April 28, 2007

NightSky Cafe, April 18

Back to Schenectady on the third Wednesday, & what a night, lots of poetry & lots of lots of (that's not a typo either). Shaun Baxter, the almost-shortest host began with Shel Silverstein's "The Smoke Off", for the National Smoke-Off Day (April 20), then read a few of his postcards throughout the night -- I liked the doorknobs one. If you don't know about the postcards, then you haven't been there.

The open mic poets, surrounding the features, were me, John Raymond reading from Samuel Beckett's Text for Nothing, Alan Catlin doing one of his own & one of Bukowski's (I'd prefer 2 Catlins to 1 Buk), Don Levy wondered why he would write 2 West Side Story poems ("You're gay," I reminded him), Therese Broderick responded to the killings at Virginia Tech with verbs, a neat trick, then Marty Mulenex with a new one from his notebook.

OK, now the features. George Martin is not the former manager of the Beatles. The best part of his readings was the stack of composition books next to him on a stool, a great visual. George has been around the poetry scene, popping up now & then, but has had few features. So he over did it, read on & on, & was obviously unprepared, stumbling over his own words, as if he hadn't read over his notebooks before his readings to annotate any he found unclear. He said that poetry was just writing in a notebook; well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. But then "experienced" poets who have just not progressed from their QE2 debuts make the same kind of profound unfounded remarks, speaking in cliches. Such is fine in small doses, but he went way too long. He needs to go to more open mics, to listen to (& learn from) other poets.

Shaun introduced Bob Wright with a new work in progress, "Even Dwarfs Started Small", a poem on famous people who were under 5'4" in height (Bob is known for his tall guy poems). Well, to be fair, I think Bob went too long too. Most of his poems are no more than a page & he tends not to give any introduction to set a context. This can be dulling in a long reading, the same rhythm, the same tone. Individually Bob's poems are interesting, amusing, even profound or funny. Perhaps I was dulled by the first feature.

Then the rest of the open mic: Jason Berkowitz is really a stand-up comic with political material, that's OK, but Tom Waits tunes aren't as much fun as his own stuff. Chris Brobham with the Angel of Death. Finnegan, ahem, "Fuck Me Gently with a Chainsaw" (do I need to say more?), & finally, a late entry, Lynn Miglino with one of the best lines of the night: "...the Chernobyl of the heart & mind..." without all the pretention.

Now, we won't recount the ugly scene up front as someone's girl friend has too much of something & has to leave, noisily, but some poet will tell the tale. Stay tuned.

April 27, 2007

Behind the Egg at Point 5, April 14

So after eating my fill of donuts, quiche & poetry at the VPL, I rolled down the hills back into Albany to this funky storefront on Madison Ave. between Lark & Dove for a reading by The Poet Essence, Joe Krausman & R.M. Engelhardt, part of the series co-hosted by Daniel Nester & Erik Sweet.

Joe & Tammi (The Poet Essence) really bonded, their poems finding reverberence across Time, cultures, ethnicity, showing that good poetry is blind to the kind of distinctions that tabloids like to make into conflicts, while real human beings meet in common words, common experiences. All three readers had poems about poets, poems, poetry reading. Joe's imagining Stanley Kunitz reading A.E. Houseman, & "The Passionate Accountant to His Love", were reflected, then culturally refracted, in Tammi's "Recycle this Poem" & "The Spoken Word". But in between we had Rob's sententious:

The lost poem which contained


And nothing.

Touched everyone. And no one.

Rob performed, as has been his wont, with W.Das Gift on guitar & Kim 13 on keyboards, in their signature-style, Goth Profundity.

After breakfast in Voorheesville, I would have to characterize this late lunch as a sandwich where the thick bread on either side was more tasty & nutritious than the thin bologna in the middle.

The series will continue; check out www.federationofideas.org/

April 25, 2007

Potluck Poetry at the Voorheesville Public Library, April 14

The Every Other Thursday Night Poets up there on the hills always have a big poetry event in April. This one started with brunch at 11:00 AM & continued on with an open mic. By my count (my frequently fallible notes) 16 poets read. Most were the usual locals, but Carol Graser came down from Galway. The food was great & I snacked throughout the readings.

The open mic was hosted by the hill queen, Barbara Vink, & you can read her take on the event at http://thursdaypoets.blogspot.com/ I find it interesting that she talks as much about who wasn't there as she does about who was. But go read her when you are finished with me. My comments aren't inclusive, I don't mention every poem the poets read, I'm just trying to give the flavor of the event.

Some of the poets read way longer than their alloted 5 minutes; for many I think it's that they don't get out enough to open mics. If you've been inflicted with a poet going too long, you learn to limit your own time. Always leave them wanting more, I say, not wishing you'd finished 2 poems back.

I read first, mainly because the sign-up sheet was sitting there empty. Then once my name was on it (& first place was safely taken) everyone else signed up. I read "Vowels" which I've added to my Blog (scroll down) & kept the politics light with "A Pain in the Neck".

I like Mike Burke's simply stated poems & he started off with "Beach Day" by his kindergartner granddaughter, then a poem he wrote for her, among others.

Dennis Sullivan read a whole bunch of poems & ended with a long one that Barb said was nearly his whole 5 minutes on its own. But he's Irish, & mixing politics & poetry & pretty girls in the airport come naturally to him. But, Dennis, read the long poem first & end with the shorters ones.

The VPL is Tim Verhaegen's stomping grounds, where he is among friends. You'll see his name popping up a lot on the pages ("pages"?) of this Blog. He read one of his poems & the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's "Down to You."

Alan Casline also did other people's work, poet friends from their chapbooks & just one of his own poems. Then I discovered that where I'd seen him before was not at poetry events (he really should get to some them), but at the place where we're both doing some temp work. He has a recently published chapbook, with a hand-made cover, Some Thursday Night Poems (Benevolent Bird Press, Delmar, NY).

Tom Corrado, saxman & poet, read a whole string of poems, most short, often amusing word play or quirky takes on things, but when he said he'd do "a couple more" I thought he meant 2, though glad it included the last one "You Are No Longer Here" for John Rankin.

Spring & the war in Iraq & the suffering in Dafur were in Barb Vink's poems, like she was in black & red pajamas. I hope I don't have to wait for next year's event in Voorheesville to hear her poems again.

Joyce Schreiber read brief poems of the simple world around her, like flowers weeping in the desert.

Mark O'Brien talked of history -- American & that of his family -- & his beard.

"Oxygen" & "Nuclear Medicine" explained Cathy Anderson's tank, but not the Rite of Spring garland on her head -- another burst of flowers, like poems.

The Voorheesville Blog talks about Carol Graser unravelling the stripes of the flag; & I think her "Poetry Open Mic" was perfectly chosen for this event, enough to make everyone want to go to one, soon, somewhere.

Mimi Moriarty (more about her soon) remembered Spaulding Grey in "Swimming", then 2 poems with sleep/beds.

Marion Menna is a new voice, transplanted here from Florida, nature poems that she only thought worthy to read because they had each been published somewhere. Why does someone, usually someone we don't even know, have to bless our poems? Why can't we read one version at an open mic on the first Wednesday & another, equally tentative, version at an open mic on the third Thursday? Again, more reasons why these poets need to get to one of the many open mics in this great community of poets we live in.

And interestingly enough, Catherine Norr's first poem was called "Community", about reading at Arthur's Market in Schenectady.

What would an open mic be without a virgin? A whorehouse of poets? Whatever, Phyllis Hillinger saved us from that fate by being our virgin, though she confessed to being a prose writer as well, this was her first poetry reading. Wha-hoo!

And finally, like a daffodil waiting for the snow to melt, Edie Abrams was the last poet. She read Wordsworth & her own, lighter, more humorous response, then more poems that brought smiles, including senseless, delightful word-play. She seems to have fun with her poems.

A great brunch of poets (that's not a typo), some of whom are in the anthology, Poetry Don't Pump Gas. Check out their Blog for information.

April 24, 2007


at a reading by Lucie Brock-Broido, Writers Institute Summer series

Chairs creak, mine politely quiet, but
the impish whine of my gut is like the
anguished air of a twisted thought.

Later, after others loudly flush
run water, crank out clean towels

I speak freely in my tiled stall
break the sudden silence alone
with my most expressive vowels.

(I've been reading this a lot at open mics throughout NatPoMo)

April 17, 2007

Life from the Living Room, April 11

This is one of the coziest poetry venues anywhere, at the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center, Hudson Ave., in Albany. This night, Roberta Gould read from an easy chair, a relaxed, conversational reading from her 2006 chapbook, Pacing the Wind from SHIVASTAN Publishing out of Woodstock (www.shivastan.com), printed in Kathmandu Nepal on fragrant handmade paper that suits the poems well. I won't attempt to summarize her poems, you can check them out at her website, www.robertagould.net, or whenever she reads at the various venues in the Hudson Valley. Suffice it to say it was a most enjoyable evening of poems & jokes & conversations, as you would hope to have in someone's living room.

The host, Don Levy, read a new poem, The Long Bus Ride Home, a touching response to the murder of an elderly homosexual; Don used his knowledge of movies, particularly the favorites of the gay community, effectively to contrast with the brutality of gay bashing (yeah, it still happens).

Speaking of bashing, I did my own poetically against a woman bishop (The Lady Bishop) & the scariness of religion, male or female, which became a minor theme of the night with Pat Dyjak reading These Ten, "a meditation on the sacred". Pat will be the feature at Live from the Living Room next month on May 9. Catch her before she leaves the area for a teaching gig out west.

Chris Brabham (& Finnegan) were here too, two nights in a row. Chris attacked The Mind Witch.

I like Tim Verhaegen's poems & I don't think he needs to worry about whether he is at a "gay" or a "straight" venue. Poems come out of who we are, where we've been, & if they are honest, well-written, from the heart, then people will understand them. That's why I can read Han Shan, for example, an ancient Chinese poet who lived a very different life than I do. But human nature is the same. Tim's poem, Italian Kids, is an evocation of growing up, of being picked on in school, of finding oneself. Something most people can appreciate.

Finnegan (again) included a poem called Ode to A Crafty Faggots Low Self-Esteem; he went a bit too long, losing my interest with his second poem. I guess he's around for a while.

Don likes to say that this monthly event (on the second Monday of each month) is "straight-friendly". Yes, & it's just plain friendly too.

April 16, 2007

The Black Door, April 10

As I said there is no black door (although, hopefully, there is a back door), at the Skyline bar on, well, the bar's flyers say "90 N. Pearl St." but there is no entrance on North Pearl, the door (not black) is on Sheridan Ave.

The host, R.M. Engelhardt, read some poems by John Berryman, not the usual 19th Century romantic stuff, so that was a decent start. He was backed up by "Love is the Devil" (Kim 13 & W. Das Gift). Later during the open mic he read with the band, included a Dungeons & Dragons poem, Arcadia. There was a spate of poets a few years back writing dragon & damsels poems but they have seemed to move on. I think we should be thankful.

A couple new poets out this night: Andrew Hough with a political rant bashing American media (an easy enough target) & Lisa Crenshaw with personal poems of introduction & change.

Shaun Baxter read Bukowski's "Poetry Reading" & some of his own limericks. Margot Lynch, did a rambling rant, back from Florida (looking like she just came back from Florida).

This was the first featured reading for Karen Gazzardi James, whom I've seen read at the former open mic at the Moon & River Cafe. Her poems are mostly personsal statements in clunky meters & rhymes, & made me wonder (never got a chance to ask her) who are the poets she reads? Her work showed no connection to anything written in about the last 100 years. She seems to mostly publish her poems on MySpace ("Ren"). She needs to get to the public library & start pulling poets off the shelves & to get out to more open mics & hear what other people are writing. We all have to begin somewhere. Her poem "A Lost Orgasm" got the best response (!); of course most poems about masturbating at work usually do.

In a self-referential mood, I read a list of proposed titles for poems that Dan Nester had sent out when the Behind the Egg reading was cancelled for the Feb. blizzard. I made a few alterations & Shaun seemed to like "Puppies & Flowers", so watch for it.

I think Jason Dalaba gets his reading-voice accent out of a Twinnings Tea sample pack; "Sex & Math" (best title of the night) & "Wonder Woman" were fun.

Chris Brabham read a new one about the angel of death unplugged & there was Finnegan again with a string of stuff going over his alloted time/poem limit, memorably the unsettling "A Butterfly is Dying".

Second Tuesday of each month, starts about 8:00; in the meanwhile, as Uncle Wiggly used to say, I think I'll go check out Margot in a bathing suit on MySpace.

April 15, 2007

Caffe Lena, April 4

Carol Craser, the gracious host, began the night by reading a poem by Roque Dalton, the Savadoran poet (1935-1975), a great choice of a muse, little known here.

There was a good showing from the Albany crowd (&, no, Carol did not really wait to start the open mic until I arrived), with "the Poet Essence" as the feature. We can all learn from her performaces: relaxed, understated recitations of intense poems, all from memory, letting the poems speak, not overtaken by performance. She knows how to shuffle her poems so that you can see her perform twice in one week & not feel that you've been there already, & she knows when to stop -- at that precise moment when the audience has settled into her rhythm but has not yet had enough. One of the Capital District's poet treasures.

The open mic was a classic first Wednesday stew, afore mentioned Albany poets Bob Sharkey, A.C. Everson, Shaun Baxter, Mary Panza, Tim Verhaegen, Therese Broderick, James (Schlett -- but now he is famous enough to just use his first name & we all know who you mean), Mimi Moriarty, Chris Brobham, Marty Mulenex. Then the more northern ingredients: Patrick Sisty, who previously only recited famous poems, read a short prose piece about a little red squirrel; Greg Wait; Dustin White, memorized hip-hop rhymes; the tall understated Josh McIntyre; young Hannah Boucher who hadn't been there for a while; Jeff Jergens poem as a tribute to the recently departed Donn Deedon, LA poet in another poetic community; one of Rob Crowe's poems had characters with things tied to their faces, bacon on their heads.

Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY. Next month, May 2, Bernadette Mayer (can you believe it!). 7pm sign-up, 7:30 readings start.

April 12, 2007

Other: Seven & Albany Poets Presents, 4/3/07

I arrived late to Valentines that night & missed a bunch of open mic poets, but the character on stage I recognized immediately, a poet I hadn't seen perform in Albany since April, 1991: Finnegan, a fine Irish lad from County Mayo -- ah, no, not quite. Actually, one to give the Irish-descents of Albany who send their Seans & Thomases to CBA to avoid Albany High a serious nightmare -- black, shiny, studded, chained, sexually ambivalent, & pouring out the words & ideas Jim Coyne would barricade the Armory against. As one of his poems (needlessly) claims, "I am unique," he was reading his skull-fucking poem when I arrived. Brightened my night considerably. Finnegan actually appears in the shadows of Open Mic: the Albany Anthology, page 106, at the QE2, on my left. We'll see more of Finnegan.

The latest issue of Other: was available for free that night too. There are 28 poets represented, only about a quarter of them familiar to those who go to the many open mics in the area. Another great service from AlbanyPoets to bring these other, some younger, some older, voices out into the community. The zine also includes Mary Panza's interview with Shaun Baxter, a list of the open mics in the area & a schedule for WordFest 2007, coming up April 20 & 21. Other: Seven is free; go to www.albanypoets.com to find out where to get it.

One of the new poets in the zine, Ildefonso Correas Apelanz, read his published poem, "Love I Do". The poets I heard that night, after Finnegan, included Scott Casale, Chris Brobahm, and the unassuming Thom Francis, host of this open mic, first Tuesdays, at Valentines (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany), 8PM.

I tried out my new poem, "Paintings of Spain's Golden Age on the Curving Ramp of the Guggenheim Museum". It's a list/catalog of my impressions of the groupings of paintings in that show. The show was better than the poem; I need to work on it (the poem), or its presentation, or both.

St. Petersburg, Florida -- March 26, 2007

While I was in St. Petersburg Florida for a sunny, warm vacation, I found a poetry open mic at "The Studio @ 620" (620 First Avenue South), www.thestudioat620.org. I had a marvelous time with energetic poets. The group was about to present a big poetry event on April 1, some of the poets rehearsing at the open mic. We read in a "round-robin" fashion, with other poets joining in as the night progressed. The host was Pedro Jarquin, who at one point claimed to be Mexican, then "Cambodian & Irish". Whatever; (you can find out the truth at www.nationofpoetry.com/). At one point he free-styled on the open mic sign up sheet; also read a good sex poem; another, "At the Tender Age of Fifteen", in Spanish & English about defending his Mom from an assault. I may steal his introduction of the group "10-Minute Break".

A lot of the work that night was slam styled, but that doesn't mean that the poems were bad or that there weren't other real poems sprinkled in. But unfortunately it also means that I got the distinct impression I'd seen it before. Like the poet (I never got his name if it was ever mentioned) who not only performed in slam/hip-hop cliches (you know those hand gestures & put-on accents), but also looked the part: black outfit with a floppy jacket, small leather fedora, neatly trimmed facial hair, sunglasses. As the Fugs once sang, "it's an old cliche, but it's an old cliche." His best poem, about sex as a sweet tooth, would have stood on its own without the theatrics.

David Durney who also runs an open mic in St. Petersburg at the Garden restaurant on Central Ave. was another slam poet, obviously a key figure in the scene, & a good poet. He read a "thank you" poem that my notes say, "good slam poem". So there are some.

Aleshea Harris, another key poet in the community, read twice. Her poem "Sometimes" said, "...let's poetry today..." -- a great idea for any day. And "Bitches" was about that. She knows the power of making the audience want more.

One of the night's "virgins", Chris McKenny, read poems that segued into free style in what can only be categorized as red-neck hip-hop (or red-hip neck-hop).

An interesting moment occurred when Carlisle, in sexy punk gear & net stockings, did a lament ("I carry this dead guitar with me...") for her guitar that was stolen after she had left it in Pedro's back yard in the hood, a good poem about partying & music. At the end, Pedro revealed that he had saved the guitar, that it had not been stolen at all. Later, doing another poem (on poets & revolution, "I want to go back to the Colorado nights...") she unzipped her black vest, flashing her pert breasts & black bra. How could I not buy one of the posters for the April 1 reading that she had personalized with her art? She signed it with "Chaos in small doses."

Since the poem I started the night with was "Baghdad/Albany", whenever Pedro introduced me he would refer to Albany burning; I also gave them "Where Were the Professors", and "What Passover Has Taught Me" later on.

Afterwards, outside, Ricki Lake talked about her long poem in her head that she wrote years back, sex & drugs, & the wildness of youth that she had recited from during the night, how sometimes when she is driving random lines would come to her, & she would say the poem outloud from there. It was like a metaphor for all we know & all we do.

Other poets/performers that night were Todd, Devon with guitar, Klean, Leesal (?spelling) -- a virgin, Justin Kline & Sarita singing "I Am Poem" at the end of the night.

If you're in the Tampa Bay area you need to check out this venue. Some of these poets, their poems & pictures are on nationofpoetry.com. I had a great time & felt right at home, without the cold & snow.

April 1, 2007

NightSky Cafe, March 21 - Poetry & Short-off Contest

The host of this third Wednesday reading & open mic, Shaun Baxter, said this was the most well-attended event he had since he began the series last Fall. That appears to be true, since I've been to most of them. He also claimed to be the shortest open mic host in the area. This was immediately challenged by Carol Graser, host of the first Wednesday open mic at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. Carol & Shaun faced off back-to-back (is that possible?) & Carol was proved to be the shorter, even wearing work boots. But is it proper/ appropriate/right to congratulate someone on being the shortest? If it is, I do -- in any event they are both fine hosts, short or tall, or not as short.

The featured poets were Mary Panza & Don Levy. I almost want to stop there, I mean, what else can I say? A killer combo anytime, anywhere. Mary neatly sliced & diced Bob Dylan, other stars & a variety of local poets, both male & female. But she also moved us & made us laugh. Then Don, Mary's alleged "gay husband" tickled & titillated us with his gay fantasies. But I like his revised "My Ideal Audience" which showed how well he can present a poetic response without cutting; a mature poem.

I was glad to see a contingent from the Voorheesville poets, in addition to Tim Verhaegen who has become a regular. Barb Vink, Tom Corrado & Dennis Sullivan need to be out to open mics more -- we miss their work.

Other poets reading included A.C. Everson, me (one poem I read, "Pens", a tribute to Don Levy, showed up right there coincidentally on an albanypoets.com flyer), Alan Catlin, Josh McIntyre, John Raymond (to be featured May 21 at the Social Justice Center), the aforementioned Tim V., the short-off winner Carol Graser, Marty Mulenex, John Paul, and Chris Brodham (whose feature at the Lark Tavern I missed while suning in Florida). Shaun read poems by others, his own work, & from the postcards he hands out for people to write him poems.

The NightSky Cafe (I'm not sure if there is officially a space there or not, but I like it without the space) is on Union St. at Liberty St. in Schenectady, NY (but then there is only one Schenectady in the whole USA, just ask Kurt Vonnegut Jr.). Nice food, a good assortment of beers & wines, & poetry every third Wednesday.

More coming

For the thousands (or maybe 2 or 3) of you that are regular readers of this Blog, my apologies for this brief hiatus gathering my chi at the beach with no internet contact for almost a week. I owe you an entry on the NightSky Cafe reading from before I left & one on an open mic I attended in St. Petersburg, FL. In the meantime you can check them out at nationofpoetry.com.
Back to you soon.