April 18, 2011

Albany WordFest 2011, April 16

What words to describe the experience of the 10th anniversary edition of WordFest (2011), 12 hours of poetry open mic, 7AM to 7PM -- variety, energy, creativity, friends, exhaustion -- & just plain fun. I was there for most of the day, & opened the show at 7AM with "Poeming the Prompt." But I had to eat once in a while, had to pee, once in a while, & so had some hard choices to make about when to cut out & who to miss, & it was never a perfect time, too many good poets. So I apologize to all my poet friends who I missed.

The early morning shift, after me, included early Bird Alan Casline with a just written poem, "happy morning" Therese Broderick with the first of the Fukushima poems, Anthony Bernini who had just walked in, also with a poem on the disaster in Japan, & Tim Keegan recently returned to the Albany area from elsewhere. & then there was Tess, who would read later, but came early to bring scones, delicious.

Mary Panza, who was doing introductions, kept us up-dated early on with the FaceBook posts from Don Levy on his progress in getting here, waking up, in the shower, out the door, etc.

There were newcomers, or at least, infrequent readers, such as Steve King with a poem on love & bananas, Stephen Leslie's funny fracking poem,
Jacky Kirkpatrick who read at last year's WordFest, Joe Hesch with a tsunami poem (& one of the handful of poets reading from an iPad or other electronic device), Jonathan Gradess' political rant, Glen Feulner on sadness, & the youngest reader, the rhyming Liam McKenna.

Of course there was plenty of sex & love. Stacey Stump delayed reading until her husband got there, then read poems about former lovers. Joan Pavlinsky drove over from Connecticut with a poem "not about fucking," she said. Shannon Shoemaker had her usual combination of sex & love, & Tanisha read about her pussy & Luis Pabon continued the theme later in hip-hop rhythms. Fitting in with relationship poems, Carolee Sherwood also continued the poem-a-day/prompt theme begun earlier.

At some point I remarked to Mary Panza that this was like the old Readings Against the End of the World, with it's feet firmly on the political ground. In addition to some of the topics already mentioned, there were poems about nuclear power & bombs from Frank S. Robinson on the contradictions of technology, to David Wolcott's memoir on working on shutting down Chernobyl, & Cecele Kraus as a "bystander to history" growing up near the nuclear test site. Kelly de la Rocha had a poem about doing relief work in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, & Jan Tramontano included her moving poem about a suicide bomber. David Kime had a rant about the building of the mosque near the World Trade Center site, & tucked a flag over his crotch.

I hosted an hour program on behalf of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. Cecele Kraus read briefly again, while Leslie Neustadt did her slot here rather than in the program later, & included an incantation to her bone marrow. Henry Tedeschi returned to read again this year at WordFest, & Sylvia Barnard, delayed on the bus, got there to read poems of returning to her childhood home. Late fill-in Graydon Blye had a creepy story of Russian roulette at a teddy bear tea party, & Jill Crammond's relationship poems had June Cleaver using a meat cleaver on her husband, delicious. Then she introduced me to read, at her request, "The Bra Poem," changing forever how some folks will view bras in the future.

Following immediately this performance, Tess Lecuyer, who also read a sonnet & a villanelle, introduced her new form, the "bra-ku," in a 2-beat line (of course).

Judith Prest had a poem about herding poems, & Carol Graser read poems by students in her workshop, including a group collaboration & Altranise Harris' strong delivery of street poems. Glenn Werner read from his "dream abbreviations" & there was Mojavi making the spoken-word flesh. It wasn't all "poetry" (it's hard to tell where the line-breaks are when someone reads), but Harvey Havel was one who boldly declared he was reading prose, some short fiction.

And then there were the Albany poems. Ken Salzmann included a poem about Albany jazz from an old issue of the poetry journal Talus & Scree that includes one of my poems. Bob Sharkey read sections from his work-in-progress sci-fi poem, "Sustenance." Alan Catlin included riding-the-bus & bar-tending poems. Bless took requests from the audience for such hits as "Complacency" & "White Tees." Cheryl A. Rice combined her Albany poems with Angels & roses. & Don Levy, when not updating his FaceBook status, read from his marvelous poetic memoirs of the QE2 poetry days.

The readings flowed like Time itself, with contractions & expansions, even gaps, breaks for smokers & snacks. There were the expected gaps in the AM but it seemed a surprising number of no-shows later on, & a few who balked at the $10 ticket (for 12 hours of poetry, plus the Psycho ClusterFuck afterwards, pretty cheap if you stuck around). There were those who read & ran & those who hung out, came & went throughout the day, the audience size waxing & waning throughout the long day. & where was Gary Murrow anyways?

There is a full gallery of photos at my Flickr! site.  Stay tuned for the Psycho ClusterFuck!


Carol said...

No pic of me; you must have been out of the room. :-(

DWx said...

Check the Flickr! site (the link is at the end) for everything I got.

Carol said...

I checked; I'm not there, alas.

DWx said...

You're right, that must have been when I went home for the memory card for my camera, sorry I missed you (& and the pantoums).