June 30, 2010

Art on Lark, June 26

So I was wandering along (f)arting on Lark (realized that I'd missed Vox at the Fuze Box last night -- I was over in Troy admiring the art entries for the Fence show at the Arts Center in Troy) when I found a stage set up at the corner of Lark St. & Spring St. & a contingent of folks from AlbanyPoets.com waiting to perform. Somehow they were short of a poetic minyan & asked me to join in.

It was quite a gathering, with el presidente Thom Francis starting us off, then each poet did a poem, round & round until it was time for the next act, 45 minute later. We were told to avoid "the f-word," but not being sure which f-word I needed to avoid, I left them all out -- it made for some strange poems.

But, as they say, "seriously", the poets were a fine sampling of the area's talent for those early attendees (& there were some) at this annual event, a sort of junior Lark Fest with this year less Art & more "stuff" than in the past.

Jill Crammond Wickham's poems channelled June Cleaver, Wonder Woman & any other of a series of suburban wives out there. She's got some featured readings coming up soon that you need to catch.

Ed Rinaldi said his poems were as short as his attention span, which makes him a perfect poet for this Twitter age. He had enough angst & Summer in tidbits for the whole festival.

Rebecca Schumejda (from Kingston, but an honorary Albany poet) read poems on her marriage & her father, her garden, & inspired poems that were read by Jill & Ed (how cool is that?).

I read about meeting Joe Krausman a block away 20 years ago, & couldn't resist reading (while on Lark St.) about the imagined bombing of Lark St. in "Baghdad/Albany."

Mojavi did an homage to R&B & Michael Jackson, took us to New Orleans, & later to his block where we met everyone that it was important to meet (or avoid), just like any other neighborhood (or not).

As usual poets went on stage first (the poor step-child position before a day of rock bands & drag queens) while few were out & about, but this was the first time poetry had been included in this annual fArt festival & we were pleased (& relieved) to pass poetic wind among the tents of the vendors.

Urban Guerilla Theater, June 18

… is at the WMHT Linda Auditorium on Central Ave. in Albany each 3rd Friday, each month a different theme. You can save money on the price by getting tickets in advance from the folks involved. It's not your usual cheap poetry event, but worth every penny. Tonight's theme was "Generations" with some Elders & some newer voices & spins in between by DJ TrueMaster.

The usual host, Mojavi, introduced tonight's guest host, Bless, who set the tone with his marvelous set piece about "Keeping it Real."

First up was Sheila aka Shaylee (as always, I welcome any corrections to spellings of names; unless I know better, I write 'em as I hear 'em, unless I can get to the sign-up sheet), with her thoughts on urban crime, "Everyday I Get More & More Confused" (me too). Nya Aronson wrote about looking for success in "Being Me." Giving us a taste of what he said was a "dying art" Dayshawn Sobrano tap-danced to hip-hop selections. True was introduced as a student of Bless & his piece said "… don't listen to the sound, listen to the message." Next, Lyrical (Jayson) did a poem about ignorance.

Tika performed a poem from her CD, "Rest in Peace" then introduced her daughter who read rhymes about school -- like mother like daughter.

Stepping back a few generations, Elder poet & fixture on the Albany poetry scene Moses Kash III began by talking about his life in LA & that led into a poem about OJ Simpson, "Stripped of Glory."

Back to the young poets, Unique's poem was on beauty. She was followed by student Verse with advice to think about yourself. The last poet I caught was Victor Jarvis with a piece urging involvement in the community organizations. But then I had to leave to give Moses a ride home.

A lot of talent in the house. But to my own particular taste I found too much sermonizing, too much "telling" & not enough showing. As an example, some of these young poets would do well to turn to Moses Kash's poem about OJ Simpson: the poem shows the complexity of fame intersecting with the tragedy of domestic violence & America's racism. I suppose youth sees simple answers to society's problems, while the elders have seen the failures of Man & God & Platitudes. At least these kids are thinking -- & writing -- keep at it.

UGT is at the Linda each 3rd Friday, check the website for schedules, themes, ticket info, etc.

June 28, 2010

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 17

Another night of poetry, folks coming to the SJC & not just hanging out in the nice weather. Once again, with a handful of people there at the beginning, those present when the open mic started were awarded with the option of reading 2 poems if they wanted, while those arriving later were held to the dreaded 1 poem rule. Our muse for the evening was Pablo Neruda, his poem "La United Fruit Co." in Ben Belitt's translation (more on the Neruda-connection later).

Alan Catlin was first up with 2 poems from one of his many chapbooks, a man never without a poem in his pocket. Sylvia Barnard did just one poem about a distant cousin with brief lecture on genealogy (& initiating a series of comments & references on Norman Rockwell throughout the night). Jason Crane did 2 poems, one on the great saxophonist Art Pepper that was a good preview for his scheduled feature here in July. Alan ("A.F.", as he signed up tonight) Casline had been out to British Columbia to the Charles Olson conference & one of his 2 poems was one of those sitting-in-a-cafe-observing-the-scene poems from Vancouver.

I was shocked a while back when I was looking over the list of poets who have read in the Third Thursday series over the years & places we have been to note that Josh McIntyre had never been featured here. Josh has been a regular at the Caffe Lena open mic in Saratoga Springs (he lives up that way) & shows up frequently for many of the Albany readings as well. His poems are characteristically short & he likes to give the title twice. His selection tonight included mostly poems on the theme of music, while he emphasized he doesn't sing, & not a few with "Blues" in the title. I always liked his poem "Radio" & the related one titled "In Tune" both of which he read.  Glad to finally have him here.

During the break, Josh's wife Beatriz Loyola mentioned that she was teaching Neruda's "La United Fruit Co." in her class at Skidmore College, so I asked her to read a poem by Neruda in Spanish. After we came back again for the open mic, she read "Hambre en el Sur" ("Hunger in the South") -- how great it was to hear the poet's words in the language in which he wrote it. Also after the break I read one of my new poems (didn't bring 2), "Grey Day in Truro".

W.C. Clarke recently had his poem "That Old Flag" published in Saratoga Today for Flag Day, then from his book of poems, Soldier Ballads & Other Tales "Their Last Stand." Anthony Bernini's poem "The Dance of Dish & Glass" was given to him, he said, over years, by a woman in her 80's -- ice cream & wine. Steve Pusateri was here for the first time, visiting in the area, his poem "Wings" a mediation on the need for both left & right. Moses Kash III was back from softball practice to read "Hillary's Speech Number 212, New York," after which I asked Jason Crane to come back up to read his poem, "Stand Up Moses," written for Moses after last month's open mic, a fitting tribute to one of Albany's elder poets.

We're here at the Social Justice Center every third Thursday of the month, starting at 7:30 -- featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

June 22, 2010

Professor Java's Wide Open Mic, June 14

I arrived a little late from my duties with the board of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild (those co-presidents work us pretty hard) so I must've missed some poets (& some guitar players, since this is one of those open mics that includes poets with the guitar players, generally on a 3 to 1 ratio: guitar players get about 12 to 15 minutes, including taking the guitar out of the case, plugging it in, tuning up, doing a couple 3 minute songs, while poets do a couple or 3 poems for about 4 to 5 minutes -- which is the reason some of us started "poetry open mics" a number of years ago, so we could have "a room of our own" & not be the ugly step-child of the open mic scene).

Actually, "open mic" means more than poetry & song, as Austen Halpern-Graser reminded us, saying he was "doing stand-up" -- good thing, I thought he was sitting down. Carol Graser, the host of the Caffe Lena open mic, did a couple short poems, "Garden Collage" & "April Day 2010."

Keith Spencer, the host, was also celebrating his birthday (& inviting all the cute young girl guitar players to room 108), did what he said were 2 poems in 1, like, you know.

2 young poets were up next that Keith kept getting mixed up, first Sarah LaMountain with "Lines" on a page, then Danielle LaRose read "Muses" (which encouraged Keith to read his poem "Muse", a guitar-player fairy tale -- & was mercilessly heckled). Carol Jewel had 2 -- count them! -- 2 pantoums, "I Lost You" & "The Gold Finch". This was Steve's first time, you have to be so brave that first time, not sure what he thought he was getting into, his poem "Does Anyone Know Poe" in doggerel rhyme, making me wonder if he knows anyone after Poe? Dain Brammage also was trying to make sense, but in the Lark Tavern & from the pop music playing on the jukebox, then he settled in with a couple of haikus.

Carolee Sherwood tried out a new piece that sounded like a love poem, "One Afternoon Again," then the suburban disaster "Inspired by a Deer Carcass…" I followed with an old weather poem, "Rain" & the new poem "On a Poem by ee cummings" (which perhaps I'm reading too much lately). Avery did 2 long literary rants, the tribute to Allen Ginsberg "America in My Time," & "Good & Evil in the American Dream" on Hunter S. Thompson. Poetic Visions showed up to do his rhythmic, flowing piece on the voices of creation, "The Essence of Poetry," & his sermon on wealth versus becoming your dream, "Success Outside the Box," good thoughts but a bit too preachy for my taste. & speaking of preaching, Bruce Williams' (or Be Honest) piece "Living in Faith" was another sermon in poetic form.

Among the guitar player/singers who performed were Caroline Brown, Mary Leigh, Greg Gooba, & Erin Powers (my favorite of the bunch I heard). But by the end of the night it seems that the poets actually out-numbered the musicians. It's still too much to keep track of (I mean I don't know the difference between a G minor 7th & a g-string -- or, maybe I do?). As the sub-title of this Blog says, "…musings on the Albany (NY) poetry scene…" -- I can't do everything.

On the 2nd Monday of each month, up on Wolf Rd. in Colonie, at Professor Java's Coffee House, 8PM.

June 21, 2010

Mudd Poets at the Mudd Puddle Cafe, June 12

This was the 2nd poetry event of the day for me (& the 4th in a 3-day stretch), down in New Paltz. Since I had been in Woodstock earlier in the day, this was "in the neighborhood" (relatively). The host was the poetry dervish Robert Milby.

There were 2 featured poets, the first Cheryl A. Rice, whose fine poems I've been listening to at open mics & readings since the days of the QE2 back in Albany. The majority of her poems tonight were focused on her parents & her memories of growing up on Long Island, "Egypt," "Jake is Fine," "Scaling Bluefish," "Beach in Memory," "Fireworks," & "Colt" (teamed up with "In Defense of Horses"). A new poem, "Abundance," was filled with pear & plum trees, chickens & eggs. Cheryl recently did a new edition of her chapbook, The Auction, & read from it "Joe" & "Happy Birthday" (the chapbook theme is Marilyn Monroe). Her last poem, "Imperfections," is a love poem with the message to keep on living. Sounds good to me.

I read last Fall with Guy Reed & I always enjoying hearing him read (so much so he will be one of the Poets in the Park reading this July). In honor of his birthday, he began with "Time of the Geminis." He too had a number of father poems, bird poems, painters & dreams (sometimes in the same poem). Edward Hopper showed up in "Americana" & Van Gogh in "Being Seen by Starry Night." A poem about love songs on the radio became one about his father dying, while "Husks" was about his father feeding the birds, the "1963 Evenrude" was his father's outboard motor, & "Euphoria in Ohio" was on the road after is father's funeral. His last poem was "Bat Dream" (does that count for birds too?). Then Cheryl embarrassed Guy by bringing out delicious cupcakes for his birthday. Now it was a party too.

After the break, we continued on with an open mic & I was first up with my recent piece "On a Poem by ee cummings." I wasn't the only one there who had been at the Woodstock reading earlier in the day, although now this writer was signed up as "Tommy Burns" & did a piece in an Irish accent on a drunken father. Adrianna Delgado read a 2-part angry poem on British Petroleum, the rant "Dream Heist" & the more pensive "Guilt Trip." Mala Hoffman's poem "Smoking Gun" was about her daughter, then into "Yoga Pose."

Leslie Gerber read a poem by Tara McCarthy, then his own political commentary/rant "Trashland." Ted Gill's poems use rhyme with humor & poignancy, as in "Tin Cup Mind" & an untitled poem on beauty. Adam's poems were colorful, with "Orange Sky Road" & thinking about Van Gogh's (again) "Sunflowers." Billy Herman's notebook entries were memoirs & fantasies of former girl friends.

T.C. said she had not read her poems out in about 10 years, they were short, rhyming, piling up words seeking to become images. Dave Kime is known for his booming rants, which "Black & White" is a good example with its play on slogans & stacks of images. Robert Milby read Ben Jonson's "ghost" poem, "On Something That Walks Somewhere," then his own "Fat Thoughts." Christopher Wheeling ended the night with a dream poem, "Squatter."

This is a regular, on-going series, with featured poets & an open mic held usually on the 3rd Saturday at the Mudd Puddle Cafe in New Paltz, 7PM, hosted by Robert Milby.

June 20, 2010

Woodstock Poetry Society, June 12

The usual host of this monthly reading & open mic is Phillip Levine. But he asked me to be the host this day so he could attend his daughter's ballet recital. I once had those days too, with ballet recitals, performances, even a few Irish step-dancing feises thrown in, so I was glad to fill in for Phillip. There were 2 featured poets (as there characteristically are) & a cluster of open mic poets, for a wonderful afternoon in sunny Woodstock.

Trina Porte started us off with "a wood's poem", "As Big as My Hand" then took us to "The Library." Micky Shorr noted the approach of Father's Day & read "Family Bond" about her not-nice father, then, to give equal time, a poem on her mother's lies, "Change in Appearance." Apparently Angela Kozlakowska's mother was a bit nicer, based on "Hand Made," then read "On Guard."

The first featured poet, Joan I. Siegel began by evoking Lucille Clifton with Clifton's poem for the children of war, "Sorrow Song." Then Joan began with a series of her own political poems: "Unspeakable" (on the futility of trying to describe the horrors of war), "Child Bride," "Soap" (World War II), one on Sudanese boys ending up refugees in Fargo, ND, & "Searching for Bin Laden." The rest of her poems were from her 2009 collection, Hyacinth for the Soul (Deerbrook Editions). The poems included memories of the Bronx, about her sister ("Space Time Travel" & the pantoum "The Horse"), "How We Look After Each Other" & "Sleep Walker" (her father's Alzheimer). Then "On the Sudden Death of a Friend" & how the generations connect (& break) in "Daughters." The best deal of the day was buying Hyacinth for the Soul & getting a copy of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter with poems by Joan & by her husband Joel Soloche (Poetworks/Grayson Books).

Mary Makofske was the second featured poet, beginning with some older poems, included in The Disappearance of Gargoyles (Thorntree) & in the chapbook Eating Nasturtiums (Flume Press). These included "Teaching English," "Retreat" (in short, haiku-like stanzas), a poem in the persona & voice of a vampire, one on the moon as a vacation place, & one from a real vacation, "In Switzerland." She explored the aesthetics & politics of food in "Eating Nasturtiums" & "Slow Food." "A Personal History of the Early Fifties" explored the language of the time in sestina form, perfect for the twists & ironies of the politics & words; while "Emergencies Too Slow to See" explored different political issues. She ended with what she described as newer poems, "Out of Hate County," & "In an Unnamed Country." Sometimes the work of wonderful poets is hidden away in anthologies & scattered about in far-flung poetry journals. Look for her work.

After the break I tried out my new poem from the Provincetown Art Museum, "The Easel's Story" (based on an exhibit of paintings by Robert Fisher). Christina Turczyn's marvelous poem, "I Walked a Poem in Passaic" was filled with details of a stroll through the city, & equally vivid images in precise details were in "Winter Morning in Montclair" based on a painting by George Inness. The last poet was an ubiquitous area writer, this time signed up as "Hank Fellows" who did 2 pieces, one in the voice of a woman from "Visions of Mexico," a book he is working on, the other a moving rant by a guy, this one from the series "At the VA Hospital."

For me this was only the first stop on a busy afternoon of poetry. But it was a wonderful afternoon filled with good work, good performances. A quick beer in Woodstock, then on the road to New Paltz for part 2.

June 17, 2010

Live from the Living Room, June 11

Live from the Living Room is usually held in the living room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, but this month because of space conflicts with the Capital Pride 2010 celebrations it was held on a Friday night at the UAG Gallery on Lark St. And where there is usually an open mic & a featured poet, tonight it was 2 featured poets (& no open mic). But the host as usual was the genial gay Don Levy, exemplifying Capital Pride in any year.

I arrived after Richard Morrell had started his reading, in the midst of a paean to guy-love. After some uncertain shuffling of his pages, he read a piece about being an artistic person having to work in the mundane/bureaucratic world, with the line "I am the Mozambique of playwriting." Richard has written 55 "Doom Sonnets," & he read 4 of them tonight, including one interesting wordplay on Christmas. Another poem pondered what the future will look like, in a feathered cape, & another, random meandering poem, was just written today on a bench in Washington Park. He ended with a piece I've seen him perform at open mics, a vigorous performance piece with elaborate hand motions, "Flipper Meets Gentle Ben."

I have to admit to a deep affection for the next featured poet, Shannon Shoemaker, & for her poetry. Her poems deal with longing & love lost & with the conflicts of being an out Lesbian. In that latter category she began with an older poem, "Coming Out: My Family Doesn't Get Me;" other political poems included the Pride Day rant "Justice for All," "Tongue in Cheek" (on "diversity" in her kid's school), & "Don't Ask Don't Tell" ("not," she said, "a membership drive"). While her "Poem for the Open Mic" is a rant for the stage, "A Rant of 20 Questions" is about a girl she would see at open mics. The fine, newer poem, "Of Hummingbirds & Sunday Supper" was about passion & longing. Others in that same vein included "Grown Cold," the dark "Midnight October" & "The Last Poem" with which she appropriately concluded her reading. Always a treat.

Not Don's usual event but a fine evening of poetry -- & Pride -- just the same.

June 13, 2010

Word Thursday, June 10

It's been awhile since I've been to the Bright Hill Center in Treadwell, NY but I always enjoy the warmth of the people & the words out there in the hills. Tonight I was one of the featured readers, with Sherry Robbins from the Buffalo area. The series & the Center is run by Delaware County's whirling dervish of poetry, Bertha Rogers.

Among the things that happens at Bright Hill Center are poetry workshops for children. The first performers up were some of her students, starting with Shiobhan Higgins with a clear, well-spoken recitation from memory of Richard Wilbur's "The Death of a Toad." Her younger sister was supposed to follow but was struck with the characteristic shyness of the age, so her mother recited the poem that was written by her father-in-law. Quite a poetic family.

Another family affair followed with pieces about Lake Okeechobee in Florida, a poem in rhyme by Glenn Nilson, "The Regular," about a fish camp on the lake, followed by his wife, Leslie Diehl, with an excerpt from a prose murder mystery she is writing, also set at the lake. Susan Spivak's "Out of the Dark" was filled with rich images of birth (of many kinds). Ina Jones' reminiscence of her daughter in "Tea Ceremony" also managed to work in a Manhattan cocktail in addition to the tea.

Richard Average was a bit challenged by Bertha's 5-minute rule with his multi-part piece set during the Revolutionary War with soldiers, a water nymph & a troll. Time limits (in minutes) are tough for poets at open mics, unless they time the poems beforehand (few do); but Bertha kept track & maintains a strong, but gentle, hand. Melinda Sulkey said she was new to reading & read an old piece from high school about her dad. Sue King an excerpt from a prose history she is writing of the area, which seems to be a rich source for these poets.

Another rich source of poetry is reminiscence, which was the basis of "Sunday School" by Bright Hill's young intern, Clara Barnhart. Albany poet, Carolee Sherwood, who had accompanied me here, read a tender "After We Kissed for the First Time," followed by a more cynical "The Little Red Hen Has Pecked the Farmer for the Last Time," which elicited some interesting conversation later during the break. Sharon Ruchlenik was able to squeeze in 3 poems, beginning with a myth she made up, "How Flies Came into the World" then a poem about a man mourning the loss of a daughter, & followed by a poem about regaining her sense of smell, "Brave New World," interesting poems piling up vivid images from the everyday.

Graham Duncan cracked us up with a description of man-bashing & his reactions, "My Wife & I Listen to a Friend Let Fly;" then his poem squinty poem "Self-Portrait." Then Evelyn Duncan read a couple of her older poems, the first about an old-time star baseball player & singer, the second a portrait of an apartment mate she had had in her 20's, "Ethel Moore & I." Ana Roth Seavey struggled with her computer to find poems to read, a couple of what she called "Catskill Snapshots" then a short piece on her devotion to poetry, "Lover." Bertha Rogers read "Dog Girl Tells the Truth" & "Black Rock Forest" from her new collection Heart Turned Back (2010, Salmon Poetry, County Clare, Ireland).

After a short break with good snacks (even some champagne) it was time for the night's featured poets. Sherry Robbins won (or lost) the coin toss & went first. She began with a tribute to Bertha with a poem referencing the earliest English language poet, Caedmon. Her love poem to her husband, "Vow," was composed solely of one-syllable words, then a poem for her father, "Dying in Florida." The remainder of her reading consisted of her "English to English translations" of American writers, beginning with a couple of Walt Whitman's poems. These were followed by her series of poems, Or, the Whale, based on Moby Dick. A selection of the poems are in a chapbook of that title from Shuffaloff Books (1963), but the complete series will be available soon from Blazevox Books. Each of the poems is titled with the Chapter title from Melville's novel, while the poems react, respond, sometimes directly, mostly obliquely (or not) to the text, the chapters acting as prompts. Interestingly enough hearing her poems & reading the chapbooks has awakened my interest in re-reading Moby Dick once again.

How do I write about my own reading, how brilliant or silly I was? I did try to blow bubbles, but they evaporated too quick. My reading was a mix of old & new pieces, beginning with the invocation of my heros in "The Communion of Saints." Then the anti-dream piece, "This Dream is Not About You," followed by "Baghdad/Albany," then the palate-cleanser "Dot Dot Dot." "My Sather Gate Illumination" was followed by the recent "On a Poem by ee cummings" then the Lark Tavern tribute poem. I ended with the ringing of a bell & "On Reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead." A distinct pleasure to read here with such a good audience of poets; I had fun.

This is a regular monthly schedule which you can find at the Bright Hills website, the readings start at 7PM. An hour & a half from Albany, but worth the trip for the fine local poets & the interesting featured poets that Bertha brings in.

June 5, 2010

Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration, May 31

Once again we, poets & other citizens, gathered at the Robert Burns' statue in Washington Park in Albany, NY to read "Song of Myself" on Uncle Walt's birthday. We started this tradition in 2005 & tonight's weather was warm, clear, but windy.

A big thanks to those who read: D. Alexander Holiday, Alan Casline, Joe Krausman, Lorre Smith, Sylvia Barnard, David Stasenko, Cheryl A. Rice, Tess Lecuyer, Sally Rhoades, Avery Stempel, JJ Johnson, Matt Galletta, Linda Bick, Jason Crane, Carolee Sherwood, Anthony Bernini, Bob Sharkey, Jill Wickham, Sue Cerniglia, & Kathy Sheppard (who had brought her children to listen). Most readers took more than one section. & it was dazzling!

Also, thanks to the co-sponsors, the Poetry Motel Foundation, the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & Capital Pride 2010 (a project of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center).

GROWN FOLK MUSIC presents RAUNCHY THURSDAY's weekly open mic nite!, May 27

A Thursday nite of raunchy, male bashing, woman bashing, battle of the sexes, spoiled relationships, exotic and erotic poetry, accompanied with suitable music to fit your mood. It goes downs when the Grown Folks get to talking mess. You know the old saying "this grown folk business!" At least that's how it's described on Facebook. It sounded right up my alley so I finally checked it out & had a good time.

The hostess/MC was Tanesha (who had come to the benefit for the Lark Tavern at Valentine's), sexy & poetic tonight. I ended up first once again so did my old poem "Phone Sex." Tanesha followed me wondering "Where My Sisters At?" Then she started the next poet off (Poetic Vision) by declaring "Men Ain't Shit" which became PV's poem, taking it as a compliment, turning the phrase around then into a free-style rant, ending with the comparison that "men's minds are like waffles, women's like spaghetti."

Bless jumped in with an incendiary piece that was looking for sympathy for the men, & upping the gender-war ante. I started to look around... Tanesha came back with with a celebration of herself in which she proudly said, "I Declare Myself a Single woman..." The last poet before the break (whose name I didn't catch, if it was even mentioned) did a story from memory about a relationship that fit into the night's theme.

Inpite of all the shouting & lining up on either side of the man/woman split, it was all good fun & smiles & teasing at the break -- phew!, since I knew the price we men pay during gender wars. I'm sure the night went on but I had to get these old bones back home. This takes place every Thursday, about 10PM, at Tandoor Palace on the corner of Lark & Madison. Steel jock-straps recommended.

June 3, 2010

Poets Speak Loud! -- Benefit for Tess' Lark Tavern, May 24

We were supposed to have the monthly open mic at the Lark Tavern, but it had the audacity to burn down, so we were upstairs in Valentines with good sound, Howie at the upstairs bar, & Mary Panza the host. Lots of folks turned out, including some new faces/voices in the open mic.

Michael Purcell was first up, & he quoted Oscar Wilde & Buddha before his poems, the anthropological "Labels" & the meditation on death, "Your Reward." Alan Catlin did a couple of poems from his past life as a bartender, "A Different Planet for Bartenders" & "A Black Widow" (a drink recipe poem from his Killer Cocktails book). Sylvia Barnard ascended the stage (with gentle help from RM Engelhardt, generating more rumors about their pending engagement) to read her tribute, "To Tess' Lark Tavern," which if Sylvia's apartment building had a backyard, the Lark Tavern would be in it.

Rob was also there to help Don Levy get on stage, generating even more romantic rumors -- lucky Rob! Don read a cartoon rant, "Ziggy Family Peanuts" then the exciting "Adventures of Jason's Bag as Told by his Publicist" (which one can find in the Notes section on Don's Facebook page -- what do you mean you're not his Facebook friend yet?!). The "other" Tess, Tess Lecuyer, continued the themes of the night with the sonnet "On Jason's Bag" & the nod to Wallace Stevens, "13 Ways of Looking at the Lark." RM Engelhardt, an "incessant promoter" per Mary Panza, read "The Night at the Lark" then the philosophical lecture, "No Surrender."

Jason Crane's poem was about a female poet at the mic, "The Last Siren" followed by the tribute, "Lark Definitions." The first of the night's new faces/new voices was Leslie with 2 relationship poems, "It's Been a Year" & "Why Can't You?." Another new face, "Quick" tried out a recent poem only 2 hours old, then an untitled piece about the beauty of women. I followed with a summer, hot weather piece, "Park Fantasy," then a my new tribute, "The Lark Tavern Poem."

We almost had the fire department in when Thom Francis brought out a birthday cake for Mary Panza, candles a-blazin' but the cake was delicious. Carolee Sherwood began with her tribute, "Ode to Tess' Lark Tavern," then dazzled the audience with her little porn-pizza-poet theater piece she first did at the Lark Tavern a few months ago, tonight the lines acted by me as the pizza-boy & Nicole Kearby in the role of the seductive housewife (I had wanted a couple hours rehearsal time but Nicole declined & Carolee said it wasn't necessary). Jill Wickham followed with a couple of her signature suburban housewife poems, the first in her June Cleaver mode, "Watching a Funeral Procession..." (it was dark & her titles are very long so I didn't get it all, sorry), & love alone in "Mother Walking."

Carol Graser made the trip down to Albany; she read 2 "quick poems," both untitled, the first a dream with a golden eagle, the second about the colors of the sky. Bob Sharkey also had a dream poem about sex & being in a dress (poetry, it's cheaper than a psychiatrist), & then a fine political/jazz poem, "Meditation in Orange, In Indigo, Letters to Abbey Lincoln & Stan Getz." Daniel Nester read false translations of Erasmus from "The Adagia Project" then an old NYC piece, "Mott St. Pastoral" (which I'm sure I've heard before). It turns out that the birthday cake would serve double duty, as Avery Stempel said yesterday was his birthday as well as Mary's; while he read his beer poem, "Bottled Labled & Ready for Distribution," I kept trying to make out the drawings on the reverse of the pages.

AC Everson said that she has lots of pieces she has read at the Lark Tavern & shared a couple, including "Echoes & Traces" about "re-cycled places," e.g., Arthur's Market in Schenectady. "Poetic Vision" recited a couple poems that I think I heard him do at the Albany WordFest, his "upside down/inside out" poem & another were God gives him a pen. Then Mojavi did a couple of his relationship poems, showing 2 sides, one the heat & violence, the other trying to love in the right way. D. Alexander Holiday repeated the poem by Susan Griffin, "I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman," he had read last Thursday night & his own poem about about finding out that the records of his life had been lost, "Death by Fire."
The last reader was Tanesha, another new face & voice, with a compelling piece on urban decay, "What Became of Eden" (observing that there are "no black angels here"), & the self-assertive, "Letter to the Brother who Tried to Get At Me at the Corner Store."

Quite a night at the Lark Tavern, I mean Valentines standing in for the (recovering) Lark Tavern, & a testiment to the dear place that the Lark has in our arts community. Until it does reopen the series held there on the last Monday of each month, "Poets Speak Loud," will not be held. For more information about other poetry events in the meantime, check out the calendar at the AlbanyPoets website. Also, there are tons of pictures from the event at Keith Spencer's Flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjspencer/