November 30, 2010

Poets Speak Loud, November 29

Mary Panza held the mic & our attention, whether we wanted it or not, for this monthly gathering, now at McGeary's on Clinton Square in Albany, NY (in the backroom so we don't offend anyone).

Carolee Sherwood was there early enough to get to sign up anywhere she wanted to on the list & she picked first!, read "On the Approach of Christmas"  & her response to the prompt to write an animal poem, "Madness (another "dead doe at the side of the road" poem).  Find them on her website.

Jason Crane read about the Australian detention camp, "Villawoods" & "It's Not Me It's You," both on his website.

My poems aren't on my website, & after months or years of making light of poetry prompts/pome-a-day projects I ate Crow & read 3 poems written this month, "What Really Happened" (Day 28), "Blame the Prompt" (Day 27) & "The Birds' Poem of Thanks" (Day 25) (but a couple of them are on my FaceBook Notes).

Tess Lecuyer had a hand-written version of her poem of light & love "Winter Solstice 1994" (when Mary Panza was her roommate).  (I couldn't resist using this photo even though it hides Tess' pretty face, sorry)

el presidente, Thom Francis brought us home with 2 new, just-written poems, "Space" ("…make your space…") & the good advice of "Write, Write."

This is where the last Monday of the month open mic, Poets Speak Loud!, has landed after the demise of the Lark Tavern, at McGeary's in Albany, NY near the Palace Theater, 7:30 PM. Come join us.

Sunday Four Poetry, November 28

A pleasant gathering of poets at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY.  Mike Burke did the intros.

I was first up & began with "Labels & Names," an audience-participation piece in recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1, then the new poem, "My Birds Poem of Thanks."  Tim Verhaegan's poems ranged from the reverential "Arthur's Ashes," to the screed "You Chose This," to the wonderfully funny "Wrestling with the Xmas Tree."  Mimi Moriarty said she had "3 poems with critters," a coyote & other natural things to name ("Science Student"), becoming a squirrel ("On My Deck"), & 2 dead squirrels on the same day ("Road Kill" -- the first of the day's road kill poems).  

Dennis Sullivan changed the tone with his philosophical meditations "Self-Portrait for Dr. Brody" & "As Cozy as the Homes in House Beautiful."

The "best-dressed poet" of the afternoon, Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien) read from his (not-always-cooperative) iPad, a couple outdoors poems, "Hilltop Visitation" (cf. Alan's poem later) & "Declination."  It was John W. Abbhul's first time here (he is the caretaker/manager of nearby Pine Hollow Arboretum), & contrasting himself with Mark, read a poem from a small slip of paper, "Spirit" just written this morning.  Therese Broderick referenced the bird poem I read & the Writers' Digest Poem-a-Day project for November by saying she's writing "a metaphor a day," then read 2 pieces composed of these metaphors strung together (isn't that what a poem is anyways, a series of metaphors strung together?).

Mike Burke invoked the droit de seigneur to insert himself in the mix before Tom Corrado, & because he will be in Mexico in February read the cold weather/cold heart poem "Valentine's Day."  Tom Corrado had read his poem "A History of the World in 4-Line Feeds" here before, but said it was an "assemblage" that he keeps adding to, so like a movie serial he read from where he left off the last time.  Howard Kogan returned to the philosophical meditation theme with an unbeliever's rant, "About God."

Alan Casline had fresh, just-off the press copies of The Rootdrinker Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, with poems (including a cluster of mine) originally published in the pages of the Rootdrinker Newsletter.  Check out his Blog for information on how to get a copy.   His poem "In Exile" was more philosophical pondering, from a literary conference in Buffalo, while "Loggerhead Rises from a Swamp" was from his walk in the woods with Mark (see above).

Joe Krausman's poem also fell into the philosophical pondering theme, but with ironic humor, the first on synchronicity & the randomness of chance meetings, the second on being prepared, with a pen, a gun, a hankie, a Bible, etc.  Sharon Stenson's poem "Roadkill" returned us to another them that Mimi had introduced.

Dennis Sullivan introduced this afternoon's featured poet, Marion Menna, by describing her poems as being about daily life, which was a good way to write my Blog for me.  While that is certainly an apt summary, there is more to her themes than that.  She began with her first published poem, from 1983, "Rarities," about beached whales.  Her poems are often vivid descriptions such as the Advent poem, "Catkins," & "Tsunami March 2010" & "The Dogs of Trinidad."  Continuing with the day's animal sub-theme, she had a new poem with geese on a prison yard, "Sanctuary" & another new poem, "Dislocation," with wild turkeys.  A couple poems included her son, & even a poem with nuns (in the Himalayas), "Quieting the Self."  She ended with a selection from her chapbook, An Unknown Country (Finishing Line Press).

I often (too often some would say) tell poets that if your friends & relatives don't come to your reading who will?  So to Marion's credit there were many friends from her writing group not only filling the audience but reading in the open mic, helping to make this a pleasant afternoon of poetry.

Fourth Sunday of most months, 3PM, The Old Songs Community Center, 37 S. Main St., Voorheesville, NY, a modest donation to pay the feature & support Old Songs.

November 26, 2010

Community of Writers, November 21

This was the 8th annual event at the Schenectady County Public Library, sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. (Full disclosure: I've just been elected President of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.) The event began & ended with book signings & sales by some of the afternoon's readers, & a chance for the audience to mingle.

The readers were a mix of poets, novelists & essayists, & began with Schenectady County's own Poet Laureate, Steve Hellyard Swartz reading a couple of breezy, chatty pieces, somehow mixing in Jackson Pollack & Dick Cheney in the same poem.

Margaret Bryant, who has been frequenting local open mics, was next with a reading of a selection of poems from her recently published chapbook, Aligning Stems (The Troy Book Makers), with a bit of a brogue slipping in during "Kate's Farewell."

The youngest reader, & newest to the area, Keziah Roselin, read a touching memoir piece about being in the airport as she left her family in Miami to move to this area.

Kathe Kokolias read an amusing piece about trying to celebrate Thanksgiving Day while in Mexico, from her forthcoming selection of memoir essays, What Time Do the Crocodiles Come Out? (The Troy Book Makers)

Tom Corrado read a string of his poems, the audience amused by the leaps of his lines, especially the homage to Schenectady in "A High of 51."

Rose Kent writes young adult fiction & children's novels, including Kimchi & Calamari (Harper Collins) & Rocky Road (Knopf Books), which she read a chapter from, introducing it with the story of the invention of the ice-cream flavor Rocky Road in the 1930s.

Nancy Denofio read from her collection of poems, What Brought You Here? (Limited Editions Press), then some memoirs of her family from the ongoing work she is doing with her father, the former Mayor of Schenectady, Frank Duci, on his memoir.

Mark Renson is one of the owners of the Jay St. restaurant, Ambition. He turned his experience there into a series of amusing vignettes published as Is the Coffee Fresh? from which he read a selection.

Dean M. DeLuke used his own experience as an oral & maxillofacial surgeon doing volunteer work in the islands as background for his novel Shedrow, a thriller described as a cross between Dick Francis & Robin Cook.

It was a good mix of genres & styles, representing the diversity of talent here in the Capital Region. While a couple of the readers tended to go a little long, the afternoon readings were well-presented & the audience reacted well to the material. Thanks to Catherine Norr & Alan Catlin of the Guild with the assistance of staff from the Schenectady County Public Library for putting this together.

A slide show of the readers can be viewed at the Guild's website.

November 21, 2010

Yes! Reading Series, November 19

This was the last of the season for this Jawbone-sponsored series, at the Social Justice Center. Tonight's reading featured BookThug authors, with local Cara Benson doing the intros. BookThug, based in Toronto, Canada "seeks to publish innovative books of poetry, prose and creative criticism that extend the tradition of experimental literature." So the Yes! Reading series was the perfect venue for them.

The first reader Andrew Hughes began with the title poem of his book Now Lays the Sunshine By, then on to pieces from a new manuscript exploring the melodramatic quality of letter writing, twisting myths in a rural setting. I loved the refrain (poetry-prompt suggestion) "setting the words on fire."

One of the 2 books I bought tonight was Tracelanguage by Mark Goldstein "from" (whatever that means) the work of Paul Celan (one of the poets I love to read uncomprehendingly -- see the translations by Pierre Joris). Mark also read poems/letters to Jack Spicer through the lens of Rilke from his other book After Rilke: To Forget You Sang.

The other book I bought was Swim by Marianne Apostolides, which she read from, in a wonderful deep sonorous voice. A woman swims 39 laps (39 Steps?) in a pool & the rhythm of her ponderings changes during her breaks. I had her dedicate my copy to my ex-, for an Xmas present (shh, don't tell her).

The last reader was the publisher, Jay MillAr (not a typo, that's how he spells it), starting with a piece after Robin Blaser (Spicer/Blaser, get the west-coast experiments?). He had a great sense of humor about his own experimentation, including reading essentially boring material in a manner to make us chuckle, with a reading-recurring refrain, "consider a Sphinx."

You'll have to wait until next semester (if you know what that means) for the next in this series -- sign up at the website for email notices about the schedule.

November 20, 2010

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 18

A busy night at the Social Justice Center with 15 open mic poets & our dazzling featured poet, Carolee Sherwood. In a neat bit of synchronicity (don't anyone tell this to Joe Krausman) I had selected our muse for the night (Lorine Niedecker) on Monday, then on Tuesday the first poet that New York State Poet Jean Valentine recommended during her seminar was -- Lorine Niedecker! I read briefly from her selected poems.

The first open mic poet, Jason Crane, traveling in the featured poet's entourage, read his entry for the Writers' Digest Poem-A-Day project for today, "Lost & Found." Jill Wickham's poem "All the Pretty Mothers" has her running from the fairy tale life. Julie Lomoe read "11 Ways of Looking at November" (taking inspiration from Wallace Stevens) with the poetic tongue twister "shriveled thistles."

Mike Burke's poem "Christmas" jumped the season a bit & was a sad picture of a man alone. Tonight's rhymer, W.D. Clarke, read "The Reception" about a wedding party torn into chaos by a fart. Don Levy has been writing his poetic memoir of the nights at the QE2 & his installment tonight was "Poets Action Against Aids."

Our featured poet, Carolee Sherwood, is a very busy "poemer" (her word, not mine), as one of the co-hosts of Big Tent Poetry & cranking out poems everyday in November for the Poem-a-Day project. So she read several written this month, many of which can be found on her website. "Dear Reader" was a Billy Collins-style address for day 8. In "The City Where We Met" she took a look back at a relationship; another poem took us a plane flying to Portland, OR, with its meditation on the image of blade-like mountains. "Looking for the Tear Drop Lounge" was about being in Portland, day 6 of the project. "Things that Slowed Me Down Today" was a list poem for day 9, set in Portland, as was "Why I Smile to Myself" where the poet thinks she sees Dorianne Laux in a restaurant. When she read "A Failed Attempt to Write a Love Poem to her New Purple Coat" the coat itself was draped over her chair, like it was waiting for her. "Why Do We Watch It Go?" was about being on the plane, returning home. Her next poem was a nod to the approaching holiday, "A Guide to the Study of Symbolism in the 21st Century Household, Chapter 11: Thanksgiving." She ended with 2 poems not from the project: "Taking Credit for a Sunny Day," for her son Ben's birthday, & a poem about being born in Maine, "Where the Coroner Delivers Babies." Her poems are discursive, well-crafted, often with humor, ironic or otherwise; an excellent reading, &, as they say, her hair was perfect!

After the break, I read an old poem "I Want to Read My Love Poems to You" that had been sort of accepted for a poetry zine, if the poem was tighter, more focused, but it's not. This was Carol Kenyon's first time at the Social Justice Center & she read a nonsense, adult nursery rhyme, "Needing the Beat Down" on domestic violence. Nancy Denofio's narrative, "You Gotta Believe" was about listening to baseball on the radio while in class. "The Heart of Darkness" by Barbara Garro was about too much belief & learning from time what to avoid. It seems like Sally Rhoades has been following me to poetry events all this week; tonight, she read the very brief, "Tonight."

A.C. Everson joined in on the holiday theme with the turkey's demise, "Tom's Last Stand." Sue Oringel's "Links" was her love song to the game of golf. Moses Kash III read the rambling "Speech #1" written for President Obama. Sylvia Barnard's poem, "World Within Reach," was a very personal response to the public controversy over the State University cutting out language & other humanities programs, of being fired after teaching there for 43 years. But, hey, that just means she has more time to write poems.

Another dazzling night of poets & poetry at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY -- every third Thursday (as the title says), 7:30 PM.

November 19, 2010

Jean Valentine, NYS Writers Institute, November 16

Jean Valentine, the New York State Poet, did a seminar & reading for the New York State Writers Institute on November 16. The afternoon seminar was held in the Standish Room of the Science Library Building at the University at Albany (NY). The largely informal gathering of mostly students, with a gathering of local community poets & some faculty, was conducted by Edward Schwartzchild & Tomas Noel from the English Department.

Ms. Valentine began the discussion with an account of her early days of writing poetry as a young mother while her children were in nursery school. While many of the questions centered around her inspirations, how she wrote her poems & on the craft of writing, Ms. Valentine was not afraid to answer "I don't know" when necessary. She talked about her friend Grace Paley, whose spirit was quite a presence in the room; Paley was the very first New York State Poet (before the honor was split between the NYS Poet & the NYS Writer). Valentine read her poem in memory of Paley, "On a Passenger Ferry," from her new book, Break the Glass (Copper Canyon Press).

A young student asked Ms. Valentine what poets she would recommend to someone just starting to read poetry & the list included Lorine Niedecker, C.D. Wright, Emily Dickinson, Elisabeth Bishop & Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Later in the evening the Friends of the Albany Public Library joined with the Writers Institute to sponsor a reading at the library's main branch on Washington Ave. in Albany. Ms. Valentine was introduced by Gene Damm & Tomas Noel. She read one, extended piece, "Lucy," from her new book, about the famous bones discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. This poem composed in a number of short segments was written in the Summer of 2007 & first appeared in Sarabande Books' Quarternote Chapbook Series.

While I was reading Valentine's poems in the days before here visit, I was struck by how spare & elliptical they were, & indeed during the seminar she described how she would fill a page with words then take out the ones she "didn't need." But hearing Jean Valentine read her work often the connections were made by her tone & inflection aiding my understanding of the poems -- why we need to go to readings to hear our living poets read their work.

November 17, 2010

BookMarks: The Memoir Project Reading Series, November 15

This was the second in a series of upcoming readings through April 1, 2011. Last month I hosted the first, & this month's theme was "Struggling Against the Dark Side" hosted by Sandi Gelles-Cole. It was a mixed bag, as it should be, of prose, poetry, & that inter-zone of poetic prose, true, not-true, who cares, it's all art.

Tracey Krulcik's piece "Tight Rope" was an extended metaphor, where many of us have been before. Her short bio said she was "an aspiring writer" but once you do it you write, are a writer, you are no longer aspiring except to greatness.

Linda Elovitz Marshall's memoir "Call Me This & Call Me That" was about the cruel taunts that kids can so be so creative about, very much the topic of the day.

Leslie B. Neustadt read a selection of poems dealing with LSD ("Brush with Madness, Circa 1970"), molestation ("Carry on Baggage"), & cancer ("Death's Seduction" & "The Waiting Room") & "Triangle of Unfinished Business."

This was Deb Livingston Picker's first reading, which she did well, beginning both of her pieces with Yiddish proverbs -- "Chewing the Fat with Oprah Winfrey" & "Support Group" (for writers).

Carolee Sherwood is a regular at local poetry open mics & began with a poem about the Iceland volcanos, then "Solstice Manual: You'll Have To Be Sick to Survive" & "The Gardener, Pruning, Helps Night Fall."

Some of the poems of Jill Crammond Wickham, another regular at local poetry open mics, have titles longer than some poets' poems. Tonight they explored what June Cleaver does after dark, "Mother Walking Home Alone," "Behind the Scene at Dick & Jane's," "The Lonely Housewife Calls to Inquire on the Status of Her Ad, Discovers Her Personal Was Buried in the Obituaries" (which is like a haiku unto itself), & "The Husband Recalls a Recent Holiday, the Feast that Nearly Followed."

Melora Wolff described her pieces as "prose poems," perfect for tonight where we couldn't hear the line-breaks; "Mad River" took us back to her 5th grade, while "Migrations" was conversations with her mother & birds (of course).

Sandi Gelles-Cole ended the night with a reading from Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents of "Daughter" by Christine Allen-Yazza & of "Blue Flowers On Grandmother's White China Cup" by Marsha Mathews.

Again, like the last session, all the presenters were women, but hey, maybe the guys have got their brains fried & don't do memoir because we just make the shit up. Whatever, it was a crisp night of crisp writing. Too bad none of the other curators were there, since this series continues on until April. Check it out at the Arts Center website.

November 14, 2010

2nd Sunday @ 2, November 14

American journalism is obsessed with the concept of "objectivity." But this is a chimera. Objective reporting cannot (based on everything we know about human psychology) exist. Most other developed countries in the world are not concerned about this concept, they have their "right-wing" newspapers, & "left-wing" TV stations, & it seems simpler for folks to know the point of view when assessing the veracity/accuracy/whatever of the reports they see & read, rather than reading "objective" news that has an un-acknowlged bias.

That said, I (who am one of the organizers of this event) think this afternoon's event was great. This is the first in a monthly series at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on the 2nd Sunday of the month, in the "********** Theater." My co-conspirator/host, etc. was Nancy Klepsch. It was an open mic for poets & prose writers, with flexible, expanding & contracting time-limits.

Kate Laity started us off with a story from her collection Unikirja: Dream Book, based on Finnish myths & legends, this one that werewolves keep their tails when they return to the human world. Mimi Moriarty read companion pieces about the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade, attended in memory of her father; these from 2009 & 2010.

Ron Drummond read a selection of poems, often using technical, scientific language, even when describing the leaves falling from the trees. I proposed that my poem "I Want to Read My Love Poems" was written as un-focused & loose, then commented on the use of terms "poemer" & "Poeming." Tim Verhaegen somehow got me into his poem about strange characters at the Empire State Plaza, "Mr. Fig-a-Wiggers Sister," then commented on the corporate racism, etc. of upscale law firms in "Osterman & Whiteman."

Sally Rhoades' prose piece "The Outpost" showed that her background as a poet made her prose that much more rich. Mary Panza hit us with 3 pieces, first a melange of characters at Dunkin' Donuts & shopping in the world of housewives, then the changed existence "In a Post-Partum World" & the short zinger, "The Cock-Kicker Manifesto." Our co-host Nancy Klepsch ended the afternoon's reading with a meditation on the decline of "Troy," then from the journal Oberan, the homage to B.B. King, "B.B.'s in the House."

Join us on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY -- Free!!

Frequency North, November 11

This is the reading series of visiting writers to the College of St. Rose, in Albany, NY, organized by the frequently inappropriate Daniel Nester. In general these are well-published, young writers who are not yet on the New York Times Best Sellers list, but may be someday, in which case you can see them read again at the New York State Writers' Institute in however many years.

Kathleen Rooney is a poet, essayist & fiction writer. She impressed me right off the bat with taking pictures of the audience before beginning her reading; check out her website for the photos. She read an excerpt from an essay "However Measured or Far Away" (the phrase is from H.D. Thoreau) from her collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs. The essay is about a cousin becoming a nun, beginning with the author's pondering of her own inability to sit in solitude, then on to intersecting weaves of her cousin's life & the life of nun's in the order she was joining. Chatty, informal prose that was crisp, amusing without getting "cute."

Interestingly, Alexander Chee read selections from his forth-coming novel Queen of the Night, also about a woman in the service of (another type of) god, a servant girl for the Empress Eugénie in the second Empire in France. It is a lushly detailed historical novel told from the point of view of the servant who goes on to become an opera star. Such drama!

The series will continue in the Spring semester, so check out their website.

November 11, 2010

Live from the Living Room, November 10

On the eve of Veterans' Day we gathered in the living room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center for the open mic & to hear the featured poet, W.D. Clarke. He began with poems from his 2009 collection Soldier Ballads and Other Tales, "The Circumcision," & a poem about war flash-backs, "The Night Time Army." Many of Wayne's poems have a strong narrative base, like those of his favorite poets, Robert Service & Rudyard Kipling, sometimes grim, like "The Ballad of Robert Brill" or "The Prospector's Revenge." But there is also plenty of humor, often irreverent & scatological, as in "The Two-Holer" (which poses a good question), & "Grandma's Leg." "The Pipe Smoker" is advice for guys on attracting (& keeping a good woman), & his motivational poem advises simply "Keep Going." I've said this before, but I will say it again, listening to the poetry of W.D. Clarke has made me appreciate (again) rhyming tales in the old style.

On to the open mic, I read for Veterans' Day an old poem from the 1980s, "John Lees," then the just written (yesterday) "Fast & Slow." Another rhymer, A.C. Everson read a hot-flashes poem, "Slice of Life," & then "Ode to a Toaster," an old wedding present.

Bob Sharkey read Federico Garcia Lorca's prescient poem "Qasida of the Dark Doves," which led to a brief discussion of the mystery of his death, then Bob's own short poem, "Borden Ave. Veterans Shelter."

Our straight-friendly host, Don Levy, read 2 poems from his series about the former punk-rock club where so many poets got their start at the last Monday open mic, "Losing My Virginity" (I was there that night -- but it wasn't me), & "Alexander Street" about the apartment & parties of 2 former Albany poets.

It was also nice to have, in addition to the poets, some lovely audience members, such as Wayne's wife Linda & "the 2 Ks," Kristen & Kim & the taller & taller Alexis. The crowd varies but it's always cozy on the 2nd Wednesday at the Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY, 7:30PM.

November 9, 2010

Professor Java's Wide Open Mic, November 8

This is one of the few music & poetry open mics I am willing to attend. Lest you think me cranky (& that I am), the historical basis for this prejudice is that when there were few poetry open mics (oh, so many years ago), the few venues were the folk music open mics that opened their doors to poets as well (such as the original 8th Step Coffee House on Willett St.). But I soon grew tired of the time spent on-stage tuning guitars (before those electronic things they have today), & of course the endless I'm-going-down-this-lonesome-road-feeling-bad songs. So we poets created our own open mics.

But (or as Mary Panza would say, "Butt") I've found this venue appealing. In the past months the poets have outnumbered the pickers & in today's music environment there is much more variety in the styles & genres of the guitar/singer/songwriters that keeps the night interesting.

Ah, but tonight, at the end of a day of the first snowfall of the season, wet & slushy, I was once again the only poet in the house. Our host, as always, the technologically advanced Keith Spencer. So I started off with 3 current poems, the ironic "Poeming," then the brand-new "Book Store Reading," & the provocative "Looking for Cougars" (which got referenced a couple times throughout the night).

Bane drove up from Sullivan County, in this weather no less!, & began with a Grateful Dead tune, then into riffs from "Andalusia," then one of his original songs written in Oregon, "Many A Long Road" -- & here it was, the quintessential dreaded going-down-the-road folk song. Oh well.

Chris Coakley had to put his mind on shuffle (or was he shuffling his mind?) to think of things to play & spent a lot of time not remembering Jason Mraz's "Lucky," even with the help of Olivia (she's next) & the happy waitress, Katie.

Olivia Quillio said she just got back from Portland (OR)! -- Everybody's in Portland; what am I doing here? She did "Miss Ohio," then her own song "Easy Killer," & the very interesting "When You Love Somebody" by a left Coast band, The Fruit Bats. She has a rich, versatile voice & plays a baritone ukelele. The things you learn hanging out in coffeehouses.

November 8, 2010

Yes, a Reading, November 7

Yes, this is the continuing series of occasional readings sponsored by Jawbone of the University at Albany, held at the Social Justice Center in Albany, with introductions by Anna Eyre.

Frequently the poets that are showcased in this series are more "experimental" than those heard at other readings around town, so much so that sometimes it is a perplexing, if not downright tedious, experience when the poets are so enamored by the cleverness of his or her technique the audience has difficulty understanding what is going on. And often the description of the technique is more interesting than the work read. Tonight's readers, Urayoán Noel & David Mills, were the exception to this sweeping generalization; both used various contortions & manipulations of words & language to create work that still had content & context. It also helped that both were energetic & musical performers of their work.

Urayoán Noel (Tomas) read exclusively from his new book, Hi-Density Politics, from that "publisher of weird little books," BlazeVOX [books]. The work is New York City urban, specifically the Bronx, celebrating such places as Co-op City ("co-opt city"), or Crown Donut, a 24-hour diner near Yankee Stadium ("foray"), or Joyce Kilmer Park ("babel o city (el gran concurso)"). The poems are built around sound patterns in English, in Spanish, using puns, rhymes, clichés, the play of words against & around each other creating soundscapes. Other pieces, such as "trill set," based on César Villejo's Trilce, were clever but less engaging; these were written/constructed from voice recognition software from the original Spanish text. Interesting, but best in short doses. I bought the book, but I much prefer Tomas' spirited performance.

David Mills is also an accomplished performer of his work, reading partly from The Dream Detective (Straw Gate Books, 2009), & partly from a dog-eared stack of manuscript poems, pulling pages, some still handwritten, apart. He too uses puns & takes apart cliches & common expressions, finding new meanings in bending & distorting the language. His "Dream Detective" poems are built on interrogation of Dream, using journalism's basic "who-what-where-when-why", then providing random answers, sometimes clever, sometimes meaningful, sometimes ho-hum. Likewise, the playful, silly parodies of book-jacket statements in "Blurb." He was more successful in pieces having to do with the body (his) such as "Ionic Man" (an MRI) & "Mistaken Mydentity" (about therapy for depression). But he was outstanding in "Forever's Bread" (for Sean Bell who was gunned down by NYC police), taking apart pieces from scripture & the Mass & news reports of the event & putting them back together again to create a narrative/commentary that is literally chilling to hear.

I've often thought about the question of when does "experimental" become an accepted, useful technique. I mean, one experiments to find out what works & what doesn't, & once you decide what works & use it, it is no longer experimental. At some point in history the sonnet must have been "experimental" don't you think? The work of these 2 poets this night demonstrated the successful use of new, exciting techniques for making poems that have content & context & that are not just clever pastimes out of Games Magazine.

Check out the series & sign up for their emails at their Blog site.  As always, more pictures at my Flickr! site.

November 7, 2010


(as in "Feets don't fail me now!")

Your feet
     toe-jammed funky feet where America stands
Your feet
     varicose washer woman, thick-soled waitress trying to make a buck
Your feet
     painted toed models on magazine pages feeding my fantasies
Your feet
     resting, “cooling the dogs,” the postman sitting in a mailbox, his key chain umbilical cord to the cover
Your feet
     uncut toenail lovers thrashing
Your feet
     kicking & stomping thick leathersides, sweat soaks the socks like shirt beneath the arm pits
Your feet
     pounding rhythmically, dancing on asphalt starting shock waves beneath the ground, shuddering the Earth off its axis
Your feet
     in platform shoes beneath hardly anything, syncopated spinning spangled breasts flickering red & blue lights, no one watches
Your feet
     collapsed in stitchless wingtips wandering streets trying to find that one button on a grim overcoat
Your feet
     in future shoes displayed in a shop window, the fetishist stops his sweeping to stare, strokes the broom handle
Your feet
     as Gully Jimson’s models as big as a wall, as grand as Africa, as pink as virgins
Your feet
     wafting musty warm perfume speaking of feral warmth, the walker’s incense stretched before a fire, fragrant offering upon sidewalk, floor, & Moon

Half Moon Books Reading, November 6

Another in the exciting series of readings by traveling & regional poets, organized by Rebecca Schumejda at Half Moon Books in Kingston. Tonight's lineup included a number of poets who have read here before.

But Dan Provost from Worcester, MA hadn't; I had crossed poetic paths with him a couple years ago at the Connecticut Beat Poetry Festival. His poems are clear, direct statements from a working class background, often dealing with bars, & violence; generally short poems, read fast. The title of "Do I Look Like I Want to Talk to You?" says it all, but the portrait of "Poor Candy" in a dive bar was poignant, as was the domestic violence of "Making a House a Home." The insomniac poem "Lights in Worcester" is a nocturnal portrait of his home town. He also read from the recent team-collection with Aleathia Drehmer, A Quiet Learning Curve (Rank Stranger Press, Mount Olive, NC), including "Blue Collar White Heat," & "I Was Dumped for a Warlock."

Aleathia Drehmer read this past July at Poets in the Park in Albany, NY & published a couple of my poems in her tiny zine Durable Goods (#25). She also read a cluster of poems touching on domestic violence, & loss, from A Quiet Learning Curve -- a good pairing of poets. Aleathia has another chapbook out recently, You Find Me Everywhere (Propaganda Press, Palo Alto) from which she read a generous selection, including "The Seamless Gate" for Dan Provost, "He Wanted a Love Poem," & "Marquise & the Sliver Spoon," among others [I noted that this attractive little book contains a couple poems from her visit to Albany this summer, "The Poetry Motel" & the poem for Moses Kash III, "You Can't Let the Moment Pass You By"]. She ended with some poems still in manuscript, including "Reading Tea Leaves at Midnight" & the 1994 "In the End I Just Let It Go" recently revised, again demonstrating that poetry is a process.

John Dorsey, who had read here in August, was back around again on his peripatetic poetry tour, tonight the "name-dropping reading," beginning with "The Year Joe Brainard Died," then on to "Second Hand Unicorn (for Todd Moore)" & the "ecstatic nostalgia" of "The Way Things Were in 1981" (referencing Adam Walsh, how hinky esoteric). There were the working class reminiscence of "Invisible Dragons" & "Thumb Print on the Side of a Machine," but like "When Becky was in Hollywood" included gratuitous references to one degree of celebrity or another.

Roberta Gould's short poems are much more quotidian & the only "celebrity" I recall mentioned was the Long Island poet George Wallace (in her poem "Voice" from Louder than Seeds from FootHills Publishing). She then reverted to "the shopping bag method" of reading, clutching a bouquet of recent & older poems pulled up more or less at random, bearing titles like "Ghosts," or "Monday Morning," or "Insects." Or the abstractions "Imponderable," "Contingencies," "Space" & "History." Her mother's skill was detailed in "Spelling" & she celebrated the fidelity in "First" of 2 cardinals at her feeder. Roberta's poems are worth seeking out in her chapbooks & at the lucky readings where you can find her.

Different in style & energy is the lower Hudson Valley's whirling dervish of readings & open mics, Robert Milby. As he is wont to do he reported on recent birthdays of dead poets, then read a poem by John Keats. Milby's poems are a throwback to the 19th century, embroidered, over-cooked Romanticism, full of wild nature (hawks & crows, the Hudson River, wolves & fires). He celebrated the short life & work of early 20th Century poet Adelaide Crapsey, & of the more contemporary poet Mauro Parisi ("The Hudson River in Winter"). He confronted more contemporary issues with "Oil Volcanos" (the obligatory Gulf oil-spill poem) & one about the Long Island Wall-Mart Xmas stampede. Some of these poems were from his 2009 chapbook from Fierce Grace Press (Pooler, GA) Crow Weather.

A wonderful gathering of poets collected by the poetry mother of the mid-Hudson, Rebecca Schumejda. Catch it when you can -- & buy books.

Open Mic Shoe Slam, November 5

This reading at the Albany Institute of History & Art, during Albany's monthly First Friday art walk, was in conjunction with a couple of exhibits involving shoes, & was hosted by Jessica Layton (from Channel 13). It was a "slam" in the most loose sense of a competition (audience got to vote for the best performers), but more just fun for a cross-section of the community. Jessica began by explaining that she is "passionate" about shoes & culture, & started us off with a rhyming piece about her tangerine pumps displayed on the table.

First up was Chloe Gatulik reading "My Fall Shoes." Then Mikayla McCrary read a poem also about her new shoes -- 2 young poets bravely trying out their craft. Ali Gutman had only one shoe left (the dog ate it), as she explained in "An Ode to My Peep-Toe Shoes" (from Florence, no less). My poem was not exactly about shoes, although there were ample references to shoes, but was more about "Feets," an old piece, with recent revisions inspired by this event.

From there the mode shifted to the story-tellers, with Kate Dudding talking about, & demonstrating, her tap-dance shoes. Sandesh Nalic's story about shoe-throwing against political opponents was tempered by humor & a stand-up comic's delivery. Claire Nolan's story was about walking 26 miles in Dr. Scholl's exercise sandals in 1970. Josie (from the AIHA staff) showed us her blue suede platform peep-toe shoes & an informal story about walking in them home through the night streets of Albany. And Monica showed us rather ordinary looking black rubber boots, with a beautiful (& comfortable) red lining.

Once the audience voted, there was a tie for first place between Kate Dudding & Sandesh Nalic. Jessica came up with a plan for an instant-haiku run-off, which Sandesh Nalic won, Kate Dudding was second prize winner, with Claire Nolan as 3rd place. Lots of smiles & fun -- & wine & cheese & sweets, too. And interesting that there were no other poets there from the many open mics in towns; but I did run into a few during the rest of the evenings gallery crawl. Hey, if the shoe fits, wear it.

November 2, 2010

Albany Poets Presents!, November 2

Our most political night at yet at Valentines started off with Kirsten Gillibrand (her hair was perfect!) first on the sign-up list (I graciously -- for a favor to be named later -- let her go first, in my usual spot) reading a poem about babies & dieting & the health care legislation.

She was followed by Andrew Cuomo (who arrived with a bevy of young 20-somethings handing out flyers & coupons for Red Bull). Andrew's poem was about smashing Wall Street & about pizza & cheese steaks & even referenced Mary Panza's poem about the Virgin Mary in Macy's. A great performance in his sonorous New York voice.

I couldn't help but do my annual Election Day poem, "Put Down the Government Rag" though it's message of "Don't vote … it's a corporate hoax…" was a bit late in the last hour of voting (at least on the East Coast).

Carl Palladino came bursting into the room, bug-eyed & anemic, screaming that he wanted to read too. Thom (el presidente) Francis calmed him (slightly) by directing him to the sign-up sheet, & then he was up with a long, incoherent rant about gay hasidim & the plot behind the burning of the Lark Tavern. The applause was polite (as it is for everyone) but it was perhaps the worst poem read since the last time William Robert Foltin showed up, 7 years ago.

Mary Panza ended the night appropriately with a poem that ended with the repeated line, "shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up…"

Then we drank a lot of beer, talked about the sexual practices (& partners) of those that weren't there, the street-corner assignations, whiny requests, the arrogant self-inflations, someone's domain-name problems, & The Job (not mine, not any more, phew) -- then went out for cigarettes (not me). In other words, a typical 1st Tuesday at Valentines, on New Scotland Ave. in Albany. Sponsored by