January 28, 2009

Poets Speak Loud!, January 26

& the annual Tom Nattell Tribute Open Mic & Beret Toss, at the Lark Tavern. Back in January, 2005 when this series began, Tom was to be the first featured poet. But he was dying of cancer & stepped away from us that morning. So the open mic that night became a tribute/celebration/wake, & we've continued it each year since. Tom was a force behind the beginning of Albany's busy poetry scene & his presence is felt wherever the poets gather. And I am honored to be the host each year & celebrate in the way he would approve. "Star dust is us," Tom said.

The place was packed & the poets ranged from "old school" to virgins, just as it should be. The first up was the ever-popular & well-published Alan Catlin, beginning with the first of one of the night's theme of a shift in power & direction, "Love in the Time of War." A.C. Everson, fresh from Florida (we hate her), continued with her "Bye Bye Bushie" (ole G.W. Bush was also a favorite topic of Tom Nattell's). "Open Mic on Lark St." by Julie Lomoe told of Tom's last reading at the Lark St. Bookshop in December 2004.

Mary Panza dedicated her reading of Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day" to those critics of Mary's recent public comments in the Times-Union. The fact that her reading was "better" than Alexander's on Inauguration Day was probably a combination of Panza's experience before open mic crowds & the fact that there were not quite 1.8 million people in front of her in the Lark Tavern. Josh McIntyre read his short piece, "Vegas" -- I had invoked the "one-poem rule" due to the length of the sign-up list. Slam-poet Dan Stalter's poem "Penis" was about the frustration of writing poems ("why should this poem be about anything?"), so he said.

I got distracted & missed the title of Cheryl A. Rice's poem about Long Distance Love (or was that the title? -- I'm sure she'll correct me). Likewise, R.M. Engelhardt (who is restarting his open mic series Vox at the Fuzz Box) read a poem he said he reads every year at a tribute to Tom, but I missed the title & he wasn't included in last year's notes. [Cheryl's poem is titled "Three Hours" & Rob's is "Think Beautiful".]

Hairy & boisterous "Mr. Lei" said he had read at the first & the last Readings Against the End of the World, the annual event that Tom coordinated for the Albany Peace & Energy Council, but I didn't recognize him except in his spirit; "Mad Mud Funk Oil" was dedicated to James Brown, Jerry Brown & Sadam Hussein (they all stepped into the beyond on the same weekend).

Lark Tavern virgin Jason Crane read an inauguration poem, "Last Night" & said he was last here 15 years ago, & was the second person of the night to mention Oprah (but my notes don't tell me who as the first). Another virgin John Allen read a poem about the snow storm. Definitely not a virgin of the reading scene, veteran of the QE2 open mics, Tess Lecuyer, read a sexy, urban rooftop poem written on the winter solstice of 1992 (she said "the cat ate the poem" she had originally planned to read) -- I'm glad, I liked this one.

Back to the political Todd Fabozzi's "Shock Therapy" described the economic stimulus package in sexual terms, making it hard for me now to listen to the nightly news without getting aroused. Provocative in a different way, Chris Brabham read the creepy "The Sentimental Cannabalist."

Amanda Rose was as lovely as her name & did "I Sing the Blues" (which I have because I missed her reading at the UAG Gallery last Friday). The last virgin of the night, D. Rizzo, dedicating some of the proceeds of the sale of his chapbook to suicide prevention, read "Sick Walker." Although titled "Valentine's Day," Shannon Shoemaker's poem was grey with irony & a death wish, no red hearts & pink flowers.

Long-time Albany poet Syliva Barnard is one of the very small, exclusive club of performers who read at all 10 Readings Against the End of the World (my first was the 3rd in 1986), & read her poem "Clara's Funeral." Ending up the night was Scott Casale on sex with the "Beauty is the Essence of Another."

As some poets can recycle their love poems, I can recycle (Tom would like that) my concluding comments from last year's entry: "it was great night: old friends, new friends, new faces, returning prodigals, vigins -- poetry in Albany on a Monday night in January, who'd thunk. Then on to visit Robert Burns, smudge him & us with sage, & the green beret to warm Bobbie's head through the night (with thanks to el Presidente), & Tom was/is there/here. [The beret was still there Monday afternoon.] And thanks to the generous folks who filled Tom's neon hat with recession dollars for the Tom Nattell Peace Poetry Prize.

Poets Speak Loud! every last Monday [just like the QE2] of the month, Lark Tavern, Albany, 7:30."

Birthday Poem, 2009

For my birthday a friend calls
across time & space, tells me
there is a total eclipse tomorrow
as my day begins, but not here
somewhere else across the Earth.
A time for things to come together
she says, the imagery obvious.

It is also the New Moon, the start
of the Lunar New Year, for the Chinese
the year of the Ox: to harvest, to reap
what we have sown.

Tonight the Lark Tavern is filled
with poets & friends & the spirits
who have gone before us. We read,
sing, eat, drink, kiss, laugh, gossip.

It is January, the parking lot is icy
the sidewalks narrow with snowbanks
the Park is filled with snow, cold.
When we leave, the Burns statue wears a beret
& Spring is just that much closer.

January 27, 2009

Sunday Four Poetry Open Mic, January 25

The monthly open mic, with a featured poet, up in Voorheesville, NY, today our host was Dennis Sullivan, with the featured poet, Therese Broderick.

I began the open mic with "Georgia O'Keefe's Hands" because I know Therese likes the poem (& it is about art), & 3 haikus, 2 brand new. Dennis Sullivan, a classics scholar, read "The Realities of the Aorist Tense" (which drew me back later to my battered copy of Goodwin's Greek Grammar), & "To Place Sweet Hector in his Grave" -- both poems to his niece who is now studying classic Greek & Latin.

Mimi Moriarty's poems were also about language, but in a different way. She read 3 poems written entirely using lines from other poems; the first was Billy Collins (her poem sounding a lot like something John Ashbery would write), then Charles Bukowski, and finally one based on Louise Gluck's The Wild Iris (which I had read recently).

Tim Verhaegan's simply presented poems mined his past, as he does frequently -- "Teacher" & in a graveyard in "Easthampton," where his family is from. Tom Corrado mixed history, the current pop culture & his signature quirky humor "With Freud in Vienna."

Sometimes poets are just carrying around poems in their pockets, as was Marion Mena -- 2 short pieces, "Feeding the Animals," based on a poetry exercise, and one to her son (that she was planning to show to her therapist -- another use of poetry). Barbara Vink shared a new one just written yesterday, beginning "If I were dying ..."

Today's featured poet, Therese Broderick, is well-known in the area as a poetry activist from her work with the Hudson Valley Writers Guild (www.hvwg.org), a leader of poetry workshops, & a frequent reader at open mics & other poetry venues. Just back from the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, she brought her new poetry chapbook, Within View: poems inspired by artworks (self-published, with design by Leonard Design of Saratoga Springs). She began with her inauguration poem based on a line from Gwendolyn Brooks, "One Wants a Teller in a Time Like This." Then a series of poems on her painter father's color blindness, "Green Weak," "Landscape in France" (on a Gaugin painting), & "What Still Hangs" (which is in the chapbook). Then 3 more from the new book, "Small Teases," "Lament," & "Death on the Ridge Road." She showed her skills with traditional forms with a villanelle, "Julie Aged 9" & a troilet on a fellow who goes around correction grammar (back to that again) on public signs. She ended with a new, "rough" poem "Beach Painting by Joe Davis." Another nicely put together reading. Check out Therese's Blog at poetryaboutart.wordpress.com.

Fourth Sunday of each month, 3:00 PM, at the Old Songs Community Center, 37 S. Main St., Voorheesville, NY

January 23, 2009

Small Press Reading at the UAG Gallery, January 17

Matthew Klane hosted this reading by representatives of small presses with connections to the Capital Region as part of the month-long exhibit at the Gallery. The presses had had their books on display since the First Friday of January monthly art walk, along with an exhibit of photos from "the world's largest collection of photos of unknown poets" by me, Dan Wilcox.

& I led off the reading, giving a brief history of A.P.D. (A Poetic Democracy, Also Publishes Dirt, etc.) then reading the entire chapbook, all 4 miniscule poems, from Poems from the Raccoon Lodge. Ably representing the press, Anthony Bernini read from Distant Kinships ("Heart of the Matter") as well as a couple newer poems & Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art."

Chris Rizzo was up next from Anchorite Press (http://anchoritepress.blogspot.com/) & read selections from some of the press' authors, including David Gitin & Aaron Tieger. Check out the link for information & to order books. Pierre Joris represented the press with a reading from Meditations on the Stations of Mansour Al-Hallaj, both from the published selection & newer pieces, including the just-written/never-read #36 on "non-acceptance."

Our host & moderator Matthew Klane read "Secret Caves" from his own tiny cards on which his own tiny word twists seem to fit perfectly, then introduced Eric Gelsinger for a long piece on birds & words, a veritable glossalalia of peeps. Flim Forum Books can be found at www.flimforum.com, or at P.O. Box 549 Slingerlands, NY 12159.

Fence Books (http://www.fenceportal.org/) was by far the most "established" press, for the past couple of years housed at the Writers Institute, but that doesn't mean the work is dull. Returned local Colie Collin's poems, like her titles, were rearranged text that still made sense on the strength of her strong urban images. I particularly liked "June Your Street" (if I got that right). Editor Rebecca Wolff read from the Prefaces section of Chelsey Minnis' Bad Bad with her pokes at stuffy views of poetry, then a selection of poems from her own forthcoming book on pregnancy, childbirth & the long road after, The King.

The final set was from AlbanyPoets, not strictly a press, though they crank out Other:___ in its various forms -- now a free print journal. R.M. Engelhardt (who has published his own work under Dead Man Press) read from a new chapbook, Versus, his usual rants against the trite, against the "mainstream", all the sitting ducks the C-list beat poets, from the lonely poet in his room/garret, whatever. In the past the poet has met God or The Devil at the bar; now he runs into Cleopatra, for the customary name-dropping & historical references. AlbanyPoets' el presidente Thom Francis finished with some favorites, including the apocalyptic "Radioman" & the untitled driving poem he usually does with his band. Then he surprised me with my own "The Ellipsis Poem" -- phew!

I was glad to be a part of this event, pleased to have my photos in the Gallery & pleased to be among so many who add so much to this city we live in. Metroland (that's Alicia Solsman in the photo here) did a piece on the small presses & the reading in its January 22, 2009 issue. I'm not giving the link because it seems to be a generic "feature" link that will disappear with the next issue, but go to www.metroland.net & see if you can find it.

And for more photos, check out my Flicker! site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dwlcx/

January 18, 2009

A Million Statues

“A pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues”

                     --e.e. cummings

Each time I drive up the ridge at the end of an hour
each time we walk down those graveled ruts
I see his empty house with dusty windows
unpainted siding, sculpture like fallen trees
camouflaged in the gully just steps from your cottage.

I sip bourbon now miles away, just a friend remembering
breakfast, dream of the collapse of that empty house
the rotted timbers disintegrating silently into dry leaves
and I know that if his house were mine
I’d empty your cottage & fill my house with you
because, you know, you’re worth those million statues.

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, January 15

The intense cold has been wreaking havoc with the poetry tour bus -- circling, circling like the hungry flocks of ravens. Actually, we could have used a few ravens for noise, but the poets (& an audience of attentive listeners) raised their own (barbaric) yawps over the roofs of the city. One advantage of a small crowd is that we all got to get back to our warm homes earlier.

In honor of our featured poet, I invoked the muse of e.e. cummings & one of his erotic sonnets from Paris, "i like my body..."

Sylvia Barnard has but a short walk to get her here. Her poem was "Clara's Funeral," a just written piece stitching her mother's funeral to her childhood memory of being in the front pew on School & College Sunday in 1953.

In contrast, W.D. Clarke had to search for a parking space among the frozen snowbanks. His "Solomon's Wisdom" recounted his great grandpa judge's decision in a court case. Check out his new book of poetry Soldier Ballads and Other Tales (InfinityPublishing.com, 2009) -- all the poems you've heard at open mics, & read about here on this Blog in your own hands.

I read my own take off on cummings with "A Million Statues" (I should post it here just for fun).

Our featured poet, NicoleK has an indelible affection for e.e. cummings ("be of love a little more careful than of everything..." ) yet her poems don't directly reflect his style, except in the sort of irreverent joie de vivire that cummings championed (heck, you don't have to copy a poet to give evidence of their impact on your life/art/whatever). She began with a an attack on the pre-packaged greeting card response to emotions, then moved on to a couple poems about a recent medical ordeal. Nicole is a confessed "foody," so then read some riddles to olive oil & garlic & a screed about Rachael Ray (gee, I hope I spelled her name correctly). Open mic poets seem pre-disposed to using "fuck" as an adjectival adverb so she had a few poems in that grammatical series: "I Fucking Hate Precipitation," "... When People Don't Use Their Blinkers," also, "Fuck the Dutch" (about the search for chocolate). She included one of my own favorite Saratoga Springs poems, about the Devil in the Starbucks there, & ended with her affirming "I'm not afraid of you..."

It was a warm, shall I say hot?, night of poetic camaraderie. But then that's what happens on the third Thursday, we do it every month at 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY (that is), at 7:30.

(If you haven't been there you can't be Metroland's "Best Poet".)

Live from the Living Room, January 14

A cozy night with the warmth of friends while the cold sat down outside like a Bank of America CEO's cold, hard ass. This is always an intimate gathering, more so tonight. Poetry, conversation about workshops, sharing anecdotes, advice & admonishments. The sign-up sheet was there but unessential. Don had suggested an "old" & a "new" poem for the New Year, with the option of reading one of our old favorites. As always, assignments are meant to be be missed or ignored. However, my good Catholic upbringing made me pay attention. Wandering recently in the Albany Public Library I found a book I hadn't seen before, the 2007 New Directions Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It's a little pocket-sized edition of the great poet's thoughts on poetry & its role in our lives, beyond the self-centered staring into the stars, but then that too. So I read his "Populist Manifesto" (which you can find in some of his earlier collections); then my own birthday poem from last January, "Shaken, Stirred."

TimV provided a lot of the impetus for conversation, & gossip. He read, with admiration, Letter 2 from Mary Kathryn Jablonski's To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008), then his own recent piece about tossing away a "Marijuana Cookie."

Therese Broderick's experience with workshops was helpful in our discussion. She read 2 of her own pieces, her new, inauguration poem ("verses organized in 2 parts..."), then a poem about a black & white photo, "Kitchen Light".

Our friendliest host, Don Levy, read from a 1956 anthology, 15 Modern Poets, the great Muriel Rukeyser's "Nun's in the Wind;" then his own "new, new" poem, hopefully Don's last George Bush poem, "Lame Duck Lays an Egg," with it's refrain, "quack, quack, quack."

& there is room to mention the other, non-reader in attendance, Kevin Bruce, adding the particular flavor of his chuckle & his smile.

Always the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the GLCC on Hudson Ave., in Albany, & always "straight friendly."

January 7, 2009

Albany Poets Present!, January 6

2009 already! And this monthly event has gradually become "Albany Poets Present Beer & Poetry" -- hanging out at the bar, an open mic sans mic, a few friends reading a few poems, gossiping, showing scars, trading stories/lies, etc.  [The picture shows Don Levy reading & a cluster of poets, who didn't read, at the bar.]

el presidente (aka Thom Francis) managed the clipboard & I read first, under the lights by the pool table, the revised "Coffee House Rant," & the pornographic "Tritina," which was inspired by an "assignment" of 3 words from Rob Englehardt years ago right here; it is a half-sestina, which I had to invent to accommodate what I was given.

Don Levy read his old childhood-memory piece about playing Mystery Date with a neighborhood girl, with a characteristically long title, "It's Also John Waters, or ..." [& I missed the rest].

Adam Hoyt has been showing up lately at some of the downtown open mics. His poems are short, with short lines, & rhymes. He began with one about soon-to-be ex-President Bush, then "Strawberry Shortcake," "Shades of Negativity," "Unprescribed Drugs" (as we sat at the bar), & "A Walk in the Clouds."

Moses Kash III came in from the cold & read a just-written piece about Ernest Hemingway -- sort of a mixed commentary & sermon on his suicide (Moses gave me his mss. of the poem if anyone wants to consult the text).

Meanwhile the bar was getting loud down at the end, with a chemically-stressed holdover from the QE2 who was loud enough to be our PA system. We're beginning to like the small group & the drinks, oh, & the poetry.

First Tuesday of each month, Valentines, in Albany, near where New Scotland Ave. starts off. Check out albanypoets.com.