December 31, 2011

My Year of the Awards

I'm not sure what astrological conjunction brought this about. Perhaps it's just living long enough, but 2011 was the Year of the Award, for me. Actually it started with the December 27, 2010 roast at the Poets Speak Loud at McGeary's, sponsored by  A.C. Everson/Breaking My Art's papier maché head from that night is still in a place of honor in my dining room.  I was about 40 when I had my first featured reading, which eventually inspired me to host an open mic (on the third Thursday, now at the Social Justice Center) at which I feature young poets (among others), often for their first featured reading, so I guess I've grown used to "late" honors -- Whatever.

As for readings this year, I was pleased to be asked to be one of the readers at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, Oklahoma in April.  In May, I was privileged to read with other veterans at the Kingston Universalist Congregation, then later in the month, again with fellow veterans, at the Harmony Cafe in Woodstock.  Later in the year I was part of the Puffin Poetry Jam for Peace in Teaneck, NJ with other members of Veterans For Peace.  In between I was featured with Eileen Abrizio, Jean-Yves Solinga & Elizabeth Thomas at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford at Poets Speaking Out for Social Justice.  I also read as part of the Paterson Literary Review launch of issue #39 in November in Paterson, NJ.  In September I had an exhibit of my photos of unknown (& famous) poets at the Arts Center of the Capital Region & a photo in the Photography Center's Member Show.

All that in itself was enough accolades for an aging poet/photographer, but there was also the awards. You know, when they come like this it makes one start to look over one's shoulder for that runaway garbage truck careening down the hill, right at your back.

Early in the year I had submitted poems to the Rip Van Winkle Poetry Award run by All Arts Matter out of Greenville, NY, & won 1st prize. The award was presented in August at the Greenville Public Library.  I've been a supporter of the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District & a subscriber to their newsletter since soon after I arrived back in the area many years ago & I was thrilled to be honored at their annual Labor Day picnic with the "2011 Peace & Poetry Award … in recognition of your work for peace and for bringing poets, poetry and the people together."  Another organization that I've been proud to be a part of, have done readings & reviews for their Tuesday noon events, has been The Friends of the Albany Public Library. On December 3 I was honored by a lunch sponsored by the Friends at the University Club for the Fall Book and Author Event, then a Question & Answer session in the APL's main auditorium.  Later in the month at the Sunday Four Poetry event I received the first Arthur Dare Willis Award for my "... contribution to poets and poetry" presented by the hosts of Sunday Four, Dennis Sullivan, Michael Burke & Edie Abrams.  

The point about these last 3 awards were that they were from the community, from people whom I respect greatly for the work they do & so their recognition for my work means all the more, that it is about what we do together, how we keep the community growing. I am humbled & honored to receive these awards & hope that this recognition will keep me working, & growing. We don't work for awards, we do what we do because we feel we have to, but the awards help buoy us up during those times we question if what we do is "worth it" -- it's always "worth it" just because we do it.  Thank you to all those involved in these community organizations.

I guess with all this behind me I can now continue on undistracted with the work that needs to be done: ending the war(s), working for economic justice & freedom, & helping to create the kind of artistic/poetic community that fosters those goals -- as well as having fun, living & loving -- & writing more poems.

 Take my hand, we're all in this together!  -- Happy New Year.

December 30, 2011

Poets Speak Loud!, December 26

Attentive Wait Staff at McGeary's
Back in the backroom of McGeary's, Clinton Square, Albany, NY, on the last Monday of December or, as our host, Mary Panza, characterized it, "the post-holiday hangover edition." She herself was treating the disorder with pumpkin spice martinis & it seemed to work. There was no featured poet, but plenty of this town's fine open mic poets -- & a bad gift exchange at the end.

But first the poets, with Cheryl A. Rice playing off a water theme in a poem titled "Hot Tub," then a water bed poem, "Lake of Dreams." Joe Krausman read a piece written today for the season, "Lists" & then a poem about looking for a companion, "My Pension Won't be Enough…" Sylvia Barnard read the poem she read at the third Thursday reading, "My Grandmother's Store" & another family piece "My Grandmother's Bones." My only poem tonight was about a visit to the UC Berkeley campus, "My Sather Gate Illumination" (for my daughter Madeleine).

Tess Lecuyer read a couple of poems written for the Winter Solstice, one from 1993 about a troop of girls in tap shoes at the mall, & another about the cold solstice of 2000. Carolee Sherwood described her 2 poems as "indulgent" & "sentimental" (which sounds like descriptions for most poems), indulgent being "What to Do with the Dead in 2011" then the sentimental, for her son, "Ben Baking Bread." Thom Francis did one of the poems he performed with Murrow at the third Thursday event, "Shackle" ("…your cold embrace…").

Dain Brammage said he felt good this Xmas for the first time in many years, but attempted to read an old poem about depression, "Sometimes," but then just let it go; he is also the Slam Bastard, I mean, "Master" on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays over across town at Valentines so performed his signature "Slam" (in essence, "it's not in the writin' it's in the recitin'").

Mojavi, after a long introduction, read an intense love/sex poem "Transforming Fear into Unconditional Love" with images of swimming & a new mind. Elizag slipped in late to read a couple of "black-out" poems, "Adult Low-Dosage Aspirin Bottle" & "Cleaning Products are More Optimistic," then read a list poem, "Magical Thinking." The last poet up was Poetyc Vyzonz reading "The Love" in the voice of god (or God).

All I will say about the bad gift exchange is that we were all hoping that Joe Krausman would try on the 3-inch brightly colored open-toed shoes (that came with a pink clutch bag long enough for a .357 Magnum), but instead he traded with Elizag for an out-of-date commemorative beer mug. Perhaps she will show up at the next Slam in those shoes ("it's not a costume, it's what I wear -- don't talk to me about it!").

Happy Holidays!!

December 27, 2011

Nitty Gritty Slam, December 20

Once again I went down to Valentine's, hoping for a slot in the Slam (&, of course, hoping to make it at least to the second round). But first an interesting open mic, where folks seem to do real poems, rather than just perform. Mojavi was the host, telling us "Twitter is where it's at."

Poetyc Vyzonz began with a preview of his in-progress CD. Tom M. did a really fine hip-hop piece, "fuck school," that probably would have done well in the Slam. (Prof.) Daniel Nester read from his memoir, "Moby Cock," how he got a C+ in America lit. (his students beware!).

A new voice/face on the stage was Kat SoPoetic, with a piece using terms from anatomy & physiology, "Anatomy & Poetry."

Another new poet was Sibie with a Xmas song & Xmas poetry. For all his snarky shenanigans as open mic host, Mojavi read a tender, gentle love poem, then capped it off with a piece on police violence.

Well, there were only 6 of us in the first round of the slam, & I was the last performer with "One Day Longer" & I still ended up on the bottom (tied with Tom M.). You can see all the scores & a summary of the event (& my purple beret) at the AlbanyPoets website. Kevin Peterson won, for the second time in a row, & once again the indomitable Shannon Shoemaker was in the money, placing 3rd.

All you Slam Champions beware -- I'll be back & if I get into the second round I will kick your ass(es), at least somewhat, whatever.

Check it out on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month at Valentine's rock'n'roll emporium on New Scotland Ave. in Albany.

December 23, 2011

Sunday Four Poetry, December 18

Actually on the third Sunday this month (otherwise it would have been on Christmas Day), with its usual gathering of fine regional poets & a featured poet (Cheryl A. Rice), & a special surprise for me.  Co-hosts were Edie Abrams & Dennis Sullivan.

Philomena Moriarty with a bouquet of recently written poems, starting with memories of a feral childhood, then what it's like at a "Women's Retreat," & ending with imagining the possibilities on "Starships." I followed with the recent "What the Deer Sees" & the recently published (in Home Planet News #65) "My Last Bardo."

At that point Dennis Sullivan (our avuncular host) paused the open mic to present me with the (first) Arthur Dare Willis Award, named in honor of the venerable Voorheesville teacher, poet, "Old Testament prophet, a healer, a visionary…" As the proclamation states, "Through this award we wish to call to mind periodically poets, publishers, and presenters of poetry who have inspired us and continue to inspire us through their contributions to the art of poetry and those who practice this art in earnest… we present this award to … Dan Wilcox. We are tempted to say Albany's Dan Wilcox but we won't because he is everybody's Dan Wilcox." Needless to say I was quite honored to receive this award & humbled by the praise & kind words from folks I admire as poets & cherish as friends. Thanks! The award itself is an engraved glass disk reminiscent of a halo -- hmm?

Appropriately enough, Joe Krausman follwed this with his poem about smart people doing dumb things, then the holiday "Season's Greetings." Dennis Sullivan dedicated his poem on words & death & Eros, "All's Well that Never Was" to me, then read "Remembering Mother in Barcelona" & "One Cell Cowboy Joe," both from his new collection, In the Fields of Kingdom Come (Pajarito Cantando Press, 2011). Obeeduid, recovering from recent surgery, found a copy of the 1996 publication Many Waters, containing his poem "Unconcerned Oddly" & read it for us, followed by a tender poem about his ex, "Limbs that We Left in the House of Circe," & a recent poem "The Hole in the Stone Wall Across the Road." Howard Kogan read one of my favorite poems from his book, Indian Summer (Square Circle Press, 2011), "Uncle Jess," then a poet's poem, "Imagination."

Two of Don Levy's poems were about the history of poets & poetry in Albany, "One Night Stand in Plattsburgh" & "Local Poet on Tape", & in between the recent "The Insomniac Muse." Tom Corrado's poem "Liner Notes: Expected Gain" can be found on his Blog & he followed it with the occasional piece in humorous rhyme written for a friend's 60th birthday "I Continue to Get Older" (which I must admit beats the alternative). "Bird" (Alan Casline) began with a prayer then on to the long poem in 2 voices (with Howard Kogan as House), "House I Have to Talk to You, Bernadette Mayer Has Given Me the Assignment," followed by the very short "Impressions of People I Have Never Met."

Michael McCabe shows up at lots of poetry readings but this is (perhaps) the first time I've heard him read, an untitled piece written 9 years ago, on believing in the unseen & living in the here & now. Paula was also new to reading & read a series of haiku about her mother dying -- healing & grieving.

Stephen Leslie was the day's 2nd awardee, a medal presented by Howard Kogan, for earning 2nd place in the International Haiku contest, & reads the award-winning haiku & its extended haibun, "The Tire Swing" -- congrats Stephen! Ed Rinaldi read a poem of love & passion based on looking at a painting by Salvator Dali.

I've been a fan of Cheryl A. Rice & her poetry since first hearing her read back at the QE2 in Albany in the 1990s, & have continued to follow her work through ephemeral chapbooks & at readings throughout the Hudson Valley. She debuted a new chapbook, Coast to Coast (Flying Monkey Press, 2011)  reading the title poem. Another title poem from a forth-coming collection was the whimsical/nostalgic "My Minnesota Boyhood." I think part of the appeal of Cheryl's poetry is that even the poems without a strong narrative line have a clear beginning, middle & end that often sounds like a narrative, such as "Lake of Dreams" (musing about waterbeds, to her partner Michael), "Ashtray," or "Gold Horse Charm." "Earthquake" & (one of my persona favorites) "Taking Off Billy Collins' Clothes" have the more narrative element, but "Poets Nigh Out," combining now & then in a bar, has that feel too. She ended with a brief Xmas poem, "Blessed." I like having her chapbooks around so I can revisit these non-story stories without having to go out in the cold.

This series continues on (most) 4th Sunday's at 3PM in the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY -- bring poems & be prepared for fine featured poets (& wonderful open mic poets as well).

December 19, 2011

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 15

"Where is the tour bus?"  (photo by Thom Francis)
I don't usually "allow" guitar players at my poetry open mic, having in the past been too often the ugly-stepchild-of-poetry at music open mics, but tonight I had to make an exception because the unique poetry-performance duo Murrow was the featured performer. It was also the night of the annual visit from Sanity Clause. But unfortunately for Sanity Clause the tour bus full of suburban housewives couldn't find a parking spot, so most of the bad poets to sit on his lap were guys; some seemed to enjoy it more than others, hmm. There was a gift of poetry for all, of course. The muse for the night was one of my favorite poets, Enid Dame; I read her wonderful gift from 1996, "Holiday Poem."

First up for the open mic was a third Thursday regular, Alan Catlin with a look at "Moe, Larry & Iggy Pop," bar stories of fake veterans. Beatriz Loyola graciously responded to my request to read a poem in Spanish, her native tongue, with "Recuerdo infantil" by Antonio Machado (1875 - 1939), then followed it with a translation in English. Josh McIntyre was next with his brief poem "Precipitant" thinking about life, with images of protestors in the street. D. Alexander Holiday's "This Involuntary Leave of Absence as Punishment Routine" continues the saga of his last book Emails from Satan's Daughter.

Gene Damm read a short poem, "Motivation," from his book Guanyin and other poems (The Troy Book Makers, 2009). Joe Krausman's full poem was titled "Half." Bob Sharkey returned with "Surveillance," another poem in his self-imposed 64-word form.

Thom Francis (word) & Keith Spencer (guitars) have been performing as Murrow long enough for many of us have our own favorites that we are glad to hear over again in performances. But Murrow is fluid enough to bring in some new pieces too. Starting with a favorite, "Trucker," they caught our attention, then on to the sad "Shower." Other pieces included "Smile," "New Day," "Shackle" & "Gone." But in between a cover of a piece by Henry Rollins, "I Know You." They ended with the crowd pleaser "Female Pedestrian." A good set & I'm glad I let in the guitars.

After the break I continued another annual tradition by reading "Christmas Eve, 1945." W.D. Clarke read a spoof about a visit from the Queen to a special royal outhouse, "The First Seat."

(Photo by Thom Francis)
Screamer's poem was a love poem portrait of her & her boyfriend's opposite tendencies. Sylvia Barnard supplemented her poem "My Grandmother's Store" by passing around a century-old photo of her grandmother behind the counter of the store.

Daniel Nester read axioms, aphorisms, commandments, etc. from "The Book of Dan" (his, not mine). Anthony Bernini gave a taste of his featured reading right here next month with "The Sirens" from Immediate Worlds (The Troy Book Makers, 2011). ILLiptical (last month's feature) did a poetic tribute to the singer Sam Cooke, using titles & lines from his songs. Kevin Peterson (SBT) read his piece "Coin Flips" from 2 columns of slim lines on a yellow legal pad. Avery was the night's last poet with "Reichenbach's Mistake," written, as he said, as an angry young philosopher.

Dan Nester is enjoying this too much.
(Photo by Thom Francis)
Each poet who read went home with a gift of a book or magazine of poetry & the pleasure of having sat, albeit for a brief moment, on the lap of Sanity Clause -- &, as everyone knows, there is no Sanity Clause.

But there is a Third Thursday Poetry Night every third Thursday of the month at 7:30PM at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY. A modest donation supports poetry events & the work of the Social Justice Center. Bring a poem to read.

December 16, 2011

Live from the Living Room, December 14

Our cozy host, Don Levy, welcomed a tidy audience for the monthly open mic on the 2nd Wednesday -- & it really was, even if the third Thursday was the next day, ah the shifting calendar.

But first the featured poet, Barbara Ungar, read, not from her books, but all new work, still in typescript, beginning with the title poem, "Bashō Was a Ninja" on the secret lives of poets. But the title of the new collection isn't firmly set yet, so she read the other potential title poem, "I Feel Bad for Anne Boleyn" (Perhaps other titles she might consider could be "I Feel Bad for Bashō", or "Anne Boleyn Was a Ninja"). Then on to a poem about watching Brigadoon, & the ole professorial stand-by, "On a Student Paper Comparing Emily Dickinson to Lady Gaga." The poem "Rosh Hashanah 5771" celebrates the birthday of the universe. Dylan Thomas' villanelle "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" is one of those poems (over)taught in schools, a bit over-blown & sententious, but Barbara's re-write for her father, "Against Dylan Thomas," softened the edges into something more human. Her final poem, "Things do not Look as Dismal as They Did" took its title from numbered messages for telegraph delivery & was an abcd poem based on a list of endangered species. I, for one, look forward to seeing these poems gathered into a book, whatever it's ultimate title.

Then, as is the custom here in the Living Room, we proceeded on to the open mic. I was first up with 2 recent poems inspired by the poetry of other local poets, "What the Deer Sees," & "That Apparition (for Dennis Sullivan)." Bob Sharkey read a piece from a visit to Portland, OR "Taming the Rogue" then one of his 64 word experiments, this a prose piece, "Beside the Rental" included a character from his long serial piece "Sustenance."

Jalani Willis showed up unprepared to read, but found a short piece on starting a new day -- & it was her first time reading! Robert Eden also wasn't prepared to read but called up one of his Blog entries on his laptop, an impressionistic piece on walls & mirrors based on his research he his doing about a psychiatric hospital.

Our host, Don Levy, read 2 very recent poems (you can find them both on his Facebook page), "Gossip 101" & "The Insomniac Muse."

Check out this casual, intimate reading & open mic at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, 2nd Wednesday of each month.

December 8, 2011

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 7

After a miserable drive up on the Northway (heavy rain & traffic), at least there was a nice dinner with "the ladies" at Ravenous, then on to the open mic, for a respectable crowd in spite of the weather. Our host, Carol Graser, set the tone by reading Joy Harjo's poem, "Anniversary."

The first open mic poet was Gigi Devons with 2 poems in rhyme & 4-beat lines, "Fields of Flame" & the second sounding like she's read a lot of Poe. Carole Kenyon brought the rhyming into the 21st Century with a hip-hop tale, "Lounge Lizard Smack Down." Kate McNairy began with a poem about a suicide, "This World Was Not Enough," then "a hot one," as she described it, "Wet Bodies." Josh McIntyre's first poem was a short piece, "When Even a Song Won't Inspire," then he read "Gleanings" in which he considered the patterns of life.

This was a night of (poetry) virgins, as you will soon see, & the night's first was Laura Grillo, whose poems in rhyme were both about surviving, "Run" (on surviving by being yourself), & "Someday That Man Will Lose" (on not being beaten down). W.D. Clarke's studied rhymes are in the ballad forms of Robert Service & Rudyard Kipling & tonight's poem was a true family tale of where a woman's ashes were buried, "The Old Bean Pot." Andrew Riddles was the night's 2nd virgin, with another tale in rhyme about an airplane crash & a man losing his teeth, "Overbite (or "Thit?)" [say it out-loud].

There were 2 featured poets tonight, the 1st being Judith Prest who read mostly from her new collection of poems, Late Day Light (Spirit Wind Books, Duanesburg, NY). Her poems are characteristically accessible, direct statements, often about herself, such as "Summer 1966, Vietnam Conflict Escalates," or "Questions." There were frequent dramatic monologues as in "Immigration Clinic…" or "Cinderella Rants to Her Granddaughters," even some in the voice of animals, "Skunk," & "Crow." She looked back to all the girls & women in her family who came before in "You Are Here." She ended with a small group of new poems, "November Garden," "Wardrobe Alchemy" (for her mother), & from a poetry therapy workshop, "Naming the Scar."

Jan Tramontano read some of her poems from the forthcoming Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press), a series based on her grand-father's letters home to his family when he was working in upstate New York in the early part of the 20th century. Some are in the grandfather's voice ("Travails") or based on notes he made on reading Spinoza. Others are in her voice, as in "A Child's Memory," or her letter to him, "Letter 2011." Finishing Line Press likes to get a bunch of pre-orders before issuing their books, so if you want to order a copy got to the website. She capped her reading off with a short segment from her recently self-published novel Standing on the Corner of Lost and Found.

After the break Carol Graser read her poem "The Calculator" in which the calculator becomes a poet after booze is spilled on it -- pretty funny. Cecele Krause read from her Finishing Line Press book Tuscaloosa Bypass, "To a Would Be Writer of Short Stories," & a poem about the Klan, "Melissa & Jimmy."

Reichi, another virgin poet, explained that he didn't like being called "Ritchie": too "itchy;" he had 2 poems in short line meters & rhyme, one for his granddaughter, "Ella Blakely," & written after reading a biography of Joan Baez. Bob Preuss' poem "While in Peru" was written here in Caffe Lena while listening to all the poets that came before him. Andrew Sullivan's untitled piece started out on the premise that Paul Simon would be dead someday & spun out from there, including comparing the Holy Ghost to Zeppo Marx. I followed with 2 uncharacteristic suburban animal poems, inspired by the work of my poetry peeps, "Coyote III" & "What the Deer Sees."

Jodi Frank was back after a too-long absence with a 20-year old poem, "Love's Criterion," then the in-many-ways tender "Death After Editing a Business Report." Kathe Kokolias read an essay, ahem, I mean a "prose poem," the hilarious "In Praise of My Bum" from her collection of essays, Spandex & Black Boots (The Troy Book Makers, 2009). I think this was Terry Royne's first time at Caffe Lena; she began with an introspective pantoum, "Deep Inside," then to a poem about her daughter & granddaughter working in the garden, "Fertility."

The night's final virgin, Amanda Fleming, had arrived with friends who read & had no intention to read, then wrote a poem while sitting here (2nd poet tonight to do this, to see above), descriptive & imagistic. Barbara Garro had 2 December poems, both prosaic narratives, "Reunion" & "Blind Date." Ellen Finn finished off the night with 2 angry poems, one about the failure of her pens, paper & computer to make a poem, "A Writer's Nightmare," then "Bad" in which she excoriated her Karma, perhaps an appropriate way to end.

More wonderful variety -- new voices/faces, regulars, & the occasional drop-in. The number of rhymers tonight, particularly among some of the younger poets, made evident the perhaps unfortunate influence of the kind of poetry taught in schools, song-like rhymes & short 4-beat lines, stuck in the 19th Century or the early 20th century (in the homey style of Edgar A. Guest, for example), that gets reinforced by rhyming children's books & greeting card verse. Many young poets begin this way, but today's young poets need to raid the Library for the 20th century poets (or Whitman) who got us out of that rut for examples of modern idioms & then find their own, authentic voice in the 21st century.

Every 1st Wednesday at Caffé Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, $3.00, at 7:30PM.

December 7, 2011

Nitty Gritty Slam, December 6

Judge & Score Keepers Adding it Up
As the most documented reading in Albany (or elsewhere) my comments are a bit superfluous, but then no one else has my opinions (or cares about them for that matter). Plus I got there late.

Poetyc Vyzonz was just coming off the stage before a smallish audience & even smaller field of slammers (4-4-2) tonight. The other contestants were Shannon Shoemaker, Elizag & Kevin Peterson performing as Succulent Baby Toes.  In spite of Kevin/SBT's 30 in the first round, the better poems of the night were Elizag's "Meatball," a continuing commentary, & Shannon's second round poem beginning "My name is Shannon Shoemaker, I don't do slams…". Although I also rather liked SBT's final round piece on religions & living in the moment, albeit somewhat formulaic.

It should be noted that Shannon has finished in the money in 6 of the 7 Slam's she has participated in & seems like a "shoe-in" for the Slam team if the organization decides to go on the road.

Check out the detail here.

It happens on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month, at Valentines rock 'n' roll emporium on New Scotland Ave., in Albany, NY with open mic at 8:00pm, slam about 8:30pm, $5 which supports the prize money.

December 2, 2011

Poets Speak Loud!, November 28

as we often do. & as usual on the Last Monday at McGeary's Mary Panza was the whip-cracking host. Before the featured poet, we dove into the open mic, a sea of poets tonight.

I started it off with an old poem, "Belle du Jour," that mentions Ted Adams, then on to the brand-new "Coyote III." Introduced by Mary Panza as "very black [in his attire] & very smelling good" Ed Rinaldi started off with a short day/night piece then into a poem about his ex, "Breakfast at Stravinksky's Bed of Nails." Dain Brammage read from his smart-phone his poems "Damage Control" & "One Good Day" (which he is saving, hour-by-hour, in a blue box). Don Levy read his 2 new memoir poems, "Newsprint" about his father, & "Homewreck" (home ec v. shop). Mojavi ("Lord of UGT" per Mary Panza) also read his poems from his phone, beginning with a bit of surrealism & revolution, "Unconcious Explosion Inspired by Fate," then with background music from a 2nd phone, a tender, love-lost poem about an ex.

Kevin Peterson was the night's featured poet, with his new-grown mustache (actually, as friend once pointed out, one does not grow a mustache, one just doesn't stop it from growing), started by reciting Def-poetry performer Steve Connell's "Compromise." He continued in the same vein, this time a monologue to a lover, "Tonight is the Night," & a monologue, of sorts, "For the Twinds," half of whom were in the audience. Next he read a series of short, aphoristic pieces, not quiet haikus, on art, poetry, & fucking & drinking. Actually, fucking & drinking (or other drugs of choice) was the theme for the rest of the night's poems, memories of teen-age black-outs, his brother cooking crack, the traditional Wednesday-night before Thanksgiving partying, the sadness of "Saratoga on a Wednesday" after track season, STDs, to the cynical inventory of a hang-over diner breakfast with last night's not-so prize score. The conclusion of the pondering of the question of poems versus dancing & debauchery in "A Good Day" was to burn your poems (which at times has seemed the right choice to me too). While Kevin is a facile performer of his own (as well as others') poems, he was not well-prepared, having to ask the key question, "How am I doing on time?" (To which he received the time-honored standard response, "2 more.").

Described by our host as "a single girl in the big city," Carolee Sherwood read 2 sections from her November long poem, working through (what else?) relationships. Elizag recited a poem about memories of fishing with her father, then faltered (happens to us all) when trying to recall the companion, hunting poem (next time). Joe Krausman read a parable of "Good Government," then a poem contrasting the end of the world with the quotidian, "Panacea."

A new face & voice was Lou Rehder, with 4 haikus, then a portrait of a woman in his poem "Tower." Another new reader, Terry Rooney, read a grim, over-wrought poem "The Suburbs in Wartime." RM Englehardt unfortunately broke his reading glasses on the bus on the way down here, but persevered; he began with "See it Through" by early 20th Century poet Edgar A. Guest (bet you thought I was going to say Edgar A. Poe!), whose turgid style still exerts a lingering influence on young poets just starting out, then his own "Under the Hunger Moon," a response to the Occupy movement.

"Inspirational poet" Poetic Visionz was another having trouble remembering his poems tonight, ending "The Two of Us" too soon, then reverting to his signature piece "Upside Down Inside Out" when he couldn't bring up the poem he had wanted to perform (next time).

Leslie Michelle has no such trouble, reading her poems from her handwritten notebook; "He Loves to Hate Her" was written on the bus about someone who can't let go, then a list poem written coming here tonight about missing Summer -- ah yes, do we have to go through Winter again?

Come to McGeary's the last Monday of most months for this open mic sponsored by, 7:30PM. Good food, efficient service, cold beer, warm hearts.

November 29, 2011

Sunday Four Poetry, November 27

Once again we gathered at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville on a 4th Sunday for poetry. As the old song says, "… & the usual crowd was there" (& a few others). Mike Burke adeptly handled the duties as host with an insightful comment on each poet's reading.

Including mine, as I was first up in the open mic with an old poem that mentions our friend Ted Adams, "Belle du Jour," then a new piece, "Coyote III" in a series, & a poem for Dennis Sullivan, "That Apparition."  Dennis Sullivan himself followed me with 3 philosophical poems pondering words in one form or another, "Apology," then a poem to William Carlos Williams (that references Rimbaud as well) "Addressing my Mentor with a Question Mark," & the timely/literary "Occupying Ezra Pound." Joe Krausman's selections of poems required mnemonic devices, beginning with using fingers (as he cited the poet Michele Battiste) watching one's own death in "Requiem," then a recited poem using rhyme as a memory aide, then the 2-part "Poetry as Sex/Now they Have Babies" (cf. Paul Celan, "poetry is a handshake").

Howard Kogan sat with his cat waiting for "The Portal" predicted in the Mayan calendar, then found out what "way cool" was at a "CD Launch Party." Alan ("Bird") Casline was super-literary with a take on Wallace Steven's "The Snow Man" "Kenning the Cool Daddy-O," then a poem combining feathers & economics, "A Tour of Charles Olson's 'The Kingfisher'."  Obeeduid has been exploring the language of the Mohawks, his work informing his poems on the Onesquethaw, first the correct translation in "Sinking Stream Spirit," then "I've Had a Beautiful Dream" & more. Mike Burke poems were memoirs combined with present ruminations, "Long Ride" (remembering listening to Nixon's resignation speech while in a car with others who are now gone), & the sad portrait of his father in the poem "Headstone."

The featured poet was one of the usual hosts & organizers behind Sunday Four Poetry, Edie Abrams, whose reading fit that perfect model of a poetry reading: "leave us wanting more." She began with poems from a workshop she was in with Bernadette Mayer, then cited the "finger-prints of poetry" in "Through a Poet's Field." On to poems about her cats, then about her rhododendrons ("The Soul is the Soul of the Rhodi"), & a series of untitled poems rich in images of real life. Her long poem of a night-time vision of a white bear was haunting, while a poem on climate change in the Antarctic was actually funny in its grim strangeness. She ended with the a wry memory of her mother & grandmother & potatoes, "Good Night Garden."

This stellar event happens mostly on the 4th Sunday of the mont (but not always), at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY for a modest donation that pays the featured poet & supports the work of Old Songs.  I love it.

(A brief note that the collection of poems from April's Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest is now available from Square Circle Press. Buy now before they are all gone.)

November 23, 2011

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 17

at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY. This month's gathering was blessed by the Muse, Langston Hughes. I read his poem "Let America Be America Again," which could've been written this morning down at the Occupy Albany site; it was first published in 1936.

Then on to the open mic with Alan Catlin up first, responding to a prompt ("Fucked by the Muse") with an urban landscape poem (bet he didn't find that prompt on Poetic Asides). Bob Sharkey read from his 52-page poem "Sustenance" with his character Sonny, this segment referencing Lewis Mumford. Edward Rinaldi dedicated his poem "In Extremis Love" to the Muse that is Lyn Lifshin's Madonna.
D. Alexander Holiday read the title poem from his memoir of growing up in foster care, "In the Care of Strangers." Pearse Murray read a meditative poem on Freedom & Joy, invoking the poet Schiller & novelist Nabokov.

The featured poet was Tuesday's Slam champion, ILLiptical (the Wizard of Mars) with an interesting mix of his performance pieces, poems still in his notebook & even haiku, sometime on the mic, sometimes off. The surprise for me was that this was his first featured reading. He began with a poem dedicated to the NYS Liquor Authority, "At Least I Wrote a Poem," followed by the poem he wrote before he was fired, "The Prayer to Morpheus the God of Dreams," one of the pieces that he did on Tuesday at the Slam. My choice of Langston Hughes as the Muse was prescient as ILLiptical did a short series of poems inspired by Langston Hughes, "Listen to a Song," (to his mother-in-law), "the Winter Night on Lark St." (an urban landscape), & the short "Uncertain Times." "The Jubilee of Cortes" was a spoken word dramatic monologue that he had written a few years ago in college. The haiku (& some tonka) were based on movies such as "Batman," "The Godfather," "The Crucible," & the boxing documentary "The Thriller in Manila." He ended with another spoken work performance (also done on Tuesday), his wife's favorite poem, the triumphant & shouted "Love." A stellar performance greeted with snaps as well as applause.

After the break I jumped in with a poem for Veterans' Day, the older poem "John Lees." Former-feature Avery read 2 really short poems, over before you knew it. Poetic Visionz, who placed 2nd in the Slam on Tuesday, also read a piece inspired by Langston Hughes, his signature poem "Upside Down, Inside Out." Also from UGT, Leslie Michelle was up with a poem written on the bus "The Power of the Poet."

Jessica Layton reprised her poem read in Tuesday's open mic, the sexy mind-fuck "Come Inside Me." Screamer's poem, "A Fall Night in Park South" was another sparkling urban landscape, like Alan's earlier piece. Bless ended the night most appropriately with "Closing Time."

We do this every third Thursday at the SJC at 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, $3.00 donation which helps pay the featured poet, supports the SJC & other poetry events in this marvelous, poetic city. Bring a poem.

November 21, 2011

Nitty Gritty Slam, November 15

I missed the last couple of the Slam events here at Valentines but came back on an interesting night. First of all there were more people here, even just to watch (& thus more potential judges, though most declined), & there were more people signed up for the Slam (including me) than the 8 needed (it's a 3-round event of 8, 4 & 2) so those of us not selected for the Slam ended up in the open mic. Then at the end of the first round there was a 3-way tie for 4th place, putting 6 in the 2nd round. Not to mention a problem getting the sound system connected correctly at the beginning of the event (we needed Keith there!).

Prof. Daniel Nester

There were some excellent poems in the open mic from Kevin Peterson (using the handle "Grandma's Hot Apple Pie"), Elizag, Leslie Michelle, Jessica Layton (sex as words/words as sex), & me. Even the slam principals read: Daniel Nester (a memoir written when he was 26 years old), & Slam co-hosts Mojavi & Dain Brammage.

Kevin Peterson volunteered to be the sacrificial poet to prime the judges, but sort of screwed it up by reciting "Coming Up" by Ani DiFranco (which he announced before he recited the piece, the scoring being pointless because in a Slam you must perform original work. Plus, how can you give Ani a low score?

Kate tries the Slam
Since this is probably the most documented poetry event in Albany, maybe in the World, I won't include the gory details, except to note that ILLiptical (the Wizard of Mars) won with Poetyc Vyzonz in second & L-Majesty in third. All the dirty details, including a picture of me lurking at the bar, are at the AlbanyPoets website.

Every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at Valentines, 7:30PM.

November 20, 2011


The morning along Lark St. is busy
with people I know talking
women in sports bras, sweat pants
walking dogs, both sleepy
still half in yesterday
women dressed like men in skirts
unlock the day’s door
open for business soon
when the sky clouds up
the conversations are about retiring
the basement tenants waking
to talk of Social Security
then, before the bus comes, Ted says
“One Catherine Deneuve movie a month
is enough,” and I agree
even at my younger age.

November 19, 2011

Poetry + Prose Open Mic, November 13

I was the host of the open mic at the Arts Center in Troy solo this month, with an interesting backdrop the set of a play being presented in the the theater.

It was the classic nobody-signs-up-first at the open mic, so I took that spot, read "One Day Longer," a poem that I had just missed reading last month, & the even newer "Cape Storm." Ed Rinaldi did a couple of mini flash fiction pieces, then a longer piece about being at the store during "Autumnal Thunder Storm." Trina Porte began with a woman's perspective on soccer & kickball, "Alive & Kicking," then to "Night of the Living Unedited," & finished with a version of the Pledge of Allegiance for frogs & wetlands.  Howard Kogan's "The Portal" is a brand-new poem pondering the cosmic potential of the date 11/11/11, then read about "The Now," & ended with a poem, "Paradise," from his recent collection of poems, Indian Summer (Square Circle Press, 2011).

Harvey Havel, who has been showing up in the audience of open mics but rarely reads, read some short prose pieces, 1st person imaginings of the horrors & absurdities of soldiers in war.

In contrast, Heather Haskins tale, "This Woman" (from a longer memoir), was grounded in the very real horrors of domestic violence seen at close hand.

Kathy Smith's 2 poems, "A Painting of the Snake with Adam & Eve" & "Litany" were both products of a writing weekend & both featured her accidental totem, the snake.

Sam Perkins' sad poem "We Don't Dance Anymore" included a section in which he sang.

This is an open mic for poets & for prose writers held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY -- free.

November 18, 2011

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Kingston, November 12

This is an ongoing series at the UU Congregation on Sawkill Road in Kingston, an open mic with featured poets. Tonight it was a clutch of Albany poets, Mary Panza, Murrow & Me. But first a bit of the open mic.

In recognition of Veterans' Day, the first reader Annie La Barge read a couple of pieces dealing with same main character, "The Siege", at a VA facility playing basketball & dancing.

Micky Shorr, our host, began with a memoir, funny & chilling too, "Sex Education," then "Wars" (on child brutalities). Rachel Sanborn's first, short piece, "McJob" combined humor & a punch, as did the slightly longer "Mr. Moore I Had a Few Too Many."

I started off the featured poets with an old piece, for Veterans' Day, "John Lees," then on to poems written this past year or so, "What Happens in Autumn, "Letter to a Friend," & "Letter to Take on a Plane." Then on to a couple poems from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt ("Looking for Cougars" & "The Birds' Poem of Thanks"), then "Taking Down the Trees," "Imagining the Mews," "One Day Longer," & "The End," of course.

Mary Panza followed with a garland of favorites, new & old: "Two Men Discuss Victor Hugo…," "Because of You I Believe in Housewife Tuesday," "Roofing & the Art of the Kiss," "I Am Dreaming of London…" (in black & white), the poem for her daughter "Fuck the Giving Tree," "Assumption" & the tough-girl conversation of "And You Missed It." I finally found out the origin of the title "Divorcing Albert" (since none of ex-s are named Albert): it's a mis-read sign that actually said, "driving alert." She ended with a poem about a hot waiter, "The Treacherous End," & the breath-taking "Cock-Kicker Manifesto."

After a short break we were back with "Murrow" -- Thom Francis on word & Keith Spencer on guitar, performing some of their all-time hits, such as the portrait of someone by whom you could "tell time by the wrinkles on his face…" & then a couple pieces about the challenge of writing, a new day, a fresh sheet of paper. "Space" was just that, about making your space, & they ended with the sad story of a woman cleaning her body but not her soul ("Shower"). A good, concise performance even if "we don't practice a lot," as Thom confessed.

Marianna Boncek continued the open mic with a poem about a beech tree, "Remembering in Winter" then a poem for her students, "The Purpose of Poetry." Dave Kime blasted the house (not one to need a mic) with the bitterly ironic letter, "Stay Loyal" (about corporate power), then a piece about finding what's in between "Black & White." Teresa Costa read a series of seasonal poems, including one from 1980, & "True Indian Summer."

Guy Reed has a new book out from Finishing Line Press, The Effort to Hold Light, but chose instead to read from James Wright's The Branch Will Not Break (one would hope that at the big poetry reading in the stars James Wright is reading Guy Reed). Cheryl A. Rice started with a poem about her grandmother, "Thanksgiving Too," then read "Baghdad/Kingston" inspired by a poem by an Albany poet.

Leslie Gerber read a bunch of short poems from the series "poems from sleep," from another series called "Dytopias" a poem in the persona of a corporate mogul, "The Wall St. Strut."  Judy Kerman finished out the night with "Daughters," "Plane Surfaces," & sang a poem from a longer work, a most interesting performance.

This series continues on the 2nd Saturday of each month, at 7PM at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 320 Sawkill Road, Kingston, 7 PM. Contact Micky Shorr at, or call 845-331-2884.

November 14, 2011

their agonizing speed, poems by Jil Hanifan

Jil Hanifan has been a long-time poet in the city of Albany, NY, her career going back to the readings at the QE2 when she was student; now she teaches writing & she was surrounded by her students & her many friends at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza this evening to sign copies of her book of poems, their agonizing speed (The Troy Book Makers). She also talked about the sources of the poems & read a tidy selection of the poems.

Arising from a week-long workshop at Pyramid Lake, the poems were inspired in part by the nature poems of Mary Oliver. Jil said she tried to use those poems as a framework to do nature poems in the city. Other influences were Louise Gluck's Wild Iris & Diane DiPrima's ongoing serial work Loba.

The Mary Oliver influence shows up in the title poem, while Gluck's practice of giving voice to the flowers is in "coneflower." I've admired, as well, "old pears" which I've heard Jil read at open mics (& wrote down as "old pairs" for good reason). DiPrima's Loba is a wide-ranging exploration of the figure of the wolf-goddess (among myriad other topics); Hanifan's version uses the crow as totem, in "lies about the crow" & the longer piece "we crow."

Many of us have been waiting a long time (since the 1999 chapbook whethergirl: wind rose (TA 'WIL Books and Documents)) for another collection of Jil Hanifan's poetry & now here it is. Get thee to the Book House for your copy.

Live from the Living Room, November 9

We were live & so was the chatter from the cafe, but I guess that is not to be helped; we just talked louder.

A good group of poets squeezed in to hear the featured poet, Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien). His poems frequently invoke the natural world, even when not specifically "nature poems," as in his opening poems on Winter, the first from a cycle of poems about the Onesquethaw River, the other, "Landscapes of This & That" dedicated to poem Tom Corrado. He could also be pensively philosophical as in the strangely titled "Yet Once they Seemed to Shudder in the Air with Intensity" (about words & poems), or "After Creeley" or "Grateful for Small Acts of Morning" (or Mourning), even in some very short, fly-by poems. Leaving, as a theme, was addressed in a series of poems, "The House All Cluttered with Ponderous Furniture," "Stint," the pairs, "The Convexity of Dishes" & "The Concavity of Dishes," &, obviously, "You Left When You Had the World at Your Feet." He passed around old black & white snapshots of his mother to accompany the poems "Dad Was Right about Your Gams" then a snapshot of for a companion poem about his father. He ended with a poem written today about his poems as children, "When the Noise of Distant Traffic Becomes Part of the Insect Hum." There is a special magic to hearing a poem, still warm & glistening, read for the first time on the day it is written.

Then on to the open mic, with Sylvia Barnard apologizing for reading poems some of us had heard before (until I can go to the library & take out her Complete Poems, I don't mind hearing good poems many times), her 2 poems about Hurricane Irene, "Hurricane" & "Hurricane Aftermath" (in England). She also acknowledged the cross-inspiration for these with Obeeduid's hurricane tales.

Edie Abrams read the triumphant political piece, "Joy to New Scotland," about "throwing the bums out," & a poem pondering her Jewish heritage, "Before I Eat Shrimp Again." Dennis Sullivan read 2 characteristically philosophical, meditative pieces, "Even if the Shadow of Himself," about his grandfather, but invoking Yeats, & the religious/philosophical poem, "Celebrating the Anniversary of Death." AC Everson read from her little red pocket notebook an as-yet untitled piece about a walk in the park, & the wonderful naming poem she read at the recent dedication of a sign for the "Poet Tree" in the Delaware Community "Friendship Garden," the audience-participation poem, "Under the Sun."

Bob Sharkey read 2 poems written in 64 words, a form he has been working in recently, "Waiting for the Table to Turn" (about the revolving stage at the old Starlight Theater), & "Surveillance." I read my finally-completed (almost, since poems are always in progress) "Midnight Fog" based on a May Blog by Carolee Sherwood), & another new one, "Cape Storm".  Jill Crammond's first poem from childhood memories, "An Old Letter with Chesterfield, Davenport…" prompted an internet search on the word "davenport" for a sofa, followed by the poem "How to Be a Super Hero, Part 1" (apparently with "perfect" hair while taking out the garbage). Carolee Sherwood has been one of those ambitious (or silly) poets who have taken on the daily prompts in November from the Poetic Asides website ("particularly crappy" this year, she says) & shared 2 sections in which she worried about the dead, then mosquitos in September.

Our genial host, Don Levy read 2 poems about life in his younger days, "Newsprint," a tender memoir about his Dad who was a writer for the local newspaper, & "Homewrecked," about the high school conflict between shop (only for boys) & home ec (only for girls).

Join us in the coziness of the living room of the Pride Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7:30, a modest donation. Always "straight friendly."

November 12, 2011

Paterson Literary Review Reading, November 5

Many months ago I was very pleased to hear that the Paterson Literary Review, an annual publication from the Poetry Center based at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ had accepted for publication my poem "Chasing Tom." I was more pleased when, more recently, I had the copy of the huge (400 pages) Issue 39 in my hands. Ably edited by the Poetry Center Mama, Maria Mazziotti Gillan & her staff, the book contains poetry, prose, poems by the winners of the 2009 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, & a special section on the work of poet Diane DiPrima.

So I drove down to Paterson, NJ this day to be part of a reading by poets in the Review. There were over 30 readers, but the nearly 2 & a half hour reading went by quickly as each poet, in alphabetical order, read 1 poem of theirs from the collection. Maria served as the MC for the reading, moving the poets right along. Stanley Barkan began with his poem, "In Between," then read the translation (by Emanuel di Pasquale) as Mario Moroni read his poem "Cinque Terre" in Italian.

Some of these poets I had met before, either out & about in the great world of poetry, or at other such readings here at the Poetry Center. Laura Boss, editor of Lips, is one I'd met while on a 3 Guys from Albany trip through Paterson & who has also read at Poets in the Park years back. I particularly liked her poem, "Getting to Sleep," where instead of sheep she is now at the point in her life where to get to sleep she can count boyfriends who have died -- funny & tender.

The poems were of particular higher quality overall than an open mic (the editorial process, duh) so if you are interested in what they are, get a copy of the review (information below). But I feel I must mention some, such as Anthony Buccino's "Famous," & Okey Chenoweth's memoir of coming to New York City, "New York, Then and Now The Policeman." James D. Gwyn (an Honorable Mention in the 2009 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award), read "Mallowmars," a rare political piece in the afternoon's reading. Elizabeth Nesius skirted the edge of the political with the personal in her poem "A Woman Without a Man." Vincent Salvati's poem "Begin Again" was a memoir morphing into a love letter. Leah Umansky's long lines twisted & turned on themselves in "The Love Song of the Chambers of the Heart."

Maria also presented separately to Vivian Shipley & Stanley Barkan the "Paterson Literary Review Award for Lifetime Service to Poetry," well deserved by both of them.

The other readers were Susan Lembo Balik, John Barrale, Svea Barrett, Norma Ketzis Bernstock, Charles Brice, Judith Brice, David Stanford Burr, Amanda Crane, Ann DeVenezia, Deborah Gerrish, Gail Fishman Gerwin, Gino Liotta, Bruce Lowry, Janice Maffei, Richard Marranca, Sheila Massoni, Maude Carolan Pych, Christine Redman-Waldeyer, Carole Rittenberg, Jose Antonio Rodriquez, Robert Rosenbloom, Susan Rothbard, Lee Schwartz, Donna Spector, Al Tacconelli, Seema Tepper, Mary Vallo & Sherida Yoder.

Copies of #39 of the Paterson Literary Review can be obtained by sending a check made out to "Passaic County Community College" -- $13.00 for each copy, plus $5.00 for shipping for the 1st copy & $1.00 for each additional copy. Send the check to:

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Editor
The Poetry Center
Passaic County Community College
One College Boulevard
Paterson, NJ 07505-1179

November 8, 2011

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 2

A house packed with many loyal fans of the featured poet, Carolee Sherwood, & loyal fans of the Caffe Lena open mic, under the stern direction of our host Carol Graser (well, not that stern, really).

I began the open mic with an old piece "Park Closes at Dusk" & the new, political "One Day Longer." Gordon Haymon began with 2 contrasting pieces, "Pseudo-Biography" & "Autobiography," then a memoir of his grandmother teaching him to knit. Barbara Garro admitted to a "villanelle binge" & read 2, "Staggering Information" & "This & That." This was Kevin Peterson's first time here & he recited (slam-style) "Sunday, Funday," a hangover tale set in a diner with last night's date. Kate McNairey read 2 short poems, "Love All Swept Up," & "Cameleon."

Tess Lecuyer hadn't been here in a long time, graced us with a poet's recipe, "The Minnestrone Blessing," & a ballade about singing in the woods, "Camp Little Notch Serenade". Alan Catlin said it was still close enough to Halloween to read "The Aliens" (double-parked outside the bar) & "Sex with Aliens" (a tale of co-eds "dressed" for Halloween).

Carolee Sherwood, tonight's featured poet, read a nice mix of mostly newer pieces written this year with a few older poems too. She began with a poem built on the images from the Wizard of Oz, "Surrender, Dorothy," then "Fly" (another movie reference). "Don't Try This At Home…" combined writing a poem & relationships, & she saw herself as Wonder Woman in "The Comic Book Version." A small cluster of poems circled around themes of moving, packing, unpacking, "Triage," "On Turning 39," & "Genesis." Some very recent poems were "How the Body Decomposes (a love poem)," an uncharacteristicaly untitled poem (about things unsaid in farewell), & the very recent "What's Right in Front of Me." She ended with a series of older poems, "Boudoir," "Dwindling" (images of leaving Portland, OR), a poem based on one by W.S. Merwin, "The Way to the Store," & the elegy "Ode to Tess' Lark Tavern," a poem of loss, tonight dedicated to poet Mary Panza. Another nicely put-together reading by a relaxed & confident poet who has been honing her skills at many poetry venues in the region. Many of these poems, which are worth reading again, can be found on her Blog.

Carol Graser brought us back after the break with her poem for her father-in-law titled with a Yiddish phrase meaning "Cats in your head." Austen Halpern-Graser stood up to do comedy, but I liked his first joke best (about reading on the toilet). Will Kerber did an angry piece (about his sister?) "The Electra Complex" whose strangeness was matched by his sweater. Judith Prest (who will be among the features here in December 2011) read about a leaf falling ("Time Management"), then the equally timely "November Belongs to the Crows." The North Country poet Charles Watts began with the tiny "A Depressing Little Love Poem," then harkened back to both Alan Catlin & me with a poem about the Occupy movement, "Alien Nation."  Josh McIntyre read 2 short poems, "Precipitant" (another with a reference to protestors), & "Convalescence" trying to write, a pen, a fire.

Tim Snyder described himself as a "biker poet" & his 2 recited poems, one on Halloweens passed, the other "Down at Sally's East" sounded a lot like what is called "Cowboy poetry." Why is that? Terry Bat-Sonja read "Bio" & an old favorite of hers, "Slightly Odd Spring Love Poem to Gaia." Andrew Sullivan began with the dream poem titled "Unnamed," then a love poem he described as from the secret back pages of a notebook. Nancy Denofio did one long piece addressed to a poltergeist. Meredith Short read the poem "Minneapolis" from an old notebook, then a poem about the associations with "Exit 18." Sally Rhoades read about an encounter in New York City's Union Square "The Homeless Woman," then a poem she dedicated to poet/scholar Donald Byrd, "Individual Action," a response from reading Walt Whitman.

A group of the "Voorheesville" poets came up together & signed up together too.  Father Dennis Sullivan wrote about following footsteps in the snow in a dream until they disappear in "This Apparition."  Tom Corrado drew on his years as a State Work for the images in "Pencil Pusher." Mark Obeeduid O'Brien read 2 untitled poems about the sky. Mike Burke began with "Sunday Morning Visit" for a friend who died, then the portrait, "Reflections in a Bar-room Mirror." Alan Casline read a long fragment from a long poem, taking off (in a boat) from Ezra Pound's Canto I.

Ellen Finn was back after being away for a while with a chilling poem about a drowning she witnessed this summer, "After a Sneeze a Heart Stops." Jeff Barnes ended the night with a couple very intense poems, the very short "Fade to Grey," & a lyric to a love gone.

Poets from far & near gathered this night at Caffe Lena, as they do every 1st Wednesday of the month, at the historic Phila St. location in Saratoga Springs, NY. Worth the trip.

November 6, 2011

Puffin Poetry Jam for Peace (V), October 21

An evening of spoken word & music way down in Teaneck, NJ. I've been invited before but this year I was finally able to make it . An annual event organized by Veterans For Peace member Walt Nygard it is held at the Puffin Cultural Forum complete with a program/poetry chapbook produced by Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, NY. The dedication to this year's program reads "This event is dedicated to the people who work tirelessly for peace & justice throughout the world. … to those who occupy Wall Street & sparked a movement." Oh yeah.

Walt Nygard began the reading before a packed house with his poem "Going Downtown" to the folks occupying Zuccotti Park in New York City, then poems by Martin Espada & John Fenton. Walt served as our MC/host throughout the night.  Gil Fagiani read poems from his published books, including A Blanquito in El Barrio (Rain Mountain Press, 2009) & Chianti in Connecticut (Bordighera Press, 2010), as well as about his experience as a student at the Pennsylvania Military College.

John & Wendy Fisher read from their father, Harry Fisher's memoir, Legacy (Left Legacy Press) about being a labor organizer in New York City. Tamara Hayden was the first of the musical interludes with a couple songs, including "Dewey Canyon Legacy" by Ceili Murphy, inspired by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

In addition to reading a couple of his own poems, Jan Barry also talked about the Warrior Writers Project & read a poem by Nathan Lewis. He was followed by Iraq War veteran Eli Write from the Combat Paper Project, who read the stunning "What Color Would You Paint Your Soul?". Sam Nygard's poems are in the more contemporary hip-hop style, including "One Nation Under Dollar Signs." Frank Wagner read a series of mostly short poems from his experience in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam in 1964 -1965. Joseph Giannini read a prose memoir about his work as a defense lawyer that dredged up his experience in Viet Nam. I read a couple poems from Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011), then my newest political piece, "One Day Longer" for the Occupy … movement.

Dayl Wise, publisher of Post Traumatic Press, read some of his poems solo, then performed the tender "Sun light stirs us" with his wife Alison Koffler, who then read a couple of her poems, including one of my favorites "Coyote is Coming."

The music father-&-daughter duo of Roxanne Sharone & Joe Sharone performed songs, the original "In Poet's Dreams" & the favorite from the 1960's, "War, What is it Good For?" as a rousing sing-along.

Great to be among all these peaceworkers & veterans, all these poets -- an honor, a privilege & an inspiration. There are more pictures from this event on my Flickr! site.

November 3, 2011

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 20

At the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY. A nice turnout of poets & audience for featured poet Mike Jurkovic, who was last featured in this series in the early years at Cafe Web. Tonight's Muse, because it was his birthday month, was Tom Nattell in a performance via the 3 Guys from Albany CD. Tom was probably in the audience when Mike was last the feature.

But first, some of the open mic, beginning with the Kingston poetry diva, Cheryl A. Rice, who drove up with our feature; her poem was "Ranch at 70" inspired by her father's notion. Guy Reed was in that car too, & read his Ars Poetica written at 49 years old, a contemplative Nature poem. Alan Catlin can be just as contemplative, but darker, with "If Death is the Answer What is the Question?", another urban moment. Don Levy is no less urban with his hilarious tale of being "just" 10 minutes late for his doctor's appointment (while fasting). W.D. Clarke was back with another ballad, this one about his friend "Jim's Fur Hat."

With all his fine, provocative poetry D. Alexander Holiday chose to perform a gentle poem by Naton Leslie (from his book Emma Saves Her Life (Turning Point Books),  "Emma Mails Off her Pickle Recipe Letter on Back" with Joe Krausman as the second voice.

The featured poet was Mike Jurkovic, director of the Calling All Poets series at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, NY, & a fine performer who I've had in this series all too many years ago. He read from his book Purgatory Road (Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2010) as well as other stuff for a free-wheeling, complex set of poems, wandering among the audience, his posture angled like a razor to scrape away the assumptions of daily life. Poems from memory like "Hand Job," to meditation practice ("The Great Movie Begins"), to being at a party with musicians & poets, to doctors, to the Blues, to bad days & half-shitty days, even his "inner-Mexican" & the remake of "The Hairy Ape". Always a good show -- thanks Mike.

After the break, I re-started the open mic with a new piece inspired by the Occupy Movement & my visit to DC & the "Stop the Machine/Occupy DC" events there & in Philadelphia (I haven't made it to Wall St. yet), "One Day Longer." Alan (Bird) Casline came up to read "Afternoon at Smitty's Tavern" a compilation of things said at the bar, especially about cheesecake. Another hill-country poet, Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien), read from his iPad "Holding On to Two Beliefs With Equal Strengths of Faith." Bob Sharkey's poem about Portland, OR, "Taming the Rogue" were thoughts on a plane. Sylvia Barnard read about the 2 local women who were caught up in the floods of Hurricane Irene. Joe Krausman's poem "All for Love" was a meditation on college boxer shorts. And Poetic Visionz, here for the 1st time, recited his motivational meditation "Dreams are Unrealistic."

We're here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany NY every third Thursday of the month, at 7:30 PM, an open mic & a featured poet, all for a $3.00 donation which helps to pay the poet & the Social Justice Center. See you next time.