July 10, 2018

Book Talk Series: Therese L. Broderick, July 3

This is a regular series of book reviews & other literary discussions at the Albany Public Library Main Branch, sponsored by the Friends of the Albany Public Library. This day, local poet Therese Broderick, gave a talk about her poetic technique & a reading from her new book of poems Breath Debt (Page Publishing, 2018).

Therese Broderick has been an active member of the local literary scene for many years, serving on the board of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild in the past, & a frequent reader at area open mic & other poetry events. She recently served as judge of the Tom Nattell Peace Poetry Prize contest. It is with joy & anticipation that we greet her book Breath Debt. She began with a talk about her inspirations & her techniques, & began that with advice for new writers to “engage & persist” — engage with the community & persist in writing — as she paid tribute to the community here & to institutions such as the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & Albany Poets. She is also meets regularly with other local poets to go over each other’s work, to provide & receive comments & feedback.

She described how she studied the book of poems Mayweed by Frannie Lindsay, analyzing the poems & even memorizing some of them. In addition, the poet April Ossman has edited Therese’s poems. She demonstrated some Tai Chi moves & talked of “words dancing with numbers,” all to add to the rhythm & sense & play of words in her poems. She even passed around copies of her poetry workbooks that showed the dynamic energy of her notes, or, more accurately, sketches.  Talking about her book, she praised her publisher Page Publishing for giving her the “certitudes” she needed to produce it as she envisioned it.
One of Therese Broderick's notebooks

Then on to a reading of the poems from Breath Debt, some of which I recognized from past open mics, although in different versions, beginning with the first poem in the book, “Reverdie.” The poems she read dealt with the perils of aging, “Consulting the Shovel,” “Bringing Up the Rear,” “With Ease” (about her personal coach), & “Routine Mammogram.” She also read poems about her parents, “OT & PT” & “At Mother’s Cremation” about her mother, & “His Funeral Mass” & “Heeding the Call to the Colors” about her father. She concluded with the multi-voice “Motet Set to War Poetry” in which she was joined in reading by her husband Frank Robinson & myself.

The usual Q&A extended the exploration of her themes & talk of her technique of exploring the etymology of key words in poems even in other languages such as Spanish & German, which led her to read still one more poem, the tender “Errand with Stranger.”  I look forward to reading the rest of the book & to hearing Therese's new work at area poetry open mics.

The Book Talk Series takes place every Tuesday at 12:15 in the auditorium of the Washington Ave. branch of the Albany Public Library, often a review of a book by a member of the Albany community, sometimes an author discussing her or his book. Come a little early for coffee & home baked sweets & conversations.

July 7, 2018

Ed Sanders, July 1

Beyond creating The Fugs with Tuli Kupferberg & Ken Weaver, the quintessential 1960s satirical/political/avant-garde rock band, beyond being a founding member of the Yippies, & taking part in actions at the 1967 March on the Pentagon & the 1968 confrontation of the Democratic Party’s Convention in Chicago, or even his books, Tales of Beatnik Glory, or The Family, or multiple volumes of his poems, Ed Sanders' best contribution to world culture & to others in the “po-biz” is perhaps the concept & practice of Investigative Poetry or “history-poesy,” from in such works as 1968 (Black Sparrow Press, 1997), & Chekhov (Black Sparrow Press, 1995), & the biography The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg: A Narrative Poem (The Overlook Press, 2000), & the multi-volume/genre America a History in Verse the 20th Century.

Now he has come out with Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy, A Graphic History (Arcade Publishing, 2018) with illustrations by Rick Veitch. Since the time he was writing 1968, perhaps before, he has been obsessed with the mysteries, confabulations, flim-flams, obfuscations, lies, etc. surrounding the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968. I mean, just who is this Sirhan Sirhan & where did he come from? Over the years Sanders has accumulated 23 banker boxes of material — interviews with people who were there, eye-witnesses, cops, other researchers, government records, whatever. But he acknowledges that Broken Glory is not the final story, as he & others follow leads & evidence as the “true story” slips into the dark closets of history.

This day he was at the Kingston Artists Collective & Cafe, on Broadway in Kingston down by the Rondout before a packed house.  Sanders talked about his decades of research, which is still ongoing & read from the final section of the book, about the assassination in the Ambassador Hotel & the confusion as RFK is led away from his handlers & body-guards, & murdered by agents not yet identified. Then he turned to his lute to sing the dirge, “Robert Kennedy fell down by the ice machine with rosary in his hand.”

Sanders clearly admires what RFK was trying to do to end the war in Viet Nam, to correct inequalities in American society, to establish equal justice for all, the same struggles we are faced with today. He called RFK an amazing American, & continues to have faith in the American democratic process, acknowledging that while we may be only in the first 2 years of the Trump administration, at some point he too will be gone & the American people will carry on.

July 6, 2018

Poets Tribute to Jay Wenk, June 25

Jay Wenk was a poet, writer, peace activist, an engaged community member. He was a World War II veteran & an active member of Veterans For Peace, & the current Poet Laureate of Veterans For Peace; he said he went to Germany to fight fascism & “I’m still fighting fascism here at home.” I may have first encountered Jay at the February 2003 massive demonstration against the impending invasion of Iraq, when I first met Dayl Wise. My earliest photo of Jay is from an October 2006 reading at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock. In 2017 I was pleased to pair him up with a more recent veteran, Karen Skolfield, as readers at Poets in the Park. It was always an honor to be in his presence. He died at the end of May at the age of 91.

Jay Wenk at the Colony Cafe, September 17, 2007

This poetic tribute was organized & hosted by Dayl Wise & Pamela Twining & there was long line of veterans & poets tonight to pay tribute; Dayl reported later there were 25 readers.

Leslie Gerber read the obituary that Jay had written for himself, then his own poem “Memorial Day” (Jay had organized in the past his own Memorial Day remembrance when the Town of Woodstock would not let the Veterans For Peace march in the parade).
Tarak Kauf, is the Managing Editor of Peace In Our Times, a quarterly newspaper put out by Veterans For Peace; he read a poem for Jay written by Doug Rawlings, who is a founding member of Veterans For Peace, & former Poet Laureate of VFP; then “A Poem for Jay Wenk a Dragonfly” written by Jill Anderson who is working on a film title 48 Stars, in which Jay is interviewed; the trailer, including Jay's voice & a snippet from his interview, is available at the 48 Stars Facebook page.
Barry Samuels, a former owner of the Golden Notebook recalled his conversations with Jay at the bookstore.
I read Jay’s poem “Cost of War” from the anthology Poems for Peace Poems for Justice (Post Traumatic Press, 2015), & my own tribute poem to my Elders (Jay among them) “A.J. Muste.”
Chris Collins, a member of the Town Board, read “To Jay.”
Larry Winters, another VFP writer, read a poem for Jay.
Everett Cox, a member of the Warrior Writers collective read “Open Letter to the Commander in Chief on Veterans Day.”
Donald Lev read “Remembering Jay Wenk.”
Fred Nagler, also with Veterans For Peace, read a tribute & remembrances of Jay.
Dave Kime, another veteran, read, or rather proclaimed, the anti-war poems “America is a War Machine” & “Feast.”
Lenny Brown read a remembrance poem he had just written.
Pamela Twining’s poem was titled “Hit & Run.” Then she took over as the host from Dayl.
Judith Kerman read from her chair in the audience a couple of her poetic “definitions” for the nouns “Home” & “Resistance.”
Andy Clausen read “Soldiers of Christ” & “Start the Sun” from his book.
Susan Hoover read a poem that she said Jay loved, “First Morning After Last Night.”
Lisa Mullenneaux read 2 poems “2 Hot 2 Hot” & “Deep Inside.”
Sue Willens read her ironic plea “Let There Be Democracy.”
Ron Whiteurs (who is also a veteran) read “Testament 2018 (to Jay Wenk)”, then a performance piece with recorded music inspired by visual artists, "Dawn in D Major Silent Poem #2."
Phillip Levine read a piece titled “Rivers & Gardens.”
Teresa Costa’s poem was “Jay’s Wounded Knee.”

At this point I had to leave for the drive back to Albany, regrettably missing the last few readers. It was a fitting tribute to a man, a poet, who has left his mark on his Town of Woodstock & the people there & elsewhere.

Jay’s writings are scattered in a myriad of publication, some already mentioned. Post Traumatic Press published in 2017 a collection of Jay’s poems Thank You For Your Service. His World War II memoir Study War No More: A Jewish Kid from Brooklyn Fights the Nazis was published in 2010, with a new edition to be released in the Winter of 2018. I think it would be fair to say that if you want to thank Jay for his service, then work for peace.

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 21

It was an exhilarating night of new voices, the beloved regulars & the return of poets of long ago, & a generous audience. My muse for the night was, sadly, local writer & activist Anne K. Marfey who passed away on June 2; I read from her book of mini-essays Shake Hands Touch Hearts (Author House, 2009) her piece on William Kennedy. But before the featured poet, Nancy Klepsch, took over the mic, we started our way through the open mic list.

First up to the mic, signed up as “Douglas,” which could stand for either D. Alexander Holiday or G. Douglas Davis IV, who gave an introduction about the publishing history of the poem he read, “Take Off Your Skin,” on racism & hatred. I can thank my friend Charlie Rossiter for sending the next poet our way from Bennington, VT, Laura Ellzey who read about a bi-lingual cat, “The Blue Shapiro,” in both English & Spanish. Dan Vollweiler, who reads at the open mic at Caffe Lena, was also here for the first time; he read a bit of satiric humor “The North American Unemployed Teacher,” happily, he said, not his current condition.

Paul Austin was here from Norman OK (by way of Boston, New York City & Woodstock) & read the powerful political rant “God Damn the Preachers of Destruction.” Sally Rhoades, who is no stranger to Oklahoma, followed with a poem about her mother & the stories others told vis-a-vis what Sally saw.

Our featured poet Nancy Klepsch & I co-host the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic at the Arts Center in Troy. She began with some new work, rants, then moved on to poems from her book, god must be a boogie man. “Children Too” invoked children all over the world, while “Learning Targets,” a Haibun, brought it back home to a shooter drill at her school, while another Haibun was about a visit from a friend “Driving in Cars While Black.” Then on to a couple of poems using food as images of death, including the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain, & “29 Questions” on climate change & death, again. She finished up with a basket full of poems from god must be a boogie man (Recto y Verso Editions, 2017), the title poem, then a series of poems on food, & death, “The Topography of a Meal,” “’shroom,” “Kvetch” (Howl & the farmers market, & mushrooms again), then ended with “We All Pray for Different Reasons.”

After a break I read a new piece about an imagined bedroom “Lily White.” Joe Krausman read a poem, what he called perhaps "a work in regress,” “Musing,” philosophical, but not abstract about people, things. Brian Dorn talked about his new arts & entertainment center in Gloversville, NY, then gave me the option of choosing between 2 poems & I chose the 2nd prize winner in the Dolgeville Poetry Festival “Still Blooming” because it was in Brian's characteristic meter & rhyme.

Another surprise tonight was the return of Mary Ann Murray, who had been around in the early days of the Albany poetry scene & gone for many years, & tonight was here to read the unabashedly political “State of the Union.” Jil Hanifan showed up tonight to read what she called “a really stupid poem” another political poem on the Constitutional phrase “Free Exercise Clause” playing on the words & concept, with humor, not so stupid after all. Betty Zerbst, always number 10 on the list, read a poem for her high school reunion “50 Years Already.” Bob Sharkey was tonight’s “ultimate” (i.e., last) poet & read a deeply personal musing about suicide, mental illness & the violence in our country, again referencing Anthony Bourdain, & richly descriptive segment about his visit to Ireland.

What a night of friends, poets & moving writing, such as it frequently is here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, on the Third Thursday of each month, 7:30, with a featured poet & an open mic — your donation helps support poetry programing & the work of the Social Justice Center.

June 26, 2018

”What is Poetry?”, June 20

Less than a question, this is the title of a monthly open mic at the Psychedelicatessan in Troy. Tonight there was a gathering of 7 poets/singers & we did a round-robin in 2 rounds, with Avery, our host, reading a poem by musician David Gilmore.

Clarese was in her usual spot in the corner & read from her laptop a piece on chasing love “Emotional Silence.” Brian Dorn read a poem he had entered — & won 2nd prize — in the Dolgeville poetry contest (who would’ve thought that the little town of 2200 had a poetry contest!) “Still Blooming” in his characteristic rhyme. Joe Krausman read a poem he’d written today while at Whole Foods on a topic about which he knows a lot, “Old.” Avery read “Setting the Scene” written after ingesting a gel tab of LSD.

Since we were doing 2 poems I decided that my first would be “Garrison Keilor” from the 2016 2: An Anthology of Poets & Writers from The 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic for Poetry & Prose. Dale sang & recited the Irish song “Will You Go Lassie Go?” Tim read a piece composed mostly of a list of single words, titled “Empathy.”

For the second round Clarese read an essay from her laptop titled “Online Behavior.” Brian Dorn read a prose piece “Why I Write Poetry” in which he worked in his experience lifting weights competitively. Joe Krausman’s poem “You Can’t Take It With You” began with a Yiddish proverb which was translated as “shrouds don’t have pockets.” Avery’s piece “Dance” is not usually read sitting down. I completed the 2-poem connection from 2 with “Trailer Park.”

Dale read “Laughing on the Way Home” inspired by a place overlooking a waterfall, then slipped in a poem & a song sung almost too softly to be heard. Anthony, who had been sitting listening while his cellphone charged, said he was from West Africa & was talked in to recite a poem, by someone else not him, abut inspiration. Tim also read a poem written by someone else, this by a friend, a portrait in rhyme of a brother.

The comfy chairs & sofas, the tables & chairs, with a defined performance area, lend themselves to a casual, informal sharing of poems. Find out “What Is Poetry?” at the Psychedelicatessan on River St. on the 3rd Wednesday of a each month.

June 23, 2018

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, June 13

It was the Poetry Taxi to Schenectady tonight with Joe Krausman & Don Levy keeping the ride to Arthur’s Market lively. Our host, Catherine Norr, began the night with an Blues she wrote, just the first verse & chorus, then an open mic for a while, the featured reader Alan Casline, then the rest of the open mic.

Alan Catlin, just to clarify things, read “I Am Not Alan Casline.” Paul Amidon read a poem for our patriotic holidays “2 Day Heroes” (Memorial Day & July 4th), then a family memoir of the couple “Ida & Len.” BK Tuon claimed that his portrait of a successful, academic poet titled “The Great Poet” was “the worst poem” he had written — maybe, but still better than lots of other poems out there. Ginny Folger’s poem “Night Fall” was descriptive & meditative. Scott Morehouse had us in stitches from laughing at his “Aunt Helen’s Letter from Home” full of small obituaries & hypochondriacal advice. Judith Prest began with “Lust Language” from a new series she is writing, then “Crow Stories” composed of found language.

A new voice was Amber who read a poem titled “Sparks” about inspiration. Jackie Craven’s poem “Sailors Take Warning” was set in the Florida sun but that didn’t help at all the despairing mood of the piece.

Alan Casline — now that it has been made clear that he is not Alan Catlin — was the featured poet, & was once was described as a “persistent poet.” He began by talking about his latest project, his attempt to have his neologism “summergreen” entered in the Oxford English Dictionary, & to that end about his forth-coming publication of a collection of his summergreen poems from Foot Hills Publishing. He began with some poems from 64 Changes (Foot Hills Publishing, 2015), poems based on the hexagrams in the I Ching, “The Power of the Great” (#34), & “Full of It & Happy to Be Here” (#55, Abundance).

Then on to a selection of pieces from the Summergreen manuscript, a variety of moods & settings, including inserting a poem into a conversation, findings squatters in the woods, ghost photos, the broadside “By Summergreen’s Dispersion” (which also appears in64 Changes for #43 Break-through), & “Summergreen Variations About What is Summergreen.” Then he ended with excerpts from a long poem “Michigan Moon” starting at (the now-defunct) Smitty’s Tavern. (I need to correct a remark I made at the reading that my counter to “summergreen” is “Wintergrey” — let’s see who will get in the OED first.

After the break Catherine Norr was back by request to finish the other verses to her Blues, then read a memoir in-progress “Grandma’s Writing Desk.” Betty Zerbst did a rhyming celebration “June is the Month…” then a non-rhyming memoir/family list “Cemetery.” Glenn Witecki read the very short piece, some words left behind for his son. Susan Jewell said she has been writing to the Rattle magazine ekphrastic challenge, read “The Open Shutter” responding to a photograph. Don Levy read 2 recent pieces, “Do Not Feed the Trolls!” a Facebook commentary, & “Freestylein’ It.” I followed with my latest political rant, not without a touch of humor,” Buttons Not Bombs.”

Joe Krausman’s “My Son the Mechanic” was a bit of poetic fiction, but “Pandering to Pandas at the National Zoo” was straight out of the news. Edie Abrams made it here for the first time & reprised her poem she read at the Arts Center, about getting rid of stuff, or not, & giving thanks.

This wonderful, casual open mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday at Arthur’s Market at the monument in the Stockade Section of Schenectady, starting at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & time for the rest of us. Free!

June 19, 2018

Poetic Vibe, June 11

I hadn’t been to this weekly open mic in some time, have missed the great mix of poets, & made a concentrated effort to get there tonight — & glad I did. The host is poet D. Colin & how she gets the energy to do this each week — must be youth — I don’t know. She got us started with “Artibonite Woman” from her book Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015), which I never get tired of hearing, & an untitled work-in-progress on wanting to be loved.

I was first on the sign-up sheet & read my “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock.” Sydney Clifford followed with a poem about losing her dream job “Enough.”

This was V.’s first time here, read a couple pieces on love & hurt & rivals, effectively using hip-hop rhyme to carry the story along. Julie Fresenius began with a poem about a medical procedure “Florescence,” then one titled “Conversations with My Father.” Alijah Pompey’s poem “The Pain I Can Feel” was autobiographical, about drugs & violence in his past (but doing better now), then a poem about personal loss from violence “Lost One.”

Kevin Francis Xavier Callahan started with a rambling introduction to his 5-year mission plan “Easy in My Own Skin.” Star’s pieces were on the theme of Black Lives Matter, the first “Colors” contrasting the colors of social justice with police shootings, the second on black as the new super-power. This was the first time for Ivy D. who began with “Music,” then the sexy “Coconut Colored,” & “Brothers.” I enjoy Liv’s work, writing real poems in a Slam style, tonight a new poem honoring the ancient women in her family “A Poem to the Grandmothers…”.

Elena Fiya Love began with what she described as the 1st Slam poem she wrote “My Vocabulary Stands from a Blooming Flower” then another in similar rhymes “Dark Knight” (not about Batman she said).  Ray had been sitting at the bar, unprepared to read, so free-styled about going to the gym in the early hours & somehow working jerk chicken into the piece. Michael Chambers’ piece was prepared, a long letter he had written as tribute to a woman after they had broken up. Kay L was a performer promoting his music business & did a couple of songs to prepared back-up tapes. Poetik read a new poem on horror movies “Sub-genres,” then read from her new book Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being by asking the audience to call out page numbers, picked page 23, a poem on video games (she will be reading on July 28 in Poets in the Park.

While we had been reading & listening D. Colin was listening & writing, picking out lines, & created a Cento, what she called “take-aways,” lines from what folks had read.

The feature was drummer, rapper, poet Jordan Taylor Hill with drummer Kojo Kofi. It was a musical performance with the words as music & rhythm, some free-style, some philosophical rap, some prison chants that Leadbelly had performed too, & lots of drumming. At one point Kojo tried to teach the audience a song from Ghana about Janey, call & response & enough repetition to learn the sounds/words. Did I mention lots of drumming? A good way to get us boppin’ out the door. But before we did, D. Colin read the group poem (otherwise known as an “exquisite corpse”) from the clip-board passed around all night — I won’t say which was my line. A great night of poetry & drumming, glad I finally got back there.

Poetic Vibe happens every (most) Mondays at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St. in Troy, NY, 7:30, contribution to pay the feature. There is a full bar & a food kitchen & lots of comfy seats. Pick a Monday & go.