August 23, 2008

"Live from the Living Room," August 13

Another cozy, straight-friendly night in the living room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center, with Uncle Don Levy as our host.

The delicious featured poet was NicoleK who just jumped into her poems with little introduction, beginning with "My Dog Fred." The dilemmas of dating & waiting in cafes were hot topics. She also shared some poems from her "everything is so fucked series". And we discovered how much she likes the word "delicious" -- "Waiting is Delicious" & "Ice Cream is Fucking Delicious" are 2 examples. Tasty, I say.

We are used to hearing Mimi Moriarty's poems about her father, but tonight it was her mother, with "Hymn of the Moth" & "Photo from a Daughter's Wedding." Alan Catlin read 2 poems with the same title "Looking Out a Dirty Window at Nothing at All," the first about his mother alone in Manhattan, the second about the dark, urban sights out a bus window.

Matt Galletta was back with one quirky piece, "There's So Much We Haven't Planned For." Kristen Day read 2 favorites, "Food Court," & "The Elvis Connection." My 2 poems were the still-hand-written "The Cardinal" & the old "Shaker Hymn." Bob Sharkey "Suddenly" saw a deer on Peebles Island, & the 5th in his "PTSD" series, "The Sergeant."

Don Levy read 2 new poems, "Isn't it Bromantic" & the one he read earlier in the month at Valentine's, "Everything's Coming Up Showtunes for Me & for You."

Join Don every second Wednesday at the GLCC on Hudson Ave. in Albany, bring a couple poems & hang out.

Caffé Lena Open Mic, August 6

A big night in a crowded Saratoga Springs that ran the proverbial gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, or something like that -- 23 readers & a wonderful feature by Steven Huff. Our host, Carol Graser, began with "Gloves" by under-read poet & activist, Margaret Randall.

There were a dream poems, poems about writing & art, a flock of "regulars" & quasi-regulars, a clutch of first-timers & new readers, even two poets with the same first-initial last-name. I didn't get a chance to verify names from Carol's list so apologies go out where needed -- & corrections will be made when I get them.

The featured poet, Steven Huff, read after about 6 open mic poets, including George Drew who read "To Steven Huff" a poem about his father & a dead cat (another cat-egory tonight?), in addition to 2 new poems. Steven's poems, many from his books, were characteristically narrative, often memoirs, with a couple of dark, dark elegies thrown in -- accessible, listener-friendly. He ended singing a song by the blues legend Son House who spent his last years in Rochester, NY where Huff lives & teaches. It's a tribute to the regular patrons of the Caffè Lena poetry night that Carol is able to bring in such poets.

Among the new poets were Nicole Whitechar who impressed folks with her memorized performance with acting gestures; Michael Rush; Melissa McCloskey with a piece just written today about the progress of the generations; Brooke Millington who was followed by her poised young son, Zephyr reading Shel Silverstein (where was Mary Panza when we needed her?); Diane Maiwald; & Robert Espada. Also among the new readers were Sandra K. & Patricia K. (no relation it seems -- & I'm assuming it was just a initial). Another new(er) poet (she has read at Caffé Lena previously) was Effie Redmen, "Minutes in a Moment."

The dream poets included Mimi Moriaty, whose dreams included Neptune &, separately, Bush & Cheney; & Mary Kathryn Jablonski whose "Heart Nebula Running Dog" had half a dog running in a white room.

Sue Jefts' "Before Coffee" seemed to be as much about writing as about the morning; Mary Cuffe Perez read "5 Minutes of Poetry"; & one of Jan Tramontano's poems, "The Troll," invoked the dreaded anti-muse.

The other readers were George Fisher with a couple poems in rhyme; Josh McIntyre; me, noting the 63rd anniversary of the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima; W.D. Clarke with "Cigars & Women"; Bob Sharkey at "Shell Beach Station"; "A Few Things About Nancy" Muldoon; & 2 short summer poems from Thérèse Broderick, including "Summer Olympics" on her deck.

First Wednesdays --

August 20, 2008

Albany Poets Present!, August 5

A small group gathered at Valentine's, with Phillip Levine making the trip up from Woodstock. Our host, el Presidente! Thom Francis.

The first reader was Don Levy with his commentary on a recent media storm, "Little Miss Rachael Ray is a Terrorist." His second poem was one of those "only in New York" moments, "What Happens in Port Authority Stays in Port Authority." And he ended with a brand new piece about how he became gay, "Everything is Coming Up Roses for Me & for You."

I paid tribute to the recent visit from Charlie Rossiter with "At the Garfield Park Conservatory," then, for tomorrow's anniversary, Tom Nattell's "Hiroshima."

Phillip Levine is the work-horse of the Woodstock poetry scene, with a reading & open mic every Monday night & the monthly (second Saturday) reading at the Town Hall. He did a nice variety of new (?) pieces, the first began with an artist's statement & sounded like Samuel Beckett (in his novels), "At Oblique Angles Sliced Thin;" then a tender poem addressed to Mary Panza (who was at the bar, but not reading tonight), "Bending Towards You on Purpose;" & ended with a poem even more experimental than the other 2, "Poet on Point."

Brief can be good, enough poetry, then home.

August 15, 2008

Poets in the Park, 2008

This annual series of poetry readings was started by Tom Nattell in 1989 & has been held at the Robert Burns Statue in Washington Park, Albany, NY, since 1990, generally on Saturdays in July. I read in 1991; in 2004, just before he left us, Tom asked me to continue the series. I have Tom's hand-painted sign, his music stand, his shaman pole with neon streamers & his day-glo donation hat.

The first reading was on July 12. Magically (or not)
Robert Burns showed up to read one of his most famous poems, "Auld Lang Syne", celebrating his statue's 120 years in the park, then he revealed his self as Mark O'Brien who read one of his own.

Georganna Millman lives in the Catskills, in Phonecia & is very much a poet of place. She began with a tender poem to her husband, then one on tinctures & herbal remedies that she prepares from local plants. There were a couple poems about her father, including one from an assignment in a poetry workshop with Carolyn Forche in which she inventories her father's pocket knives. There were poems with a county fair, blackberries, a moose, white deer, wild horses ("Evolution," a simple, intense poem that a local famous poet of horses could learn from), a hawk-owl & the Esopus Indian Utsayantha.

W.D. Clarke tells stories in his poems in the style of Robert Service & Rudyard Kipling. Some are his own from his service with the 101st Airborne division in Viet Nam, others from the hundreds he has heard from other veterans. He included tributes to "Forgotten Veterans," to Henry Johnson, the World War I Medal of Honor soldier (& the Boulevard named in his honor runs right by where he was reading), to World War II bomber crews, to "The Boys from Troy." He included poems about the Civil War & about General Custer & his wife, & about the recurring dreams of "The Night-time Army."

July 19 was an evening of family readings, brother & sister, father & son.

Mimi Moriarty & her brother Frank Desiderio read their poems in sets of alternating poems linked by theme or image. There were fires in California, Holy Communion, Bible stories, their Grandfather & his grapes & homemade wine, on their mother's death, on their Father as a carpenter & baseball, on "Ash Wednesday" & their father's death, on meditation, & 2 versions of After-Life. A very effective way to present these poems, holding our attention & engaging our emotions.

Then all the way from Chicago, my 3-Guys-buddy, Charlie Rossiter along with his son Jack did a mixed poetry & blues program, starting with "Reading Snake Black Solo & Listening to Haydn" with Jack on bluesy guitar. Charlie is a master of nostalgia (see his chapbook, The Night We Danced with the Raylettes) & did poems about his long-ago college days, & from his childhood. Livng in Chicago there was "Chocolate Drop," his white-boy black exotica blues, and "Beware," with slam-in-your-face-preachiness (wonder what it would get at the Green Mill?). He also included a couple of 3 Guys favorites, "The Ex" & "Manhattan Blue" (while I sat & watched).

Kathryn Kelly, one of the poets scheduled for July 26, was coming over from Connecticut with Tom Nicotera, almost got here, when Tom's car broke down. But 2 strangers gave her a ride & got her to the Park on time; in fact she got there before the other, local reader.

James Schlett is well-known here in the open mic scene. His poems are generally short philosophical musings on life, love, using Nature as his setting & metaphors; he often intersperces journal entries that sound like the poems. He included Fall & Summer poems, referencing Washington Park, Grafton Lakes, the Rhode Island Shore, even New Paltz.

Kathryn Kelly's poems were longer than James', more narrative. She began with a poem about the painter George Seurat, then poems about her brother, her daughter, a Viet Nam vet, & one about the raped women of Bosnia. While she "apologized" for reading "political poems," with this audience, in this setting, with this MC, no "apology" was necessary -- they were strong poems, no matter what the label. Her poems about her partner, Hugh Ogden, who died in December 2006, were moving & eerie with synchronicity -- as she read one poem where Ogden was described as "coming in like a storm" the wind picked up, dark clouds rolled in, & a few drops of rain fell as the words of the poem described rain. Her "Shadow Hands" poem, which always sends chills up my spine, was a powerful way to end her reading. Earlier in the week I caught the last reading of the Writers Institute summer program at Skidmore College & heard James Logenbach read a poem describing Hugh Ogden's death. Make of that what you will.

The traditional rain-date for the Saturday Poets in the Park has always been the following Sunday. Considering the weather in the great Northeast, we have had few rain-outs, though one notable rain-out 2 years ago ended up with Bernadette Mayer having her reading at my house, 3 weeks later. This year I was able to arrange for the use of the Social Justice Center, where I hold the Third Thursday Poetry Night, as our rain site so we could hold the readings on the Saturday. And we had to use it once for the last in the series, August 2.

Philip Good began with some of his short, quirky, wry "Tea Poems," then read from his new manuscript with the working title of "Untitled Writings from a Member of the Blank Generation" (who else remembers Richard Hell & the Voidoids?). Each of the 11 pieces was titled, "Untitled..." -- on art, on the politics & nature of poetry, science, playing on words, images, ideas, & referencing global positioning, even Bernadette, & our ubiquitous storms.

Susan Brennan's poems were longer, more narrative. She began with one by Robert Burns poem, a fitting end to the series that began with a Burns' poem. Susan had read at the old QE2 open mic back in 1990 & included tonight a couple poems of high school memories, of driving from that era. Now she is a yoga teacher & her poem about the headstand pose brought in her memories of her mother & was as much about breasts as about headstands. She also managed to get a couple of poems from doing Jury Duty in Brooklyn & ended with "Last Prayer of the Day," a fine poem about working at the Brooklyn Co-op.

Since 2005 the series has been run by the Poetry Motel Foundation solely on donations. Thanks go to the Hudson Valley Writers Guild ( for co-sponsoring us this year so that some of the readers received funds "through COMMUNITY ART$GRANTS, a program funded through the State and Local Partnership Program of the New York State Council on the arts, a State agency and the Arts Center of the Capital Region." Other readers received funds from you, the folks that put money "in the hat."

Thank you! We'll be back next year (deo volente).

August 11, 2008

Poets Speak Loud !, July 28

This is on a Monday night so I go to the peace vigil at the 4 Corners in Delmar, then to the Lark Tavern for dinner before the open mic. I usually see Ed Aketson, Greg Haymes, & frequently Tim Cahill there having their Monday meeting. This night I joined Kristen Day in a booth for dinner, then we were joined by Kim & her daughter Alexis for dinner.

Mary Panza, our host, put out the warning to the unsuspecting diners that they had walked into a poetry open mic, oh my! So I began with Tom Nattell's "Hiroshima," & my own "August, 1945." Kim Henry had been a frequent reader at open mics a while back, but has taken some time off. Tonight she was joined by her daughter, Alexis Harris, to read together Kim's poem, "Mismatched," about being free to wear what she wants while Alexis (of the Fashion Police) was away at camp.

Sebastion Pacheco chose to read "Road Kill" while folks were eating, but no one left; then a break-up poem with rain in it.

The featured poet, Chris Rizzo, has been involved at the SUNY end with the scheduling of the poets for the "Jawbone" series, so he was seen frequently there, doing intros, not reading poems. He read from his manuscript "Inarticulations," & some poems back & forth with a friend, Joe; another sequence, "The Goings On;" a piece for Gloucester poet, Gerrit Lansing, "Becoming One the Invisible;" and ended with "Night Book," journal-like short poems. In fact most of his work had the feel of modern fractured, fragmentary words, phrases which audiences often struggle with, but here he carried it off well.

R.M. Englehardt made a rare appearance at a reading, with "Sleep" ("isn't a poem about sleep," he said), and a lost-love love poem. Our sacrificial/token virgin for the night was Matt who read 2 untitled pieces, one where the Devil & God were holding hands & neither would accept him as he is.

Kristen Day's "Personal Question" is biting social commentary, while "Food Court" was an apt description in a Mall Anywhere in America. The last performer had been sitting up front all night, just soaking in the words & at the last minute got up to improvise a piece on the theme of "strength," the kind he got from listening to the poets.

Last Monday of every month, Lark Tavern on Madison Ave., Albany -- check out

August 5, 2008

Sunday Four Poetry Open Mic, July 27

I finally got to this new series held at the Old Songs Community Arts Center, 37 S. Main St., Voorheesville, NY. It is an open mic with a featured poet & is held on the 4th Sunday of each month.

I arrived this day while Paul Amidon was reading a cat poem. He was followed by Tim Verhaegen who read an historical family drama, "My Son, My son, 1861," then his revised screed on drunks, "I Want Revenge."

I haven't seen Larry Rapant in a while. He is running a philosophy discussion group out of the Voorheesville Public Library, & read a couple poems on the theme of philosophy, including a series of re-worked cliche axioms.

Edie Abrams was the the pleasant host & read her poem "I Am the Center of the Ripples in the Pond" (aren't we all!). Then Mark O'Brien a poem about place, "Towny." I read my old poem to Lance Henson, "I Meet an Old Friend on the Subway," then "August, 1945."

The featured poet, Art Willis, started off reciting William Blake, then read a series of autobiographical poems, going as far back as 1968, "To Allen Ginsberg at Vassar." Most of his poems were tender portraits of relatives: uncles, aunts, his father, his daughter. An interesting poet & reader who rarely brings his work out.

An interesting new series that should be checked out, 4th Sunday at 3PM.

August 1, 2008

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 17

On a hot July night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, I started off with section 31 from H.D.'s The Flowering of the Rod as tonight's Muse.

Alan Catlin was down from Schenectady on the bus to tell us "Only the Undead Know Schenectady." Bob Sharkey overheard a Marine "In a Thai Restaurant" headed to Iraq, part of a continuing series of poems. Frank Robinson read a love poem (any day can be Valentine's Day when you are in love) celebrating free will (& love) in the face of Science.

Thérèse Broderick was just back from England with "Full Moon," a painting in Bath. Moses Kash affirmed his greatness & the greatness of "the children of Black Africa." A new poet in town, from Gainesville, Florida, Janet, lamented "Nowhere Can I Find the American Dream" (but for certain she can find poetry readings here).

Our featured poet, Alifair Skebe, has had her book El Agua Es la Sangre de la Tierra published by Finishing Line Press, in Georgetown, KY. In spite of its Spanish title, it is a long poem in English. She included some sections from it in her reading, as well as other poems from another manuscript she said she has not looked at in a while because of her current work on the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks. She began with a "summery, lovish" poem that evoked Gertrude Stein, & then went darker & darker, touching on the Iraq war & Death ("Order of the Father," "Death is ..." with images from the mundane to the metaphysical, & the concluding "Inside the 18-Wheeler"), with her own mortality spinning off Emily Dickinson, in "What Can One Do?", when in walks a curious, befuddled stranger from the street, just like the first time she read the poem, she tells us. In between she read poems exploring images of creation myths, & the beach.

After the break, I read, for my friends Charlie & Jack in the audience from Chicago, "At the Garfield Park Conservatory" written when Jack was only 12 years old. W.D. Clarke read about an incident 20 years ago, "The Dead Marine." Alan Casline, from the Rootdrinker Institute, read a poem for his poet friend & hiking buddy, Mark O'Brien. Chicago Charlie Rossiter gave us a raucous rendition of his "Even Yuppies Get the Blues," with his son, Jack Rossiter-Munley, playing appropriately white-boy blues accompaniment on guitar, oh yeah. Anthony Bernini finished off the night with "Lao Tzu Comes to Grand St."

33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, every Third Thursday, one poem!