December 27, 2007

Vincent Ferrini, 1913 - 2007

[Vincent Ferrini at a reading in Gloucester, MA, July 1992.]

The poet of Gloucester, Vincent Ferrini died on Christmas eve; he was 94. He published more than 30 volumes of poetry -- quirky, idiosyncratic, & working class, he was a well-known figure in Gloucester art & politics. As a friend of Charles Olson, Ferrini "invoked" the first of the Maximus Poems, particularly Letter 5 from April 1953, but indeed Ferrini is mentioned in all 3 of the Maximus volumes.

You can read about him in the Gloucester Daily Times at

I had the privilege of hearing Vincent read in Gloucester & also saw him in the audience at a number of occasions on different visits there. Tucked into some of my volumes of his poems are a couple of letters, from 1992 & 1994, in which he graciously thanks me for poems & photos I had sent him. Vincent's nephew Henry has made a wonderful documentary film that has been shown on PBS about Vincent & "his" Gloucester.

"The mind, Ferrini,
is as much of a labor
as to lift an arm
(Charles Olson)

"As the keel of a
boat is submerged in Water
so are we in death."
-- Vincent Ferrini

Siv Cedering, 1939 - 2007

I recently found out that one of my favorite poets from the 1980s, Siv Cedering died in November from pancreatic cancer. I saw her read once & took some photos of her at the riverrun bookstore in Hastings-on-Hudson in March 1986 (one of my very earliest photos of a poet). What I liked about her work was its "thingness." Check out her poem "Hands" on

This is the notice on
Siv Cedering was the author of eighteen books plus four books of translations, she also was an exhibiting sculptor and painter, a book illustrator, and a writer of songs and TV programs for children. She appeared in Harper's, Science, Ms., The New Republic, Paris Review, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Partisan Review, Georgia Review, BLM, etc., and in approximately 200 anthologies and textbooks. She received major awards for fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and visual art. Born by the Arctic Circle in Sweden, she lived with her husband Hans Van de Bovenkamp at Twin Oaks Farm and Sculpture Garden in Sagaponack, New York. Sadly, Siv Cedering passed away at her home on November 17, 2007. She will be greatly missed by many.

February 5, 1939~ November 17, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 20

[Daniel Nester at Point 5 pointing a camera.]

The last third Thursday of 2007 & tonight's muse was Enid Dame, her marvelous "Holiday Poem" choked me up, even with practice. Thanks, Enid! Sanity Claus was there all night & provided poetry books & zines to the poets, with the obligatory confession of the year's sins (summarized into "naughty" or "nice") on Sanity's lap. I think I had the most fun, but some of the lap-sitters seemed to enjoy squirming.

Joan McNerney was back again with a multi-part visuals "Hudson River Memories" -- & she sold a book! Alan Catlin was sensitive to the plight of holiday travelers & read "The Airline Passenger from Hell."

And the holidays mean visits from family members, like Mimi Moriarty's "My Son, California." Don Levy took us back to a time long past in "Whatever Happened to Mary Jane." And Barry Finley amused us with 3 parts about Guinness -- & made some of us thirsty.

The featured poet was the not-so-professorial assistant professor at the College of St. Rose, Daniel Nester, who is also responsible for the Frequency North reading series at St. Rose ( and co-curates (with Erik Sweet) the "Behind the Egg" series at Point 5 on Madison Ave. His reading was a relaxed stroll down (his) memory lane with explorations of pop culture, the source of much of his inspiration, & lots of acting out & banter with the audience. After reading his first poem (about his first kiss, growing up in South Jersey), Daniel said he wanted to do this "jerky professor thing" & in his nasally "professor voice" asked us to not clap after every poem, which we all promptly ignored. His pop music culture poems included "The Drummer in our Band Tells Us He is a Virgin," and "Found Poem" from a Kiss tribute band. Movie-inspired poems were "Dramaturgical Aside" & "Poem for the Evil Twin Episode of Night Rider" (you had to be there). There was also "Maternal Impressions" from his days as a reader for Painted Bride Quarterly that managed to work in both Blake & Bukowski into the same poem; and excerpts from his hysterical "Queries," culled from his comments on student writing assignments. He ended with his final poem, as we all do, with a poet, a restauranteur & a mob guy in "Mott St. Pastoral." It was a lot of fun & seemed gone in a flash.

After the break, I invoked the Master's Right & read my new poem about Georgia O'Keefe's hands & in true Zen fashion sat on my own lap. Therese L. Broderick (she actually signed up with the middle initial), the lightest lap-sitter, read a wonderful Mommy poem, "I Love You," about over-hearing her daughter talking to a boyfriend -- love like water.

W.D. Clarke again proved the value of rhyme in a "strictly for fun" narrative poem, "The Pirate's Wife." Maeve Smith who had not planned to read pulled down a Henry Vaughn poem from the shelf, & said she may return with poems of her own.

Moses Kash III, before crushing me again this year, talked about his black heroes, his books & the letters he has written in "So We Ask Ourselves." While Sylvia Barnard was pouring over books in the Cambridge University Library, outside there were "Ducklings."

Tom, who has shown up lurking quietly at other open mics, did a dark rap from memory -- still no last name. And Matt Galletta gave us a taste of what is in store during GallettaFest (formerly known as January) with a poem about killing a fly with a bible while having sex & suffering the consequences. As we all know, God is watching -- & so is Santa Claus.

Every Third Thursday, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany -- we'll be back next year.

December 21, 2007

Zounds!, December 19

[An old shot of Jason Dalaba, the featured poet, from November 2001 at the defunct Arthur's Market in Schenectady.]

Tonight at the NightSky Cafe, 402 Union St., Schenectady. Our host with the adjustable mic stand, Shaun Baxter, started us off with Ogden Nash's answer to the Mr. Boston's Bartender's Guide, "A Drink With Something in It."

The first poet on the list was a new voice, but one who normally plays in a band, Eric Ochshorn & he recited a couple of his song lyrics, "Living Life is Half a Dream," & the rap-attack, deconstructionist (& very funny) "Refuse & Resist," a critique & criticism of rap terms.

Tim Lake is a performer who has been around for a while, even has hosted a venue or two, but I haven't seen him out in a while. He read a couple new pieces, "Last Moment Overture," on Autumn's end, & "The Yule Ring." Just be careful or he'll turn you into a toad.

I read 2 poems you can find on this Blog, "Georgia O'Keefe's Hands" & "Christmas Eve, 1945."

Barry Finley's pieces were new to me, an intensely literary-referrent "We v. The Woolf" (as in Virginia Woolf), & "Rowing Song," which to me said it is important to just keep on going.

Alan Catlin called his poem "The Chud" an ode to the NYC Subway system & the title refers to the homeless or otherwise marginal folks who live down there hidden among the tracks; he also read a poem from the vast repertoire of works inspired by his years as a bartender -- many are out there in chapbooks & various zines, worth the hunt.

I've talked about tonight's featured poet, Jason Dalaba (or J. Dalaba as he preferred tonight) & his chapbook from Dead Man's Press, Yesterday's Machine, in past Blogs on this site. But I've grown to appreciate the entertainment value of his Goth-styled performances. Tonight he experimented with background music/sound effects in his first piece about an invasion of Zombies, then later with "Sex & Math" from his chapbook. The rest of his poems were also from the chapbook, & either I've become familiar with his work or his readings have gotten better, more planned & relaxed -- his best yet.

After the break Matt Galletta (or was that "Matt Galapagos-Islands"?) read about a group of students acting up with the elk at the New York State Museum -- stay tuned for GallettaFest next month when Matt is featured at "Live at the Living Room," then the following week at "Zounds!"

W.D. Clarke has been mining the true stories of veterans for his rhymed narratives & tonight's humorous pieces both had to do with G.I.'s dicks -- "The Christian & the Vixen" (about how it's sometimes better not to get laid), and "The Circumcision" (that's all you need to know).

This was the first chance I had to take a picture of Sue Cerniglia on stage reading a poem. Sue attends a lot of poetry open mics, but has never been on stage to read. Tonight she read 2 poems from a new book by her friend Phil Sweeney; she says she'll be back with a poem of her own someday.

Another long-absent poet who we've missed on the scene, Shannon Shoemaker, showed up tonight & did 2 poems "off the top of her head," "Out of the Shadows," & the relationship poem, "Grown Cold."

Our host, Shaun Baxter read a new piece, the absurdist metaphoric slasher movie "Global Warming;" it was funny & right on the money.

Always the 3rd Wednesday of the month, & Shaun has carved out a unique niche in the poetry scene here. Worth the trip, even from Schenectady.

December 13, 2007


(from notes taken at an exhibit in September 1997 at the Metropolitan Museum of Alfred Stieglitz’s portraits of Georgia O’Keefe)

Georgia O’Keefe’s hands
with a thimble
pinching cloth
into vaginas

hands like flowers
her fingers are petals
her wrist the stem

against her car
her hands like
curved chrome
framing black tires

lined knuckles
holding a corncob

smooth woman hands
against tree bark

one where she works
peeling vegetables

Live from the Living Room, December 12

At the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany, with our capacious host, Don Levy.

The featured poet was Steven Holmes who is well known in the entertainment community in his alter-ego "Carmie Hope." But tonight there was no singing (nor the 2 hours he says it takes to get in costume), just some tender, sensitive poetry, including a poem for his deceased mother, 2 lush poems, "Sleep" & "Hammock" & one to his partner, a lost-love, found-again poem. The poems were mostly written after he had taken a writing class & weren't the more recent work he had planned to bring. But now he needs to go to more open mics to read his newer work. He had the best poetry theory line of the night, "Poetry is supposed to rhyme until you take a class."

During the short break some of us began discussing what is "gay poetry" (based on Tim Verhaegen effusing that he was glad there was a gay featured poet). Is it a poem on "gay" themes, or one written by a gay person? Could a straight person write a "gay poem"? Shaun compared it to "political" poems & pronounced that were only poems, which, like people, I think is essentially it. We like to label & classify to help us understand or deal with things, people, but ultimately, "we murder to dissect."

I read my old, recently revised "Coffee House Rant," & a new poem based on old notes from an exhibit of Alfred Stieglitz's photos of Georgia O'Keefe (the exhibit was in 1997 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC), "Georgia O'Keefe's Hands."

Matt Galleta's "Sketchbook" contrasted the time it took a girl to make a quick sketch of a boy with how long it took him to write the poem. Matt will be the featured poet here in January.

Jim Masters says he has some new poems, but the Muse told him they were "too muddled" to read tonight, so he read a quote he reads at the beginning of his day, that life if not a clock, but more like a cloud: be prepared for changes, for surprises. Yes, yes.

Tim Verhaegen read a revised version of "Summer Theater," a poem I remember hearing before, alluding to the loss of youth, but essentially a steamy description of gay men posing (& having sex) on a beach. It confirmed that basic principle of life, "I know it when I see it" -- that is a "gay poem". It settled the debate.

And if a poem can be like a fart (it happens real quick, leaves evidence but you wonder "what happened"?), "La Fame (Hunger)" by Shaun Baxter did just that.

Our host, Uncle Don Levy ended the night with "The Quilt Maker's Complaint," which he wrote for the very first Poets Action Against AIDS, organized by Tom Nattell in 1992. Then he detailed his trials & tribulations at the "Y" with the other patrons with "Stuff it in Your Gym Shorts."

Every second Wednesday of the month, & always straight-friendly.

December 11, 2007

Reading by Larry Winters, Bethlehem Public Library, December 6

[Larry Winters reading at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock, NY, September 2007.]

This event was sponsored by Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace & the host was me, Dan Wilcox.

The featured reader was Larry Winters, author of The Making and Un-Making of a Marine (Millrock Writers Collective, 2007). But his reading was from his poetry. He read the three poems in Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans, edited by Dayl Wise, "Confession," "America," & "Vietnam" (about a Viet Cong cemetery worker). His commentary on his experience with Viet Nam resonated with the peace workers in the audience struggling to end the current war in Iraq & Afghanistan. He read about the parade for Viet Nam veterans in NYC ("Now") and about Robert McNamara's memoir ("Old Men Are Bastards"). Also, a poem about the first person he knew who got killed in Viet Nam, others about going back to Viet Nam for healing, "War" (a gathering of American & Viet Namese vets), & "Viet Cong."

Larry's reading was followed by an open mic of community poets, something Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace have been wanting to do for some time. They hold a weekly peace vigil at the 4 Corners in Delmar every Monday from 5 to 6 PM & are everywhere there is a peace march, conference, demonstration.

Gene Damm is well known in the poetry community but didn't bring any of his own poems, so he read Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match-Girl" for the holiday season. Valiant Barry Finley read his poem to Deep Throat, "Mark Felt I Hardly Knew You."

Mimi Moriarty read from her book War Psalm, "Shell Shook." Michael Rice's poem "George's Prayer of Thanksgiving" looked back to the 1991 invasion of Iraq, & forward. He also read a piece from Poems from Guantanamo.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann's eco-thriller Dirt Cheap was published by Curbstone Press, but she read a short segment from her forthcoming novel, also from Curbstone. I read "A Pain in the Neck," about why I missed the demonstration in NYC against the Republican National Convention.

Find out what else BNP is doing at

Peace on Earth

December 7, 2007

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5

[Featured poet Daniel Nester looking his professorial best recently at the College of St. Rose.]

The trip up is always worth it, & tonight was no exception (except I miss the poets I flirted with a couple months ago) -- a wonderful feature & lots of good open mic poets before & after.

Our gracious, though tonight somewhat censorious (at one point she cut off "lewd comments" -- whatever they are? -- from, well, me), host, Carol Graser read a poem by John Wright (not sure I got that right, there are so many poet Wrights out there), "Bolder Valley Surprise." Later she introduced the one & only copy (so far) of a collection of poems by people who have featured at Caffe Lena. Watch for the sale of Every Drop of Water soon.

When I arrived 6 or 7 poets had already signed up, but (if you can believe this) the #1 spot was available, so I took it & read too seasonal poems, the recently-tinkered-with "My Scarf" & "Christmas Eve 1945" (scroll down & you'll find it).

Michael Hare was back with a husband & wife combination poems, the Humphries, from his collection of dramatic monologues, Saratoga Lives.

I admire Barry Finley for the effort he puts in to getting to & performing at open mics in the region. He says he hasn't written much but is working on more pieces. Tonight he read "Through a Gila Monster's Eyes" & "Is This Diversity Too Much for You ..."

James Schlett did his customary arrangement of a journal entry ("Look") & a poem ("Parting" -- socks & snowflakes & not cutsey at all) from memory. George Drew, a former feature here, said he had done another reading earlier & didn't get to read this poem from a manuscript about Maine, a narrative of abandoned ashes a la E A Robinson.

Then our featured poet, Daniel Nester, completely changed the tone (thank god). Well, no, actually, defiantely, he went back to the previously curtailed "lewd comments" of the adolescent exhibitionist variety, but with plenty of self-deprecating humor (& audience comments). We heard about him masturbating in his room, how a fellow band member was still a virgin, his wife doing yoga, his obsession with the band Queen, TV, pop culture ("The Peter Brady Cum-shot Episode"), & correcting papers for creative writing courses ("The Queries Project" -- there's something to be said for my earning a living as a bureaucrat that I hadn't realized before). It was great fun & made me feel better for being shut up.

As is customary, we took a short break after Daniel's reading & at that point the Saratoga "literati" pulled "a Woodstock" -- they left. Well, as we like to say, they missed it, the rest of the marvelous open mic. Meanwhile the poets who remained left Edwin Arlington Robinson in the dust of the 20th Century.

Carol read a meditative "At 39", then Sarah Craig (a former feature who doesn't read enough at the open mic) read 2 poems on "frustrated love", one on the Satyr statues & the interestingly titled "We're Like Potatoes." It was all made up, it's art, nothing is true.

Too bad George hadn't stuck around; I think he would've liked Yvette Brown's story of an immigrant waitress in a diner in Huntington, or even the description of forsythia along the highway in "War."

It turned out that one of the students Daniel had referred to during his reading as "a pop-culture freak" was actually in the audience, perhaps proving that attribution by being here. Katie Vermilyea read from a diminutive notebook "A Meditation on French Fries," a poem about dating a member of a Kiss tribute band, & a short, third, Carol-defying piece about her father.

Josh McIntyre's 2 poems were dark, "Bed Bugs" & an exhausted woman praying at "Sunset."

Bob Sharkey brought us back to Maine & his Mom & Dad in "Portland Headlights", then the perfume of roses in a love poem in "Perspective."

The other student from Daniel's class who showed up was Elliot Carson; he said about "Night...," "I guess it's a love poem." "The Art of Gifting," just written, sounded like a dadaist exquisite corpse.

Nancy Muldoon was back again this month & seems to like skewering the ruling class, like Eliot Spitzer, or the playground of the privileged with cigar smoke in "August in Saratoga." And quite by chance Chris Brabham followed with "A Prayer for the Middle Class." Maybe the literati had sensed what was coming & ran.

As you know, I am no fan of the idea & practice of repetitious rhyme & mechanical meter. But listening to the narratives & tributes to veterans W.D. Clarke has been reading lately at open mics, I'm beginning to reassess this retro poetic technique & think it can be effective, especially in the way this poet uses them. "The Village Armory" (in Elmira) is one of those public occasional poems where the masses expect this kind of rhetoric. And in "Normandy" the archaic form brings us back to an earlier time as the poet stands at the beach, remembering. Clarke's word choice & phrases sound, for the most part, natural, but enough self-consciously poetic to set it apart from normal speech.

Every first Monday at historic Caffé Lena, Saratoga Spring, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 start (& she starts on time).

December 5, 2007

Albany Poets Present!, December 4

This was the night for the "airing of grievances" & "feats of strength." Let's just dispense with the "feats of strength" & say that no one attempted to pick up Shaun Baxter over their head. Perhaps it was because Shaun had filled his pockets from work with Proust or Gibbons or Henry James & was just too heavy to lift; perhaps not.

Most of the hosting duties were done by the "birthday boy," el presidente Thom Francis, with others jumping in as needed or inspired, as you will note as you read on.

I had to carefully think back to recent shopping experiences as Shaun Baxter started us off with a timely grievance poem, "An Open Letter to Holiday Shoppers from a Retail Worker" about those folks whose purchases don't scan correctly at the cashier & who cleverly say, "I guess it must be free." I swear, Shaun, I will never, ever say that again.

I had the dumb luck to follow him & promptly brought everyone's hilarity back down with "Richard Nixon Must Die." This is my grandest ever poetic grievance, printed by A.P.D. (accept proletarian dictatorship) as a broadside, published on Talkworks, a poetry cassette journal, read on WRPI, printed in The Greenhell Gazette & other gone zines, first read at the QE2, & the title poem from my aborted novel about the turmoil of the 1970's. It's been awhile.

Julie Lomoe (who was in the Lower East Side in the '70s too) "said the F word at the Y" -- a great line if there ever was one -- & told us about it in "Anger Management."

Rob Engelhardt disguised as Matrix: Misfired slipped on stage to introduce NicoleK. It would have been enough for her to read "Only the Girls Will Get This," a great litany to her period, but then had to kill us with "Fuck the Dutch," her hilarious epic search for Dutch cocoa. Gotta hear it again, soon.

Mary Panza introduced the cake, a lovely sheet cake some of us had to wipe from our hair & moustaches later -- everyone got 2 pieces -- then introduced the afore-described R.M. Engelhardt who, in his best radio-school-trained voice proposed "Let's Burn Down Albany," a poem he's been writing for years & years.

Chris Brabham's grievance was with "Reincarnation" -- he doesn't want to come back as a human & made it sound reasonable.

There were a few young perplexed citizens at the bar, & some old timers who didn't read, & one bicyclist (on an icy, cold night?) who kept getting texted, & who knows the undercover cop, who all hung out with "the elitists" eating cake, the Decemberists doing shots, & out-dated Octoberfests. Thom said it was his "best night ever." Hey, who would argue?

First Tuesdays at Valentines -- so probably not in January, which is New Years Day, but check -- "one never knows, do one?"

December 4, 2007


[This is a poem I like to perform this time of year; it is "a love poem to my mother."]

How I love your round belly, heavy
like a fruit cake beneath the tree.

You sit tucked in your flannel robe
deep in yourself in thought and dream.

The red and green and yellow lights
are reflected in your hair, your eyes.

You wait for me, feeling me
tumble, the weight growing larger

stretching you, changing you forever
floating there, nestled, like

the red and green and yellow candies
cooked in the moist sweetness of cake.

November 27, 2007

Poets Speak Loud!, November 26

[Erik Sweet reading some time ago at Red Square -- in Albany, not Moscow.]

The boss lady Mary Panza took over the hosting duties here at the Lark Tavern, & what a night, with new poets, & the return of others, & poet-hosts booking future features -- just what's supposed to happen, & it didn't go on forever.

But I picked the wrong stuff to read here, but then that's what the open mic is for, right? My 2 poems were about the Brick Elephant up in Valley Falls & a couple of performances & installations there put on by Mary Jane Leach, "Eight Hermit Thrushes," & "In Church." Not enough sex, death or politics for the venue, ho hum.

Shaun Baxter had no such problem with his 2 popular pieces, "For Our Single-Celled Relatives" & the great mix of baseballs, apricots & cat shit, "Pitching Practice."

It was great to see Simone Sneed back in town & on stage -- she was my last featured poet at Changing Spaces Gallery before I moved to the Lark St. Bookshop & I don't think I've seen her since. Apparently in the meantime she's been honing her spoken word craft & is now back in town. Her first piece was "originally a love poem that went bad." The second piece took us from poets as prophets to prophets as poets reminding me of Rahssan Roland Kirk singing of "blacknuss."

The featured poet, Erik Sweet, co-curates the "Behind the Egg" series at Point 5 with Daniel Nester. He's also one of Albany's "invisible" poets, writing & editing zines but not getting to the stage very often. His poems were philosophical ponderings grounded in the things of our lives we all recognize, like Atari 64, or the meditation on "The Modern Chair," or the movies of Bill Murray (which was on the nature of poetry, & sadness), or the great chain of being in "The Love of Things." There was Erik on stage quietly talking to us & blowing our minds.

I didn't realize until now how apt the title for Margot Malia Lynch's poem was: "The Archeology of Inner Space" (sounds ponderous) but it took us through many layers, like an excavation, from goddesses, to crystals, on to the real problem of getting away from him. I don't think she had ever read here at the Lark Tavern before.

Don Levy's new poem was based on his attendance at Bob Wright's poetry series in Athens (NY), "Do Not Feed the Poets." Among the reasons why,"... they'll do anything for cheese ... it only makes them smugger ..." (a new word). His second poem was the hilarious commentary on inspiration, "Why I Blew My Muse." Oh yes.

Chris Brabham didn't need the mic he dismantled to read the sonorous "Death of the Crimson Scourge."

"The Storm" must have a real name but I didn't get it; it was her first time here. She did 2 "love" poems, such as they were, leaving us whooping it up -- "Who's the Fool in Love?" & the bad sex "bullshit known as foreplay" "As We Lay."

& there were more poets there who didn't read, sign up, but hung out & we all had a good time, before, during & after. No open mic here in December (it would fall on New Year's Eve). Third anniversary & 4th annual beret-toss on the last Monday in January (that's 2008), with your guest host, Dan Wilcox -- hey, that's me!

November 23, 2007

So much depends upon
this is Just to Say

I have eaten
the white

that were in
the red wheel

and which
were glazed
with rain

so lascivious
and still

Zounds!, November 21

This was a "featureless" reading, no eyes, noses, eyebrows, lips -- nothing but a flat oval with a dark hole for the mouth & 2 blank spaces for the eyes -- wow, did we have fun! Actually, it was as simple as the featured reader was not able to be there -- but, hey, as everyone knows, we were there for the open mic -- Yeah! & our host, Shaun Baxter, actually adjusted the mic stand down at one point. He began with a reading of Gary Snyder's nifty poem "Axe Handles" -- what we need to ponder.

Shaun gave us permission, being featureless, to read 3 poems & I re-did once again for the last time for a while you should hope, a couple poems based on conversations with poets that I'd been doing at open mics, then, for Thanksgiving, "Briget of Kildare's Tablegrace" -- anyone who wants a copy, email me & I'll send it on.

Karen Guzzardi-James had read on Sunday at the Community of Writers event & was back with a mixture of love & penetration & "Lunacy", then "You Move Me," the celebratory litany catalog of "you move me like ..." (hey, if you haven't actually written it, you would still feel it). Bob Sharkey looked back to Halloween, then a tender poem of love & thanks, "Your Eyes", & then "Saffron & Flames."

John Raymond only read one of his own poems ("Barbecue Girl" at the Memphis airport, one of those archetypes Jung didn't live long enough to discover), but read 2 by one of my personal favorites, Octavio Paz from the New Directions Selected Poems: "Poet's Epitaph" (page 2) & III. from "The poet's work" (page 10). Dig it.

Barry Finley, a local peace & social justice activist, has been making the open mics lately, & actually pitched "Gertrude Stein v. the Bard" then reprised his Mark Felt poem from last week, with a couple of tiny pieces in between. A former feature here, Jason Dalaba, read from his chapbook Yesterday's Machine the dream poem "Lost Boys," then "Welcome to the Planet of Meat & Trees" (in a faux pompous accent, to my thinking, but then later someone else complimented Jason on his "actor's voice" -- so what-the-fuck do I know??), then "Postcard I." which wouldn't fit on a postcard anyways.

I'm not pre-disposed to rhyme, particularly with short metrical patterns, but I've grown to like W.D. Clarke's poems in this style, particularly because rather than recounting some teen-age angst, or the rage of a relationship gone bad, he uses the rhyme to carry a narrative line. "McGowan's" told the story of a bar his grandfather went to & the gone stories of the "veterans & drunks." Then the love-story of "The Private & the Major," & a lament for "Forgotten Veterans."

There is no one like our second-short host to put a new spin, a new point on, you add your own cliche, on existence, like the cat-shit in "Pitching Practice" or the respect "For Our Single-Celled Relatives" -- there's billions of them!

November 19, 2007

A Community of Writers, November 18

This is part of an annual series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, with this event at the Schenectady County Public Library sponsored by the Library, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, Electric City Poetry Productions, and the Friends of Schenectady County Public Library. The program was moderated by Miki Conn from the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, who you could barely see over the top of the big podium the Library likes to use for such events.

Ron Pavoldi is a poet associated with the Voorheesville group, Every Other Thursday Night Poets (see a link to their website at the bottom). His poems were colloquial stories of friends & family members. Kelly de la Rocha read an essay about her "mission trip" to Guatemala delivering medicine & care to the people, then a poem "After the Storm" about a similar trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. She also had photos on display from those trips that she was selling to raise money for the missions there.

Karen Guzzardi-James had read at some area open mics in the past; her poems, mostly rhymed, were about romantic love & it's pain & disappointments, as well as a touching poem about her love for her young daughter, who was in the audience. David Kaczynski is well-known in the area as the Director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty. He introduced his poems by stating that he was attempting "to rehabilitate abstraction ... to write the perfect abstract poem." But his work demonstrated that poetry demands, needs, rides on the wheels of images -- "no idea but in things," to quote the good Doctor.

For the last 3 years at least the Hamilton Hills Arts Center has been on the Community of Writers program, & for the last 3 years at least they have largely been represented by no-shows. Even with Miki Conn being the moderator & bragging about how everyone at the Center was "creative", the only reader from the Center to show up, & he only read one poem, was Tosh Majors; Miki filled out the space by reading from A.A. Milne (didn't know he was at the Center). Maybe the problem is that, unlike the other readers who are each listed individually, the Center is on the program as "Representatives from Hamilton Hill Arts Center." Maybe the members would be more encouraged to show up if their individual names were listed. Maybe next year.

Peter Heinegg was introduced as a professor from Union College with a string of articles & books but what he read were 2 amusing anti-religion poems, "God doggerels," that in their clever rhymes & short lines reminded me of similar themes in William Blake. Rosalyn R. Sollecito read a pleasantly written essay about the service of women during World War II.

Jennifer Wells' poems dealt with social issues such as AIDS & social inequality. Bill Poppino had 3 poems that sounded like prose essays, on motorcycles, border patrol & the early years of aviation.

The program was taped for public access cable TV in Schenectady, so if you're in that cable area you can watch it yourself (& send me any corrections).

November 17, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 15

Our muse was the Chinese poet Tu Fu (712-770), & I (Dan Wilcox) was your host once again at the Social Justice Center.

It seemed to be a night of looking for poems & of former World Trade Center workers, it's always something.

Sylvia Barnard couldn't find the revised version of "The Frog Pond," but we enjoyed whatever version of the return to the farm where she grew up we heard. Michael Hare had been at the last Caffe Lena reading (q.v.) & read us another from Saratoga Lives, this time a contemporary character.

Alan Catlin read his poem about a Viet Nam vet, "No Smoking," from the new Guerilla Poetry Project anthology -- check out GPP at One never knows who might be a local GPP Operative, do one?

Next was the mini-segment of people who formerly worked in the World Trade Center. Joan McNerney worked in the 3rd sub-basement, now lives up here, has a chapbook, Having Lunch with the Sky out from A.P.D. (another poetry day, etc.), read the computer lingo "Virtual Love". Barry Finley also worked at the WTC at about the same time as Joan, & in the same agency I worked for at the time! Some people say "small world;" I say, "We're all connected." Barry read his poem to the real Deep Throat, "I Never Really Knew You Mark Felt."

The featured poet Margot Malia Lynch looked elegant in her black dress & heels but her performance seemed less dressed than she was, as she fumbled through her notebook looking for poems. But then this is one of my "pet peeves" -- the paper-shuffling poet. Although she did joke about it, saying it was a performance piece -- "la-la-la". Then again, she was a bit rattled by a random guy who came in from the street in a rain poncho who kept asking her to repeat her first poem. All but her last poem ("Rocking Me to the Sky") were untitled, or at least she didn't share her titles. Her poems had a strong "I" presence: her feelings, her exuberance -- "I wear this poem like an emotion" -- written in a run-on style like automatic writing, & often with implied music behind her, a rock band.

One final "peeve" has to do with my favorite peeve, slam poems. My basic position, as many of you know, is that, for the most part, slam is more performance (i.e., acting) than poetry. So Margot introduced her only political poem, saying she had performed it at a slam, but "it's not really totally from the heart ... don't think it's that good... " Proves my point. I agreed with the political sentiments expressed; too bad she didn't.

I followed the break with a new poem, "Luna Mobilis," minus the footnotes. W.D. Clarke was back with a rhyme from memory on the casualties of war, "Urchins."

Therese Broderick has been doing her poems from memory too & "One Part per Million" contained a lot of numbers that essentially are irrelevant to a real princess who can taste the wine. Moses Kash III closed out the night with what he called a prose poem I think was called "Genesis," with some sung & chanted lines that he apparently has sent to Hillary Clinton. Do you think Moses is looking for a job in her administration? Minister of Culture?

Every Third Thursday, Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30 start.

November 15, 2007

Live from the Living Room, November 14

[John Raymond reading at the NightSky Cafe in September.]

The featured poet tonight is one of my local favorites, John Raymond. He began with "Chicken" in which food becomes sex; "Reflections on Nothing" (which is in Other: Eight); "The Damned" (a fly caught in his window); the great sex tale of "End of a Fling"; "South"; another break up poem, "Surgery"; a camping poem, "Whiskey & Rain Water"; & the recently written cold city poem, "November." He ended by reading Richard Thompson's great song, "Vincent Black Lightening 1952." John has been coming out to open mics more & more lately -- you need to catch him. If I hadn't already had him featured at the Social Justice Center I would definitely sign him up.

We continued with the open mic portion of the night with our straight-friendly host, Uncle Don Levy. Another new voice on the scene, Matt Galletta read a poem about seeing pictures of an ex girlfriend wrestling in chocolate pudding, "This Will Happen to You".

Dan Wilcox (that's me) read 2 poems he's been reading together at open mics lately, "Poetry Prompts" & "Consumerism" because one of the sources of one of the poems was in the house. Jim Masters said he had nothing to read of his own so gave us a blessing of "The Breath of All Life" from The Book of Blessings.

Bob Sharkey told us he revised his poem "Arrowhead" after trying it out at an open mic & realizing he needed to give his brother his own poem; he also read a new poem, putting himself into an Edward Hopper painting (I wrote a poem many years ago where I step out of an Edward Hopper painting).

Hadn't seen NicoleK at a reading for awhile, & she continues to write these angst-ridden relationship poems (aren't they all?), both tonight untitled, one about letting go, the other overwhelmed by him. Anthony Bernini hasn't been around for awhile either. He read the "The Sirens" & the more up-beat love poem "The Wedding Vow". You have to listen closely to Anthony's poems; better yet, listen many times.

Our host, Don Levy, read a new piece, "Bathhouse Blues," where he juxtaposes the history of the NYC gay bathhouse scene with his own growing up. I was in NYC in the mid- to late- 1970s & just about anyone I can think of who frequented the baths then is dead; it was a scary time. With Thanksgiving Day coming & the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz looming, he read his piece written from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the East, "Begone Before Someone Drops a House on You."

& begone we were, at least until next month: 2nd Wednesdays, Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany.

Walking, a response to Paul Bray's column in the Albany Times-Union, November 11

For a long time I used to walk to work, it was the best part of my day. My habitual route took me down New Scotland Ave. to Washington Park, through the Park, past Moses & Bobbie Burns, on to State St., sometimes down Spring St., sometimes down Washington Ave., to One Commerce Plaza. I estimated the distance at about two and a half miles. For most days of the year I could do it. But if it was below 20 degrees, or raining or snowing, or the sidewalks were impassable due to the Winter’s accumulation of snow, I would take the bus. And most days I took the bus home after work.

But the mornings were the best. Friends would pass by & offer me a ride. I would tell them, “No thanks, this is the best part of my day. If you see me walking, beep & wave, but if you see me standing at a bus stop you can offer me a ride.”

It was like Zen or the yoga of walking; sometimes I would reach the park & not recall anything I’d seen since leaving home. Many a personal dilemma or work problem got sorted out, sometimes consciously, often without me being fully aware of it. And I’ve written many poems that way. “Therese’s Balcony” (about Spring St.), & “Joe Krausman” were directly inspired by what happened on my walk; and “Baghdad/Albany,” about the invasion of Baghdad in March 2003, was “written” in my head during many mornings, then finally put down on paper late one night with hardly a cross-out or change. I once gave myself an assignment to write whatever was in my head when I first sat down at my desk at work in the morning. Of course, what got written was largely a response to what I had seen on my walk to work, sometimes a full-blown poem, sometimes just word play. A few of these short pieces were eventually published in a small chapbook by Boog Literature.

Now that I am retired from my job, I don’t walk every morning. When I am going downtown to the Library for the noontime book review, or on Wednesday to the peace vigil in front of the Capitol, I will walk. And I often walk to the local Price Chopper just about a mile away, maybe stop at the Muddy Cup for a cappuccino, or get a book from the Pine Hills Branch of the Library. While I miss my daily walk-to-work, I try to walk to as many places as I can & as often as possible, glad to live in a city where walking is still an option.

Writers Institute, November 13

I finally got to a couple programs offered by the Writers Institute of SUNY at Albany as part of their China Semester. The afternoon program paired up the Institute's Don Faulkner with Chinese author & scholar Da Chen. Don gave a brief summary of the Tang Dynasty as the Golden Age of Chinese Poetry & introduced the 3 great poets from that era, Li Po, Wang Wei & Tu Fu. Da Chen played the bamboo flute & talked about the importance of singing/chanting & calligraphy was to the poets. He translated & discussed 2 of Wang Wei's poems, "Floating Down the Han" and "In the Mountains." He also demonstrated calligraphy by writing out Wang Wei's poem. There were students from Schenectady High School in the audience & one student got to take home the poem as a souvenir.

Later in the evening there was a reading by 2 young Chinese-American poets. Leslie Chang's work was the quieter, more meditative, more influenced by traditional Chinese poetry of the two. She read 5 poems she described as "exploded sonnets" from a series, as well a number of poems about being in China, mentioning Suzhou, where I had been in 2004. Lisa Chen's work was more like what one often hears at open mics, often political, strident, funny & sexy. She leaned towards making up "facts", as in "Some Things You May Not know About Chinese" & "Your Great Grandfather Worked in an MSG Mine" (in South Dakota). In one poem she made up answers to the the questions on an INS (or whatever they are called now by this zenophobic administration) form.

Check out the Writers Institute programs at

November 12, 2007

Frequency North, November 8

This is the visiting writer series curated by Daniel Nester at the College of St. Rose in Albany. The readings are held in the library which easily makes for an over-flow crowd, although tonight's audience would be substantial by anyone's (except the Knickerbocker Arena's) standards. Not just students, but faculty, Deans, & community folk.

The reading paired 2 writers standing far apart on the writing spectrum. St. Rose faculty member, Hollis Seaman introduced Nalini Jones who had once been her student. Jones' first book, a collection of linked stories, What You Call Winter was published this year by Knopf. She read "bits & pieces" from the stories which are set in an Indian/Catholic suburb of Bombay, told in a straight-forward, direct style, basically a classic story-telling experience.

When Wayne Koestenbaum got up to read he complimented Jones for her "unmannered" stories. And then proceeded to demonstrate what one would mean by "mannered" writing. His most recent book is Hotel Theory in which a meditative essay on hotel life is printed alongside a novel about Liberace & Lana Turner. If that doesn't say "mannered" I don't know what does. My impression from the segments he read was, per my notes, "clever, self-conciously humorous intellectualisms." He also read some poems in essentially the same mindset. For example, his poem "Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films" is a list of porn film titles using the word "Jewish" or "Jew" so you really get the joke from the title & the poem is a lot of unnecessary cleverness.

Why do I always writer more about the stuff that annoys me than the stuff I like? I guess for the same reason there are more anguished love poems than happy ones.

November 11, 2007


I wake up in the morning
turn and put my feet on the floor
The day has begun
I could wander in the woods
forever like Lew Welch, or
walk downtown for a cappuccino
watch the day unfold
the sidewalk littered with prompts
like the lost leaves of Autumn

Print poems v. Perf' po v. Vispo

[Dan Wilcox with his soul scroll in a poem box at the Lionheart in June, 1999.]

In case you missed it, the response to my November 5 Blog, "Print poems v. Perf' po" included comments from Mary Kathryn Jablonski who rightly reminded me about visual poetry, i.e., poetry made into visual art work. How could I forget? Some of you may remember my "soul scroll in a poem box" that I used to unroll at readings & was even exhibited at the old Center Galleries in an art-book exhibit. Anyway, Mary Kathryn's comments included a link to her (currently quiescent) Blog, but in her comment the link is mangled (I once cited her Blog in my Blog about the March 7 Caffe Lena reading).

The link to her Blog is The February 2007 entry contains a link to the visual poetry exhibit that was at Skidmore. Also check out her interviews with Denise Duhamel & others.

November 9, 2007

Caffe Lena, November 7

[An avuncular Tim Verhaegen earlier this year at a reading in Albany's Gay Lesbian Community Center.]

Another great night at one of the premier poetry venues in upstate New York. Our host, Carol Graser, began by reading a poem from an issue of the Berkeley Poetry Review, "Therapy," by Christy M. Fleming. Later Carol mentioned that their fund-raising campaign for the poetry program was going well, getting close to their goal. Visit the Caffe Lena website to find out how to help out (other than showing up as often as you can).

As the old blues song says, "the usual crowd was there," and Bob Sharkey began with a poem about a fire in Maine, setting a minor theme for the night, "Gooseneck Beach 1947." Alan Casline came up with the Voorheesville crowd to support Tim Verhaegen & dedicated "At the Toy Show" to Tim; also, read an Adirondack nostalgia poem, "The False Path."

I was particularly affected by Joan Gran's simply stated "A Jaded Year," about a gift received that was meant for someone else. Paul Amidon let us inside the head of an auction bidder, then "Ryan's Rooster."

Last month here I flirted with 3 lady poets, so tonight read "Poetry Prompts" that was in response to our discussion, & the oldie "Planting Tulips" because that's what the park workers were doing this morning in Washington Park when I walked through. W.D. Clarke presented 2 rhymed poems for Veterans' Day: "Myrtle the Fertile Turtle" (a WWII B-24 bomber), then his first poem, from the Viet Nam era, "Johnny O", a John Doe letter & suicide.

Richard Cowles, tonight as "The Poet Gone Wild," has gotten in trouble before for going long & being tedious. Tonight's piece, "The Baby Sitter's Lament," was also long, unrehearsed & actually contained a line that was the best commentary on his piece, "What are you doing now?"

If you have been reading this Blog anytime in the last few weeks you are well acquainted with Tim Verhaegen, tonight's featured poet. He did 2 major themes: his relationship with "Mary Jane" & family poems. Tim likes short, simple statements, the rhythm of his poems often starting with "I" or "he" or "She". The "Mary Jane" poems took us from his introduction to pot at age 10, through the "end of the honeymoon," the "divorce" with its panic attacks, to being out of the fog. Many of the family poems we have heard before, like the harrowing "Dad's Car" & "Unexpectations" but good to hear them in a group. He ended appropriately enough with "Finally." He was well supported by his Voorheesville poetry group friends.

Carol Graser did a new piece on being at a zoo with kids in Halloween costumes. Reprising the style, if not the actual poems, of his reading last month at the Social Justice Center, Dennis Sullivan did 2 poems with Tom Corrado on tuba & Alan Casline on bodhran. Then Tom Corrado was back on stage with his funny, heartfelt piece "On His Partial Deafness" -- say, what?

Mimi Moriarty returned to the fire theme, its beauty & the art of destruction, "The Way it Burns," then the Thanksgiving recipes of memory, "Circle." I hadn't seen Michael Hare before, but he has a series of poems about historical fictional characters from Saratoga that he has self-published, Saratoga Lives (see it at, & he read 2 pieces from it.

Therese Broderick tried out a couple pieces from memory, & did them well, one about Halloween & the other a found poem, "Marine Snow", -- "very slow". James Schlett (who was surprisingly restrained earlier this evening) began with a journal entry prompted by someone's remark that his poems "have no meaning." He took us back to Grafton pond & leaping fish the "Literal Distraction" from Chinese poetry.

I was swept up in the simplicity & the tenderness of Ivette Brown's images in her 2 poems about her late husband, "Early November One Morning" & "A Real Fairy Tale." Mike Ballinger's poems both used memory, one, like Proust, inspired by the smells of a farm, the other reflecting on the images of "Lascaux" in his own handprint.

Perhaps it was the 4 courses in Shakespeare, or the two on English Renaissance poetry, but my eyes, etc. tend to glaze over when I hear self-conciously poetic, stilted language, like "sylvan hills" & "memory confounds;" Gary Yaeger's work is a study in contrast in the use of rhyme with the work of some of the other poets tonight who used rhyme in their poems, but in more modern language. It's certainly not for lack of working at it.

And the final poet of the night was a new voice, Nancy Muldoon with a blast at "American Culture" & the art of collecting, whether "Pink Slips & Speeding Tickets" or drunken boyfriends, illustrating the marvel of an open mic where poetic styles span the centuries.

First Wednesdays, at historic Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs.

November 7, 2007

Albany Poets Presents!, November 6

As advertised, this was the challenge laid down by Mary Panza to perform the best dramatic reading of the worst song lyrics and you win a featured reading at the Poets Speak Loud open mic at the Lark Tavern in the future, even if you have already featured. So the hardcore showed up, with the best of tunes & worst of tunes.

Our host, el Presidente, Thom Francis started us off with with Neil Diamond's "I Am I Said." Thom had devised an interesting method for scheduling readers: no sign-up sheet, instead we each got a numbered raffle ticket for each song we wanted to do (but only Keith & Thom went twice -- the rest of us confident in only one worst song).

John Raymond did "The Impression I Get" by the Mighty Mighty Bostones; like many of the night, something I'd never heard or at least didn't recognize in the context of Valentine's naked stage. He was followed by Keith Spenser's first entry, the long narrative "Paul Revere" by the Beasty Boys.

Dain Brammage was the first of the "food" sub-genre with the classic rock "Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love in My Tummy" with the great visual of his obviously love-filled gut. I (Dan Wilcox) was up next, hoping for victory with the obviously bad lyrics of Harry Nilsson's "You're Breaking My Heart" ("... so fuck you"). Oh well, it was 1972.

Actually, by most accounts the official worst song lyrics of all time, performed tonight by Don Levy, is Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park" -- what's with that cake anyway? And Thom Francis almost couldn't finish Paul Anka's "Having My Baby." Someone actually pays for this stuff.

I've always had an affection for Blondie since the time I saw them perform at CBGB, even like Debbie Harry's disco stuff, so Keith Spenser's rendition of "Rapture" reminded me that the rap-like Man-from-Mars section was preceded by a lyrical section whose words I never knew or understood -- which I guess means there are more bad song lyrics out there than we know.

Chris Brabham was a winner with "Fishheads" -- which is really, really bad. Actually, Mary picked 2 winners: Chris & Dain, which proves the power of "food", such as it is. The winners will be the featured poets in April at the Lark Tavern. Congrats to them both. Look for this as an annual offering from AlbanyPoets.

Check out the AlbanyPoets website soon for info on the annual "Airing of Grievances & Feats of Strength" next month at Valentines, first Tuesday.

November 5, 2007

Print poems v. Perf' po

Buried in the tsunami of comments on my Blog of October 26 were some musings by Therese Broderick about performing poetry at an open mic. Therese is a thoughtful poet who likes to ponder the many & various issues of modern poetry both in & out of our community. Her comments reflect some of the issues that I have confronted over the years in practice & thought (this is not meant as a point-by-point response to Therese's comments, I'm just bouncing off them randomly).

Some poems are best left on the page while others can be successfully performed, & I think there are even a few that only work on stage, their flaws too blatant, too documented on the printed that they should only be performed. This became apparent to me in the early years of the QE2 open mic when I tried out some of my poems on the audience. The poems with the "literary" tricks that require close, multiple readings, or that use literary devices like footnotes usually don't work with a listening audience where the poem is over & gone in one recitation. An early poem I wrote without thinking of the listening audience, "Richard Nixon Must Die," actually worked quite well on stage because of its use of parallelism & repetition, not to mention its shock images (e.g., Tricia Nixon's collection of stolen panties). I soon began half-consciously incorporating such techniques when writing poems so that they would work well on stage. After all I wasn't having much success getting poems published, but could always read them at an open mic & at least a dozen people could experience them.

Approaching this from the other direction, I use open mics as a way to try out, field test if you will, my poems. I test out the poem & my manner of performing/reading them so that if & when a reading opportunity arises I will be able to put together a program of tested work to give the audience its money's worth. Based on my experience at open mics I've re-written poems, changed the way I read them, or incorporated "performance" such as props, music, multiple voices, etc., or even not used the poem at all in a performance. And believe it or not, I have many poems that I never read out. Although, as I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps there are reading settings where the quieter, or more intricate -- I'm struggling to find the correct adjectives that aren't demeaning to the reading scene -- poems that I don't (usually) read at open mics. Perhaps you've been to that reading.

A final point is that of memorized poems v. reading them from a page. When performing with 3 Guys from Albany I would do my poem "The bass player's thoughts..." from memory, but clutching the text in my hand both as prop & as "Dumbo's feather." As a writer, I like seeing a text used -- we work hard at preparing that text & it should be honored. Committing a poem to memory, or free-styling as many hip-hop poets do, can be liberating. But as with jazz improvisation, free-styling is usually not really "free" but a collection of practiced riffs strung together in the heat of the moment, sometimes exhilarating, often mundane. And -- you can find this somewhere in my past Blog entries -- sometimes a memorized performance can be more acting than poetry, more show than substance, a wonderful aesthetic experience, but not what I paid for, more show-off than sharing.

Anyways, thanks to Therese for prompting this.

November 1, 2007

Poets Speak Loud!, October 29

At the Lark Tavern with host & attendance-taker, Mary Panza (who didn't even read).

So I, Dan Wilcox, ended up being #1 on The List again & read a couple new poems inspired by conversations with other poets, "Consumerism," & "Poetry Prompts." I was followed by Scott Casale, who hasn't been around for a while. Both his poems seemed based on random phrases & images, "Stop Writing a Piccolo's Refund," & "Amarillo Bleu," where the second stanza is a re-arrangement of the first stanza.

Dain Brammage was brought on stage to demonstrate the challenge that has been tossed before us for next Tuesday's "Albany Poets Presents" at Valentines', to give a dramatic reading of the worst song yet; don't ask me what Dain's song was, but it contained the line "the world needs wannabes." I've got my song picked out & have been practicing my anguished tone. For information check out

Josh McIntyre told us the results of being allergic to bees in "Last Day in the Garden" (& I thought it was a cynical reference to the end of his bachelorhood), and another poem. Lacy O. doesn't often read so it was a nice surprise to her tonight: 2 untitled pieces, one written by a friend in Wisconsin, the other her own, commenting that "... we're not as evolved as we think ..."

The tall-man with an attitude, Bob Wright showed up, pissed us off with his strutting "tall-man poem", then made us laugh about New Jersey; he has a great occasional reading series in Hudson & has been around for years.

The featured poet, Phillip Levine, was forsaking his own open mic (at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock, every Monday) to come to Albany. I like his romantic wistfulness, tinged with cynical humor. He introduced his first poem ("... a woman on the subway moving towards you ...") by saying, "Perhaps this has happened to you," & of course it always has. He read poems playing on the common sayings, the cliches, we all speak in, & one to his acupuncturist, poems on memory, on what Poets do ("Poet" as stand-in for everyone), & included his moving anti-war poem, "Rivers & Gardens", which he said was an attempt to speak about war without yelling at the opposition). Other poems, &, of course, his ongoing -- up to over 1000 now -- series of poems on playing cards: short, aphoristic & koan-like. It was great he could get "time off" to share his work with Albany folk who don't make it to Woodstock. Worth the trip from anywhere any Monday night.

Perfect for the season, James Schlett read "Ten Thousand Leaves," culled from a letter, he said. When not commenting on my Blog Tim Verhaegen has seemed to found time to continue revising "War" & also read one of my new favorites, "Finally" (see my comments on this poem on earlier Blogs).

Sometimes procrastination is good -- if I had written this Blog when I got home from the Lark Tavern Monday night it wouldn't have given Therese Broderick a chance to revise her poem, "Ortega's Obelisk", (which she had just written that day) & put it up on her Blog (see the link below "Ekphrasis in Poetry"). But then the one you read is not the one she read.

Someone said, "You're So Stubborn," but perhaps not to Frank Robinson who said that that poem was not autobiographical -- who said all writing is autobiographical (free second poem at the Third Thursday for the first person to give me the citation)?; & another of my favorites, "The New New Colossus," based on the Emma Lazarus poem everyone knows.

Chris Brabham said "fuck you" to his stressors & took his bike to the horizon with "Devil's Day Out," & began "Fear's Last Stand" with a scream, vanquishing fears -- perfect for Halloween. I thought I had something to fear from NicoleK when she began "Carnage Devised" but it was only a pumpkin she was carving up; another poem mused about the "delicious" silence before the knock. We are waiting...

Last Monday of the month at Tess' Lark Tavern, Madison Ave., Albany. Yes.

October 30, 2007

What If They Gave A Blog & No One Shut Up?

I make it a practice not to weigh in with my own responses to other's comments on my Blog: I said what I said, now it's your turn. But I feel with the recent volume (& vivacity & virulence) of comments here I should respond in some way, other than just saying, "Thanks for reading." I'm cherry-picking among the posted comments or more specifically, among my memory of my reading of the comments on the issues that resonated for me, presented below as separate paragraphs in a somewhat random order.

As usually happens with Chat-rooms, Blogs, even Comments on MySpace, etc., the discussions can easily get side-tracked on issues that were not in the original text -- this is a descriptive statement, not a value judgment; I think the Comment sections function as Blogs for people who don't want to put in time on a Blog of their own (pace, Virginia Woolf). My actual comments in my posted Blog were directed to a specific audience, i.e., the members of the HVWG, & to "literary-types" who never show up. I was not speaking about the poetry community at large, who were proportionately well-represented at this event. In fact, I'm quite satisfied overall with the way people attend local literary events. Some events are better attended than others, some months of the year they are better attended than others, but overall we have a vibrant, interactive community, with lots of people coming in & out, & always new people showing up. As with the October 20 event, those who show up are the ones who benefit, whether there are 10 or 50.

As to readings v. open mics, I've said this to some people but have never put it in writing: quite frankly the open mic component of my Third Thursday Poetry Night is a scam to get people to hear the featured poet: they come to the open mic to read their own work but have to listen to the featured reader. Unlike some areas of the country, people here do stay to hear the featured poet, not just to hear their own voice.

& while I'm on that topic, the poets that I feature at my open mic are those that I like: perhaps they have shown up regularly (one of my goals when I started this series back in 1997 was to give first features to poets -- I was 40 years old before I was featured anywhere), or I had heard their work someplace else & I think the local community should hear him/her, or they are someone who is working hard to promote poetry/build a community either here or elsewhere. I don't have to think the poet's work is the next new school/wave/movement, or even like their work, just that what this person is doing for/with her/his art is positive, human, keeping us going.

As far as celebrity poets go, there is a huge difference in the dynamics of attendance at their events from our community events. America is a celebrity-driven culture. You can be famous for having done nothing at all (where did David Letterman come from, or Paris Hilton, or Anna Nicole Smith, & what did they do to become famous other than showing up?). Many people go to the Writers Institute readings (a wonderful asset for this community) on name-recognition only. For me, if Billy Collins was reading here & at the same time there was an open mic I liked or a local poet featured somewhere that I wanted to support, I would go to the local event; I can get Billy Collins in the library, but with the local poet, like Eric Dolphy said about jazz, "... after it's over, it's gone in the air, you can never capture it again." I'm not saying that the celebrity poet shouldn't be heard, just that sometimes the choices are difficult. I grew up in this area when there were no choices & I'm grateful that now we live in a time of choices & conflicts.

As a parent, former spouse, worker, active community member I am as aware as anyone of the "pressures of life." In fact, "life" is all there is: if Art is anything it is about the lives we live. We need to do these things: I've missed many events because I was at a Little League game, taking kids to ballet lessons, had to go to Binghamton for work, at a birthday or anniversary party, on a family trip, at a meeting, or just wanted to be with the one I loved (ah, yes). I would have been at the recent Behind the Egg reading but I was in NYC that day in the rain trying to stop the War. And as someone has already pointed out, sometimes the other "pressures" are those of organizing events. There are always the few who are concentrating on their own navels, but most of the folks here who organize events are recognized enough in the community to even show up in these Blog comments.

Finally, just an observation that such a discussion as we have experienced here would not take place in a vacuum -- there's something going on in this community. Thank you to everyone.

October 26, 2007

What If They Gave A Reading & No One Showed Up? October 20

Even though "Community of Writers" was sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild there were but 10 of us in the large (then seeming larger) auditorium of the Albany Public Library to hear Russell Dunn, Lyn Miller-Lachmann & Pierre Joris read from their work. What those not there missed was Lyn reading from her novel Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press) & discussing the role of fiction in creating empathy; poems Pierre has not read out before & poems he didn't recognize; & Russell discussing the self-destruction of waterfalls, ending the afternoon with a veritable Hymn to Imperfection.

You'd think with 200+ members in the Guild there would be more than 1% in attendance, but then it is rare to see many of them leaving their workshops for real readings (sort of like my poem "Where Were the Professors" with the professors here). And then I hear there were even less in Athens to see Mary Panza & Ken Holland this same day. The late October weather was too nice, I guess.


October 25, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, October 18

[This photo by Edie Abrams shows Dennis Sullivan reading with accompaniement by Alan Casline on bodhran & Tom Corrado on tuba.]

October in the Railroad Earth, the month of the anniversary of the Indians discovering Columbus on their shore & the month of Tom Nattell's birthday so he was the "Muse" & I did a couple of his Columbus Fantasies.

So then the strangest thing happened -- Dennis Sullivan, our night's feature had left a couple of free broadsides up on the counter by the sign-up sheet & our first poet up, Daniel Scott, who was unfamiliar to what we were doing, picked up one of Dennis' broadsides & read it. What a cool introduction to the night's feature -- how perfect. (Perhaps Daniel will return with one of his own poems soon.)

I like to say, "If your friends & relatives don't come to your readings, who will?" & Dennis proved my point by packing the house with cohorts from Voorheesville's Every Other Thursday Night Poets. First up from that group was Alan Casline, whom I've mentioned here before as publisher of Benevolent Bird Press & the Rootdrinker Institiute, both at P.O. Box 522, Delmar, NY 12054 (somebody remind me to write a Blog about these marvelous publications). Alan also published the 2 free broadsides & Dennis' chapbook Harvesting Silence. Anyways, Alan did "Treading Softly" from memory.

You'd never know Mike Burke was out there writing his working class poems if you didn't go to Voorheesville, but here he was in Albany reading a poem of lost love perfect for the season, "Fall Romance." Barbara Vink had been a feature on the Third Thursday way back at Changing Spaces Gallery; her poem, "The Tavern Keeper, in Memory of Frank Smith" is in her chapbook Heat Wave, also from Benevolent Bird Press (catching the subtext here?).

Edie Abrams (who took everybody's photo) broke open the political box with a moving rant & tribute to "Howl" that asked where are our leaders in "Wimp Nation." Obeedude is really Tim [whoops, I mean] Mark O'Brien & he did a Halloween poem, "Knick Knock".

Our feature, Dennis Sullivan, is a modern-day Bodhisattva in a Walt Whitman hat & beard. He's not often out at open mics so it was an even greater pleasure to hear him do a full reading. He was accompanied by Alan Casline on Bodhran & Tom Corrado on tuba & didjeridu -- both deep resonance of the spirits through life, a frequently perfect fit for Dennis' philosophical musings. A couple poems used classical references to ponder life, as in "The Test," using Ovid, & "After Seeing Breughal's The Fall of Icarus." Some ("Poor Passing Facts") just mused. The short parts of "Ten Stops at an Early Morning Oasis" were humorous musings with funny tuba & contained great advice ("listen/question"). "Into the Great Silence" was a response to the meditative film by the same name. The marvelous litany of "Psalm 4" of was a series of blessings for the goodness of life, an anti-Moloch poem. He ended with a tender elegy to a neighbor, Etta Hatch, over rhubarb & other neighbors' pettiness.

I, your bossy host, Dan Wilcox, read a new piece inspired by a conversation with 3 lady poets at Caffe Lena, "Poetry Prompts." 2 weren't here tonight. Then Tom Corrado put down his tuba ("...if you want to play the saxophone...") & did Frank O'Hara inspired short lines on fonts, typography, now I do this now I do that.

Bob Sharkey's new poem was "Perspective." And Sylvia Barnard did 2 stanzas on a real & imagined trip to Vermont. Therese Broderick's new poem was "Upon Hearing the News that A Poet I Love is Dying" & that is Christian Wiman (but then aren't we all, some just faster than others).

Tim Verhaegen read the poem I liked so much last night, "Finally." Has anyone else noticed he is like the counter-Blog with his comments?

Amanda Haney had shown up in August, fresh from Seattle, now was back with a poem (freshly written?) that began "I opened my eyes..." & continued on with her mother's voice & socks & all kinds of things. And Paul Amidon ended the night by taking us "Elsewhere."

Always the third Thursday, always someone new.

October 22, 2007

Zounds!, October 17

The monthly open mic at the NightSky Cafe on Union St. in Schenectady, with our host Shaun Baxter. I note that Shaun seems to have responded to fact that he is not the shortest open mic host by producing the smallest open mic flyer, just over 3x4 inches. He started us off with Raymond Carver's "Where Water Comes Together with Other Water", then challenged us to parody William Carlos Williams' "This is just to say...", you know, the plums-in-the-fridg poem.

But I (Dan Wilcox) had no time to respond so only read what I had planned: Tom Nattell's Columbus Fantasy #32 (in the Tom manner with whistle & foot stomp) & last year's Halloween assignment, "Zombie Gourd."

John Paul, with a literal feather in his (baseball) cap, did a poem in memory of his grandmother, "Memories," then "Just for Today" (like a self-help list in the newspaper) (or, were these by his grandmother?).

Alan Catlin passed on to us advice from his past life as a bartender, "Beware the Solitary Drinker," & a poem never read before based on a reading by Richard Russo. Alan responded to Shaun's assignment with a combination WCW, EA Poe & Gertrude Stein ("...the plums, the plums...").

Marty read to us half of a Halloween poem, "Going into the Booby-Trapped Make-Up House from Hell" (we'll probably hear the other half at the 2nd Tuesday open mic at Moon & River Cafe, on N. Ferry St., also Schenectady).

The night's feature was Tim Verhaegen who gave a nicely constructed reading of new, old & re-worked poems on themes of growing up gay, & the dynamics of dys- or barely-functional families in mid-20th Century America, like "Dad's Car" (stopping at the bar) & "Third Grader's Rhyme." Even a straight guy like me can feel the pain of being bullied (I was too), or the ache of (gay) love in Tim's Brokeback Mtn. poem, "Hold me." Tim's re-worked "War" was more focused, concise -- better? "each has his tastes" as e.e. cummings said. And he ended with a poem I don't think I had heard, "Finally," time passing for a gay man (or any person), "beauty" to "ugly" & enjoying being alone. Art shows us what is human, beyond skin color, gender, sexual orientation, language, cultural background, education, class, medical diagnosis ... (you add to the list) -- we're all more alike than we are different. Thanks, Tim.

I'd heard Michael C. Rush read earlier this month at Caffe Lena (q.v.). He said to check out his website, -- I did, Huh? Anyways, his poems tonight, he said, were "not typical": "On the Occasion of Your 30th Birthday" (seems that she left him for a rich man), & the saga continued with "On the Occasion of Your 40th Birthday" (even thought she was really gone).

Matt Galleta is much closer to the experience than I am & so could write "Participation Is 20% of Your Grade." He stepped up to the WCW plate & hit a double.

W.B. Clarke had also been at Caffe Lena & writes in the narrative rhymes of Robert Service. He read two poems about experiences in Viet Nam, "Dust Off Crews" & "To the Shit-Burners" (which even the younger audience liked).

Schenectadian Jason Dalaba read a "hippy Fall poem" written 10 years ago, "Persephone", also read "Push" from his chapbook Yesterday's Machine, & did the WCW thing with cigarettes!

Tom has shown up before a couple times, does hip-hop rhymes in baseball cap & hoody, his piece tonight on technology setting us up was unfortunately said too fast, the rhymes taking off on their own.

Albany Poet's living Spoonerism, Dain Brammage did his WCW parody as scared of ghosts (Boo!), then did a few others -- "When Hippies Divorce" is one of those poems that may be good or bad, but the title is great.

Long-absent J.J. Johnson (too blond to be the great bop trombonist) read from his book, Seeds and Weeds.

Hip-hop/slam artists like to give themselves a stage name & one never knows (do one?) if it's ironic or poorly chosen; thus it was with Apathy. But both of his pieces suffered from being driven by the rhyme to the point of being unconstructed, like the worst of Bob Dylan, although the rhymes of "Trapped in the Lion's Den" were not the standard rap-issue which made it his own. Unfortunately, his second poem "Fuck" was based on still another false etymology of the great Anglo-Saxon verb as an acronym -- when will they ever learn to check their sources.

Chris Brabham's dark images were a journey through grief & depression, & we are there with him, even if we can only listen.

A.J. Gundy ("Mr. Cool") must be last, doesn't want his picture taken, & walks around the room instead of using the mic, I mean his stuff is so powerful, who needs electricity. He likes aphorisms & seedy, misogynist characters, & snaps his fingers at the end of each poem (otherwise we wouldn't know it's over, would we?). One of his poems was "U" in Morse Code: ". . - " (or, as we used to say in radio school, "Dit Dit DAH").

Always the 3rd Wednesday, sometimes the day before the third Thursday, sometimes the week after -- go figure.

October 18, 2007

Caffe Lena, October 3 (continued): Josh & Beatriz

Tickets To Vegas

We have our tickets to Vegas.
Families are planning from NY to Mexico.
So, I thought I better ask just to see:
Te Casas conmigo?
In other words -- "Will you marry me?"

October 17, 2007

Miss Mona Reports:
Allen Fisher Reading at UAG Gallery, October 12

[I asked my old friend, Miss Mona, to cover this event for me while I was in Philadelphia. Miss Mona used to comment on the gossip scene in Albany years back & has just been growing old since.]

Friday night [Oct. 12], Albany Poets and Jawbone combined together under the auspices of Pierre Joris to bring British poet and artist Allen Fisher to read at the UAG Gallery on Lark St.  Among some of the poetry luminaries who came out include Mary Panza, Thom Francis, his lovely new wife Lacy, and Dain Brammage of Albany Poets, the coolest Grandmother, A.C. Everson, Keith Spencer, and poetry newcomer Matt Galetta and his girlfriend Tori. I also noticed Donald Byrd in the audience.  Fisher first read from his new book Place which talks about the goegraphy of Lampham County in England.  I hate to say it but I fell alseep through parts of the reading, but that is due to being an old fart of 47.  Later a number of us hiked over to Justins, the setting of several poems by Pierre.  It was another wonderful night of poetry in Albany. 

October 16, 2007

A Visit from Charlie Rossiter, October 7

[Charlie's photo of Dan Wilcox and some of the poets (Evelyn & the 2 Danae) at Joe Weil's.]

Charlie had a reading at Foothills Publishing in Kanona, NY to promote his new book & fanangled a reading in Binghamton (actually, Vestal -- didn't see any virgins) to pad out his trip from Chicago. I drove down with a promise of a good time & a soft place to sleep inside out of the elements. The reading was put together by Joe Weil, a poetry instructor at SUNY Binghamton & was held at Joe's place a few miles down the road from the university, on the banks of the river.

Charlie read in the backyard as the sun set, starting off with a few poems not in the book -- a letter addressed "Dear Aspiring Writer" (from the Fuck Around Writing Program), "Drinking While Driving" (memories of his Dad as he drives around with Jack, his son), & one about doing poetry in East Side High School in Paterson where William Carlos Williams & Allen Ginsberg had both been students. Then from The Night We Danced with the Raelettes, another attractively produced chapbook from FootHills Publishing. I've performed with Charlie throughout the country with the 3 Guys from Albany & have heard him perform a number of these poems, often in earlier, different versions in his solo spot in the program. The book contains the long subtitle, "Occurrences in and around College Park Maryland in the 1960s for the most part to the best of my recollection," which is an accurate description of the book, & the most honest description of memory poems I've heard (one only has to read Time Regained, the last volume of Proust's monumental A la recherche du temps perdu to know how universal is that phrase, " the best of my recollection."). For the record, tonight he read "Defiantly Undeclared," "The Summer I Brought in the Yeast" (working for Budweiser), "When Someone Asks Me Who Was First" (ahh, the First...), "The Night the Rubber Broke," "Ah, Nan..." (his grandma), and the title poem, "The Night we Danced with the Raelettes." In between, Joe would comment from the back row, sitting among the handful of his students that came to hang out with the poets, then begin a tangential ramble that Charlie would have to interrupt with another poem. But the light held out for Charlie.

Later, after the sun went down, we had had more chips & kielbasa & other snacks, beer, finished the bourbon, some folks had gone on a beer run, & we had started a small campfire, then a round the fire open mic, at first doing poems from memory until someone got a flashlight. Also by then our friend Tom Nicotera had arrived from Connecticut, bearing some beers, some whiskey & some spiced rum (that crossed my eyes). Since it was too dark to take notes at the time, my notes from the night were reconstructed the next day, & are presented in no particular order. Some of the poems are from a collection, The Arc of a Cry put out by Joe & students; that helped with the names of some of the poets & their titles.

Joe Weil, a cue-ball of an Irishman, did "All the Fucked Up Things I Did Just to Stay Alive" & later sang some Irish songs accompanied by Tom on the Bodhran -- but all the songs sounded like "She Moved Through the Fair." Joe joked about the "Danae", 2 of the students named Dana. Dana Haitkin did "Gettysburg" & "This" while Dana Jaye Cadman did "For a Secret". After some students came back from a beer run with fried chicken Jennifer Diskin read "Exultation Over Fried Chicken." I don't remember Tom Nicotera's poems, but he has many fine poems that he often accompanies himself on the Bodhran. Another poet was Evelyn, who I had a long, poetic talk with, but don't remember the title of her poems, at least one of which was a tough-tender love poem, the best kind. Somewhere along the line I did a couple of political poems, an underdeveloped theme that night. I'm sure I've left some out, but without lights I didn't/couldn't take notes. Believe me, it was a good poetry night.

When the fire died we all went home.

October 11, 2007

Behind the Egg at Point 5, October 6

[Carol Graser reading at Lark Fest this year.]

Not quite literally behind the Egg, this series began it's new season with 3 powerful poets from the area, Randall Horton, Cara Benson & Carol Graser. The hosts are Erik Sweet & Daniel Nester (getting a lot of space here on the Blog in the last couple days).

I arrived a little late (coming from the Banned Books reading, q.v.), just as Randall Horton was coming up to read. He did a 3-part reading that really over-lapped itself. The first part of his prison poems & poems touched by his prison experience; then from a cycle of poems about "the African myth," the poems playing on images of sound, including do-wop, a harmonica man, even the sound of dice in a game of craps; the third section from his book, The Definition of Place, persona poems about his family, often in southern black dialect. Check out his website,

When I came in I ended up sitting next to Cara Benson & it seems she brought her own cheering section from a recent poetry workshop -- hey, if your friends & relatives don't come to your readings, who will? I wasn't quite sure what she was doing in most of her poems, but her performance & stage presence was engaging, if somewhat giggly at times. She does the performance thing well, without over-acting. One long piece, read from a home-made booklet, was like riffing, or improvising over chord or key changes as she brought in references to the thunder & rain actually occurring outside, with lists of words, each section strung together with the slowed-down phrase, "then the breath..." Her last piece, "6 Billion & 3" was on dating, in the voice of a nasally persona.

Carol Graser is the host of the open mic at Caffe Lena (I haven't figured out them HTML accents yet), & was featured recently at Lark Fest, out promoting her wonderful book, The Wild Twist of their Stems. She read a few from the book, like "3 a.m." & "Sestina for Peace," & excerpts from "Dear One." And a wonderful potpourri of others: "Behind the Egg" about an earlier reading here, a poem from Carolyn Forche's workshop, some political pieces, a new "Journal Entry Poem" on writer's block, her N+7 on the Lord's Prayer, others. Carol's hosting the Caffe Lena readings & her more frequent appearances have paid off, making her much more self-confident, joking, at ease with the audience. My impression is that in the past she was intimidated by other poets in the room, but she now knows she's at least as good as, if not better, than the rest, even the some more "famous" poets she reads among.

This is an eclectic series with an erratic schedule so check out or the host venue's website for more information.

Banned Books Read-Out, October 6

An annual event at the Albany Public Library, co-sponsored with New York Civil Liberties Union, Capital Region Chapter. John Cirrin, the Public Information Officer for the Library introduced Joanna Palladino who put the event together & was the M.C., with some opening remarks by Melanie Trimble, the NYCLU-CRC Executive Director. As usual, readers from the community picked their favorite of books that have been banned/challenged over the years. Many of these were books for children & young adults.

The readers & their books this year were Mary Ellen O'Connor read from Scary Stories, Jack Fallon from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Laura Murray from Forever (Judy Blume gets banned a lot), A.C. Everson from To Kill a Mockingbird, Ryan Faas from Fallen Angels (about Viet Nam, from young adults), Janet Womachka read the entire And Tango Makes Three (& solved one of my Xmas gift problems), Dan Wilcox (that's a me) from Poems from Guantanomo, Jeremy Ward from Lolita, Bob Resnick from The Higher Power of Lucky, and Kris Anderson from Howl (yeah!).

And Mother Judge brought it all back home with some songs.

Another reason why we need our libraries.

October 9, 2007

Frequency North, October 4

This is the third year of this reading series at St. Rose, run by new poppa Daniel Nester. This year the readings have been moved from St. Joseph's Hall auditorium, with the big stage & curtains, to the Library. Same number of people showed up, just looked more crowded. I mean if the same 40 people showed up at the Knickerbocker Arena -- I mean Pepsi Arena -- whoops, no, Times-Union Center -- folks would say, "there was nobody there." Like skinny girls in tight pants.

The poet tonight was David Lehman, editor of the series The Best American Poetry & the recent edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, as well as author of several collections of poetry, including When a Woman Loves a Man. He read a poem from that book & it sounded like one of those articles in Cosmopolitan magazine explaining why after sex guys put their jeans on & go out for a smoke, & the women want to cuddle & discuss wedding plans. He also read a couple poems from his "poem a day" project, a couple set in Albany, but filled with everyday cliches. To call the Empire State Plaza "Rockefeller's last erection" in cocktail conversation elicits knowing chuckles, in a poem it's banal. I have a personal affection for Mayakovski's "Brooklyn Bridge," & Lehman did a version based on translations he read because he felt none of them were adequate. He also did some new poems not in any of his books, including some where he writes "in the manner of..." with a couple of my own favorites, Cafavy & Neruda.

In general, his work is clever, discursive, contains complete, grammatical sentences, often lists & pronouncements, but many poems sound contrived, like exercises. Perfect for American Poetry Review.

Also something I've noticed here & at the Writers Institute readings, or wherever academics gather, students & profs don't like to clap, not like at community readings "downtown" where we clap after each poem. Sometimes, at such readings, I clap just to get others to do it & it usually throws the reader off. I think David Lehman liked the adulation of the undergraduates & would've liked the applause, so I didn't clap until the end.

Oh, & you poets who tell us not to clap until you're through, fuck you, I'll clap if I want (or not at the end).

October 6, 2007

Caffe Lena, October 3

[Carol informed us that Tim Daynard, a poet from the Gloversville area who had a read a number of times at Caffe Lena, had died & she dedicated the night to his memory. This is a picture of Tim reading at Caffe Lena on September 6, 2006.]

Carol Graser, our bestest host read Gary Snyder's "Ax Handles," that reverberated through the night like an ax at a bad angle on an recalcitrant oak.

I've realized that "October is the Columbus-day month breeding racism & death in the continent..." so I have started including Tom Nattell's "Columbus Fantasies" in my readings. These were poems written in 1992 to commemorate the Indians discovering an Italian mercenary for Spain landing on their shore. After doing a new poem of my own, "Starting the Wine," I did #23.

Next month's feature, Tim Verhaegan did a long, rambling, disjointed piece "War" & I'm still wondering who the "you" in the poem is supposed to be.

Sue Jefts is a one of these low North Country poets, who puts herself in her poems prompted by Mother Nature, quiet, meditative. She did 2 new pieces, "Faith, or the Place Between Worlds" (sound like a much longer poem), and a beach poem, "August Aubade."

The bouncer, James Schlett began with a quote from the 20th Century American poet Robert Henri (variously pronounced, if you can believe that), then another Grafton poem ("what else?" James said, it's his favorite place) "Tao" on the beauty of chance, then a New Jersey setting to "The Trestle, Oakland."

A new poet up to the plate (it's October you know), Andy I., in plaid, did thunder & rain & words with "Thor," then a funny, fun rambling slant hip-hop/slant rhyme "I've Never Been Good at Rhyming ..." where, if my somewhat battled ears served me right, she rhymed "trachea" with "maker."

I have a particular affection for Mary Kathryn Jablonski uncurling from her self-spun web here at Caffe Lena with her popular "Letters to the Husband I Have Not Yet Met," this time #7. Then "Becoming Other," where I imagined myself to be "the piscatore of the barbless hook," yes, yes.

The featured poet was Michael Czarnecki, the publisher of Foothills Publishing (who recently put out Carol's fabulous chapbook, The Wild Twist of Their Stems -- has anyone ever told you how good this book is?) & published other locally-known luminary poets like Robert Milby & Charlie Rossiter. Anyways, he gave a relaxed reading steeped in Beat beer & the tea & saki of classical Chinese & Japanese poets. He began by evoking the muse of Lew Welch with the dedicatory poem ("What strange pleasure do they get who'd...") from Book I of Ring of Bone. His poems were interspersed with stories, like the one about the ginseng hunter. He also read from his haibun collection Twenty Days on Route 20, which I had to buy, since I've been at both ends of Route 20 & spend some parts of most days on it (the book includes a stop in Albany during the Lark Fest). In East Springfield he invokes the ghost of Vachel Lindsay, in Cleveland, that of d.a. levy. Other poems talked of the stars & midlife, his son playing the Moody Blues, and fire, wine, stars, owls, Chinese & Japanese poems "As Autumn Approaches on Wheeler Hill." Check out his work as poet & as publisher at

After the break, Carol read "Children's Concert in Congress Park," from her book.

A new face/voice, W.D. Clarke (not sure about the terminal "e") read a couple of thoughtful rhymes, the ghosts of Army buddies "The Night Time Army," & an homage to "The American Farmer."

Mike Ballinger was back from his vineyards in France & did a sonnet in the mode & mood of John Donne, complete with "-iths;" then a relationship poem that I think you can guess the way it is going from the title, "Burmese Tiger Trap."

The itinerant Marty Willow was passing back through with a couple of poems from different points in his life: "Aspirations," & fantasy characters from his youth, "Standing in Front of a Full Length Mirror at His Boyhood Home."

Don Levy brought us Senator Craig "Tap Dancing in the Bathroom Stall." So then Michael Rush had the misfortune of following Don -- Carol ran some interference creating space -- & then Michael re-did the fable of the blind man & the elephant, where the elephant was blind too, "Misdirection;" then "Timeline."

Josh McIntyre was really, really glad he didn't have to follow Don, since what he had planned was much more romantic. Setting the stage with the short "Ode to Dora" dedicated to the lovely Beatriz & playing with Spanglish. Then he invited Beatriz to the stage as I moved to take a picture of them together & he brought up a chair for his beloved. This is what he read,

Tickets To Vegas
We have our tickets to Vegas.
Families are planning from NY to Mexico.
So, I thought I better ask just to see:
Te Casas conmigo?
In other words -- "Will you marry me?"

Out came the ring -- this was a real, live marriage proposal with Josh on his knee offering the ring. Beatriz burst into light, glowing, shining, & of course, said yes (or "Si"). And the room went wild with applause, cheers, even tears & laughter. We all wish them long years of love, health, happiness -- & babies too.

That's even harder to follow than Don Levy, & it was Shaun Baxter who was dealt this blow. Now I seem to recall hearing "When the Penguin Came to Town" read recently but can find no record in my notes -- but it's the kind of poem I would remember without notes: a comic-book/movie character & the imagined, hoped for, dream-bent changes to the world his visit brought. Also, "The Wait," a traditional drinking poem, he said.

Therese Broderick (someday I'll figure out how to do accents in HTML) described the birth of her daughter as another of the things she was told she couldn't do in "Life Guard Gives Birth," then one from her Writing from Art workshop on the paintings of Stephen Hannock, "Ox Bow."

The last poet for the night, Yvette Brown returned to the life guard theme, back to her summer at 16 in Long Branch NJ, "Italian," then a poem to her sister, "For Harriet," dedicated to poets, how fitting.

What a night! We have a whole month to recover, perhaps. The first Wednesday of every month, at Caffe Lena (again, no accents) on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7PM sign up, 7:30 start.