February 22, 2007

Zounds! The Night Sky Cafe Spoken Word Open Mic, February 21

This open mic is on the third Wednesday, which this month came the week following the third Thursday, fancy that. And it continues to be one of the open mics to be at, particularly if you (like Billy Pilgrim) are in Schenectady.

The open mic poets this night were like features, only didn't read as long, their work hitting home in different ways. In fact, Shaun Baxter at one point got lost in the readings & forgot he was the host, waited for someone to make the next announcement.

Bob Sharkey was the first feature. He did a wildflower bouquet of a variety of his poems, including one by William Carpenter. He is the kind of poet you will see scribbling in a pocket notebook on the train or at a lunch counter in NYC or Maine.

So different from the other feature, D. Alexander Holiday. Doug (Alex to some) always pushes our faces into it, where we often need to be. After all it is not only Black History Month, but the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. In spite of his string of familiar poems from his book, he read some new, angry poems about his job situation. While Doug's focus is often on race issues, these poems stepped beyond into the boss-worker dynamic that we all, black or white, have had to deal with -- angry, over-the-top, & sometimes too much. But, hey, who are we to say? Sometimes he is our Jiminy Cricket.

I had been uncertain of what to read, but did my "white man's tribute" poem, Africa. Then later Dr. Boji Jordan delivered a short talk on Africa as the source & cradle of civilization -- Africa, the keystone, the great Mother of us all -- so it became our own Black History Month version of the third Wednesday open mic.

Other readers included Alan Catlin, about whose work what can I say? who is writing his critical survey?; Shaun (who also read some of the postcard poems people have sent -- show up sometime & find out what it's about!); Jason Dalaba (? spelling) with his gothic mix of cookie crumbs, sex & his idea of an English accent; Julie Lomoe's Sophomore Slump is an open mic poem poem for the anthology of poems about open mics; & Virginia Osborn debuted her new chapbook, "A Fleck of Yeast". Virginia had read at the Poets in the Park last year. Her marketing strategy is to charge $5 for the chapbook & refund it if you can convince her you've read it, but it's worth the $5 even after you've read it, so let her keep the money.

This is a great series in a wonderful venue, with a killer program next month: Don Levy & Mary Panza -- I can't wait to write the Blog on that!! Third Wednesday, March 21 (a week after the third Thursday: go figure).

February 18, 2007

"Behind the Egg", Saturday, Feb. 17

How do I write about my own reading? As I said (see last Blog) I'm not writing reviews (but then ole uncle Walt wrote his own reviews of "Leaves of Grass"), but can I also "appreciate" myself, as Walt once "celebrated" himself? Maybe I can "report" on myself, which I will do.

So, on Saturday, Mary Panza & I read at "Behind the Egg" the erstwhile series at Point 5 on Madison Ave. (between Lark & Dove) in Albany. The conjunction of "the Egg" with streets named after birds must be symbolic of something. The storefront room is small but with the audience in attendance it was perfect & we would have been lost in the Knickerbocker Arena. I have tremendous affection for Sylvia, Pierre, Nicole, Nancy, Tim, & a bevy of young honies who showed up to hear an old poet of the city read (re-cycled) love poems, & then proclaim, while reading Mary Panza's poem about the Virgin Mary at the Lancome counter at Macy's, that "I have Nana Panza's big fat ass."

Of course, Mary proved she did too & ripped new holes in poseurs' bodies & psyches, bared her love for her new daughter while poking holes in "motherhood" & finished with reading one of my poems.

With all the good-will energy of Dan Nester & Erik Sweet putting this series together why aren't more poets there? Where are the poets who have already read in this series? Where are the poets who have been invited to read in the upcoming weeks (I know Joe was in Florida)? "Where Were the Professors?" is not just about the Professors anymore.

For more information on Point 5 check out www.federationofideas.org.

Pierre Joris & Nicole Peyrafitte CD Release Concert, WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium, February 16

It's not often that all our senses are assailed at a concert, but the well-tuned performance machine of Pierre & Nicole has once again spun words, music, images, the aromas of a French kitchen & the pleasures of food into a fine tapestry (better yet, napkin, or tablecloth). Their CD release concert (two of them: "Routes not Roots" by Pierre Joris & "La Gabure Transcontinentale" by Nicole Peyrafitte) included performances by Munir Beken, oud, Michael Bisio, bass, Ben Chadabe, percussion & drums, and Mitch Elrod, guitar, as well as support by a variety of local musicians & technicians. And Nicole prepared her bi-continental chowder throughout the performance & served it at the end with wine & corn bread at the end.

For the record, this (as well as all my Blogs) is not meant as a review such as you might find in a newspaper or magazine; rather it is an appreciation, or commentary. I am not attempting to be "objective", being a very subjective poet. Nicole & Pierre are my friends & I have collaborated with them (see my Blog below on the Experimental Cabaret). So I will say I had a marvelous time Friday night among friends.

Pierre & Nicole presented selections from their CDs, with music & images of photos & Nicole's artwork projected on the screen with the help of intern Sarah Rogowski. The projection of the images of the interior of the kettle made the anticipation of the chowder that much more compelling & tantalizing. Nicole included only part of the narrative of the Bi-Continental Chowder in order to have time for other selections from her CD, but for those who want the whole story (& more chowder) she will present a full version at the Steamer 10 Theater in Albany on March 2, 3 & 4.

The audience did not quite fill the "Linda", with few poets from the open mic scene there (but Therese & Frank were right up front), and few "strangers". Most were friends & supporters from the arts, academic, and activist community, despite promotion by the NYS Writers Institute. On the one hand this shows the interconnections of the arts scene in the Albany area; on the other it may indicate the specialization of the audiences. WAMC provides a variety of programming at the "Linda", promoted on the air. So where are the folks who go to the classical performances at the folk music shows? Or either of them, so cultured & hip, at the spoken word performances? Perhaps that is not Albany's problem, but a perennial one for the arts. Although my favorite button says "Support Your Local Poet", I use that in the broadest, most ancient, sense of "maker" -- maker of art (or Art).

Check out www.tawilproductions.com to order the CDs. Oh yes, the chowder was magnifique!

February 14, 2007

Experimental Cabaret, Lark Tavern, Monday, Feb. 12

The Experimental Cabaret, with your host Nicole Peyrafitte, continues to be a fascinating event, even with fill-in/guest readers, such as myself. Held on the second Monday of each month at Tess' Lark Tavern on Madison Ave. in Albany, NY, performers must present work in more than one medium, but simply singing & playing the guitar is not enough.

On February 12 Nicole & I performed "America, America" by Iraqi poet Saadi Yousef, with graphics projected behind us (Nicole's techie intern Sarah Rogowski handling the computer & digital camera). The program was planned to highlight the up-coming 4th anniversary of the U.S. invasion & occupation of Iraq. We also performed three poems by another Iraqi poet, Dunya Mikhail, "An Urgent Call," "The War Works Hard," and "Bag of Bones," with, literally, a bag of bones.

During the break, as the next group set up, Nicole spun out genuine, 100% French crepes, garnished with sugar & lemon juice.

The second program were shadow dances by Sara Worden, with Tonya Abernathy, Jim Clark, Cullen Kasunic, Bonnie Lee & Ingrid Staats, with music by Ryder Cooley on saw & accordian and Chris Harvey on bells. The shadows of the dancers were projected from behind a scrim, the combined bodies at times like outlines of gods we see in Tibetan mandelas. One never knows what one will see at the Experimental Cabaret, do one?

(Note, on Sunday, March 18 there will be a peace march in Albany from the Museum steps at the Empire State Plaza to the Federal Building. Each participant is asked to carry the name of a U.S. serviceman or woman killed in Iraq. To register & be assigned a name, and for more information, visit the website, www.RememberingTheFallen.org.)

February 6, 2007

Albany Poets Present, at Valentines, 2/6/07

This is a late-start, hanging out, raucous event, with heckling, beer & cigarettes (outside, of course). And fun. And..., well just show up some time.

Tonight more poets than readers, but that happens. We had fun & you missed it. Oh well.

Shaun Baxter was proclaimed the shortest open mic host (NightSky Cafe in Schenectady on the 3rd Wednesday of each month), shared wino advice.

A new poet on the scene -- which makes this such a place to be, they just seem to find it, or are smelling the beer (in this case, white wine) -- Sahli Cavallaro, two intricate poems about women: look for her out & about, likes classical music & poems incorporating that rhythm.

I needed My Scarf tonight for the cold & read it, along with the QE2 photo poem on this Blog, & a work in progress about Hamilton St. (Mary Panza lived there & liked it.)

& Dain acted out, again -- we love it. Thom our host.

You should've been there.

United Artists Books Reading, February 1, NYC

Although Lewis Warsh said United Artists Books hadn't been around for 40 years & of course Angel Hair Books didn't last that long ("I guess it's my 40th Anniversary," he said), David Kirschenbaum's Boog City presented "A 40th Anniversary Celebration of United Artists Books" on February 1 at the ACA Gallery in NYC. It was a fine event anyway, well-attended with cheap books & even door prizes courtesy of Charlie Vermont (winners got to pick 4 books). The Gallery's exhibit of Ralph Fasanella's busy paintings (it's like Grandma Moses meets Where's Waldo?) was a perfect backdrop for the readers.

Lewis Warsh served as MC & read last. The readers were Barbara Henning, who also read a poem by Harris Schiff; Mitch Highfill; Bill Kushner, who read a section of Ruth Altman's "Things I Miss", which included Bill's hair, clearly gone; Bernadette Mayer included a new poem about Eliot Spitzer's inauguration; Dennis Moritz presented 4 very short theater pieces performed exquisitely by Matt & Anna; Tom Savage even sang; Anne Waldman read from "Blue Mosque", a new piece "Corset" & a poem by Reed Bye; & Lewis doing Charlie Vermont.

While the readers were judicious with time, the "band" Legends was interminable, which is bad after a long night, & had 17 endings, so it seemed. I won't mention the refreshments.

The event was part of David's ongoing series: "d.a. levy lives: celebrating the renegade press," check out boogcityevents.blogspot.com, just down the street (so to speak).