August 29, 2007

Poets Speak Loud!, August 27

[Hey, dig this shot from the QE2, July 1994 -- it's our featured poet, would you believe?]

At least the host, Mary Panza, does. The sign-up sheet was slid way up the clipboard so nobody had taken the #1 slot, & it was easily mine, yet again; I read 2 poems you can read here on the Blog, "The Night Sky" & "Church Burner."

Everyone is thrilled that Carol Graser's new book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems, is out from FootHills Publishing (, at least she had her copy -- my copy hasn't arrived yet, but these folks do an excellent job of production. Carol read 2 poems from it, "First Funeral" & one she said she has never read out before, "Playground," what a tree has seen. Order from the publisher, or call the Book House to see if they have it or can get it. Or bug Carol when you see her.

John Raymond infected the microphone with his cold (I'm glad I went before him), saying that his poem "Left Unwritten" is "burping up demons that scare away virgins" -- it must work, there wasn't a virgin in the house (but then this is the Lark Tavern, what did you expect?).

You'll remember Janice McNeal as the women who sings to relax before she reads, tonight in Swahili. A short "Fatigue," then "Experience" in-progress -- ain't it all?

Dain Brammage gave his son advice about "Following Advice" in sestina form -- what happens when your dad is a poet I guess.

Perhaps Don Levy has reached that level of artistic self-reference know as decadence, reading a poem about a musical that's about a musical, "Now Playing: Oklahomo!" (thanks for the correction Don).

Matt Galletta has been here before, this time reading from the profound to the found: "Vacancy" combining sex & god (or God), and an office memo, the found poem, on parking -- did you get the memo?

It seems the Times-Union is still printing poetry listings because that's how Mike Noble found us to read "Escape Velocity" & an "iridescent" love poem, "For Karen" (I think that's what he said).

Mary Panza offered to take up a collection to have the crazy-lady poet of Portland Oregon who writes sex-crazed letters on Butterfingers candy-bar wrappers brought here to read, but until then we will have to settle for Meghan Baker reading them for her. They're apparently untitled, more like letters to Meghan's freind, this one about Lesbian sex in a jacuzzi. What a treasure-trove is our mental health system!

So, we all know James' (as in Schlett) style: sad, pensive poems, quietly stated nostalgia in a sentimental tone -- who knew he would apply it to the passing of the "Gilmore Girls" -- it was funnier than Don Levy making fun of fat! Then he showed us what his style was usually used for, in a poem about a trestle in New Jersey.

Thom Francis realized an old poem, "Al" could be combined with a newer piece about the truck drivers that pass him on the interstate on the way to work; he read both, now we wait for the new poem.

Another poetry virgin (not frightened away by John Raymond's demons) (at least a "virgin" to the Lark Tavern) was teacher NicoleK whose musing followed the chalk lines of "Hop Scotch," then an untitled piece on a relationship.

When Bob Sharkey has "Lunch at Dunkin' Donuts" he's not just watching the cops, he's watching a scary-looking guy & musing on the passing of years like the passing of such characters in & out of our lives.

I bet you thought I forgot about the featured poet? Better that I did -- it was about the worst presented reading of mundane, insipid poetry I've ever heard in my life. This guy should stick to plugging leads into amplifiers & keep his pen away from paper. [how's that Keith, brutal enough?]

This is a heavy burden, when folks worry about what I say on this self-indulgent Blog -- so the featured poet, Keith Spencer who asked to go last, instead of first, or in the middle of the open mic poets, angsted from the stage about what I might say in my "review". I like to call these comments "comments," not reviews, because it is more like what I might say in my own notes/journal about the night. Hey, what the fuck do I know? Like my Grandma said, "Opinions are like assholes: everybody has one & they all stink, except your own."

Actually, it was fun to hear a bunch of Keith's poems/musings/whatevers all at once. I knew he was involved in some way with Think 3, with Kevin Lee Gilbert & Aaron, back in the days of the QE2, but still don't know what exactly was his contribution. Currently, Keith runs an open mic for poets & musicians on the first Thursday of each month at Professor Java's on Wolf Rd. Somehow that is always a scheduling conflict for me (if someone out there can end this fucking war I'd be able to get to more of these things). But it was with great delight that I heard him do some "MySpace poems," a burgeoning genre. He read pieces on not forwarding the shit people send you & on the Bulletin glom-artists, on Friend Requests, and on those surveys (never did figure them out, won't answer them myself, but love the ones that ask questions like, "what kind of underwear are you wearing" & everybody seems to answer). Then poems on people he works with, "Vultures;" on looking back & forward from "35;" looking upwards, & "In Whom We Trust" (& it ain't the government, folks!). Lots of fun from someone who usually doesn't do readings.

Although the poets had to speak loud (a birthday party at the bar), it was a wonderful night, some accidental-audience diners seeming to actually enjoy themselves & not try to out-shout the poets. And it was August -- go figure.

Last Monday of each month, Tess' Lark Tavern, Madison Ave., Albany, 7:30 PM (not matter what anyone tells you).

August 28, 2007

Max Roach, 1924-2007

It's not like I didn't notice the death of Max Roach on August 16 -- it was announced on the news that day on the classical music station & that night at the Third Thursday Poetry Night Julie Lomoe talked about meeting him when she was young. My early, now worn, LPs of Charlie Parker (on Baronet Record) with various sidemen all include Max on drums (I just put them on for inspiration, breathing in). It's just that it didn't occur to me to write about him, until I heard the democracy now tribute broadcast yesterday. I was chastened when I realized the similarities between Max & Grace Paley.

On the surface (where so many of our troubles start) they were so different: she white, female, poet; he black, male, drummer. But their similarities are what makes it real: both using their art to confront social issues (e.g., Max's "We Insist - Freedom Now Suite", with Abbey Lincoln), from racism, to nuclear weapons, poverty, world peace. An art engaged with the world. Don't believe me, check out (another similarity).

August 25, 2007

Grace Paley, Poet & Activist, 1922-2007

When I was in the process of moving back to Albany in 1986 I was thrilled to hear that Gov. Mario Cuomo had named Grace Paley as the first New York State Writer. In the midst of the Reagan era this was a ray of hope. I had known of Grace Paley as much for her activism as for her poetry (I didn't know her short stories at all). In fact, the datebook I had at the time had a picture of her, I think as part of the White House 11, who had been arrested in 1978 for unfurling an anti-nuke banner on the White House lawn. I had read her poems in small press poetry zines & in peace & anti-nuke newsletters & magazines.

There are a lot of pieces about her in the internet, but I like best what's on Democracy Now ( that includes a couple poems. I understand that a new book of poems is scheduled to be published next year.

"It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet...It is the poet's responsibility to speak truth to power..." Grace Paley, one of the Elders, now one of the Saints.

August 20, 2007


When lightening
a Church & it burns
to the ground
the Insurance Company
“It was an Act of God.”

It makes you
what God
of Churches.

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 16

The Social Justice Center is looking better, with lights in the window & banners, & the poets keep showing up, even new ones. My muses were (in tribute to our featured poet's translations from Greek) Solon of Athens & Praxilla of Sicyon.

The feature this night was William Seaton, the coordinator & host of the "Poetry on the Loose" series down in Middletown, NY. He put together a varied program of prose & poetry fitting nicely into his time-frame. He began, because he was at the Social Justice Center, with a couple of short memoir vignettes from his youth in Chicago in the politically turbulent 1960s, one on visiting the IWW headquarters in Chicago, the other about a civil rights demonstration in Cicero, Illinois. Although he has been a union representative & has taught in prisons, he said he doesn't usually write "political" poetry. However, his first poem, beginning "Is this the way Empire smells?" pondered the beginnings of the day with Greek tragedy & ended with his feet in the/as the mud, smelt like a political poem, in the sense that the personal is the political. His other poems continued in a similar style, with personal observations & musings, bumping kids blocks up against grazing deer (as in his last poem). And he likes epigraphs. There were odes: to a carrot, to old boots, to pin ball machines; a series of poems about being on the beach; and the surrealist list of "I'm Looking..." Good poems, presented well.

As usual, the open mic surrounded the feature & the poets & their poems weaved & wound around each other. Alan Catlin's "Some Are Almost Crazy" was about a "post-modern dancer," & he was followed by the dancer, Sally Rhoades reading "The Pool." Next month's featured poet, Miriam Herrera pondered our repeated mistakes in "Ditto," & Don Levy talked about finding excuses for not dieting in each season. Mimi Moriarty was the proud Mama with her just published War Psalm from Finishing Line Press (, read "This Isn't A Cowboy Movie." It's a very attractive 30-page chapbook, saddle-stapled with thin green ribbon tied through the center. The font is crisp & the poems simply & attractively laid out on cream/off-white stock. It's good to have such fine poems so well presented.

After the break, Josh McIntyre did 2(!) (gasp!) poems, but he had a coupon issued by Shaun Baxter at the AlbanyWordFest that permitted him to read a second poem. I just hope that nobody is counterfeiting coupons out there.

Gene Damm rattled us with a short poem with disturbing imagery, but then Julie Lomoe gave us tender memories of the NYC jazz scene of her youth, "Searching for Birdland," read for the memory of Max Roach. "Remember" is what Ramon encouraged us to do, remember a simpler time, such as when "crack" was something in the sidewalk (I had met Ramon at one of the Poets in the Park & it was his first time here). John Raymond's disturbing imagery of drunken surgeons was in the context of a breakup, sort of like a song by Nilsson or the Stones ("Dear Doctor").

Another new poet, Amanda Haney, introduced herself in her poem about the changes in her life with her move here from Seattle. Janice McNeal was new when she read in June so it was nice to see her return, & again she sang first to calm herself & as an intro to her poem, "Friend." We've missed this kind of performance since "Soul Kitchen" closed. And a late entry closed the night, Joe Krausman, & a poem walked by..., "Things Passing," from memory.

Every third Thursday, 7:30PM, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany.

August 15, 2007

Hudson Valley Poets Fest, August 12

This was actually a 2-day event; I was scheduled to read on Sunday, so drove down earlier to catch as many other poets as I could. It's on Route 213 in Rosendale, in the Widow Jane Mine on the Snyder Estate. It's got to be seen -- a huge cavern carved out of the side of a hill, cool, dark, making you wish it were 90 degrees to enjoy the contrast more, the stage set up on the edge of the water that perfectly reflects the light coming in from outside. (Going down to the site was like following a 3-year-old, all the signs kept saying, "Mine," "Mine.") The ground is slippery from moisture & the occasional drop falls from the ceiling onto your head or into your drink. A canopy shields performers from drips & serves as a stand for the lights. This year there was a 30-page collection of poems by the featured readers (myself included), funded with a decentralization grant from the Duchess County Arts Council, with a great cover illustration by Carol Zaloom. The energetic host & organizer is Mike Jurkovic.

The poetry collection has an introduction that provides a history of the event, pointing out that "This years Hudson Valley Poets Fest marks the seventeenth year that the Century House Historical Society has joined with the Hudson Valley poets to present readings in the Widow Jane Mine." I first became aware of this event as the response of Mike & other Hudson Valley poets to the Woodstock Poetry Festival's lack of local talent amid the Festival's roster of high-priced poets. This reading continues, while the Festival is long gone.

In some ways, these events are difficult to attend: I'm torn between listening to the readers, saying hello to friends & other poets, buying books, perusing the proliferation of flyers, grazing the pot-luck food & looking for a place to pee. But I did get to hear a lot of fine poems. Each poet had about 10 minutes; of course, some taking longer, some much less, so I won't (can't) mention every poem read.

But, for me, it started badly. As I got there Carl Welden was on stage, & a little goes a long way; unfortunately, there was a lot -- over-acted vignettes copied from the Firesign Theater, an example of how performance can overwhelm material. But the day only got better. In fact, the next writer, Thad Rutkowski, showed how entertaining one can be with good material read well without all the theatrics, such as Thad's funny set pieces on his name & one on his haircuts.

Likewise, George Wallace, whose work I follow on his blog on MySpace. (George & I once read together at the old Cross St. Atelier in Saugerties.) He likes lists & Beat street descriptions that carry you along on the strength of the words & images, like his big, hopeful, patriotic "Ecstatic State Building."

Guy Reed once ran an oddity: an open mic for prose writers. He read a variety of poems, prose vignettes, prose poems, micro fiction, all that stuff. Again, the simplicity of good material, read well.

Everyone loves Donald Lev. He read a some poems taking us through the months, one of his movie poems (on "To Have & Have Not"), &, of course, one by Enid Dame, the moving "Prayers."

Will Nixon followed, beginning with a couple poems by Saul Bennett, who left us about a year ago. Will's short poems touched on sculpture (both bubblegum & at the mall), Fireworks & PTSD, & his childhood. I was next, reading the poem in the collection ("Theology 101 for Tom Nattell") because Mike Jurkovic was the poet mentioned in the poem, then did a selection of some new poems.

Although Cheryl Rice's name had been whited out from some versions of the flyers, that doesn't make her disappear. A nice mixed bag of her poems, even a movie poem, on "The Third Man." She had some new "chaplets" for sale, I Was You Were (but get a magnifiying glass). Cheryl was followed by one of the (few) open mic poets that Mike slipped in when there was time, Harvey Havel reading from his novel.

T.G. Vanini started off a short musical interlude with his fiddle, then followed by a trio I missed (doing most of those things I mentioned above).

Samuel Claiborne's poems are thoughtful, discursive, with a straightforward presentation (I remember liking his work last year as well). Our host, Mike Jurkovic read a couple, one on a movie theme, an action movie that should have been his time for meditation. And this seems as good a place as any to mention Robert Milby, that whirling dervish of mid-Hudson poetry readings, who wasn't on Sunday's program, but was there & could be heard calling out from the 19th century, "Here hear," or "Right on," or "Righteous," or some such words of acclaim & encouragement. He has a new book out from FootHills Publishing, Ophelia's Offspring that I bought, many poems I've heard him read up & down the Valley.

William Seaton read a sequence of old & new, sometimes with intros & titles, sometimes without, & sometimes I didn't know the difference. Then he was followed by Amy Ouzoonian bouncing around the stage, contemplating jumping in the stream (actually, I had wanted/needed to pee in it), read about a man, a woman, a pigeon, poems from the Charlie Parker festival, her poem "Country Girl" in the collection, & one she just wrote about the cave. I've always liked her work too.

Rebecca Schumedja hoped to pick up some of Amy's energy, but then Rebecca was "reading for 2" as they say; another divorce poem -- that, & the movie poems, made for the sub-themes of the afternoon. Then, poet paying homage to her sister poet, Michelle Hill read in rhyme "What to Expect When You're Expecting" for Rebecca, then some others ("Art Opening" is printed in the collection), proving once again how good you can be & just do a short reading without a lot of headbands & goofy voices (you got that Mr. Welden?).

So I left as I had come in, on acting/performance as Terence Chiesa took the stage in one of his many, clever incarnations. I had heard a bunch of excellent poets, readers & that's entertainment for me.

This is a great, annual event & I'm already looking forward to next August. Watch for it ( I'm keeping one copy of the collection of poets, & sending one off to England with Annine, passing the other one on. Someday they be worth hundreds on eBay.

August 13, 2007

Live from the Living Room, August 8

at the Gay Lesbian Community Center, with our host the straight-friendly Don Levy.

There are loads of poets out there hidden in America, poets who don't usually "do" open mics, who don't identify themselves as "poets" (unlike the rest of us who wear our symbolic berets on our sleeves, so to speak). Alex Albino, tonight's feature, is one of those, sort of. She has been coaxed to read at Lark Fest & WordFest, & I even have a photo of her when she first came to town, reading at an open mic in a short-lived coffee shop at 4 Central Ave. Her poems rise up directly from her life experiences. Tonight's reading included a nightmare where a lover turns to an eagle, then she turns to her real real lover in bed, to "A Declaration of Who I Am" with its images islands & the tropics where she came from, the perhaps metaphoric perhaps not "Cracked Pot", the time "The Sociopath Slept Over" & "Rhythm," the kind of sex-images poem that would start me smoking cigarettes again. A thoroughly enjoyable reading, like a walk along Lark St. with Alex, chatting about our lives.

Dan Wilcox (that's me, not to objectify myself) read a cluster of new poems -- they're all on the Blog.

Jim Masters has "come out" as a poet recently, & sang & read "the Marseillaise In My Life."

Of course Don Levy had a poem about a movie (the Chuck & Larry spoof), ripping apart it's exploitation of gay relationships, & a poem about playing "Mystery Date" with a neighborhood girl as a kid.

There were about 10 of us there this night, including Alex's friends, Kevin Bruce & a others from the center & blonde Bonnie who said she just wanted to listen, & borrow videotapes. That's what makes this reading unique -- it's cozy warmth, like a gathering of friends, which indeed it is. Every 2nd Wednesday at the Capital District Gay Lesbian Community Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, 7:30PM -- it's straight-friendly.

August 5, 2007

Caffe Lena Open Mic, August 1

(That's our host, Carol Graser, reading her poetry at the Take Back the Night rally in Albany, NY in April.)

Tonight she read from "the mother of the mother of us all" Gertrude Stein's "Patriarchal Poetry" -- who'd ever thought she would have to add repetition to Gertrude Stein!

A great night with visiting poets from California & Maine, some "new kids", poets from Albany, locals, regulars.

I think I wrote this down correctly from Carol's sign up sheet: Alibragotguh shot, but I'm always expecting corrections. Anyways, a new, young face with a couple poems, one in rhyme. Maybe people are signing up with their facebook or MySpace names.

Jan Tramontano used her real name & read 2 poems with a nod to an upcoming HVWG workshop on Writing from Art, which when I run the titles together sounds like an idea for another poem, "Picasso Playing God with Lovers" "In Rodin's Garden."

Francis Dieterle said it was "On the Color Blue." I told Gabe Tomasulo that I was complimenting him when I said he sounded like his father (& even has the wild curly hair) & he was pleased & I liked his poem about shoes & socialist labor. Nice to see him doing his own thing.

I like the way Josh McIntyre says his titles twice, that way I caught it when he said "A Musing" (about childhood); "Bed Bugs" I caught right away. Another new face, Laura Calanari described too many demons "Out Here."

The feature features (that will become clear later) were (local) Mimi Moriarty and her brother from California, Frank Desiderio. They put together one of the best features I'd seen in a while. As Mimi described it, they were "companion poems," not poems written together, but more like mined from each of their bodies of work. As could be expected they both read poems about parents (about their mother dying, about their father: "A Stroke of a Hammer" by Frank & "A Carpenter Dying" by Mimi). But it worked even when they each have a poem with a seagull in it, ("Mourning Pages" by Mimi & "One-legged Seagull" by Frank), or both have poems about the same Vermeer painting, "The Girl with the Pearl Earring," or religion, or Niagara Falls. The format was doubly (reaching for a pun here) effective in that sometimes Mimi read her poem first, & sometimes Frank. Mimi's new book War Psalm was supposed to be available for the reading but wasn't, & Frank had his for sale, Digging for God. Perhaps he'll be back sometime so they can do it again.

After the break, Carol read "The Small Bereavement of a Child Leaving," the irony of parenthood that we raise our children so they can go away.

The "spotlight feature" doing a mini-set was the legendary Michael Brown of Boston slam & the Cantab Lounge fame. He's now in downeast Maine teaching school & writing poetry. In true performance style, he forsook the stage to walk through & confront the audience, & did most of his work from memory. He also did a piece from his book, The Confidence Man. Great to see him in town.

I had forgotten that Mary Kathryn Jablonski's "Letter to the Husband I Have Not Yet Met" was actually a series (she read a couple in June here but in my mind they conflated to one poem). Tonight, she read Letter 11 & Letter 10 (I don't think I'm a size 42 anymore), hmmm.

Therese Broderick returned to the writing from art theme with "Les Dindon" about a less known Monet painting with turkeys.

James Schlett re-did "What Are You Looking At?" & a poem from the Grafton pond, a regular Nature Boy.

When Bob Sharkey did his poem about what was going on "At 23", Carol reminded him 23 was a prime number (which shows up as the only number in William Burroughs visionary Egyptian novel The Western Lands).

Michael Brown had done a piece about a root canal, & one of Jeneane Odenkirk's poems was a retaliation by donuts to a visit to the dentist. Then Erin Moberg read a poem on "The Corporate Life" followed by "Numerology" which would make sense, but the second was a love poem, I think. Then Lily Ringler was "Away."

Dan Wilcox (that's me, of course -- in the past I've just written "I", as any of you would have, but realized that in order to show up on Google, I've got to "state my name" & wouldn't you want to show up on Google? -- not sure about that, since some of those other "Dan Wilcox"s are stone Dorks.) Since it is August & it's Saratoga Springs, & all the usual parking spots are taken, & even the usual free lot is charging $6 (but I found Doug's "15 Minute Parking" spot), I read "And the Mary Lou Whitney You Rode In On" for the summer horsey crowd, & Tom Nattell's "Hiroshima" because Monday is August 6.

Mary Cuffe Perez is actually writing a series titled "Why Meringue Fails" & read the title poem -- I do poems, not meringue.

And Hannah Boucher who has certainly grown up at Caffe Lena read the transformational "Garter Snake."

First Wednesdays. If you want to contribute (besides showing up) to poetry at Caffe Lena, check out the website -- if it's not there, it should be.

August 4, 2007


In today’s Times-Union
grey print on a sunny morning
the picture of bejeweled
botoxed Mary Lou Whitney
riding a dog-sled to
a tuxedoed gala
in summer Saratoga
is printed beneath

the picture of the Grafton Peace Walk
bald, chanting Jun Sun
beats a flat drum followed
by young & old walkers in
baseball caps, sneakers
sandals, tee-shirts
waving flags of peace
even one lone dog
on their way to the Peace Pagoda.

In this race to the end
who are you betting on?