August 30, 2011

Rip Van Winkle Poetry Competition, August 27

All Arts Matter, a non-profit arts organization that creates many arts & humanities events throughout the year, held a reading for the winners of its 12th Annual Poetry Awards at the Greenville Library on Sunday, August 27. The competition provides emerging poets the opportunity to submit their work for objective review and encourages their continued growth as poets. Divided into two categories: adult, and young poet’s 14 years and younger, the number of participants has steadily increased over the years. This year, in addition to submissions from the area’s emerging poets, entries were received from as far west as San Antonio, Texas. Area schools incorporated the Competition as part of their study of poetry in the classroom, submitting works that showed formal poetry conventions as well as contemporary poetic structure. Entries came from the school districts of Windham-Jewett, Cairo-Durham, Coxsackie-Athens, and Berne-Knox.

The reading was held was on the eve of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Irene so only 2 of the winning poets were on hand to read their work themselves. The winning poets in the Young Poet category showed the student’s grasp of poetic form and the diversity of their interests.

Sasha Shablovsky of Catskill showed up with her family & her grandparents to read her imaginative poem “How To Build A Ziggurat. Executive Director Tony DeVito read the poem by Thomas McGahan from Cairo, “Basketball”.

Equally diverse were the subject matters in the Adult category, ranging from snowflakes to poetry itself. Anita Sanchez of Amsterdam, author of “A Short Story” shared third prize with Lauren Maisenbacher (Hudson) for her haiku-like “Characteristics of a Snowflake.” Edward Clopman from Coxsackie, took second prize with “Neo-Slavery” & Tony DeVito shared an intriguing story of a pseudonomynous past winner (also from Coxsackie) whose prize check went undelivered for years.

First prize went to me for my “Poems on Poems”, a two-part glimpse of the moment of writing ("Poeming" & "The Lesson", subsequently published in my chapbook Poeming the Prompt). I have won a couple of Honorable Mentions in the past but have never won a poetry contest before this, & I was naturally proud & thrilled to be there. But how equally wonderful to be in the room with (I hope) a future great poet, Sasha Shablovsky, who is off to a great start. She recited her poem from memory, but had with her a well-worn notebook that I expect contains other musings that will someday become other engaging & thrilling poems.

August 28, 2011

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 18

With only a summertime handful of open mic poets, the one-poem rule was suspended & 2 (!) poems were allowed, with our featured poet, Naton Leslie, reading at the end. Our Muse for the night was the Chinese poet Tu Fu (712-770) while my daughter was visiting his studio in Chengdu.

So to start the open mic Alan Catlin read a poem based on the Antonioni movie, "Blow-up," about photos used in the film, then from his self-portraits that are not self-portraits, "Self-Portrait with Vincent" (van Gogh). Bob Sharkey read a page from his work-in-progress, "Sustenance," page/week 25, then a piece about Monument Square in Portland, Maine. Joe Krausman sang the woes (metaphysical & otherwise) of "Apartment Hunting." Moses Kash III read "What is Love? II" (there is an earlier "What is Love?").

Avery traced the path of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" through literary & pop culture history. D. Alexander Holiday debuted his new book, Emails from Satan's Daughter (Xlibris), containing literal (if redacted) emails, a book about bullying in the workplace, & read from the book, "Satan's Daughter Likes Her Liquor" & "Satan's Daughter Gets Herself a Promotion." Congrats to Doug on his new book. I closed out the open mic with a new poem in what is becoming some kind of a series, "Coyote 3" then from Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011) the award-winning poem "The Lesson."

The night's featured poet was Naton Leslie, who teaches literature at Siena College, hoping to sell his new book of poems, Small Cathedrals (David Robert Books, 2011). The poems are blank verse sonnets about mothers & children. From the book he read "The Wrong Man" (about his mother & his father), "A Capella" (to his wife), "Mother: the Movie," & "Perambulators." He said he was eager (as many of us get) to read some new poems he was working on, a series about the many "rights" available to us, recognized or not. He began with "You Have the Right to a Full Set of Wrenches," then a political poem "You Have the Right to Hot Peppers;" "You Have the Right to a Birthplace" inspired by Walt Whitman's house on Long Island, on to "You Have the Right to Big Foot," "You Have the Right to Super Powers," "You Have the Right to Abstinence" a found poem based on an ad in Craig's List, & concluded with a poem to his step-daughter, "You Have the Right to Find Your Keys." We'll be buying that book, too, someday.

We are at the Social Justice Center on the Third Thursday of each month with a featured poet & an open mic, at 7:30PM -- donations go to pay the featured poet, & support the Social Justice Center & the Poetry Motel Foundation.

August 15, 2011

Poets at Pine Hollow Arboretum, August 12

This is a recent series under the guidance of Alan Casline, & held at Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, under the steardship of John Abbuhl. There was a tour of the arboretum at 6PM, which I missed, before the poetry reading. But I did see a tree as I parked my car on John's front lawn, & that's usually enough for me. The place was quite quite packed. Alan has learned the 2 secrets to having a audience for a poetry reading: have an open mic so people show up to read (not necessarily to listen), or have lots of scheduled poets.

Tonight there 14 poets, plus spouses (spice?), friends, stalkers, etc., & one winsome & occasional guitar player, Jim Williams.

Alan Casline was the MC & introduced each poet with a "tree quote." Of course there were a proliferation of Nature poems, such as Marion Menna's about coyotes & fledgling birds, Virginia Acquario's poems about the Florida Keys, & of course
John Abbuhl's philosophical rhymes starting from his walks outdoors with his notebook. Then there was Howard Kogan's poem about a poetry reading, & Carol Graser's classic piece, "Plastic Factory." Dennis Sullivan managed to conflate summer squash & sex.

Other readers included the MC, Alan Casline, Obeeduid, Therese Broderick, Mimi Moriarty, Tom Corrado, Catherine Connolly, Jim Williams & Mike Burke.

Look for future readings at Pine Hollow Arboretum in the coming months, at 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY.

August 12, 2011

Live from the Living Room, August 10

(a popular title, it seems) In the living room of the Pride Center of the Capital District, an intimate gathering of poets & listeners with our host Don Levy.

The featured poet was KC Orcutt, one of Metroland's "Best Poets" this year, in a rare reading, a Blogger ( & student. She started off reading from her smart phone, then on to paper, beginning with a wrong-number poem, one she read at WordFest, "Mistaken," then "The Good-Bye Letter to My Typewriter." Then on to the poem "Formative Year," & one about a sandwich. Switching to paper, she read a group of untitled poems from her notebooks, often to "you" (or maybe those first lines were titles?). Short, fast poems referencing relationships, food & social networking. The way to win any of the Metroland's Best Of categories is to get the most votes & one way to do that is to have a Blog & a big fan base to vote for you. The poems will come at any time.

I had a new poem in what is becoming a series on suburban life, "Coyote 3," then the short poem "Contemplatio Mortis." Jill Crammond's first poem was "a little bit new" looking back to the wedding, marriage, then in honor to her old cat, "Why I Have Abandoned Motherhood in Hopes of Running a Brothel & Being Called Madam" (her titles could be poems in themselves). Carolee Sherwood read from her iPad (continuing the technology use) her Twitter poem, "I Think I'll Go Make a Video about Ivan the Terrible" (which Sergei Eisentein did when they were called "films"), then a dream poem, "Tangle."  Bob Sharkey read his own poem set in Portland, Maine, "Monument Square," then "The Horse" (for a survivor of Hiroshima) by our new poet laureate, Philip Levine. Avery (Stempel) will be next month's featured poet here, & read 2 poems about writing poems, one written today, "Unwritten Poems Scars Very Deep," then "My Thoughts Are Scattered."

 Nigel Greene's poem was a dream, "Spellbound," then "Keep Me in Your Peripheral." Don Levy read "Sitting This One Out," about learning square-dancing in school, then the short piece, "The Fine Art of Conversation." Todd Fabozzi was a last minute addition with a short piece by Nicanor Parra, then his own poem about nursing homes & death, "Time."

This reading, an open mic with a featured poet, takes place on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Pride Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, 7:30PM, cozy & straight-friendly.

August 5, 2011

Poets in the Park, July 30

The season's last in the series, with poets Alan Catlin & Marie-Elizabeth Mali, under clear skies & quite pleasant summer weather in the Park.

Schenectady resident & much-published poet Alan Catlin read first, puzzled why he would have "work-anxiety dreams" while on vacation & being retired, his "Work-Anxiety Dream #6, The Bus" prompted by a bus trip in England's Lake District. Next, he summed up his whole career working in bars in "The Hole." Other poems included a true story "Hugh Casey & Ernest Hemingway the Artist & the Ball Player", "In Dreams," "Auralee in Striped Pajamas," & a poem on political poems with a long title beginning, "On a Poetry's Professor Assumptions …" There was a poem to a prompt (on the incessant hum of the refrigerator), another from a vacation in England, "Standing on the Grave of Jane Austen" & a recent poem imagining "Amy Winehouse at 45." A couple of zombie poems ran together, one bouncing off a remark of Raymond Carver's on what we speak of when we speak of love. He ended with a classic poem about riding the bus to Schenectady, "Our Lady of the 55" (that could be still another zombie poem), beginning & ending with a bus poem. At one point during his reading Alan was interrupted by the sound of sirens (as happens sometimes here at Poets in the Park), happily not coming to take him away.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of the new collection of poems Steady, My Gaze. She began by reciting "History of My Body," a generational autobiography. Then "Subway" in honor of Alan's bus poems. "Whiskers & Gristle" was a poem of faith. Then the marvelous new poem about dancing, "Ain't Nobody's Business," a "bop," a form invented by Afaa Michael Weaver. She dedicated "The Diver" for the performance poet David Blair who died recently, much too young. A new poem written this week ("new shit!"), "Ode to the Mind," was followed by "Late Summer Prayer" to the hummingbirds she has seen around her house this summer. She also read a selection from the 3rd section of Steady, My Gaze, on family & relationships, love poems, including a series of 5 poems, one for each year of marriage. Another from that section "To the 5-Inch Stilettos I Didn't Buy 12 Years Ago" was written to a prompt, but a tender love poem too. She ended as she began with a poem from memory, written this April, "Fish Gotta Swim." She said she was pleased & honored to read here, as we were as pleased & honored to hear her as our last Poet in the Park for this season.

The reading was followed by a poets' party at the Poetry Motel Hotel Convention Center & Spa, honoring not only our great featured poets but our equally great audience.

The series was co-sponsored by the Poetry Motel Foundation & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

August 1, 2011

Poets Speak Loud!, July 25

We certainly do, sometimes. In McGeary's backroom it was a good night for local poets, with the featured poet, Bless, sharing the stage with new voice, Ben Golden, the whole thing under the firm hand of our host Mary Panza.

But first, I started off with 3 (holy mackerel ! 3! poems!), "Letter to Take on a Plane." "The Thunder,"& the old poem referencing the new terror in Norway, "Timothy McVeigh." Dain Brammage (Dale Walker) had 3 poems on the meaning of life, "Current" (vibrations & demons playing the blues), "My Sun is Setting," & "Musings on LIfe" (at the end). Todd Fabozzi read 2 poems from his book Umbrageous Embers. Tess Lecuyer has been digging through baskets of old poems & found a few to read, including "a sci-fi poem" "Aries" & the comment on winter as the season of forms, "November."

The featured poet was one of my favs, Bless, who did a short set, sharing his time with new kid on the block, Ben Golden. The first piece Bless performed (he does his poems from memory) was a meditation on how smoke & booze have shortened the lives of some of the jazz greats, that it's not the substances that make the music great, it's the genius of the performers. Then a very short bit of poetic advice to make any woman happy, & on to the tour-de-force that is said in the voice of a gun -- this poem should be performed in every school in Albany, heck in America.

Ben Golden has been performing at the monthly Urban Guerilla Theater & was at Valentines earlier this month. "Night Life" was on wasting one's life drinking alone, then he had us laughing at the wild images in his sexy piece, "Note You Found Under Your Pillow After I've Climbed a Tree to Break into Your Bedroom." The final poem was "a fucked up dream" of the ATF at his door, aptly titled "Paranoia."

Jessica Fisher-Smith had also been at Valentines early this month; she read 3 poems, including "Shadow Games" about a mother's abuse, & the New York City subway poem "If I Hadn't Taken the N." Avery's piece "Letter" sounded like a draft of a poem being tossed away, while his second poem was a picture of his return to where he grew up in the Helderberg Mountains. Sally Rhoades had an old poem, "Little Pink Houses" (in Maine), & a new, just written piece about her father-in-law, "Cyprus Time." Nadi Morsch entertained us with the sleep-deprived ramblings of "I Know Dear." Mary brought Bless back to perform the appropriate "Closing Time," done to musical accompaniment from his smart phone.

Poets Speak Loud!, a project of is on the last Monday of most months, at McGeary's tavern, Clinton Square, Albany, NY -- good food, good drinks, good words.