December 30, 2008

Sunday Four Poetry Open Mic, December 28

Dennis Sullivan introduced the afternoon then introduced the other host, Edie Abrams, who did the individual introductions of the poets, which began with #2 on the list who was me. I read a couple on impermanence/eternity, that I've made some recent, minor revisions, to: "Dancing on the Mandala," & "The Eternal Moment" (it's nice to try them out). Edie Abrams contemplated her big toe in "Poetic Subjects" (it's not every subject you can cover in nail polish).

Dennis Sullivan read a 6-parter on family, memories, the nature of it all, "The Holiday." Mimi Moriarty said it was her father's birthday & read about watching "Home Movies" after his funeral, then about the "Beach Cottage" he built; also, a recent poem, "Ice Storm" -- but I haven't gotten around to writing mine yet.

TimV blamed his poem "In the House" (describing his boyhood home) on Dennis asking him about what was in his boyhood room; then he read a poem by Robert Graves that was written in the same style of simple, declarative sentences as Tim's poems, then one by Marianne Moore -- more TimV, more TimV. Mike Burke, who is one of the triumvirate of hosts, read an 18-word poem, "Done," then an early portrait of a friend's father, "Mr. Ransom."

You can find the link to Therese Broderick's Blog on Ekphrastic poetry at the bottom of this webpage, & her poem "Nighthawks" was about the famous Edward Hopper painting. Joyce Schrieber brought along her own painting, not to illustrate but somehow to elucidate her poem, "Monologue for the Crone."

Larry Rapant (who had been the featured poet here in October, with Tom Corrado on bass) began pondering his philosophy with "Cobwebs all too Cobwebs," then paid tribute to the featured poet with random lines pulled from his poems, & ended with his own one sentence poem, "The Dogs in the Trees." It reminded me of a book by Robert Bly, Leaping Poetry, but with more emphasis on the leaping.

The featured poet, Tom Corrado, gave a full-blown multi-media presentation, with slides, taped reading, & even his companion string-bass. He began with projected images washing over him, stating "the theme is you." His reference was really to the 2nd-person pronoun, not to his audience, although you (!) may take that as you(!!) may. His model/guide is John Ashbery, with humor & the odd juxtaposition, like the poetry of French surrealists, as the method, as in his poem "Pity the Poor Anchovies," or "Immense Door Knobs Populate Your Dreams," where the titles can give you an idea of where he took us without quoting any lines. Speaking of which, did he really mention "gandy dancers" twice (in a poem on facades)? In "The Barometer of Relationships" Tom mentioned "dental floss," which Rapant had also earlier -- or was Larry quoting this poem? Either way, I have never before been at a poetry reading where dental floss was mentioned, twice no less! HIs best exploration of "you" was in "Mapping the Rest of the Journey" with it's dissertation on "you" & "it." His ending was an entertaining Ashbery tribute/immitation, "On the Road, They Cup Their Hands" in which the poet accompanied his taped reading of the 100-line poem on the string bass with video images projected on & over & behind him.

Open mic with a featured poet every 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Arts Center, 37 S. Main St., in downtown Voorheesville, NY. Coming up are:

January 25, Therese Broderick
February 22, Jay Rogoff
March 22, Mary Panza
April 26, Dan Wilcox
May 24, Tim Verhaegen
June 28, Mimi Moriarty

December 21, 2008

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 18

At the Social Justice Center, with our host tonight "Sanity Clause" (as in "everybody knows there's no sanity clause..."). And each of the readers got to sit on Sanity Clause's lap to admit to being bad boys & girls all year, then get a gift of a poetry book or journal.

The first to do so was Alan Catlin who read "The Black Hole Martini" from a new anthology from Little Eagle Press, Bar Code. Then Dennis Sullivan followed with a poem about a blind pelican. TimV referenced the news item that President-Elect Obama will have homo-phobe evangelist Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration & read "California's Burning, Election Day 2008." In the photo, by Georgia Gray, he looks like he's having a good time sitting on Sanity Clause's lap. Don Levy read his poem about learning to be gay, "Everything is Coming Up Show Tunes for Me & for You." W.D. Clarke included a bit of show-&-tell with a faux-scrotum change purse for his "Ballad of Maggie Magee."

Tonight's featured poet was the director of Rootdrinker Institute & publisher of Benevolent Bird Press, Alan Casline. He began invoking the spirit of Coyote, then with 2 poems about local poets, "Benevolent Obsession" & "The Well." His "Preponderance of the Small," a winter poem, owed much to Gary Snyder, as do many of Alan's nature poems. He played upon "A Theory of Numbers," then read a long historical narrative about a spy during the Revolutionary War. His "refrigerator poem" "Feeding Charlie Cheerios" was about a dog, while "There Is a Source to Each River" was one of his Grandfather-carp poems. "3 Lines for Charlie" played upon various meanings of the word "lines" & was about a real person, what Alan described as "a social justice poem." He ended with one of the sagas of the character Perious Frink, "Perious Frink & the 2 Loud Poets." I've written previously on this Blog about Benevolent Bird Press, its series of hand-made chapbooks & broadsides, so it was a treat to hear Alan read a variety of poems in an extended set. Even he got to sit on Sanity's lap.

After the break I read my holiday love poem to my mother, "Christmas Eve, 1945."  New-comer Adam read "Dualism" composed of many small parts. Shirley Brewer was up from Baltimore visiting Rezsin & Ted Adams & read a "fantasy poem" based on a picture of Jennifer Lopez & her bodyguards, "Seven." Tom Corrado took off from the Dylan Thomas poem with "An Adult Christmas in Nantucket," much more fun that way. Mark O'Brien, also known as "Obeedude," debuted "Pushing for a Northern Route," which he described as a "Henry Hudson poem, or not." Gene Damm leered at Salome (from the Bible story) in "The Elders."

The women poets were in the minority tonight (to the chagrin of Sanity Clause), & they seemed to cluster toward the end of the night. Sally Rhoades read a poem about a cousin in Cyprus, "The Day Ali Left the Island." A.C. Everson also enjoyed Sanity's lap (as can be seen here in another of Georgia Gray's fine photos) & did her holiday favorite, often done with a pinata, "Santa Scorned" -- but this Santa (Sanity) did not. Moses Kash III read of the good wife & a love lost in "The God I Found." Typically ekphrastic, Therese Broderick read a poem based upon a "Holiday Card Post-Marked from Holland." Some of the short pieces (definitions?) that Matthew Klane read were as brief as 2 words so it was not a problem that he strung a bunch together, like string candy, for the "one poem" limit. He has a new book out of his experimental poems, B____Meditations from Stockport Flats. The last poet for the night (& for 2008, as he pointed out) was Bob Sharkey whose poem "61" combined the age 61 with recollections of the year 1961.

The photographer, Georgia Gray documented all the pleasures & pain endured by Sanity Clause throughout the night & I will be putting up soon on my Flicker site more of her pictures, so please check them out at

& join us every third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY for an open mic & a featured poet drawn from the many fine local & regional poets we are blessed with here.

December 11, 2008

Live from the Living Room, December 10

The birthday of Emily Dickinson & the 40th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though neither got mentioned in the flurry of poems. Don Levy our host, as always here.

The featured poet, Mary McCarthy, former president of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, continues to energize the Guild through her involvement & gentle nudging, but she doesn't read her work out very much. Her poems are usually short, drawn from everyday experienc, & often tinged with humor. A good example is the first poem she read, "Heights," about being short. Then a description of being on the beach, "West Dennis at Dawn." A prose poem on "the holidays" was really about Time & on the real values. Then she was joined by her husband, Kevin McCarthy (a poetry virgin), to do "A Reminiscence in 2 Part," about being in a snowy Colorado for Thanksgiving, Kevin reading "What we said," while Mary's part was "What I thought" -- the kind of clash of obligation, politeness & our own needs that occur so often, more so in the holiday season. Her poem "To Kevin" has her calling his old phone number (& getting no answer), then an old Valentine's poem, "Searching," that she never got to read here. Both the list poem, "Living Dangerously," & "Peace" were compiled of the details of daily life that are such treasures, with the former poem threaded with humor as well. Finally, "This is for you.." for all of the poets, those who pull out of magical hats great "scarves of words." Thank you Mary, & for you too.

After the break, Kristen Day read her funny rant, "5 Things that Irritate Me at a Poetry Reading" -- many heads nodding in agreement. Anne Decker hasn't been around in years, it seems, did a funny rhyme, "Christmas Depression," a la Ogden Nash. Mimi Moriarty's "Christmas Snapshot" was about her father's last Xmas visit, & "Circle" was about Xmas cooking, coming full circle to with her mother.

Roberta Gould has been featured here in this series & has a new book of poems, Louder Than Seeds (FootHills Publishing), & read 2 poems from it, "Scenes" & the 4-part "Ironies." I followed with 2 new poems spinning off from Buddhist readings: the somewhat inaccurately titled "Samsara in the Orange Room" & the meditation on "The Eternal Moment" (both works in progress).

Another surprise appearance tonight was the much-missed Debbie Bump, no longer from Schenectady, with thoughts on road-kill ("Eulogy for a Frog") & the childhood memories of a friend, "To Catch a Butterfly." Uncle Don closed out the night with one of his own & one by Frank O'Hara. His newest poem is "Mexico Bar Dream," where I make an appearance (as Bob Dylan once said, "You can be in my dream if I can be in your dream"). The Frank O'Hara poem was the early "Poem" ("The eager note on my door..."), read from an old Grove Press edition from 1957.

An intimate, straight-friendly gathering on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY.

December 6, 2008

FENCE 20, December 4

FENCE is a biannual journal of poetry, fiction, criticism and art, published in partnership with the New York State Writers Institute and the University at Albany. The journal is known for including writing from both experimental & mainstream authors, the unknown & lesser known rubbing vowels & consonants with some of the most well-known & respected writers of our time. The editor is poet Rebecca Wolff who has read locally in the community at Point 5 & at the UAG Gallery. This event was a reading by 3 authors to mark the 20th issue of FENCE, with its picture of the President-Elect on the cover.

Writers Institute Director Donald Faulkner introduced Rebecca Wolff who introduced the readers, beginning with Ira Sher. He read 2 pieces, the first (not from the current issue of FENCE) a section from a novel-in-progress, "maybe a beginning chapter." His second piece is on page 133, an abstract psycho political vignette.

Edward Schwarzschild has also read out in the community, at the Fuze Box in the Jawbone Series & at Point 5. His straight-forward prose style belies the tension & sometimes chaos beneath. "Police Report from the Provinces" (page 97) is based on an actual report. The second piece was the beginning of a short story, "What to Expect Before Becoming Pregnant."

While Shelley Jackson's work was described as being in that category of "Other," her piece in FENCE was listed under "Fiction." Yet "Mars, Marred, Married" is decidedly "other," with its parts in prose & verse, from the pages of the New York Times. While it tells the story of characters called Life, Death & Bird Fu, all the words came from 2 pages of the Times. I was also fascinated by her website with it's cyber links & obsessive self-introspection/indulgence, as well as the green streak in her hair, more Brooklyn than Albany.

If you were lucky enough to be there you got your copy for only $5. You can check it out online at

December 4, 2008

Albany Poets Presents!, December 2

It was the annual "Airing of Grievances", with our host el presidente Thom Francis keeping a mental sign-up list.

I "signed up" first & did a trio of classic grievance poems, which, happy to say, are now only bothersome memories & late-night fantasies: "Heartbreaker," "I'm Tired of Waiting" (& I stopped long ago), & the fleeting "Love & Hate" (which I think I once posted on MySpace). Moses Kash III hung out with us at the bar on this night, read the poem he once sent to Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Black Tragedy: Children of the Rainbow," & his take on race wars as reflected in 2 roommates, one white, one black, "The Room Mate".

R.M. Engelhardt made a rare appearance with versions of the poems he has been writing for years, one counseling not to wait on false hope, false love, etc., the other an email rant. Oh we poets, preserving our pain in words. As does the ever-exciting Shannon Shoemaker with three poems: "Grown Cold," "Breathe in the Foul Stench of Humanity" (not sure if that is the title or first line), & what she called the latest installment in her involvement with a woman she shouldn't be -- oh well, don't we all?

Mary Panza hasn't ridden her self-righteous social commentary horse in a while & it was bracing to hear it once again, the title says it all: "The Tattooed Crowd at Day Care." Adam Hoyt has been here before & he read four of his short rhymes, "Catalyst," the prosy ponderings of "Epiphany," "The Song in my Heart," & "Laughter." And the surprise of the night was a poem by open-mic lurker Sue Cerniglia, "The Double-Header," a "just written" piece on having a colonoscopy & an endoscopy at the same time. More than I can imagine. Sue shows up at a lot of these events & I've only seen her on stage with her grand-daughter, never heard her read a piece she wrote before tonight.

Now we all know that el presidente has had more than his share of grievances this past year, but he seemed to exorcise them vicariously through our gripes. Instead he celebrated his 31st Birthday at the bar with cupcakes, candles & beer. Happy Birthday, Thom!

Every 1st Tuesday at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY

December 1, 2008

Teapot Gallery, November 25

I was featured at this weekly open mic out in Westfield, MA. Lori Desrosier had invited me to read back when she ran a series at Jester's up the street. But now she is co-hosting here instead, with Eli Boenziger. A cute little cafe with excellent casual food & a selection of beers & wines. There was quite a crowd because Leah Nielsen had brought her poetry class from Westfield State College -- the second open mic in a week I had attended where the profs had helped to pack the audience with their students. The open mic list had to be adjusted slightly for poets with "swear words" to read later due to a family with young girls having dinner. They left in the middle of my reading -- I didn't need to use "swear words" to drive them out.

Steve Ala, a local regular, did funny narrative pieces in his father's accent. Student David Walker protested that he was not from the ghetto, while Brittany Costa read a poem about alcoholism & violent love. A recent Smith College graduate, Em Jollie read "Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading" by Chrystos, a poet from Bainbridge Island, Washington, checking out (but I wonder what Em's poetry is like?). Co-host & MC for the evening, Eli Boenziger did punchy rhyming poems in between once in a while, including one to his son. Other student readers were Jaime Cocomazzi & Derek Strahan.  
Their teacher, Leah Nielsen read a litany, a spell against another sad poem -- wish I had the name of her chapbook.

I was the featured poet, & introduced myself with "Autobiography" & "Where Were the Professors?" (which of course was not directed at Ms. Nielsen). "Phone Sex" showed I could "watch my language" & still raise an interesting topic for dinner conversation with 7-year olds, who were gone by the time I did "Patriotism". The students were familiar with Slams so I gave them my take with "Slam Poem" (hey, I don't just go after pompous academics). Also on the theme of poetry/poets were "The Night Sky" & "Poetry Prompt." Back to the political I read "Baghdad/Albany," challenging the students to write their own home-town version, then "A Pain in the Neck." "Ordering Lunch" & "Starting the Wine" (to prove I'm not a total cynic) brought it all back home.

Back to the open mic, Kim Dawson did rhymes on music in the kitchen. TJ Matthews's poem was about the time he ate peanuts & confronted his anaphalactic skin blotches. "The Tip Top" was Stephanie Januszewski's poem about dancing before an audience. Caitlin Norton's "Error on Page" contrasted "perfect" looks with the style of a slut, but in computer jargon. Danielle Rice travelled the world in her poem but would rather be home. Brianna Conchieri read a section from a short story.

Ari Hutchins was in costume (to foil Homeland Security) to read "Fuck You America." Open mic regular R.S. Herrick took another direction with "Hold On to Hope" & "The Juvenile Home." Tommy Twilight did a walking meditation on the butterfly "Wing" theory of chaos. And Lisa did a couple of funny Thanksgiving rhymes, one where preparing the turkey was like sex & the other where it explodes when stuffed with popcorn (hope your Thanksgiving was as much fun but less messy).

Even though the students left, the sign-up sheet done, & the feature finished, Steve Ala, Eli, & Lisa each traded a few more tossed off poems as the folks tried to close up the cafe for the night.

It was not a bad trip from Albany (less than 2 hours) -- every Tuesday, 7PM, 22 Elm St. (Route 10, south of the Mass Pike), Westfield, MA. I had a great time.

November 26, 2008

Poets Speak Loud, November 24

On the last Monday of each month, after the peace vigil in Delmar, I drive back into Albany, park in the Sea of Mud behind the Lark Tavern, & go in for dinner. Usually Greg & Ed & Tim are tossing back the Guiness & sorting out the forces that move the world of Art & Music -- & whatever else lands on their table. Sometimes I find a table alone but often someone is there alone too to welcome me. Tonight Mary & Thom were by the stage so I squeezed into the long bench next to them. Nicole, ah, Nicole, knew what to bring me. I ordered a special & settled in for the evening.

It was a short night of only 6 open mic readers, & our featured poet, Will Nixon, but it was fun -- & if you doubt my word you should show up sometime.

Michael Mooney was new & I think there more for the fun than the poems; he read a joke about 3 State workers walking in to the Lark Tavern & seeing Jesus at the bar. Or maybe it was Rob (he showed up later but didn't sign up).

Shaun Baxter began with a poem by John Updike, "Perfection Wasted" read for his father, then read the only poem Shawn said he ever wrote about his father, the folk wisdom of "Cars & Doctors." Josh McIntyre stayed in town for the open mic & read about now, in "Recovery," then one about forgiveness, "Resistance" -- quiet wisdom in short poems.

Will Nixon, from Woodstock, has been featured here quite a bit lately -- at the Social Justice Center in August & just last week at Live from the Living Room, promoting his book from FootHills Publishing, My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse. Tonight he read mostly from an unpublished manuscript of poems based on the movie The Night of the Living Dead; other poems not in the book, such as "The Night I Saw the Clash" & "Love, Falling In." I've enjoyed his readings here & in Woodstock from the book, but was pleased to hear other poems tonight.

I haven't seen James Schlett in a while, need his nature poems to quiet the urban rattle sometimes; he read one about a storm. The lone female poet of the night, A.C. "breaking-my-Art" Everson did a poem about Xmas "Lights". I had picked my number on the sign-up sheet at random & ended up last for a change with a couple of old poems about young women out in the bars, "Yellow Cab" (a QE2-era poem) & "Ordering Lunch."

Don't look for the open mic in December because it won't happen, but on the last Monday in January 2009 it will be back, followed by the annual Tom Nattell Memorial beret toss at the Robert Burns statue. I'll be the host -- dress warm -- 7:30PM, Lark Tavern, Madison Ave., Albany, NY

November 22, 2008

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 20

This was a night when the proverbial poetry Tour Bus arrived & arrived early -- Naton Leslie brought a group of students from his poetry class at Siena College into the big bad city to read poetry at the open mic. I actually started at 7:31. Our muse was Hayden Carruth, who left us recently; I read the last 2 sections from his long poem "Contra Mortem." He was one poet whose use of form did not overwhelm his lines.

Alan Catlin started us off, as he likes to do, with "Empties." Then Kristen Day added to my "one poem" rule with "5 Things That Irritate Me at a Poetry Reading." The first student of the night, Philip Anthony Hartshorn II, continued the number theme with "The 7 Sonatas of the Night," (a love poem).

Then 3 more students, Joseph A. Mastrogiovanni with the social commentary of "Handicapped;" Christian Jacobs "Sea of Flowers" sounded like a portrait, as was Ashley Anderson's chilling "Monkey Lady."

W.D. Clarke was back, with advice to guys in rhyme, "The Pipe Smoker." And Bob Sharkey paid tribute to singer-activist Harry Chapin.

The featured poet was Matt Galletta whose work I have enjoyed at open mics in the area. He read a variety of short pieces, some found poems, & did about 2 1/2 of the things that irritated Kristen at poetry readings. His Zen take "On Workshops" actually offered some good, if satirical, advice, & his flash fiction "Detective Story" took advice from Raymond Chandler to the extreme. Coupling this with another poem about lover's robbing a bank, I wonder if he has a secret life of crime. HIs poems are simply & directly stated, often wistful & humorously ironic. His last poem, "Snakes on a Poet" based on the movie by a similar name, ended with the statement that the audience "politely applauded," & we did.

After the break, I read my new work, still being picked at, "Dancing on the Mandala." Back to the open mic, Alan Casline is only 2 letters off from our first reader tonight, & read a series of short stanzas on gardening. Ed Rinaldi hit us hard with "Molestation as Dark Bread." Joe Krausman was just as grim with a meditation on parents' fear sending children out into the world. Moses Kash III commented on "Election Night" world-wide.

Another student poet, Bob McHugh, read a tale of an argument in a diner with a girl-friend (these students seem to have learned the important lesson of late 20th century poetry of finding subject matter in anything). Anthony Bernini read a tight piece, "Buck Road" (in Worthington, MA). Brooke brought us back to "October".

And the last student reader of the night Catherine Semel-DeFeo read clever, intricate "Nonsense." Our last poet, Roberta Adams, had been at the reading at East Line Books on November 8 & came to check out the scene, read about "Morphing into Mom."

In an old poem I once wondered, "Where were the Professors?" Naton Leslie proved tonight he was not one of those about whom the poem was written. The students who read were inventive, witty, engaged with the world & a lot of fun. I hope some them brave the big city on their own & come to more of the open mics. It's our (poetic) future.

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

November 18, 2008

Community of Writers, Schenectady County Public Library, November 16

This is part of a series of readings coordinated by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, for which they received funds from the Arts Center of the Capital Region in the usual circuitous, bureaucratic route. It's great to pay the readers. Today's event was moderated by Bill Poppino & there was a long line of readers in many genres stretching over 2 hours.

Mikki Conn from the Hamilton Hill Arts Center was the first up, & read a memoir by her mother, Margaret Cunningham, who was in the audience, about the struggle of a black family looking for housing in the 1950s (the picture shows Mikki Conn, left, with Margaret Cunningham, center). Leonard Slade is a well-known local poet who teaches at the University at Albany; he read a series of poems from his new book Jazz After Dinner.

Susannah Risley read a chapter from a novel about a French-Canadian family. Catherine Norr (pictured) had a number of her poems about her mom, her twin, her lover; she also had a new chapbook from Benevolent Bird Press, Color Barrier. Emil Jarczynski read a first-person short story about going to a dance class. Sandra Manchester's narrative poems were about her parents, a memoir of a rooming house, & a fever.

Each year the Hamilton Hill Arts Center participates in the reading with a group of writers associated with their arts & writing programs. Jasmine Kendricks read poems by Taj Majors, who had to leave early. "Treasure" read a long set of unevenly rhymed inspirational platitudes. Arrima Abdullah Matlock (who said she also goes by the name "Chicago Davis") read a powerful prose piece about a young Muslim girl going through a crises of identity being gay). "Simply Divine" (pictured) gave the most dramatic performances of the afternoon with two poems.

Winifred Elze read fast from her mystery novel The Borgia Prince (Troy Book Masters) setting us up for the murder; it uses Schenectady as its locale. Nan Johnson (pictured) was one of the editors of The Washout Review in the 1970s & '80s. She read some amusing poems observing friends & family members. Catherine de Salle read a couple poems & a short story about fancy underwear, "The Cleaning Lady's Pearls".

One of the purposes of the series is to highlight the variety of literary talent in this area & this program certainly did that. Check out the Guild at

Jawbone, November 14

The last in this semester/season's series, with our commanding host, Mary Panza.

Ed Rinaldi, thanks to some poetry & writing courses, has been coming out to the open mic scene a lot lately, so it was fun to hear him in a full, stretched out session. Most of his poems are short & he had me scribbling away in my notebook trying to keep up. Refreshingly, he touched on the everyday themes that get lost sometimes -- high school memories, love (for his wife, children), "divinity type poems" as he says (but the undercurrent of spirituality ran through most of his work), writing in quiet, & an interesting series personifying Summer & Autumn. Sometimes he described his poems as like picking scabs ("Unfettered Memories"), another time they "oozed". And I liked the phrase, "drinking from the cup of trembling...").

On the professorial end of the program, Chris Funkhouser returned to Albany from New Jersey where he teaches at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Chris was a part of the Albany poetry scene back when he was a graduate student here in the early 1990s. His work tonight was combined video from Sao Paolo, with morphing text movies, music & Chris reading his texts. In this age of TV & video games the advantage of such work is that we (visually) pay attention, even when the images repeat in endless variations. But I think the downside is that the text itself gets lost, the words become a barely perceived sound-track. But the art keeps expanding, stretching the possibilities & Chris's work tonight was an engaging example of that.  (The photo shows Chris on the right, with Don Byrd & friends.)

Hopefully, Jawbone & Poetry @ the UAG (with the able coordination & logistics from AlbanyPoets will be back next semester. Stay tune.

November 14, 2008

Debriefing: Three Poets Examine the Aftermath of War, November 8

This was a reading that I was a part of along with Mimi Moriarty & Bob Sharkey at East Line Books in Clifton Park, NY. The blurb on the flyer stated, "Dan Wilcox served during the Vietnam War. Bob Sharkey was a conscientious objector. Mimi Moriarty is the daughter of a WWII veteran. Their poems reflect awe, outrage, humor, respect and resilience."

Mimi put together a program of paired poems, sometime Bob & Mimi, or Dan & Bob, or Mimi & Bob, including a poem by Iraq War vet Brian Turner from his book Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005). Mimi included some poems from her chapbook, War Psalm (Finishing Line Press, 2007) & others, including the fortunately fading dream poem "The Feminization of George W. Bush."

Bob included poems from his new series on (unintentionally) ironic statements made by new Iraq war veterans, showing how much poetic material is out there just to listen to. He has been trying out these poems one-by-one at open mic so it was a pleasure to hear them clustered together.

In addition to poems from my "Peace Poems" chapbook, I read the Oil War I era broadside "Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial" & we did a group performance of the collaborative poem "Why Are We Here."

It was great to perform for an audience of mostly non-poet "citizens," the so-called ordinary folk drawn out for the Veterans Day weekend & for their concern for world peace. Personally I was thrilled to make some new acquaintances & to be part of a program that brought poetry to people that don't ordinarily go to poetry readings. Also, to be once again at Robyn Ringler's East Line Books, 1714 Route 9, Clifton Park (across from Snyder's Restaurant).

(photo by John Amidon, Veterans Day Parade, Albany, NY)

November 12, 2008

Academy of American Poets Awards Ceremony, November 7

This was was a ceremony/reading honoring this year's award recipients, with the likes of Robert Pinsky, current Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, Frank Bidart, etc. wandering around. Not that I am a particular fan of this breed of poets, but it was an opportunity to go to NYC for a day, run into friends, wander the village, see some of the poetry super-stars in the flesh, etc. I didn't bother to take pictures, you can find them all on

It was like being a tourist on Mount Olympus, not the current multi-lingual tour buses climbing the Greek hillside, but more like the Homeric version where gods major & minor, & those aspiring to become gods, strut across the stage bestowing gifts on each other. Indeed reading between the lines one could see it was poets picking their friends, close collegues, collaborators, associates, promoting MFA programs, an incestuous community breeding more like themselves. It was like, "We's takin' turns & it'll be my turn next year."

Many of the poems read of course were difficult, if not impossible, to follow on first hearing, being so refined & mannered, as is the fashion. But while the Italian poet Andrea Zanzotto (whose work was read by his translator, the awardee Patrick Barron) was described as a "madman," his poem "To the World" was one of the most enoyable & certainly the most playful of the evening. Similarly, the poems of Henri Cole (the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize), described as "sonnet length," were elegantly stated without self-concious obscurity. The one poet who I would have liked to hear more from, the quietly understated Brigit Pegeen Kelly, read a poem by Yeats & another by Dylan Thomas, & 2 of her own. I appreciate the idea of "sharing the stage," but her work deserves a wider audience (her poem beginning "It was not a scorpion I wished for..." was eerie & chilling), so hers was the one book I bought (The Orchard, BOA Editions, 2004). There is no need to promote the likes of Dylan Thomas or Yeats, everyone knows their work.

The major award (the Wallace Stevens Award) was to former Poet Laureate Louise Glück, $100,000 (!), for which she didn't even make an appearance at the wine & cheese reception afterwards. For that kind of money she should have walked around the reception & tongue-kissed every sycophant poet in the room, then bought them dinner.

You can go to the Academy's (so aptly named) website & read about all the recipients & the awards & what they were for. By my calculation they gave out that night $171,000. For that kind of money they could give 171 poets a $1000 each, or 1,710 poets a $100 each, instead 7 got what they got. I don't begrudge them their awards, but certainly $100,000 is excessive, the equivalent of about 2 to 3 good salarys, or about 4 low-paying jobs.

To all my fellow poets & habitués of the open mics I say, keep writing but don't quit your day jobs, or spend your award money before the Academy calls. After all, Wallace Stevens was an insurance man, Walt Whitman had to publish his own books & the only MFA that Emily Dickinson had was a mighty fine ass.

Woman Words Reading, November 6

This was a reading by a group of writers from the local women writers collective, "Woman Words" founded by Marilyn Zembo Day, who was the MC of the reading. It was held at East Line Books in Clifton Park run by Robyn Ringler. The room was filled with the (women) poets & supporters with a small cluster of us guys lurking in the back.

Marilyn began the reading with a poem referencing other members of the group, "Please Tell Me" (your stories). Judith Prest started with a poem patterned on one by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "I Am Waiting," then a couple poems for her son (one where she wants to paint him, reminding me of D. Alexander Holiday's poems at Caffe Lena the night before), ending with "How Rocks Dance."  Kristen Day read a bunch of crowd-pleasers, "Food Court," "Wasted Words," "Summary of a Meeting," & the rousing rant "Pick a Poem."  

Jan Tramontano teased us with the opening sections of her just-finished novel, Inherently Bogart (any agents or publishers out there?). 

Kittie Bintz addressed "Even Song to the Moon," then the poems "In Choosing Images," "The Snow Came Early" (with it's chant-like repeating line) & "Spring Fed 

Judy Clough's prose memoir was about one of those angst-ridden, embarrassing adolescent moments in dance class.  

Leslie Neustadt delivered a monologue, "Plethora of Parts," about the different ages of her life that are still with her, often at the wrong moment. Leslie Tabor followed with poems,
 "Archangel" (a familiar Albany character), "Varieties of Death," & 2 about storms, "Lights Out," and "Wind Toppled." 

Thérèse Broderick, whose Blog on Ekphrastic poetry is linked below, read 4 poems inspired by paintings in an exhibit of Latin American painters at the New York State Museum.

Marilyn finished out the reading with a non-chronological memoir, "Probably Sober," and, appropriately enough, "Won't," about enjoying writing, reading.

It was a great thing that Robyn Ringler opened up her space to this reading. She has a wide variety of titles, used, new, & out-of-print, all in wonderful shape. Check out the website

November 10, 2008

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 5

Our host, Carol Graser, began with a short statement from a young woman at a detention center that defined poetry & open mics, "When people get together & say how they feel..."

Nancy Muldoon is a free-lance writer, read short poems "Freedom" & "American Culture" that were done before we knew it, a good way to start. I followed with an old post-election piece, "The Elect Shun Mourning & Celebrate," whose grim mood did not, this year, match my own post-election hope, & a new, in-progress piece, "Dancing on the Mandala."

I haven't seen D. Alexander Holiday around at readings in a while, but I recently picked up his latest book of poetry, All the Killers Gathered: Poems for my Daughter (Xlibris). He read the chilling description of Family Court in the Bronx, "If I Were An Artist," then read a related poem "If...," by Emma Cottrell from the Arabesques Review.

Richard Cowles appeared as "the poet writing his own introduction..." with 2 mercifully short & humorous performance pieces, "Foolish Accident" & "Not a Bit Curious," which included him running out of the room. Ryan Crothy went over the limit with 3 poems, all memorized, in rhyme & all by long-gone poets (I wonder if he writes his own stuff?).

Nancy Defoio read "The Sick Boy at the Table," & the childhood narrative "Mama's Pills." W.D. Clarke did the funny rhyming "Grandma," & the veterans' favorite "The Company Shit-Burner."

I think if I go to enough readings by Jay Rogoff, tonight's featured poet, I would eventually hear all the poems in his new book, The Long Fault (Louisiana State University Press). Tonight, only 4 out of the 10 poems from the book that he read he had read at his Skidmore reading (see my Blog for September 11), & they were ones I was glad to hear again ("Poets Park Mexico DF" is a perfect poem to end his readings as it is to end his book). I particularly liked "Aspirations," begun during Oil War I, & the poems about a teenage photo of his wife, "Looking Out" & "Shadow." He also included some poems from a forthcoming new book of poems on dance themes, The Code of Terpsichore, on dancing, of course; a couple of sonnets, "Latin Class," which I so much want to read, & the funny, sexy puns of "In the King's Arms." & here is one professor who hangs around for the open mic & to sign books at the end of the night. You'll get another chance to hear him read in February at the Social Justice Center Third Thursday Poetry Night.

I'd met Faye Bell elsewhere in Saratoga Springs, but this was the first time I heard her read her poetry, a wonderful poem of memory, clocks, & Time, "Regrets." Barbara Garro read "The Welcoming Kitchen" & an actual "Nightmare" (always interesting material for a poem). Thérèse Broderick's interesting Blog (linked at the bottom of the page) deals with ekphrastic poetry & one poem she read, "The Washer Woman," was based on a landscape painting. Her other poem, "I Single Saw a Woman Sitting," appropriated text from a book on old riddles.

Josh McIntyre's "Heaven on Earth" was a love poem, & then he read a short survey of the seasons, "Weather Whipped." Danielle Pierotti was new to me, read a grim poem, "The Wedding" then one about headaches. Pat Finnegan, a Viet Nam vet, read the rhyming "Prodigal Sons" which combined memories of going to Viet Nam with the corporate lies behind that conflict (& all wars), "Miami Beach 1972" which recounted the protests there by veterans against Nixon, & a third (for which he had permission from Carol), a more hopeful poem, "Morning."

Yvette Brown read a tender just-written poem on the anniversary of her husband's death. Bob Sharkey said he tried to compress his life into the one poem, "Perspective #3." A Skidmore student at the Caffe for the first time, Madeline Hennessey, read a response to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart then a great flow of words in "Noun;" very impressive work from this young student.

Then other impressive work from another Skidmore student, Bob Langford, in a sermon on living life to the fullest. I think the last poet of the night, Gary Yeager, wasn't here earlier when Carol laid down the 2-poems rule so he recited 3 poems (almost) from memory, one by Yeats, one by Kipling & his own ballad "The Pumpkin My Sister First Saw" (I'd rather hear his work).

The first Wednesday of each month at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs.

November 3, 2008

Poets Speak Loud!, October 27

The last Monday of the month gathering at the Lark Tavern, with Mary Panza as our host(ess).

I had been there early for dinner so signed up first & read "The Lady Bishop" (published last year in Gender on Our Minds out of Southern Connecticut State University) & the tiny "Channelling Richard Brautigan." Sylvia Barnard followed me, commenting on the Episcopal Church's selection of a woman Arch Bishop that my poem had been about, then read "To My Father at his 110th Birthday" or what would have been.

One of my favorite pastiche writers, Shawn Baxter, did a version of WCW's "This is just to say..." but with a pumpkin instead of plums, then he provided us with a list of "Ineffective Ways to Kill a Zombie" (Halloween around the corner). Todd Fabrozzi read 2 poems, "Mutants" & "Holes & Poles" from his book, Umbrageous Embers.

Tonight's feature was free-lance journalist & Metroland columnist, Miriam Axel-Lute. She read "a mix of old & new," beginning with responding with kindness in a "Prayer for the Evangelist on the D Train." Then "Mezuzah on 181st St." (perhaps where she was going on the D train). Other poems included "Westport Graveyard," a couple poems for her young daughter, a poem by slam poet Marty McConnell ("After All of this, Fire"), "Apartment Heat," "Living Close Together," and, ending loud!, "Karma." I like Miriam's work with it's images from the world of real things & her political/cultural engagement & I've featured her in my Third Thursday series. While a "performance poet" she is that in the best of terms, where the performance does not overwhelm (or has to) the poem.

Frank Robinson performed his ironic "Rant" perhaps for one of the last times, under the patriotic bunting. Speaking of poems that may (hopefully) not be performed much longer, Don Levy read "Rubbing Noses with Sarah Palin;" before that he caused some audience members to lose all composure with his reading of the oh-so-gay "Why I Never Had a Foreign Affair."

Chris Brabham's booming bass voice is perfect for his "A Sentimental Cannabalist" & the popular "The Angel of Death Unplugged." William Eng writes his poems right there in the audience, as he did tonight with a poem about a family gathering, "301 Lakeview Road," & one about his first Halloween, hidden & watching. Shannon Shoemaker ended the night with the relationship poem, "Confession" & some notations from a "Night Alone in a Bar."

Sponsored by, at the Lark Tavern on Madison Ave., Albany, NY.

October 31, 2008

Sunday Four Poetry, October 26

With a variety of hosts (or is that "a host of hosts"?) -- Dennis Sullivan to introduce the program, Edie Abrams for the open mic & Mike Burke to introduce the featured poet, Larry Rapant.

Alan Casline was the first poet up, with 2 "dragon poems," actually about carp & carp transforming into dragons (& I did not fall asleep). Marilyn said some of her poems "become lyrics" & her piece "Equinox" was that but she didn't try to sing this country song. Dennis Sullivan began with "Halloween Poem," a meditation of death & on the poet Delmore Schwartz; then a distressing piece about how the poor look different, & ended with "A Godly Pattern."

Mike Burke's touching piece, "Mates," drew parallels between birds & his parents. Edie Abrams paid poetic tribute to her poet friends, inspired, she said, by an email from Dennis. I tried to pick poems for this rural crowd, so I did 2 urban nature poems, "Planting Tulips" (actually saw the park crew doing just that again earlier this week) & my love poem to "The Lilacs." Tom Corrado, who had brought along his new string bass to accompany Larry, read a cluster of his short zinger poems on famous poets -- Pound, Williams, Brautigan, etc.

Mark O'Brien (aka "obeedude") read a piece on aging, getting wizened, then a coming-home-from-the-bar meditation, "Lament for a Simple-Minded Christian." Philomena Moriarty began with a poem for the political season, "Living the Dialectic," then "If Poems were Wishes," & "Meditation on Despair" (treat it as a crumb).

Mike Burke introduced the day's featured poet, Larry Rapant, while Tom Corrado quietly strummed his bass in the background. Larry gave us a variety from his life of poetry -- philosophical (or quasi-philosophical) ponderings like "Night Abets Each Noise," "The Fire," "Get In," or the funny "Thus Spake Larry." There were poems about his childhood -- about visiting aunts, recess & "The New Girl." And the love poems of "3 Winter Songs." He read us the latest version of "The Grand Larceny," a sort of cowboy-movie poem he has been working on for 31 years. A bunch of poems sprang from, or were recountings, of dreams -- "The Very Next" (another cowboy fantasy), "Flag on the Play," & "The Every Other Tuesday Night Poets." And then there were the lists --"Things I Learned from Living in the Suburbs," & "There is Nobody Here by that Name." He ended blissfully sitting in the Autumn sun with "Mr. October." Larry put together a varied, casual (he sat on the edge of the stage the whole time), humorous reading among a group of poets & friends for a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The fourth Sunday of each month at the Old Songs Community Building on Main St. in Voorheesville, NY, 3PM.

Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, October 22

This was a reading at the College of St. Rose held in conjunction with a sand mandala being make that week by Lama Karma Chopal. The first flyer I saw about the series of events at the Sanctuary simply said it was a poetry reading, with the theme of the poet as a political voice. A subsequent flyer described it as "a poetry reading open to all." So I wasn't sure if it was an open mic, or what -- but I always have a few poems tucked away in my bag in case a random poetry reading breaks out somewhere.

The evening was hosted by College of St. Rose English professor Barbara Ungar, & most of the participants were students at the college. The half-finished mandala sat in the middle of the simple open space that is the Interfaith Sanctuary. Barbara had brought some poems to get us started & for others to read, but we were free to read our own. She prefaced the reading with comments about growing up in the Nixon era & the relationship of politics & art, then read from Caolyn Forché's masterful anthology, Against Forgetting, poems by Primo Levi, Anna Akhmatova (an excerpt from "Requiem"), and excerpt from Auden's "September 1, 1939," & Gwendolyn Brooks' "To the Boy Who Died in my Alley."

Of course, I had gotten there early, just as the students were arriving, & ended up first on the list (just like the old days of the QE2); I read "Baghdad/Albany," which unfortunately scared one student to a spot further down the list. But Jonathon Drayton rose to the challenge to read his response to a Beyonce song; his poem called "If I were a Man". Samantha Stewart read a poem by someone else (my notes are illegible). This was a first-time reading for Alyson Lyons, reading "The Evolution of the Wind Mill" & her critique on her generation, "Separation."

Dana Cardona read a poem by Rumi & Marisa one by Lucille Clifton. Lauren Ruggerio read one of her own, "Beauty Consumes You." Joan Horgan works at the Sanctuary & read her poem inspired by the experience of a young student who had done political lobbying in Washington, DC. And Dan Henderson reminded us that since "we're all in this together" that Love, "It's All You Need."

A pleasant evening of poetry in a spiritual place, with some fine, young poets. I hope to see them out & about at open mics "downtown." Look for their pictures soon on

October 28, 2008

Poetry @ the UAG, October 24

Well, it's not too cool to review one's own reading, I mean, I did great, right? But as I've said so many times here already these Blogs are not reviews, but reports. So I guess I can report on my own reading; those of you who were there (or were not) feel free to comment away.

The night was hosted by Mary Panza, in stunning black (what else?). 

It was the night of the 2 Dans/Daniels & Dan Nester read first, starting off with my old poem "Where Were the Professors?" obviously not written about him (he was about 12 at the time), nor about any of the other "professors" who spend time at the community readings (I'll mention Sylvia & Pierre as outstanding examples). From there he read "all new stuff," including a couple of found poems (the most proletarian of genres), one a comment by Kiss star Gene Simmons, another an email from his sister. Other appropriated texts were his last 2 poems: a faux translation from Latin (with a fixation on "boner", total flash-back to my sophomore Latin classes), & the other his popular "Queries," which is composed of comments he has made on writing turned in by his students.

Other pieces he read were "This Onus Cannot be Cooled," "Messenger Scene" (note to Nester: the copy you gave to me had numbers before each line; you didn't read the numbers when you read the poem -- try it the next time), "Middle Class Low Song," & "Adagia." A good professor reading.

So when it was my turn, I started out with one of Dan's (the other Dan) poems, "Poem About 'Happy Days' Ending with a Line from Catullus." So that poem reminded me of my own written years back in response to the poetic tradition of poems "With a Line Beginning from ...", "Poem Ending with a Line from Proust." Thus my reading became a study in the nature of the poetic imagination, a comment on the nature of Art -- that Art is made up, it's not real, it's not about me, it transforms "Reality," or recreates it, or just makes it up. So of course the next poem was "Park Fantasy" (it's not real), then my contemplation of alternative pasts on French sheets, "Mayasarah" with it's made up footnote. "The End," about the art rock chanteuse Nico, was a nod to Nester's rock 'n' roll poems; then I continued the death theme with imagining my own death in "Death By Yuppie." So to end on a little levity, I took off my shirt, & did "The Bra Poem" (a tribute to the hundreds of bras over the bar in Weeds in Chicago).  After that what could anyone do (except put my shirt back on -- or go home)?

[The photo is from the original Bra Poem reading at Weeds in Chicago, April 2001, taken by Tom Nattell.]

I had fun -- & it was my 2nd reading in the Jawbone series, separated by about 20 years. May we all live so long.

Community of Writers Series, October 18

"Community of Writers" is a series of readings run by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild with support from various funding sources & held in libraries in Albany & Schenectady. The reading on October 18 was at the Albany Public Library Main Branch & was supported by a grant from the City of Albany. I served as the co-ordinator & host for the program.

Helen Raynes Staley is well-known to the writing & Guild community since she taught English for many years at Sage College & has served on the board of the HVWG. She read from her new collection of short stories, The House on the Rim (Westview, Nashville, TN). Her selections included the tale of rape, "Nothing," the vignette "The Good Samaritan," as well as short excerpts from other stories. Her work can be chilling & humorous, wit & playful language. A joy to have.

Naton Leslie, who teaches creative writing at Siena College, writes in his poetry & non-fiction of the lives of the working class. He read from his most recent book of poems, Emma Saves Her Life (Turning Point Books), from his chapbook, The Last Best Motif (Bright Hill Press), & from a new series of poems that he calls "my rights poems," about rights we don't know we have. These "rights" ranged from the right to a birthplace, to a cessation of hostilities, to a full set of wrenches, & to the grown-up menu, among others. There were plenty of chuckles in the audience.

Elizabeth Brundage has had 2 novels published by Viking/Penguin, The Doctor's Wife, and Somebody Else's Daughter. She read representative selections from Somebody Else's Daughter. I was especially moved by a poetic section in which one of the characters working on a roof in New York City, describes what he sees in the windows of the buildings around him. Often such readings from novels can be sleep-generating, but in her case the selections, combined with her straight-forward manner (like listening to a friend tell an interesting story), were engagingly poetic.

Visit the Guild website ( for information about upcoming programs. Also, there are additional photos from this event at

October 27, 2008

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 16

At the Social Justice Center, our Muse tonight, in honor of our featured poet, Don Levy, was Frank O'Hara & I read his poem "Why I Am Not A Painter." The proverbial tour bus was busy circling the block for a parking space so there was a small, but enthusiastic audience & bevy of open mic readers.

Alan Catlin read from a new gathering of poems he is calling "Men in Suits" the piece "Albino Farmer Riding Tractor in the Night" (you had to be there). Bob Sharkey read a piece quoting Finnegan's Wake, based on a poem in American Poetry Review by Racel Zucker about Spalding Gray; I think Bob's poem is called "Does She Carry Keys While Walking" but my notes are crabbed so I'm welcome for any corrections (as always).

Matt Galletta read his recently re-titled poem "Baggage" (it was "Luggage" when he read it at Don's open mic earlier in the month). In a little bit of synchronicity, Thérèse Broderick read a poem about Grace Harigan's painting "Pale Horse Pale Rider" (Frank O'Hara has some poems about Grace Hartigan).

It was great to see Shannon Shoemaker back making the rounds of the open mics & reading a brand-new poem, "Confession." Bryan Clogg did his piece, "Everyone's Got Something to Say" (hey, that's why we go to the open mics). And I read "Acrostic Jazz" in honor of Thelonius Monk's birthday on October 10 (also, today was the birthday of the art-rock chanteuse, Nico).

And speaking of birthday's, yesterday, October 15, was the birthday of our featured poet, Don Levy. Most of what he read were "pretty new," as he said. He began with a poem about his high school days, "Why I Never Had a Foreign Affair," a gay-fanasy about exchange students. Then on to taking apart the TV show "Gossip Girl" in "It's the End for You Gossip Girl" (don't ask me, I don't know the show either, but the poem is funny). Next his commentary on male friendships, "Isn't it Bromantic." Don's titles could be strung together as a poem in themselves, so he re-titled his poem "Gay Marriage in the Future" (a sort of gay Flintstones) to the much more camp "Going Where No Homo Has Gone Before." He got serious with "A Letter to Matthew Shephard," who Don reminded us was killed 10 years ago. He ended with a his own form of political commentary (or as he said, "who the fuck is Sarah Palin?"), "Rubbing Noses with Sarah Palin, or Don't Cry for Me Anchorage." It's all on tape.

So that's how we ended the night. You never know what's going to happen at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY (7:00PM sign-up, 7:30PM start), on the third Thursday of each month, except that there will be poetry, & it's always fun (I know, I'm the host).

October 26, 2008

Woodstock Poetry Society, October 11

At the Woodstock Town Hall, with our host Philip Levine. I haven't been down there in a while, but it's always worth the trip. I like to point out that these Blog entries are not reviews, but reports, & I have a "business" interest in this reading, being the publisher of the chapbook by one of the features, Mary Kathryn Jablonski. But let me know if you think there is a different tone or emphasis in this posting. There are usually some very interesting open mic poets as well as the features at this reading & today was no exception.

The first open mic poet was Georganna Millman who read in the Poets in the Park series this summer announced that her manuscript is a finalist in the Ruffian Press contest -- we wish her luck! She read 2 fine poems, one from the Kabbala, "Darkness is the Garment of Light" & "Creation was an Act of Passion" (yes, yes).

I did my fantasy memory piece "Shaken, Stirred," & the american haiku "Yom Kippur 2004." "Johnny Jive" was the man with the guitar & got us all singing "Thank you for being my friend." Bruce Weber read the anaphora "I'm Writing..." (I hope we all are) & "Diary Entry October 1." I was glad to see Kate Haymes again with the short, seasonal "Autumn."

Donald Lev did a couple of his own, "Bogart" & "The Festival" & in the middle read one of Enid Dame's, "The Woman Who Was Water." If you don't know about his Home Planet News, was amatter wid you?

Although her poem was missing a page, what Cheryl Rice read of "The Yard & Its Tree" was just fine. Modern day vaudevillian, Ron Whiteurs, did "Shofar" & the hilarious "Don't Let Him In Your Underwear."

The first of the day's featured poets was Mary Kathryn Jablonski, whose chapbook, To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met I recently published under the A.P.D. imprint (for more information email She read 2 new poems as a prelude, "Fever 3" in which her refrigerator speaks in Spanish, & the haunting dream poem "Heart Nebula (Running Dog)." Then she read a selection of the husband letters (#1, 3 - 7, 9 & 10). She likes to tease, leaving the final letter to those who buy the book.

The second featured poet was Will Nixon, who began with a tribute to his friend & Woodstock poet, the late Saul Bennett, reading Saul's "On the Menu at the Asian Food Shoppe," "Glass," "Listen Carefully," & John Keats' "To Autumn." Then on to his own poems, "Autumn Leaf," a couple Zombie poems, then a few from his new book from FootHills Publishing, My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse: "Pride of Pumpkins" (set in Woodstock), "America," & the title poem.

Our host, Philip Levine finished out the afternoon with "Poet En Pointe," & a rambling, prosy piece that tried not to say anything, "At Oblique Angles Sliced Thin."

The second Saturday of each month, at the Woodstock Town Hall, Woodstock, NY, 2PM. And check out more of my photos at

October 21, 2008

Poetry @ the UAG, October 10

Brought to us during the college semesters by Jawbone Reading Series & Albany Poets. Tonight was an uncharacteristic open mic, with Mary Panza keeping us hopping. What is 4 minutes anyway?

Sylvia Barnard, in a change from her recent poems, read "To My Father on His 110th Birthday" (or what would have been). Norris sneaked his guitar in & even got us singing along with his fine finger-picking blues. I decided to resurrect my story of the old poetry scene, "Spy Stories."

A few weeks ago The Poet Essence had been scheduled to read in this series but was unable to make it so Mary let her stretch out a little longer. She gave us 2 of her best: "N-I-G-G-A Speaks" & "It's Not Just Words." Tom took off from that with a rap on being enslaved by words, getting a bit tangled in his own, but a powerful piece too. Randall Horton was once featured in the Jawbone series but I've rarely seen him in the open mic scene; I liked his memoir of life in DC, "Green Line 5 Years Rewind" & "Train Rain to NYC."

Unfortunately, Chris Rizzo did not read any of his own poetry, but fortunately he read from another fine poet, Gerrit Lansing, "In Erasmus Darwin's Generous Light" (the grandfather of Charles Darwin & a poet & naturalist). A new face, Canella (hope I got the spelling correct) performed from memory "The Eulogy of a Dope Fiend." And Adam Hoyt did 3 of his short rhymes, the last, "Prejudice," a bit too preachy, but the first one "Strawberry Shortcake" had more fine images.

The series continues to November 14, then hopefully begins again next semester, at the UAG Gallery, 247 Lark St., Albany, NY with free coffee from Scratch Bakery-Cafe.

October 18, 2008

Live from the Living Room, October 8

With our host, Don Levy, in the straight-friendly space of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center.

The featured poet was Erik Sweet, editor of (check it out). Erik mostly read pieces that were based on other texts, such as "Madame Bovary Anew," based on one of Bernadette Mayer's experiments, "Today Again," & a sestina, "Migrations." He also read "Contains No Juice," "The Rest of Everything," also a philosophical poem with a quote from Philip Whalen, & "The Littlest Scissors."

Since there were only a few of us there (& no one needed a cigarette) we continued on without a break, so I read an old prose piece published over 20 years ago in The Albany Review, "God on Alto." Matt Galletta read his meditation on pregnant women, "Luggage."

Don read from an old collection, The American Poetry Anthology, a poem each by Phillip Dacey, James Reiss & Susan Feldman.

Cozy conversation & poetry every 2nd Wednesday at 7:30PM, at the GLCC, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY.

October 17, 2008

New York State Writers' Institute, October 8

The New York State Writers Institute hasn't been bringing in a lot of poets of late but this semester there are a few on the roster worth seeing.

I caught the late afternoon reading by Brazilian poet Astrid Cabral with her translator Alexis Levitin. Cabral's reading was from her new book Cage (Host Publications, Austin TX) in the original Portuguese with Alexis Levitin reading the English first. Their technique was for Levitin to read a sentence, or a discrete phrase, & then for the poet to read the original, then back to the the translation. Her poems are generally short anyway, but this method was effective in linking the English translation to the Portuguese original, much better than reading the complete poem in one language then hearing it read again.

Cage is a stunning little book in which the poet restores her fellowship to the animal world, the snakes, oxen, turtle, gecko, even ants & fossils of fish, sometimes real & sometimes springing from the poet's imagination; & if you were lucky enough to be there that day you got the book at a discount. She/they read almost half of it with a discussion of some of the issues of translation. At one point Levitin admitted to a "mistake" in the translation of a word in the poem "River Dolphin in the Body."

After the reading I mentioned to Alexis Levitin that I had heard him read here with the late (European) Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade, & he pointed out that that reading was nearly 20 years ago. I went back to my photo file & found the pictures from that day -- check them out on

& check out the Writers Institute schedule at

Albany Poets Presents!, October 7

At Valentines' with our host, el presidente Thom Francis.

At the start of the open mic I took advantage of the short sign-up list to read 3 (albeit short) poems, "Vowels" (poetry & gas), "Zombie Gourd" (a la Alan Catlin's Bar Poems) & the American haiku, "Yom Kippur 2004." Moses Kash III followed me with a long introductory rant on Hillary Rodham Clinton then a shorter poem on black men & Abraham & Moses (either him or the Biblical one). Then a brief musical interlude by Nick DiPirro on guitar.

At this point Matthew Klane took over, first as featured poet, then to introduce the second featured reader, Vanessa Place. Matthew read from a new series he has been writing, "Sons & Followers," about John Brown, and in which he only uses words, phrases from Russell Bank's novel Cloudsplitter. A powerful piece in Klane's characteristic fractured manner.

Vanessa Place has been traveling around from Los Angeles "performing this book," her novel La Medusa (the University of Alabama Press). At 488 pages (an inch & a quarter thick), pound for pound word for word, the best buy of the night at $20. Her performance included tearing out random pages called out by number from the audience then have those folks read their pages. Thom Francis got page 22 & Douglas Rothchild read page 52 -- backwards. The author read the copyright page then read a section (which I haven't found yet in my copy) that was a list of classic & freshly made-up names for a woman's pudenda (which was not one of the terms included, to my recollection).

Back to the open mic, new voice Tessa Nguyen read a poem about a relationship, then "an American haiku" (didn't I say that too?), "Identity." Thom introduced RM Engelhardt as "the man of a 1000 jackets"; Rob read "If You Ponder It" from a collection of Sikh poems, then his own "After Myth," (which I think was chemistry when I was in high school). Another new voice, Adam Hoyt, read a series of "I-focused" short poems, like notebook ponderings. Finally, el presidente his-self read an untitled piece he does with his group "The House Band of the Apocalypse", what we know as "the trucker poem."

First Tuesdays, Valentines' near where New Scotland Ave. begins at Madison (in Albany, NY), 8:00 PM, some sort of donation, sometimes a feature, always beer.