Shows Suitcases Resisting Arrest.” 


Kate Gillespie read “Notes from a Book Fair” about people reading poetry to others, much as we were doing, hopeful of moving on.


Susan Jewell, having trouble with her eyes, & unable to share the image she had intended, just reads the poem, which was inspired by a picture of a bucket. 


You can find the link for this open mic held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month on the Facebook page Writers Mic — people reading their poems & short prose works to others.




March 18, 2021

Bennington Open Mic, March 9


Traffic is light. It will take 59 min. to arrive, the GPS lady tells me, with an Irish accent, but I didn’t even put shoes on, since this gathering was on Zoom, as it has been for the last year. Our host, Charlie Rossiter, opened the festivities with his introductory chant that he created while hosting poetry events in Chicago. We did 2 rounds, 1 poem in each.


I was first on the open mic list with a new poem, “Chocolate Croissant,” which you can find on the NYS Writers Institute website.  In the 2nd go-around I read about me & Dolly Parton,  my “Vaccine Haiku.”


Mark O’Brien said he was reading his “annual birthday baseball poem” “Sonnet #60.1” which can be found on his Blog spontaneous/sonnets in which at Mass, celebrated by Father Joe DiMaggio, the host turns into a baseball. His second round poem, “Spontaneous Sonnet # 55,” about what position you want to be placed in your casket (unless you plan on being cremated) is also on his Blog.


Laura Ellzey read what she said was her 1st rhyming poem, “I’m Going to Knit Now,” about how it makes her feel peaceful, written in both Spanish & English. In the 2nd round she read her “only Spring poem” about being a small creature under the leaves “A Bit Off the Beaten Path” with references to the film Honey I Shrunk the Kids.


Tom Nicotera, dialing in from Connecticut, read the sequel to the poem he read last month, this one titled “Confessional: The Sequel, Alone or With Others” about his anxiety about his confirmation. His 2nd round was out of order due to losing his internet connection but when he did he read from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind poem #9, a morning-after poem.


Jack Rossiter-Munley was upstairs for his first round, played the traditional Appalachian folk tune “Shady Grove” on his guitar, & later (see below) came downstairs.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read a loving memoir, “Along the Oregon Coast,” about having oysters with his wife Mary Ellen on a spur-of-the-moment trip. Then in the 2nd round the afore-said Jack backed up Charlie on guitar on as Charlie did his stirring old poem I’d heard in our 3 Guys from Albany performances, “Sweet Home Chicago.”


Elaine Frankonis was around in the early days of before the Albany poetry scene was getting going, read “The Gravity of Gardens” and the lushness of flowers. On the 2nd time around she read a sexy story of a former love “Legacies” — good to see her out reading again.


Anthony Bernini’s first round poem was about the constellations, “When the World Turns Upside Down,” then when he read the 2nd time one about a snapping turtle on his lawn, “Turtle Eggs.” 


Barbara Sarvis looked back to younger years in her 1st round poem “Twice Seduced.”  Then, later, a piece titled “Just Be” describing this message as orbs bouncing around in her brain — good advice, I think.


Julie Lomoe was the last poet in both rounds, grossing us out with a just written piece, “Barfing Zoloft,” her history with psycho-tropic pills. & she ended the night with a dark piece from her “subdural project” about getting stung by “Garden Yellow Jackets.” 


It was another night of varied pieces, in prose, poetry & music in Bennington, or wherever the poets were, apparently just throughout the Northeast this night. Every 2nd Tuesday on Zoom, at 7PM, contact Charlie Rossiter, charliemrossiter@gmail.com, for the link.

 

March 7, 2021

Poetic Vibe, March 1


“Traffic is light. It will take 19 min. to arrive,” so said the GPS lady, but it was even faster on Zoom.


D.Colin, our host, warmed us up for the open mic with a poem from a recent workshop intensive, a descriptive piece about her grandmother’s house being cleared out by robbers.


I read 2 related pieces, 1 by me “Believe, Believe” a tribute to Bob Kaufman’s (1925 - 1986) poem, “Believe, Believe,” using his lines & phrases, then read Kaufman’s poem. 


Luis Pabon read 2 poems, the good advice of “How to Let Yourself Be Happy,” & “Struggle Love.”  (Note: Luis has a new book out titled Earth’s Bad Mouth, which you can find on Amazon.)


Adam also read 2 poems, “I Wish” a break-up piece about their last meeting, & “Walls” which he described as a song in progress, for everyone with hurts.


Jessica Rae read 2 from How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton (BOA Editions Ltd., 2020). (I have marvelous photos of Lucille Clifton (1936 - 2010) when she read at Sage College in Troy in 2004, you can find them on my Flickr site)


Samuel Maurice’s poem “You Could be Someone Else” was about a stranger he saw through a store window.


D. Colin read her “Happy Poem” written just yesterday, filled with childhood memories.


Marie Kathleen, after re-arranging her desk & walking about her apartment with her tablet, all of which we could see because she left her video on, read 2 short poems “After Dance” (in NYC) & “Study Bliss.” 


D. put the cap on the open mic with her Cento, as she does each week, composed of lines from tonight’s open mic, but minus lines from her own poem.


Elizag, aka Elizabeth K. Gordon, wore her tee shirt from National Poetry Slam in 2012 in which she was a member of the Nitty Gritty Slam Team representing Albany, NY. Her poems often mix humor & politics, which were elements present in what she read tonight. She began with a piece on the “stereotype thread,” a way of thinking that that can be best countered by being yourself, then she too read a poem Lucille Clifton, “Blessing the Boats at St. Mary’s.” In a different vein she read her piece about old folks giving away their stuff, “Lightening the Load,” then a poem written after the “Unite the Right” riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 “To the Mothers of the Neo-Nazi White Supremacists.” Taking on a equally grim topic, but this time with a seasoning of humor was the parody “An Assembly on Gun Violence Grade 4 thru 6,” then on to a few Haiku, & her piece “On Receiving My 1st Social Security Check.” She ended with a poem by Danusha Leméris (a poet whose work I recently stumbled across in American Poetry Review), “Small Kindnesses.” 


Then on to a brief Q&A with D. Colin in which Elizag was asked about her teaching a literature course at Northampton Community College, in Pennsylvania, & her Slam experience. You can get Elizag’s book, Love Cohoes (2014) at Market Block Books in Troy.


It’s not hard to know when Poetic Vibe takes place: it’s every Monday, 7:30PM, find the link on the Poetic Vibe Facebook page.