March 22, 2007

Third Thursday Open Mic at the Social Justice Center, March 15

It was the end of a tough day in a tough week, but it's all about how you feel when you come out the other side & as usual I felt great. Even got listed in the Times-Union Preview Section. For the last 6 months or more the T-U hasn't been listing this open mic (& no others) in either the Sunday arts listing or the Thursday Preview. I had called them to "verify" that they've received my emailed press releases & casually mentioned the lack of postings (they post events in Glens Falls, so "space", their usual excuse, shouldn't be an issue). In any event, I'm revising my future press releases to downplay the open mic & foreground the featured poet to see if that has any effect. Historically, the T-U doesn't like to print notices about open mics because then the music people want all their open mics listed. So, my idiot pea-brain reasons, why not create a special, once-a-week listing of all open mics? Too simple. We will continue whether the media knows we're here or not (sort of like the peace movement).

Anyway, the evening was fun. Eight open mic poets & the feature, Jamey Stevenson. It was his first featured reading, something I didn't know when I booked him. His initial shyness seemed to dissipate as he got into his poems with a tangent on readings in moral philosophy (a hot topic these days in Washington). I guess that's where his poem about having a thing for nuns came from. We're all glad he was there.

And the open mic poets were their usual great selfs: Sylvia, Alan, Tim, Carol, Marty, Chris & Sebastian (a bit of an anomoly to see him twice in one month, let alone twice in one season).

I predict that next month the list will be filled -- feature is Mimi Moriarty. How does "Third Thursday Poetry Night" sound?

March 17, 2007

"Live from the Living Room", March 14

It's not often (though it has happened before) that I get to be Don Levy, although a pale imitation of the Real Thing at that, but it happened this night. Don was ill & asked me to be the host at his "straight-friendly" reading at the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Hudson Ave., in Albany. This reading with an open mic is held on the second Wednesday of each month.

The featured poet was Bob Wright who has re-settled back in this area, in Athens, NY. He has started a new poetry series at the Athens Cultural Center (not the Parthenon) & the first reading there will be on March 24. After that, he plans on having readings on the third Saturday of each month (check out for the calendar of this & other readings in the Hudson valley). Bob's poems are quietly stated, no rants, just wry observations on people, relationships, the world around him, with humor, & an occasional barbed point.

If you haven't been to the Living Room, you need to get there before "the crowd" to get a comfy seat on a couch. We were all comfy.

The open mic poets were A.C. Everson (look for her sculpture in the window of the Spectrum Theater on Delaware Ave. in April); me with a couple poems from my chapbook "Ireland", A.P.D., 1995; Carol Graser, welcomingly repeating "After Reading Journey to the Center of the Earth; Michael Saxton (a new poet, with narratives in loose, hip-hop rhyme); Cheryl A. Rice who will be one of the features at Bob's new series in Athens on March 24 (the other is Mike Jurkovic, and an open mic); & Marty Mulenex with a neat poem about jamming from an outsider's view.

Second Wednesday, relaxing, straight-friendly & half a block off Lark St. And I'm not Don Levy.

March 16, 2007

"The Black Door", March 13, at the Skyline

This new series brought up a lot of issues to discuss. Let's see if I can keep it under control. I'm sure someone will tell me if I don't.

First of all, on the "green plague", as Poet of All Ireland, John Montague, once described St. Paddy's Day in Albany. I picked up a postcard at the "Skyline" while there for the open mic. It hyped a "St. Patty's Day BASH 2007!" as "An All DAY Celebration" (the capitalizations are all theirs), with live music on the 1st floor stage by "Plan 9", & "The Schmooze" "w/ DJ Stepstool" (or was that Step O'Toole?). Also, on the 3rd floor, Hip-Hop & Dance by DJ Cru. I guess that is traditional Irish Hip-Hop, green-beer & plastic hats extra. Folks, it's amateur night.

Second, what is the Skyline, other than "the former Big House"? A Pub or a NIghtclub? It seems to me an oxymoron to be a "Pub & Nightclub" as the postcard states. With the world's most inattentive bartender it doesn't matter what you call it (on Wednesday nights it's a dance studio, go figure).

Next, to the 7th or 8th open mic venue hosted by Metroland's Readers Pick as the Best Local Poet, R. M. Engelhardt (see my earlier Blog on this). Rob's first question to me when I strolled in at 8:00PM (7:30 sign-up, 8:00 start), was "where are all the poets?" To which I was too gentle & too sober to say, "and where the fuck have you been?" For people to support your reading, you have to support others' readings. Granted, it's no guarantee -- there are some open mic hosts who are out once a month, on their particular Monday or Wednesday, but nobody else's. But if you're not to anyother readings, there's no point in wondering why people aren't at yours. Rob was sighted at Valentines earlier this month, but that was his first time at an open mic in many months, & only because he was handing out flyers. Of course, at 8:00 (did the flyer's state "8:00 start"?) his back up band, Love is the Devil, were just starting to set up & you know how long that takes.

Last issue is the new "poet" who stakes his claims to "about a thousand poems" & then at his first time out reads a mundane, trite journal entry trying to be a rant with confused politics & vague issues, as he were acting like an angry, radical, hip sort of guy. But, where have you been & will you show up again anywhere else, except in court? Enough to make you nervous, if you're the nervous type. Like poets who are chronically out of work but always have beer & exotic cigarettes, somehow the rent is paid; and we all know those "honors" have no cash attached.

Enough crankiness. There were real poets there: like the virgin Shannon's "Amerikan Ambition"; romantic James; Sebastion; Shaun Baxter (one of the open mic hosts who makes a point of going to other's open mics); & Joe Hollander, who would rather be playing poker but showed his stuff with a just-at-the-bar scribble on nostalgia (Joe once ran an open mic at Margarita's, which is now...? a Margarita to first person to answer that!).

Rob said there will be featured poets in the future, but didn't announce one for next month. The "Black Door" will be on the second Tuesday of each month. At the Skyline Pub, or Nightclub. We'll see. Don't look for a black door, it's not.

March 15, 2007

The Experimental Cabaret, March 12

Once again, on the second Monday, at Tess' Lark Tavern in Albany NY (not on Lark St.), Nicole Peyrafitte put together an eclectic two hours.

Ed Atkeson, with the assistance of David Brickman & Greg Haymes, shook a big-eared puppet who claimed he was in control, he was at the controls, even while it snowed, he was in control, wasn't he? Did I say a puppet was in control? If you weren't there, you missed it.

Connie Houde ( is the kind of photographer who, while the rest of us photographers are worrying about the light in the bar, is blowing the dust of Afghanistan off her lens. She read from "The Midnight Traveler" by Afghan's most famous poet, Sayd Bahodine Majrouh, who was assassintated in 1988. Meanwhile her photos -- faces, mountains, vast open space, trees & rocks, cities ruined by war, more lovely faces, "a breeze of new life" -- played behind her. Why is it the French are the first at translating poets from the Arab world? Why is the writings of Sayd Bahodine Majrouh unavailable in English? This was a rhetorical question, we know the answer. But keep asking. Thank you Connie.

The last segment was Nicole singing & narrating while George Muscatello played guitar: "La Vie en Rose", "There was a Boy" & a sort of Fly Me to the Moon while she gave the narration to George Melies great silent film "A Trip to the Moon", a French film with a French accent. How wonderful!!

Did I say "second Monday"? See you there.

March 11, 2007

Caffe Lena Open Mic, March 7

This open mic is held on the first Wednesday of each month, starting at 7:30, at historic Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY. The host is Carol Graser, who, if I wasn't already a host of an open mic, I would want to be.

I thought I was getting there on time, bringing Nancy for her first time there, but the reading was already in progress when we arrived, Bob Sharkey just getting to the stage to read "Sidewalks".

The feature was James Schlett. James was once described as "the last Romantic poet" (or maybe that was "romantic" with a small "r" -- whatever); he was also named Caffe Lena's poetry bouncer, but that's another story. More accurately I would call him a "sentimental" poet, with all the connotations & denotations of that word softly gathered together like feathers for a pillow. His journal entries & poems, often done from memory, or alternatively from sheets of paper folded up into 8ths & 16ths & extracted from his shirt pocket, often describe either an evening walk by a pond, or a stroll in the woods, or pining after a lost or unattainable girl, or all of that, sometimes with gentle rhymes, sometimes the images just hanging there. But he is not without biting humor, as he showed this night with a sampler of "Jersey haikus", about as much Jersey as they are haiku: quirky, absurdist & sometimes downright silly. We all love James.

The other highlight of the night was cluster of poems about nurses & the craft of nursing. It was, as in the best of our experiences, half-planned, half-spontaneous. Jackie Thorne, a nursing student, read a poem, "Healing Waters", she wrote as part of an assignment for a class. Then Pam Mitchell, who is a fellow nurse & mentor to Jackie, read "Untapped Source of Peace", not her own poem, but one by someone else. Pam hasn't been to Caffe Lena to read in over a year & would have done better with her own work rather than the abstract, trite piece she read, but she said the poem she was trying to write about an Iraq war veteran who killed herself recently was "still born" (borrowing a comment from James) & "stuck in her throat". Later in the open mic Chris Brodham read a class-oriented piece, "Will the So-Called Real Nurses Stand Up." Chris said he had planned to read another poem but was inspired by Jackie's poem to read this instead. This is an example of the dynamics and interplay between readers at open mics that makes these events an important part of "community", both the poetry kind & the larger social network. And we do need these nurses!

Another characteristic of open mics was demonstrated that night by the young poet Rachel being called reluctantly to the stage to read her untitled piece. Rachel volunteers at Caffe Lena, helps makes the cookies, etc. & is a poet too. We have seen many young people in high school start out volunteering "in the back", then find their tentative way to the stage to read a poem or journal entry, & over time work at their craft & go on to become regular readers, even features & hosts of poetry events. Keep writing, Rachel.

Other poets that night included Barbara Garro (look for poets on the porch in Saratoga in April), Jeff Jergens, Mary Kathryn Jablonkski (see her Blog at, George Bookcosta, Carol Graser (looking in a mirror neuron), Tim Verhaegen, Sue Jefts, Mimi Moriarty, Patrick, & me.

Maybe because it's the only open mic in Saratoga Springs, or maybe it's Caffe Lena's coffee, or the smell of chicken from Hattie's next door, or Carol's relaxed but sasy manner, but the open mic on the first Wednesay at Caffe Lena's is always fun, full of diverse poets & generates a lot of interplay between the poets & the audience. You need to be there.

March 8, 2007

Metroland Readers Pick: Best Local Poet

Congratulations to R.M. Engelhardt, for the third year in a row, for coping this much coveted award.
Also, congratulations to Mary Panza for being "No. 2", but we all know she is always Number One in our hearts.
And can anyone can tell me what was the last poetry reading/open mic "Taina Asili" has been to? In fact, what was the last reading/open mic Rob attended (other than his feature at NightSky - see my Blog on that one)?

Anyways, the official results are:
Rob: 3 votes
Mary: 2 votes
Taina & me (we tied): 1 each.

Hey, that's Democracy at work. Isn't that why our troops are in Iraq?

March 4, 2007

"Voices in Wartime" & Peace Poetry, Saturday March 3

Southern Rensselaer Neighbors for Peace held a screening of "Voices in Wartime" and a poetry reading on Saturday at the East Greenbush Community Library. The film is a graphic, moving debunking of the glories of war, told through poetry and the voices of soldiers & peace workers. The version shown was the shorter one, approximately an hour. But there is a longer version, complete with a curriculum for schools (go to their website, for more information). The event was organized by Allan Brophy, Hervie Harris & others from the group.

What made it particularly moving & poignant was combining the screening with readings by local poets, some invited published poets & an open mic. The invited, you might say, featured, poets were Paul Elisha, Bob Elmendorf, D. Alexander Holiday and me (Dan Wilcox). Paul Elisha is a World War II vet. His poems are meticulously crafted and at times difficult to listen to. I liked his two shorter poems, "Where War is Waged" & "One Picuture's Worth" better than is longer poem, "Drum Beats".

Bob Elmendorf's work is also carefully made, but his wonderful poem "Population Explosion", about his mother ironing & waiting for him & his brother to be born, shows how great emotion can be created out of everyday existence ("no idea but in things"). D. Alexander Holiday started by literally walking as he read "Il Walad, for the children of the Sudan and Somalia", then 2 poems on George W. & the invasion of Iraq. Later, as MC of the open reading he did a couple more of his pieces (you can find his books on

I read 2 shorter poems from my new, cheap ($1) chapbook of peace poems, including some humor with "A Pain in the Neck". The very literate, left audience caught the humor early on, which made the poem even more fun to read.

The open mic, as they often do, contained some wonderful surprises: a first-time reader, Marty, had two thoughtful poems & he promised to come out to some of the open mics in the area & actually read (you may have seen him hanging out quietly in the audience in the last couple months, waiting for that push to the mic). And Doug read two poems from a chapbook by Dwight Jenkins, both poems written with a poet's eye for the details that put us "there", even if there is among a soldiers spilling entrails. Other readers included David Wolcott reciting Lord Byron from memory, Virginia Osborn reading from her chapbook "A Fleck of Yeast" (see my Blog on Zounds! below), and Terry Phelan (sans guitar) reciting his songs on the 9/11 attack.

If you know me you know that I find the combination of art (poetry) & politics to be exhilarating, & so it was. Thank you Southern Rensselaer Neighbors for Peace!

March 2, 2007

Fundraiser for IVAW - Sunday, February 25

This event was sponsored by the Tappan Zee Brigade of Veterans For Peace (Chapter 60) and the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice to raise money for a project by Iraq Veterans Against the War to go to New Orleans "to muck houses in the lower 9th," and was held at the Nyack Center, in Nyack, NY. The afternoon included a video of "Soldiers Speak Out" followed by a talk by Fernando Braga, IVAW, Chapter 2, NYC. The Program Organizers were VFPer’s Phil Greenspan, a U.S. Army veteran (World War II) and Jim Murphy, a US Air Force veteran, (Vietnam).

A large part of the program was devoted to poetry. The featured poet was Gerald McCarthy, VFP member who has been influential to the writing of other readers, such as Dayl Wise and Jim Murphy. Dayl said that Gerry's poem, "The Hooded Legion", about the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC, got him writing poetry. Gerry read from "Shoetown", working class poems of Endicott, NY, as well as some newer work from a forthcoming collection & beyond. I had never read his work & enjoyed what I heard. When his new book comes out, scheduled for sometime next year, I will get him to Albany for a reading & book-signing.

Fernando Braga performed a hip-hop poem about Katrina & the assault on the working class. Other VFP readers included Sam Weinreb and Jim Murphy, both from chapter 60, Thomas Brinson, chapter 138, Jay Wenk and Dayl Wise, chapter 58.  There was also an open mic sign-up for the community to share their poetry.  A student from Purchase College played the stand-up bass, Alison Koffler read a poem by Adrienne Rich, among other. I was the MC but left the signup sheet behind, so apologies to those left out of this summary.

The last I heard they raised about $600 after expenses, a good job. Check out &