March 31, 2009

Poets Speak Loud!, March 30

Mary Panza, our host, was proud to have actually set up the microphone & music stand all by herself. And was getting itchy to get to the featured poet, so she got us going on the open mic.

Kim Henry has read her poem "Mis-matched" before, funny take on child fashion-police; tonight she read it in tandem with the poem's inspiration, her daughter Alexis Harris. Alexis has been coming to readings for years, usually to sit & crayon or do her homework; it is great to see her stepping up on the stage with her Mom.

Julie Lomoe continued the inter-generational theme with her poem on the joys of a baby-sitting Grandma, "Goofy Grandma Thursdays." It was great to see the host of the Caffè Lena open mic, Carol Graser down in the big city again; she read "Her Hands" (based on a picture of a woman making bread) from a new collection, Ekphrasis: Art Into Words, edited by Kathie McCoy and put out by the Adirondack Community College Foundation. I inadvertently set off a "religion" theme for the night with my poem "Dancing on the Mandala" & blowing bubbles, my version of a sand mandala.

A featured reading at "Poets Speak Loud!" has been a long time coming for Don Levy but like wine (or sex) the time has to be right, & tonight it was. Don had an appreciative crowd of friends, newer poets & the surprised & shocked strangers. He read mostly newer poems, lots of politics, &, of course, his signature "gay fantasies." This self-described "heavy-set queer poet" began with "The Inaugural Poem I Never Got to Read," then the funny incident described in "Throw-down at the Albany Public Library" (I hope that woman in the jean-jacket never shows up at one of his readings). "Ad Man Falling," poem like movie credits, was something new I hadn't heard before, as was the dream poem, "Mexican Bar Dream," where I play a role in the drama. Don's funny gay sex images playing on stereotypes of nationalities in "Why I Never Had a Foreign Affair" nearly brought the house down, as did his attack on the Kelly-green silliness of St. Patrick's Day, "So Many People Have His Lucky Charms They're No Longer Magic" (or was that last word "Delicious"?). Don could do a performance just by reading his titles they're so good. He ended with a double-barrel attack (with the repeated refrain of "...fuck that shit...") on homo-phobia, "I Am Faggot Hear Me Roar." We sure did!

Bringing us back to a quieter reality, Sylvia Barnard read what she thinks is the last poem about her mother, who died last year, "The Last Farewell." Sylvia's introductory remarks about being made an orphan at the age of 70 I think would make a humorous poem. R.M. Engelhardt returned to the theme of religion with his new piece "In the Church of Coffee & Smokes," as good as any, I guess; then continued with a poem filled with his favored images of fallen angels, love, poets, poetry & centuries, called, I think, "Et cetera, Et cetera" (although when he first said it, I thought it was called "Excedrin, Excedrin" -- my mistake). Thom Francis did an a cappella version of "Shower," more images of religion, but you have to hear him do it with his band (perhaps at the upcoming WordFest).

If you want to read Tess Lecuyer's poem "Vert," a longing, seasonal piece, you can find it on her FaceBook site. Her second poem, like a pantoum or expanded sonnet, "Another Buddha," bounced off my sand mandala. Dominick Rizzo read 2 new poems, an untitled piece where someone breaking into a liquor store was a metaphor for screaming for help, & "Fire." Also reading new poems was Amanda Rose (as lovely as her name), the sexy, but unfulfilled "1:09" (the time it was written this AM), and one written last night, listening to the compliments of customers, "Stop Talking."

Chris Brabham reminded us poets of our ancient role as the source of knowledge, passion, & social change in "The Poet;" he also reminded us what a fine love poet he is with the direct, straight-talking catalog of the best things about love, "Give Me A Love." The last poet of the night was back again, Jonathan Jones with the first poem he wrote, at age 16, challenged by his Mom to imagine the birth of "The Drug-Affected Child." His second, untitled piece dealt with social issues & the worth of the individual through rhyme & sound-play -- I need to hear it again.

Another great night on the last Monday of the month at Tess' Lark Tavern on Madison Ave., in Albany. Check out the website for what's going on with WordFest 2009.

Veterans For Peace Book Reading, March 21.

Since putting out Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans, editor & publisher Dayl Wise has been taking the show on the road. Readings from the collection have been done throughout New York State & New Jersey. This reading was held in Washington, DC at the fabulous Busboys & Poets (14th & V Streets NW) on the evening after the march on the Pentagon. I've read at many of Dayl's roadshows & was particularly pleased to be part of this event. 

Melisssa Tuckey was our charming, beautiful host & started us off with a Wilfred Owen poem.  The reading was sponsored by Split This Rock Poetry Festival, DC Poets Against the War & Busboys & Poets.

Dayl paid tribute to a fallen brother "Tack" Trostle, by reading his poem "For Marie."

Camillo "Mac" Bica began with poems about his experience serving as an officer in Viet Nam, "First Experiences" and one that is in the book about coming back from a patrol, "A Sign of the Times." He also read from the book "The Centurion" & "War Crazy." Other poems were "The War is Dance" (doing Tai Chi), the heart-breaking "Letter to Tommy's Mother," "Vacation Land," & "The Rose."

Since serving in Viet Nam, Thomas Brinson has served as a Peacemaker in the Nonviolent Peace Force in Sri Lanka. He started off with a poem combining the story of a new grunt in Viet Nam in 1968 with the war in 2003 in the desert. A recent poem seeks to "Ban Torture" while "The Bone" is a loud performance piece about an air show at Jones Beach in New York. He also read the ironically titled "Fallen Angels" & "Parade" about the faux patriotism of the New York Giants Superbowl parade in NYC.

I went back to "Oil War I" with "Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial," then my salacious take on "Patriotism." I challenged the DC folks (& others from wherever they are from) to write their own versions (steal this poem!) of "Baghdad/Albany," & ended with the seasonal "What Passover Has Taught Me."

Dayl Wise, who had been introducing each of us, read "Southern Cross" with its spooky image of the white rabbit, then a chilling piece about invading a house in Viet Nam filled with women & children; also a dream view of his sister & men as flower petals. He ended with a series of his Odes to his military gear that he is putting together in a book: to the P-38 (a pocket can-opener), to his Zippo lighter, to the New Guy (FNG) & finally to his boots.

I didn't bring my camera so there are no photos to go with this entery, but David Phillips & Melissa Tuckey did take some shots & posted pictures of the reading on their website, so please check them out.

I was pleased & humbled to be included in the anthology & every time I read with these guys I'm even more humbled -- & thrilled -- to be with such talent, such spirit -- Wage Peace!

Following us there was a short open mic, but I'm not sure I got everyone's name correct -- as always, I'm open to corrections/emendations, etc. The first open mic poet was Steve with a piece comparing the Abu Gharib prisoners & those in Viet Nam, all "nobodies." Bob Grunko did an audience-participation song by his wife, "People Have a Right." Alison Koffler's poem "False Bamboo" set up the experience of veterans with PTSD with images of the plants around her house.

Brian O'Hare also invoked the audience's help to provide hip-hop sound effects to his rap, "Thanks to the Banks." Michael Verner brought us back to Wilfred Owen's poetry. Laura Costos has a brother in Iraq & is a member of Military Families Speak Out, read "War Hero." Melissa Tuckey closed out the night with an excerpt from her "Portrait of Mona Lisa in Palestine."

& be sure to check out the Split this Rock Poetry Festival in 2010.

March 23, 2009

Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, March 19

The poets drifting in early, the sign-up sheet filling. Our muse the anonymous Irish poet who wrote "Fair Cassidy,"
She passes by and I curse the mother
Who bore that daughter to torture me --

So our first open mic poet was the not-quite Irish Mary McCarthy, with a prose poem to her husband, on the Girl Scout cookies, saved like WCW's plums. Marilyn Zembo (O')Day read what she called a "pseudo-sestina" "After Viewing the Great Debaters." Jan Tramontano (at 2.5 on the list) read a poem for her father-in-law, filled with his last day's activities. I stumbled on the list & introduced Tim Verhaegen next who introduced his poem "East Hampton" with an anecdote about Paul Simon at the movie theater.

New name on the list, Rachael Ikins, & new in the area, read a villanelle, "Picking Berries with Dog & Swine." Alan Catlin returned us to the night's theme with "St. Patrick's Day in Hell" from the life of a bartender. In contrast, Don Levy's "So Many People Had His Lucky Charms They Are No Longer Magic" was a hilarious screed against the nuttiness of March 17.

The night's featured poet, Miriam Herrera, read a selection from her new chapbook, Kaddish for Columbus (Finishing Line Press, 2009), pondering the culture of "conversos" or the descendants of crypto-Jews in the American South West. "Ahuacatl," "Blessing the Animals" (mixing Christian images & Passover), "La Malinche" on the collision of the "new world" with the conquerors, back & forth with her sister in "Postmark Israel: To a Crypto-Jew," & ended with the opening/title poem, reconciling all the parts of herself. A very attractive, well-designed chapbook, but not nearly as attractive & compelling as the wonderful poems within.

After the break, I reiterated the single rule with my poem to Changing Spaces Gallery, "One Poem." Julie Lomoe read a recent poem on skiing, "Facing Down the Fall Line." "Like the last scrawny kid picked for dodgeball..." Kristen Day read a poem "No One Will Eat the Last Cookie." W.D. Clarke's humorous ballad was on greed & revenge, "His Nibs." Jason Crane described the day that "Aidan Arrives" & a ceramic pelican. John Raymond had an embarrassment of riches with an ex-girlfriend, "A Bird in Hand."

Bob Sharkey's "Another St. Patrick's Day Poem" was from 6 years old, as is the invasion of Iraq. Sylvia Barnard read a poem about her mother's funeral, "Last Farewell." This was the first time at the Social Justice Center for Rod Aldrich, who "tested" his poem "One Leaf" with images of leaves & of a bird, an ox-pecker (the things you learn at a poetry reading). R.M. Engelhardt read about his favorite topic, "Pussy Galore," but was briefly interrupted by a street-preacher who wandered in as if to save his soul (she didn't). Chris Brabham took a trip with his love, a "Vermont Voyage."

It was the first time here for Bless too, with his first poem that he ever wrote sober, "Jazz," done from memory, about leaving the toxins behind. Our last poet for the night almost held us here all night, as Moses Kash III went too long on a meandering ramble, starting & ending with a hymn, "It's Me Standing in the Need in the Need of Prayer."

Always lots of energy on the third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., in Albany, NY -- 7:00 PM sign up, 7:30 PM start. Your donation supports the featured poet, other poetry programs of the Poetry Motel Foundation, & the Social Justice Center.

March 16, 2009

Poetry @ the UAG, March 13

The series continues up to Albany WordFest (April 17-18), with Mary Panza as the MC.

I have photos of Amy Halloran reading at the QE2 in April, 1988, & she's still young. She is primarily a prose writer, but poems spill out too & I for one couldn't tell if she was reading prose-like ("prosy" has other connotations) poetry, or poetic prose. Does it matter? She began with an untitled piece pondering what to do instead of a wedding, then read an exercise which was a list of book titles, most of which seem to deal with food or the things of the home (as did most of what she read tonight), such as the wonderful long prose piece on the family, full of the details of the home, being a Mom. Her political piece, "All the Emanuels" was from a dream about Rahm Emanuel's brothers. But then the poem beginning "I think I am baking bread..." also seemed political as it combined the language of food & investments. After an homage to her high school experience, she finished with still another piece piling up of images of the everyday, "The Facts of Life." One doesn't get many chance to hear Amy Halloran's work so I was very glad to be here tonight.

Now as it turned out, Amy & Matthew Klane, the other featured poet, are related by marriage. Amy had even brought a copy of a page from an old City of Troy directory listing their common ancestor. Matthew has read more frequently recently here than Amy, at open mics & as a featured poet. Last Fall Stockport Flats Press of Equinunk, PA (sounds like something out of one of Matthew's poems) published his B___ Meditations[1-52]. Tonight he read from his "Che" based on the biography by Jon Lee Anderson. When Matthew first came to the open mics I had no idea what his experimental, short, enigmatic poems were about. He didn't help us to understand by not explaining what he was doing. But just a short comment about what text he was appropriating (like the Situationist's détournment) helps me to grasp, if not the "meaning," then what-is-going-on. And sometimes they can be very funny. All text is borrowed text.

Such a great setting for poetry, at the UAG Gallery, 247 Lark St., Albany, NY.

Wize Wordz Open Mic Night, March 13

So after the UAG reading, then some gossip & a beer, I headed down to South Pearl St. to this open mic at Simply Fish & Jazz. I had gotten the notice last month but didn't make it. Start time was listed as 9:00PM but I got there around 9:30 & had time to settle at the bar before it started. The host was Bless whom I'd not seen since the gone days of "Soul Kitchen" at Clayton's Restaurant (also gone, alas), & who started us off with a lament about the great poets & how he wants to write a great poem (which was pretty darn good as it was); later he read another piece on not drinking.

The format for the evening seemed to be for each poet to do 1 or 2 poems, then go around again, if they wanted. I left after the first round (even I can reach my limit of poetry for one night, no matter how good). It was a mixed bag of men & women, white & black, songs, hip-hop, poems, some read, most recited from memory. Some, like Bless, were accompanied by Neil on acoustic guitar.

A poet who I think Bless called "The Cookie Monster" read twice, once alone & later in a group performance with Pale Writer (from the "Drive-by Poets"), who also did a solo piece on "The Misconception of Hip-Hop." So, most, except honkie me, had handles/stage-names, like Illiptical, the Wizard of Mars who forsook the stage for the floor to describe himself in rhyme as "The White Knight of Hip-Hop."

I'd seen Sister Treasure perform at the Community of Writers series in the Schenectady Public Library in the Fall. Tonight she read 2 hip-hop poems, unfortunately read too fast. I gave it my best shot & hit them with "I Want to Read My Love Poems to You..." & hoped they liked it. Blue Waters read a piece on religion with real images, then a piece on domestic violence from a woman's point of view. Past Poet read "Viet Nam" for her uncle, then a clever love poem, "He Got Me." Nicky Black was another poet I hadn't seen in a while, & he too got down among the tables to do the funky, bad-mouth "Why Do I Cheat?" (Answer, his girl cheated on him).

I aim to go back -- 2nd Fridays of the month at Simply Fish & Jazz, 147 South Pearl St., Albany, NY -- the notice said sign-up at 8:30 & 9PM start, but expect it to start late. I'm going to try the food next time.

March 13, 2009

Live from the Living Room, March 11

Back when I was using a film camera, I would sometimes miss shots at a reading if I forgot to bring an extra roll of film, or if there was a malfunction loading the film in a dark bar. It can happen with a digital camera too, if you forget, as I did this night, to put the memory card back in the camera before you head out for a reading. Fortunately the person with "the second largest collection of photos of unknown poets," Kristen Day, was in the house & graciously shared here her shot of Dan Nester, the night's featured poet. Thank you, Kristen.

Dan Nester fit in perfectly with the venue, many of his poems with pop culture references & based on memories of growing up. His pop culture pieces included "Poem About 'Happy Days' Ending with a Line from Catullus" (& the poet as Fonzi), "Chicago 37" (like the band's albums), "Two Lies & a Truth" beginning with quotes from Paul Harvey, "Mick Jagger is Not Afraid & Neither Should You Be" (a title suggested by a friend), & "Vision: Jane Wyman in 'The Lost Weekend'" which was an anxiety dream poem of losing his wife. There was also the hilarious "Notes Towards the Definition of the Inappropriate" which was based on news stories of people doing, well, the "inappropriate." He also mines his experience growing up in South Jersey in many of his poems; tonight, he shared one about the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, & ended with another about his South Jersey Russian neighbors, "Lines About My Neighbors Ending with a Proverb." His poems were touching, profound, silly, &, above all, amusing -- after all, if art does not amuse & give pleasure, why bother? We're glad to have Nester here.

Our host, Don Levy, passed the hat, gossiped, then continued on with an open mic. Marilyn Day remembered to bring poems this time & shared 2, "My Hometown" about Albany (from a workshop held at the conference of the International Women's Writing Guild), & the wonderful list of "Remembered Kisses." I have been revisiting my 1995 chapbook Ireland & read from that a revised "The Fairy Circle," then a short Irish-inspired piece not in the chapbook, "Sheila-na-gig."

Bob Sharkey, not surprisingly, stayed on the Irish theme with a NYC poem by an Irish poet Andrew Elliot, "Robot Revisiting", then read "To Get His Breakfast" based on a character from James Joyce's Ulysses. Kristen Day read a new poem about the common problem of the last thin mint, "No One Will Eat the Last Cookie," then the wonderful poem about her grandmother, "Becoming Emma Jane."

Shannon Shoemaker had a brand-new "Poem for the Open Mic," an energetic rant, in slam style, only shorter. Then described the hounds chasing her in "Artemis, or Spying on My Muse." R.M. Engelhardt was back with a piece done up like an ad for Rent-a-Beatnik (the 1959 project of Fred McDarrah) in his deep radio voice. Then leaping ahead to the 1990s he read his tribute to the QE2 poetry scene, "In this Place of Sound & Light."

Finally, our host, Don Levy, outed queer cartoon characters with "I Want to Be Your Bikini Bottom" (which I think I once said to Goldie Hawn). It was a warm & friendly night, despite the outside temperature & the cold, hard moon.

Every 2nd Wednesday, Gay & Lesbian Community Center, in Albany NY.

March 10, 2009

Poetry Reading at Alternative Books, March 7

This reading in Kingston, NY was organized by Rebecca Schumejda. I had been scheduled to read with Rebecca in Albany's Jawbone series back in February 2008 but we were knocked out by one of the great Northeast's ice storms. Later in the year I met her at the CT Beat Poetry Festival & we've been negotiating readings ever since. So here we were on the night of Kingston's 1st Saturday art walk, 4 poets reading in a precarious labyrinth of the printed word.

Out of habit as much as anything else, I went first. Hoping to sell a few copies of my chapbook I read a section ("Terce") from Meditations of a Survivor (A.P.D., 1991), then jumped up to my January 2009 "Birthday Poem," which you can find here on my Blog. I felt I had to have a love poem so I read the all-purpose "Said Again," then back to last Fall's "Dancing on the Mandela" & blew a few bubbles, as fleeting as sand. Rather than read my "Baghdad/Albany" I asked Cheryl A. Rice to read her version, "Baghdad/Kingston" (little did I know that this sharing of poems/readers would be a sub-text for the evening, it just happened) & I ended with a poem for the season, "What Passover Has Taught Me" (also here on the Blog).

Most of what Rebecca Schumejda read was from her new book, Falling Forward (Sunnyoutside, Buffalo, 2008), except the first poem, "Shopping with Maria" for a wedding dress. From the book she read "Wedding Waltz," "Workman's Prayer" (for her father), "Four Months from Now," and the heartbreaking, "Wind Chime." She finished up with her favorite poem from Nate Graziano, "The Paper Ark" (which I remember hearing him read last June in Connecticut).

And with that she brought up Nathan Graziano. He started off with 3 pieces of flash fiction from his "Mark Stories", about a dysfunctional couple -- "Moon Walk," "My Real Hair" (from a woman's point of view, so he had his surprised wife Liz read), & "Almost Christmas." Then he read a series of poems from a new collection he is preparing. "Screwed by the Easter Bunny" was for his 3 year old son, while "Tom, Jerry & Tim" was about his kids watching cartoon re-runs, then "Reasons I Give My Wife for Not Having a Vasectomy." He ended by reading one of Rebecca's poems (in her book), "A Mother's Mantra." He has a wonderful book out from his experience teaching, also from Sunnyoutside press, Teaching Metaphors.

The last poet of the night was SUNY New Paltz professor Pauline Uchmanowicz. Her contribution to the unplanned sub-text of other's poems was the only published poem by her partner Jim, "Reproduction." Then she read a series of fairly short poems, drawing upon images & things, "Elegy for a Shirt," "Field Artillery," "Once Upon a Time," "Mechanical Drawing" (about what the boys were like in that high school class), geology in "Quantinary," "Patrons of the Weather" (or was that whether?), others, then ending with a Spring poem on empty space. A nice mix.

You can see from the photos how jammed in we were, humans a clear minority among the tons of pages for sale. The bookstore is at 35 N. Front St., Kingston, NY for all you bibliophils/maniacs.

Rebecca Schumejda will be the featured poet at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY on May 21.

March 9, 2009

"That & a token..."

Some folks have emailed me & others have commented on my Facebook site about the Metroland "Best of..." issue so I feel the need to set the record straight. Those of you in the Capital District of NYS are familiar with this annual "rite of almost-Spring" where readers of the tabloid local entertainment weekly get to vote on the area's "best" optician, "best" sportscaster, "best" priest -- you get the idea.

Well, they even have a "Best Local Poet" category, if you can believe that. A perennial winner has been poetry impresario & host of the currently re-vitalized "VΩΧ" series at Albany's Fuze Box, R.M. Englehardt. This year Rob was #3 on the list, with Mary Panza in the #1 slot & me (!) as #2. Rob, as is only right, has been #1 many years. I've made the list before; I think last year I was in a 3-way tie for 3rd place. Once in a while some poet ends up on the list who has never even shown up at an open mic or reading in the area. I mean, if you've got a big family you could win any category you want, best florist, best Ethiopian restaurant, best President, whatever. But Mary, Rob & I are all active in the poetry community so it is no surprise that we end up on the list once in a while.

This year, through some hazardous investigative poetry/journalism/dumpster-diving/trash-humping (oh, maybe not trash-humping, that's something else) I've gotten the final count on this year's "Best Of..." categories & the results are astonishing.

Rob Englehardt got 3 votes. Now I must confess that I always vote for Rob & this year I voted twice (hey, it's an Albany tradition to vote often): once as myself, & again under a pseudonym (fake name), so I guess that the 3rd vote must be Rob's.

According to my count I got 4 votes (all that was needed to go ahead of Rob's 3), & I know none were mine because, like I said, I always vote for Rob. So Thank You! to all those 4 unknown people that voted for me (I have 4 kids but only 1 lives in the area so I have no idea who could've voted for me).

I lost track of Mary Panza's votes there were so many, but obviously she had at least 5 votes. You know, she has a big, Italian family & once worked as a bar-tender, & her kid is in daycare, so she knows a lot of people. And she deserves it, even if it was only 6 or 7 votes.

So, I hope Mary gets her token, since I never got mine. You know, as my father would say, "that & a token gets you on the bus."

Thank you Metroland! & all those citizens for voted for us.

Caffè Lena, March 4

With our host Carol Graser starting us off with with a poem, "Of Gravity & Will," by Jennifer Sweeney (how many poems do you know about gravity?).

Now I had arrived sometime between 7:15 & 7:30 with about 6 or 8 people already signed up, but #1 was blank, so there I was, so I began with a poem for St. Paddy's day from my chapbook Ireland (out of print) "Brigit" (or is that "Brigid"?). Rachel (who may have been new here) read 2 poems for friends. Tim Verhaegen read his "East Hampton" memories poem, then his retitled rant on politics, race & gender, now called "Alone."

Sue Jefts usually does poems on being out in the woods, instead started off with a nifty piece on Kerouac & Zen from the New York Public Library, "The Eager Breath," followed by a more characteristic walk along the Hudson River. Ryan Crotty recited a ballad from W.S. Gilbert (on cannibalism) & W.D. Clarke followed with a ballad of his own, a World War II tale of "The Canadians & the Australians." George Fisher read 2 poems written while on the train to NYC along the Hudson River (again).

Tonight's featured poet was Nancy White, from Adirondack Community College. She began with 2 sap (not sappy) poems, one a tribute to Spring, the other, "Sugar," memories of boiling sap. She has written a series of poem of "farm voices," appropriating stories she has heard, & from these she read "Hers" (a grandmother's tales), & "Yes No." The voices of women & girls & the stories they tell were the basis of many of her poems, including the "Dolls" (which she said she is still working on but couldn't resist reading), starting with a voodoo doll & molestation & ending with a gentler image of a baby doll in a child's arms. She described a project of "divorce poems" with another poet like a couple of witches cackling over spells. She ended with a motherhood poem, "Coracle" & then "Woven & Sewn."

Continuing on with the open mic, there were a number of 1st-time Caffe Lena readers, including Carol Kenyon, with a tribute to Yaddo, & "Cheap Speak." There were a lot of people on the sign-up sheet & Carol asked folks to read a couple short poems, or one long one, defined as about 2 pages. This is a good, tried-&-true way to keep the night rolling & insure an audience for those at the bottom of the list. Nancy Denofio began with a pleasant poem about a white butterfly & dancing with a daisy ("You Asked Me to Dance"), but then went on to read a longer, more wordy piece & lost me. (Advice to new readers: read the shorter poem last, or, better yet, just read your best one.)

Another new reader to Lena's, Brigid Schmidt, did just that: read one good poem, "The Secret of Blue, for Sarah," about & to her daughter, in the Adirondacks together.

"The Man So Complex You Would Think Him a Poet" (otherwise known as Richard Cowles) did a couple of short pieces, the last on tree-hugging out of fear of heights. Rachel Manelly's poems were both notebook musing on writing & being a poet, & she gets the prize for the best earrings of the night.

The youngest poets of the night were 2 brothers, the first, Hopper, read funny, creepy poems about the figure of Death & about a Fat Man. His younger brother, Zephyr (must be hippy parents), was even funnier & creepier & got the prize for the most-recently-written poem, "A Wise Man Once Said," written "10 minutes ago." They make a great tag-team.

Dan Stalter read (yes, read, he usually does his from memory) "No We Can't," his imagined John McCain concession speech. Josh McIntyre did just one short poem (it's always best leaving the audience wanting more) on the deconstruction of Nothing, "Post-Modern Post-Mortem." Glenn Witecki did a poem & a half: a just-started, untitled rhyme, & another rhyme from memory about turning 50. James Schlett's short, gentle poems get right to the point, "Clean Slate" (walking through Albany's Washington Park), & "Stay" on the changes in his life in mid-Winter, including a new job.

Still another first-timer tonight, Sean Matthews, even wearing "the obligatory black turtle-neck" (as did at least one other poet tonight), read 2 poems from his experiences living in the harsh weather of Montana. Barbara Garro succumbed to alliteration with "Melancholy Meanderings" & "Rogues on Roads." Corlis Carol was back from Maine & broke Carol's rule with a long, long "Dance with the Muse," then a 20th anniversary love poem.

Martin Willow passes through on business sometimes, said he has a new book out, Secrets of Chatauqua, available from Amazon, but he read 2 poems about Lake Chautauqua (from a new collection), "Ice Monsters," & one about a warmer day on the boat, as it was supposed to be. I realize that the poet known as Mona Lisa was last, waiting all night to read, but a 5-page long poem, & then begging for a second alleged "short" poem (that seemed about a page in length) was just too much & she lost not only me but probably everyone else who was left in the house -- mercy, mercy, please!.

But the night was still another great example of how fine this open mic is, drawing not only local & regional poets but folks passing through. Every 1st Wednesday, Caffè Lena (& finally the accents -- "è" -- are all going the same way on the flyers) on Phila St., Saratoga Springs.

And check out the monster Poetry Festival coming up all day on Holy Saturday, April 11.

March 5, 2009

Albany Poets Present!, March 3

El Presidente was our host on what is always an uncertain night, but despite the cold there were poets gathered at the bar to read poems, no gimmicks.

I went first (again) with the version of "27 Things to Do with an MFA" I'd read at Vox, then, for no particular reason other than the venue cries for raunch, read "The Lady Bishop."

R.M. Engelhardt followed with his QE2 tribute poem, "In the Place of Sound & Light" (you can read it on his blog), then 2 from the same page of his new chapbook, "It Was Her Voice" & "Truth" (one of a half dozen or so poems with that name).

NicoleK was into snakes, one poem actually with that title, the other a list poem beginning "I am a well-rounded idiot savant...", then her Rachael Ray hate poem (& I didn't check the spelling of her name).

Thom Francis decided it was "a new day, a blank slate ... time to write the next chapter..." We'll be waiting, Sr. Presidente.

Dominick Rizzo began with a poem written 9 years ago about his alter-ego, Chris Keller, then another about hiding oneself, "Only Anyone to Be;" & finished with "Surgery."

The last poet was Thom's "cousin Matt," Matt Walsh, with a piece about being outdoors, hunting trees -- so not Valentines.

Check the AlbanyPoets website for their other events.

March 2, 2009

Poetry @ the UAG, February 27

The mini series continues with Mary Panza the officious, I mean official, host for AlbanyPoets, with 2 poets tonight.

Matt Galletta has featured in a couple of Albany venues. His generally short poems are witty, skewering social commentary, enhanced by the twinkle in his eye & his subtle smirk -- like a poetry Jack Benny. His topics include sex & love & poetry. He literally took us from "The Gates" of Heaven, through Mexico ("The Touch"), to the "24-Hour Laundromat," to swatting a fly during sex ("Vacancy"). But the biggest topic was poetry: "Lemons," on editing a lit magazine; "On Workshops" where lines were cut down to a blank page; "The Local Poet;" "Title of Poem," "An Honest Man" at a poetry reading, to what he called a "kind of ridiculous" poem, "Snakes on a Poet." Check him out, not like a library book, but at area open mics.

Margo Malia Lynch presents a more New Age persona than Matt Galletta, but some of her poems have an equally cynical edge. She began with playing a flute, invoking her native American Indian roots. Some of her poems were marred by sweeping profound statements uttered in cliches (such as "timeless day") in "Flicker of Hope", but these were offset by other passages filled with images of things. "Carving Owl" was filled with Hawaiian images, photos, family stories. The somewhat preachy poem beginning "I like the way I drive..." was an amusing meditation on herself, & her last poem, "One Moment Longer" was a compelling exercise in automatic writing, manic, solipsistic & ecstatic. Look for her out & about also as a solo singer, as Margot Malia, & suited up at the roller derby.

The readings are supported (hugely) by the UAG Gallery, & tonight's staff mistress, Katura, took a moment at the end to step out of her shell & share a couple of her poems -- I hope she is able to get out to some of the open mics in the community so we can hear her again.

The series continues roughly every other Friday up until WordFest in April.

VOX, February 27

I had missed the premier last month of the revitalized VOX series run by R.M. Engelhardt at the Fuze Box on Central Ave. in Albany, so wanted to make sure I got there this month. After a few years the Fuze Box is starting to get some of the funk of its predecessor as its initial glitzy revamping wears off, as if the soul of the old QE2 was reasserting itself. The urban murals are a great touch; check them out in the background of the photos.

Setting the tone, our host, Rob, read a song lyric I think he said was "On a Dark Side of Town," just to set the right tone for the night, with the accompaniment of Bruce Richardson, half of "Dr. Sax," on clarinet, not sax. It was an open mic, with a quite respectable number of poets signed up, & Marcus Kwame Anderson as the featured poet.

A.C. Everson began with her end-of-winter poem, "Sitting on the Eve of March." Liam Sweeny surfaced & read "Homeless Bound;" he puts together a website called The Capital Flip ("your back-alley guide to the Capital Region"), where I got lost the other day & couldn't find my way "Home."

A new voice, Raurri Jennings read "The Web" meditating on a real spider web, not the e- variety; & a poem on immigrant workers at a Chinese restaurant, "The Unloading Hour." The not-so-new Bob Sharkey read his moving poem "That One" written to explain to his son why people in his (our) generation were so stunned by Barack Obama's election.

The featured poet, Marcus Kwame Anderson is one of the strong voices in the community that keeps reminding us that despite Obama's election there is much to be done to continue to make this world a better place for our children. He began invoking the spirit of Langston Hughes with Hughes' poem "I Too," then launched into a series of new poems, starting with one ("Inside of History") written on election night & based on a phrase from Ralph Ellison's. I noticed that during one piece ("Gone in the Flesh") as he talked of dance, his elegant hand danced in the air. While not primarily a "hip-hop" poet, he did include a couple pieces in that vein, one with the great line, "walking with the dead trying to make a living;" the other "We Are" was about hip-hop "in 2 chapters." Marcus is also a fine visual artist & he read an interesting poem that had started out as a painting, about black/white fear. His social commentary is often very pointed, as in the last poem in his set that he read about what people do in the name of religion. But my favorite of the night was a poem that began with the image of his inkwell being turned to a desert, then his infant daughter inspires him to continue on & write. Marcus has been busy of late with his new daughter, but we are glad he was able to slip out briefly to share his latest poems with us.

After a long "7-minute" break, I was up with my (revised) "27 Things to Do with an MFA." Anthony C. (who used to sign up as "Tom") was up with a couple of his customary fast-spoken hip-hop poems where the lines flew by. Don Levy, host of "Live from the Living Room," read his funny poem "Throw-down at the Albany Public Library." Kristen Day provided helpful advice to the poets here with her hillarious "5 Things that Irritate Me at Poetry Readings."
(Poets in the Peanut Gallery)

After I heard John Malmborg read I wondered what his reaction was to Marcus' last poem; he did a couple of rhymed poems on his god/faith -- one on "reaffirmation of faith", the other for the "end times." Where did he come from?

On the other hand, we knew that Margo Malia had come fresh from her featured reading down the street; here she read 2 evocative poems, one beginning, "she's telling it like it is..." about assault, then the wonderfully masturbatory "This is my ritual..." Another young voice, Becka, read what sounded like notebook musings, with some rhyme, one called "Falling Up to the Sky," both with quiet, intense energy.

Amanda Rose has been coming back to readings & read 2 poems, perhaps to the same "suit", "No Cell" so no way to express her anger, & the long rant, "What I Think Just Not Ready to Respond." Alex Ceballos followed with a poem about a delivery man in Miami, then Salem Eames read a rhymed put-down poem. Shannon Shoemaker read "new stuff", both untitled, one on a day of feeling rage, malcontented; the other on the classic revenge of the ex-, "I had been there first." Virgin J. Sebastino ended the night with hip-hop rhymes, one on religion & sex, the other "part 2 of Emotional Head Problems."

It was a busy night. Good to see this new/old series is kicking up some dust, or whatever it is that rises from the floor of the former QE2. Last Friday of any month, 8PM.