March 2, 2009

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.