October 30, 2011

Poets Speak Loud, October 24

Another raucous evening at McGeary's with Mary Panza as host. The featured poet was Anthony Bernini, debuting his new book, Immediate Worlds, & he did his work by bringing friends & family to pack the audience.

But first some of the open mic. I was first up with an old poem & a new poem for the "Occupy Albany;" "Park Closes at Dusk" was written years ago, & "One Day Longer" was written in response to my experience at Occupy DC early in the month. Bob Sharkey read poems about 2 Portlands, "Taming the Rogue" (Oregon), & "Monument Sq." (Maine). Jan Tramontano is coming back out to open mics now that she has published her novel, & read an Autumn poem for a gone lover, "For Mark." Don Levy read a new political poem, "Choice Words for Herman Cain."  Dain Brammage began with a short piece from his phone, then a poem that plays on the word "strings" & the Blues. Dan Nester's piece was a list, "Hated Things." L.A. was a poetry "virgin" & began with "Bored in Study Hall," then attempted another piece from memory that but had to stop.  But shecame back later to recite a short poem to her friend.

Anthony Bernini's new book of poems, Immediate Worlds, is another beautifully produced volume from The Troy Book Makers. He read mostly from the book -- "Twister," "At an Unscheduled Appearance of the Moon," "Fretting for Gaia," "Small Craft Lost off Cape Cod," "A Stowaway's Prayer," "Remember the Alamo," & "Sound at Large." But in between he sandwiched in "The Providence Atheneaum" from his first book, Distant Kinships (A.P.D.), a long, ponderous poem by Tomas Transtromer, then a recent poem by Anthony responding to the TV news in the next room, "Held in Place." He finished with another poem not in the book, "The Dance of Dish & Glass."

L.A. with Mary Panza
 Back to the open mic & after the return of L.A., Shannon recited a Columbus Day poem. Songsten (formerly known as "Joe") Hollander free-formed a piece about guy in a nice suit at the bar. Sally Rhoades began with a lament, "Michael O'Donovan Why did You Change Your Name?" then searched her notebook before settling on "The Forgotten Child." Sylvia Barnard read "Hurricane," about the 2 folks killed here during Hurrican Irene. Ed Rinaldi did what he called a study of flash fiction & Tweets, then a short piece on "single searching." 

RM Engelhardt was the only one of the night who put his sunglasses on to read; his first poem was about "the old QE2 & the old days" ("Disintegration"), then "Saint Poem," then he took his sunglasses off. Kevin Peterson recited a doomed-date-from-last-night piece, "Sausage, Egg & Cheese Defined," then read about a catastrophe, "Deviant Behavior." Avery's seasonal reading of E.A. Poe's "The Raven" was a bit over-dramatic, but then so is the poem. Leslie's poem about the need for understanding & compassion for the homeless was a good thought to go home with (for those of us with homes).

While this night's reading was held on the 4th Monday of October, this open mic is held most-usually on the last Monday of most months at McGeary's on Clinton Square, in Albany, NY, under the auspices of AlbanyPoets.com.http://www.albanypoets.com/

October 26, 2011

One Day Longer

How long will we be here?
One day longer than the billionaires.
on these streets
(whose streets?   our streets)
one day longer
in these tents, these sleeping bags
one day longer
until there are jobs for everyone
(where are the jobs?)
one day longer
until the 1% pays what the 99% pays
one day longer
after they ignore us, after they mock us
one day longer
after they fight us
one day longer
then we win
one day longer

until the drones no longer fly, then
one day longer
we got sold out, we will last
one day longer
than banks that got bailed out
one day longer
human needs
one day longer
than corporate greed
(we are the 99%)
one day longer than the 1%
one day longer than corporate rule

veterans & grannies
one day longer
stoners & drummers
one day longer
foreclosed fathers, homeless mothers
one day longer
children dreaming in sleeping bags
one day longer than the billionaires.

October 22, 2011

Urban Guerilla Theater, October 14

This lively event is usually on the third Friday, but probably got bumped up to be part of the MoHu arts festival (just like Albany's 1st Friday got moved to the 2nd Friday because of MoHu -- What the Fuck??) -- Mo Who?  Don't get me started on a tirade about the hot-shot Art Fascists rearranging everyone's calendar…  Anyways, this was lots of fun this night, even if most folks forgot their Mardi Gras masks like they were instructed to bring. We even got beads without having to show our tits.

Mojavi was our host, with Tanysha doing intros too, with the usual backup band & DJ, for a fun/variety filled night. There were plenty of poets, a couple of "stand-up comics," dancing, a singer (Tai Anthony Keyes) & even a strutting contest (not sure I should put up some of those photos!).

Carol Graser, the coordinator & host of the Caffe Lena open mic, read from her chapbook, The Wild Twist of their Stems. Kevin Peterson was one who performed in a mask & with beads. I read the old political rant "Richard Nixon Must Die," followed by Richard Nixon reading "Dan Wilcox Must Die" (there is some photographic evidence of this on FaceBook). Carolee Sherwood followed, in a quite elegant mask, with a string of loosely connected Halloween poems, like the beads.

Other poets up included Dave Alexandria, some sex poems from Tanysha Smith ("Jumping on the Bed") & Jessica Layton ("Give it to Me Proper"), Thom Francis (2 poems about a poet), Nicky Black,
Shay (from her phone), Poetess Me (another love putdown), Poetic Visionz, & another poet whose name I can no longer make out in my notes (Sorry!)

But I had fun, & so did Richard Nixon.  & apologies if I got names misspelled -- corrections always welcome.

Check it out at the WAMC Linda Auditorium on Central Ave., Albany, NY.

October 18, 2011

Live from the Living Room, October 12

A bitter-sweet reading tonight since it was the last Albany reading by The Storm (Donnell Stewart), who I had seen at such diverse venues as Java Jazz in Delmar & the former Wize Wordz series. She read from her hand-written notebooks beginning with an ironic love poem to someone more interested in themself, then on to a piece about how labels de-humanize us. She considered what is it in a woman that is "Inspiration," then a piece in fun, "Why Am I Not a Poet?" "Farewell to Youth" was that & the confessions of life. She asked "Do You Still Love Me?" then ended with a sexy goodbye to Albany. We wish her well & much more poetry in her & her family's new life down south.

There were only 3 readers for the open (& a few listeners).  I read a poem combining rock music & a late night phone call, "Henry Rollins," then "What I Found at the Bus Stop When the Snowbanks Melted," & my rant written in response to the "Occupy DC/Stop the Machine" event I had attended, "One Day Longer." Alex was here for the first time & read a couple of untitled pieces, the first where his own loneliness makes his realize how his father's loneliness must have felt, & the second an unflattering description of his first boyfriend. Our host, Don Levy, began with a poem by James Wright, "Complaint," then a crazy lady giviing a "Sermon at the Bus Shelter," a childhood memoir, "South Colonie Side Story."

This reading with an open mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM.

October 15, 2011

Nitty Gritty Slam, October 4

This is probably the best documented poetry event in Albany, if not in the wide world of poetry. It is live-streamed & pod-cast & photographed & tweeted & Blogged. So what am I doing? Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away (or at least in a punk club across the Park) I was the only guy with a camera & a pocket notebook, recording the images of the poets on film & the titles of the poems they read with a pen. Now I am just another redundant recorder of digital data. It has posed to me a dilemma -- what to record that isn't available in the links I provide?

A judge's office

Well, obviously, what that is is my own reactions, my own experiences. First of all, I was touched by Bless' poem in the open mic segment (the only open mic poet, not counting Slam Bastard Dain Brammage) confronting the essential element of a Slam. Or as novelist Walter Mosley described it, "a world where poetry is a contest at best & a competition at worst." And Bless is one who should (& does) know.

In one of the night's ironies & a lesson in Slam-rules, Brett Axel, as the sacrificial poet/lamb/goat (used to calibrate the judges scoring) read a poem for which he received a "0" because it was not his own -- one must perform one's own original work. & I was pleased with my own performance in the 1st round of the Slam: 21.1 points, good enough for 5th place. Gradually creeping up in the scoring.

Dain Brammage, Rain Dan, Victorio & Shannon Shoemaker
It was great to see Shannon Shoemaker make it into the money once again (although not into the final round). She has been doing very well in each Slam so far with her angst-ridden lost-love poems that I've enjoyed hearing at open mics for years.  It was Victorio's first time here, but not surprising that he made it into the final round. He is an accomplished performer of powerful political rants in Spanish as well as in English, with music or without. Meanwhile tonight's winner, Rain Dan, is a novice to the scene & even performed in the final round by reading his poem rather than reciting it from memory.

And one must to give credit to those poor folks who show up to enjoy a night of poetry & get roped into being a judge, suffering the slings & arrows of the performers & other audience members as well. Meanwhile the crew of AlbanyPoets.com works hard to record, tabulate, calculate & moderate the 6.3s, 8.1s & 9.9s.

Valentine's is on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY, & the Slam is on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays, as long as folks keep showing up.

Chronogram Open Mic, October 1

I finally made it down to this series at Beahive on Wall St. in Kingston, with Phillip Levine as our host. I was glad to see some of the poets I've seen before but also heard poets who were new to me, in addition to excellent readings by the 2 featured poets, Cheryl A. Rice & Samuel Claiborne.

I admit to being a big fan of the poetry of Cheryl Rice (& of Cheryl herself) & liked her mixed bag of poems tonight, some love poems, some Poughkeepsie (!) poems, a poem new to me ("Iowa") written on the job at the bookstore, & a couple of personal favorites: "Taking Off Billy Collins' Clothes" & the wise & tender "Imperfections."

I've also enjoyed Samuel Claiborne's poetry over the years, but have not heard him read in a long time. He has a relaxed, direct reading style that perfectly matches his philosophical/meditative poems. Many of his poems start with a hike or a scene in the woods, but his Nature poems are vigorous, grim, unsentimental, such "The Armature" where he imagines the engine of Nature. "Ramsey New Jersey Railroad" was a response to W.S. Merwin's "Lackawanna."

I was glad to hear again Leslie Gerber, David Kime, Donald Lev, Ron Whiteurs ("Bessie & the Bull" in his funny rhymes on fucking), & of course, Phillip Levine. I hadn't heard Haigan Smith read in years & was glad to hear he was still writing powerful, engaging political attacks, & Sparrow made a rare appearance with some of his aphoristic jokes. Elizag also made the trip down from the Capital Region, trying out her work in front of a new audience.

And the voices I hadn't heard before were Tim Dwyer (who has a poem in the New York issue of the Irish lit zine The Stinging Fly), Jackie Dooley (with a cycling poem), & Wilda Gallagher ("Message to the Deconstructionists").

The Beahive is an artist collective at 314 Wall St. in uptown Kingston, & this open mic is on on the 1st Saturday of the month. Members of the collective get in free, the rest of us pay $5 but get wine with it.

October 9, 2011

Poets Speak Loud!, September 26

Cheryl A. Rice, Don Levy, Josh McIntyre
The Don Levy Roast! with some startled open mic poets scattered in the mix, & the host was, appropriately enough, Mary Panza.

I went first, to set the fire, turn the spit, bast the …, well you know. It had occurred to me that my relationship with Don is longer than I've had with any women since I was married, going back to the early 1990s at the QE2, & quoted as best I could from memory his "condom poem." After telling some stories (for which I cannot vouch the accuracy) I ended with a reading of Don's poem "Once I Had a Secret Love, for Dan Wilcox."

Poor Mary Crane was just passing through the area on her way back home to eastern Washington state & got caught up the night's craziness; she read 3 poems, but without titles, sensuous, & about being a poet & a woman. Josh McIntyre did a short poem in rhyme, "Midnight Choir." Carolee Sherwood said she doesn't "do" roasts & read instead her poems "Taking Credit for a Sunny Day" for her son Ben & a piece on marriage "According to the Recipe."

Don Levy took his turn, in the roast tradition, to insult many of us who were there (me, Mary, Thom Francis, Cheryl Rice) & others who weren't there (who will remain nameless, the best insults of all). I guess if you can't stand the heat you best stay out of the kitchen (or roasting pit). Don has experienced a lifetime of bullying & so has learned to give back like the best of them. It's always good to have around a Super-Queer Poet to Save the Day! Thanks Don for helping to make the Albany poetry scene the unique experience it is -- we love you.

The slam championship poet Brett Axel has settled in this area & offered a couple of jokes in the spirit of the evening, then a poem on gay marriage, playing off the expression "God's will." Dave Kime was one of a group from the mid-Hudson area who came up to taste the roast; he declaimed, as we say, "It's All About Me!" then a piece about riding into the redneck town of Pine Plains. Leslie was back with the recitation of "Birth of a Phoenix.'

A.C. Everson also came to roast Don ("not to praise him") explaining how much she & Don are alike (WHAT?) & read Don's classic gay-fantasy poem, "He Wasn't Always Such a Reluctant Astronaut."

Sally Rhoades followed with a gentle remembrance of meeting Don for the first time at a reading at the Palais Royale on Jefferson St. Sylvia Barnard has returned from her time in England with her account of the effects of Hurricane Irene way over there, "Hurricane Aftermath." The last poet was a new voice, Tammy, trying out her poem in rhyme "These Tears" to bury hatred.

It's not always a roast, but always fun (& good food & drinks too) at McGeary's on Clinton Square, usually the last Monday of the month (but not always), about 8PM (or thereabouts).

October 4, 2011

Sunday Four Poetry, September 25

This series is back after a summer break, with featured poet Susan Comninos. But first the open mic, with Edie Abrams taking the duties as host.

First up to read (but not first on the list; where's Bird?) was Carolee Sherwood, with 3 poems from her "Halloween Suite" (about the holiday, or a wider theme?) "Devil's Night," instructions for Halloween night in "Trick" & "The Morning After the Halloween Party at the Most Decorated House." Mike Burke re-told a ghost story he had heard in Ireland in his piece "The White Lady of Kinsale." Dennis Sullivan pursued his response to the Baltimore Catechism in a poem for his sister, "The Answer to the 4th Question of the Catechism," then a poem dedicated to the poet Catherine Connelly, "It Is Written." 

This was Amy Savage's first time here & her poems were commented upon a couple times by subsequent readers; she read "Instant Oatmeal" (a college memoir), "Storms Over Orlando," & another memoir, this from childhood, "Green Lake." I read 2 poems, each based on different poems by e.e. cummings, "A Million Statues" & "On a Poem by ee cummings." This was the first time that local poet & novelist Jan Tramontano was here to read (too busy with her novel I guess), & she read a bouquet of poems from her marvelous chapbook Woman Sitting in a Cafe and other poems of Paris (JMT Press/Troy Book Makers, 2008). Tom Corrado was "Capturing Moments with Sharpies," a poem on memories in a journal & a camera.

This was Dan Lawlor's first time here also & while he started with a quiet piece, "Only a Still Pool Reflects the Stars," he ended with a raucous audience participation piece summarizing famous operas, "The Tenor is a Jerk." Sandy Powley read a memoir of her youth, "Leaving Hemlock," & a piece playing on "falling," "Autumn." Therese Broderick's new poem, "Where To?" was inspired by driving to Boston, using a new GPS to guide her. Howard Kogan read a couple poems from his just-published collection of poems Indian Summer (Square Circle Press), "Photo Album" & "Paradise."

Paul Amidon read 3 poems, "River Scene" about a flood, then at "the arcade of sin" in "Step Right Up," & one about an "Open Mic" (that he said was not this one). Stephen Leslie's "Returning to my Mailing Address" took us on a trip to the airport & off, then "The Divorce" was an extended metaphor with 2 saplings growing together. Tom brought us a piece of hip-hop poetry about being told what to do, "School." Host Edie Abrams brief, drive-by poem was based on last night's news, "Religion in a Nutshell."

Dennis Sullivan introduced today's featured poet, Susan Comninos, who read mostly from a poetry manuscript, "Out of Nowhere." Many of her poems had to do with religion & tensions either within or with other religions, such as "Our Father Our King" (re-working High Holyday liturgy), "Deconstruction Workers" (on Jewish/Christian tensions), & a poem that was her own Psalm (#151?). An interesting exercise was "Paleontology," a poem built on syllabic lines, holding off the word "bone" until the end. Other pieces were around relationships, as in "Commitment," or the love poem "Lullabye for a Husband," & another poem, with a Hebrew title, on mixed feelings about a pregnancy. Her poem "A Co-ed's Birthday" on disappointments looked back to Amy Savage's college poem earlier. She ended with a piece of flash-fiction, "Autumn," from a man's point of view, in a pick-up truck. Although Susan is a local poet, this is the first time I've been able to hear, & enjoy, her work. I hope she comes out more to other readings.

This series is (usually) on the 4th Sunday of most months, 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY. But stick around afterwards & join us at the "Poet's Corner" in Smitty's Tavern just down the street.