May 9, 2010

Poets Speak Loud!, April 26

Little did we suspect that this would be the last Poets Speak Loud!, at least for a while. We had a great time that night, as usual, for the most part, & as everything in life, we expected it to go on forever, or at least until next month. Unfortunately an early AM fire on May 5 devastated Tess' Lark Tavern. We in the Albany arts community are still trying to catch our breath, but until the Lark rises from the ashes Poets Speak Loud! will take a break. But that night, as often happens here, it was quite an evening!

Mary Panza was our kick-ass host & although there were lots of poets signing up to read, no one wanted the #1 slot -- so there I was. In honor of Earth Day I read my 1991 Earth Poem "Message from Space," then for the end of National Poetry Month read "Poems on Poetry." Sylvia Barnard read again her poem on a medieval calendar, then "The Locked Door," a Nazi nightmare poem. Ed Rinaldi (whose poems are usually short) read a not-short divorce poem, "The News Was Left Out on the Table." The title of Alan Casline's poem is self-explanatory, "Reading at the Lark Tavern after a Dismal Showing at the Poet Laureate Contest" (see my Blog on that one).

Carolee Sherwood was one of the contestants at the Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest who did better than Alan Casline (she came in as #2); her first poem related to the recent Albany WordFest, "To Girls Who Smile as a Way to Survive in the World," her second was a draft from her poem-a-day project, "Dorothy Gale from Kansas." Jill Wickham was back in the pack with Alan at the Poet Laureate Contest; tonight she read "Return of the Zombies Kick" & 1 of her poems from the poem-a-day project, "Partly Waterfall."

Don Levy told us what he did on Easter, it was "Bloody Marys & Drag Queens," then the unthinkable "Republicans in Heat." The bouncing-back-from-the-edge Mike Jurkovic read his piece on the political baggage of poets & the flag, "On the Cheap," & "Broken Bones." Cheryl A. Rice hitched a ride with Mike & read 2 Spring poems, "Spring Thaw" (ice-huts melting) & "What Spring Does."

Tonight's featured poet was Jason Crane. He started by showing off his brand-spanking new chapbook from FootHills Publishing, Unexpected Sunlight, along with a large print of the cover art, "Sunshine" by Bob Anderson. Jason also brought along his wife & sons & half the neighbors on his street -- hey, if your relatives & friends don't come to your readings, who will? He did a clever thing, mixing up poems from the book with others that aren't, beginning with the litany, "Origins." Poems from the book included family poems, "67 Unopened Video Cassettes," & "Bernard Orrin Joseph Flanders," as well as "At Mr. Frost's," "Miles on Ice," "Memorex Hummingbird,"& "Aidan Arrives" (about a neighbor's baby whose Mom, Julie, was in the audience tonight). Other poems included "Miso Soup" (for his wife Jennifer, to whom his book is also dedicated), "Gravity" (about hearing jazz pianist Matthew Shipp play), "My Name Is Jaime Escalante," "Spring Robins," & ending with a classic poem-with-a-title-better-than-the-poem-itself. Get the book.

Continuing on with the open mic, the long-absent & mini-skirted Leena Monette cooed a poem about redecorating & putting her lover at the top of her "love tree". Robert Zigarelli also did a love poem, "What I Do at the Window." Tess Lecuyer said she was reading the "only 2 poems of mine I like today," "Noodles" pondering history & the Summer poem "Inevitable" (if you are her Facebook friend you can read them in her notes). Bob Sharkey's poem "The Body" was a murder mystery.

Bernie Crane was by far the night's youngest poet -- like father like son -- with 2 short poems; was "What's With You" about his Mom? Songsten (sometimes known as Joe) Hollander read a poem that included dogs & long stockings & the mailman. Brian Sullivan's short piece of prose sounded like a video game with Pinocchio in it.

RM Engelhardt also read 2 poems, the first what he described as an untitled piece from 1994, one of his classic God-in-a-biker-bar poems, then read a rambling screed ("See You Next Thursday") referencing "old beats, jazz…" & a faux American Indian quote that left everyone quizzical. I think he should stick to his usual poems about God in bars or about chicks dumping him.

Shannon Shoemaker followed next with her wonderful dyke-on-a-bike poem, "Tongue in Cheek," then "Of Hummingbirds & Sunday Supper." Most poets read from sheets of paper, tattered, or in binders or even plastic sheets, many recite from memory, & nowadays, some read them from their Palm Pilots/Blackberries (is there a generic name for these things?), as did Mojavi with his sad, love lost poem, "I've Kept it Hidden From You," then one from a master of love poems, Neruda.

The last 3 readers were new to the scene, new voices that add so much spice to our readings. Danielle read a couple pieces, an untitled love poem that seemed to want to rhyme, & "Survival." Clarisse's first poem was a clever, trendy piece about a pickup in a bar via iPod, then she did a song about falling in love, "Stupid Humans." Crystal's poem, "The Road to Antiquity," combined women in history with her own personal history.

Good poetry (mostly), good time with friends (with exceptions), good food & drink, & a friendly waitress (but Nicole gave me a hard time because I didn't come early for dinner) -- & we'll miss it. Benefits are planned & you can stay in touch on Facebook (Tess' Lark Tavern). It'll be back!

1 comment:

Jason Crane said...

Thanks, Dan! And folks, if you'd like to buy my book, you'll find it at