December 26, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 20

While the fantasy tour bus filled with dancing girls circled the block looking for a parking space, the rest of the poets gathered to hear the featured poet, Marilyn McCabe, to read in the open mic, & eagerly look forward to sitting on the lap of Sanity Clause. I began by invoking the muse, Enid Dame, with her "Holiday Poem" on the eve of the Solstice.

Photo of Sanity Clause & Alan Catlin
by A.C. Everson

Eagerly first up was A.C. Everson with a rhyme about a reluctant Santa (& that was no candy cane in Sanity Clause's pocket).   Alan Catlin's poem was written in England, "End Time in the Lake District" (for tonight being on the eve of the end of the world). Avery recited his "smile poem," "From Me to You." Sylvia Barnard followed the smiles with a somber poem, "Autumn 2012, East Coast America" on Hurricane Sandy & the shooting in Newtown.

The featured poet was Marilyn McCabe, in the middle of a cold, started with the poem "Perseveration" from her book Perpetual Motion (The Word Works, 2012), followed by "Psalm: It is Dark." In fact most of the poems she read, with the exception of the last 2, came from her book, & mostly from the section titled "Problems and Affinities." They generally dealt with what she called her "religio-curiosity" about he idea of "God," in "Hieroglyphs," "Within Without" (in which she speaks directly to that God), the theme often reflected in the titles: "Burning Bush," "Lac du Saint Sacrament" (an early name for Lake George), "A Matter of Spirit and Flesh" & "Refuting Buddha" (done by the natural world). "Morning, the Flying Place" & her last poem "The Details" (which she described as "the culmination of her belief system") were about finding prayer around her in the natural world. Despite a nagging cough at the end, she gave a wonderfully constructed, meditative reading.

After the break I read a poem about school shooting in 2006, based on a pair of newspaper articles, "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine…" Joe Krausman read a poem for the Solstice, for light in the darkness, & partying with wine & beer. Anthony Bernini's poem was "a lose-end" observing a woman in "Sensible Pumps." Alan Casline read a poem written yesterday "Cup of Sorrows." W.D. Clarke read one of his ballads, this about his obsession with "Dollar Store Glasses." A new poet in the house, Indie, read a love poem, "I Want to Know You." Joanne (Jan) Farrell read a short excerpt from her historical novel, Liberty for the Lion Shield (Xulon Press, 2009). Another writer of fiction, Julie Lomoe read some haiku from walking her dog, Sirius.  Bob Elmendorf hasn't read here in quite a while, tonight read his poem "The Photographer" looking for light in the Winter.

Photo of Sanity Clause with Sally Rhoades
by A.C. Everson

Sally Rhoades' poem, "High Water Mark," was a recent one about visiting her daughter in Washington, DC.

I won't say that this is the "longest-running" poetry series in Albany, but it has been continuous on the third Thursday of each month since December 1997, in various venues, & now at the Social Justice Center since 2006. Open mic, with a featured poet, & a $3.00 donation supports poetry programs here in Albany & supports the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany.

December 19, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam, #33, December 18

Thom Francis (left) adjusts the mic stand for
host "Christopher the Poet."
It was the second of the women-only Slams at Valentine's, but first the open mic, hosted tonight by "Christopher the Poet." Apparently the Southern crowds at such events are louder than us in the Northeast as our host kept trying to pump up our volume until by the end of the night I was a bit hoarse.

Fortunately I was signed-up as #1 on the open mic list & still had my voice then. I started off with the new poem "Trailer Park," then my 2006 poem on random shootings, "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine…" Billy was next, noting the 50th anniversary this year of the publication of On the Road & read a long epistolatory page turner to "Mr. Kerouac." Alyssa's ironically titled "Thank you" was addressed to partners she didn't want. Rain Dan read the first of what we can expect to be many poems on the Newtown shooting, "When He Comes," addressed to his children, then 2 very short pieces.

Jackie works on her poem.
Jackie K(irkpatrick) read a list poem titled "Time Line of Dating a Poet Preferably Me" giving full warning to the guys lurking out there. el presidente Thom Francis read a poem by Rebecca Schumejda ("Stretching Felt Over the Edges") from her new book Cadillac Men (NYQ Books), then his own happy love poem celebrating the here & now, "At this Moment." Our host, Christopher the Poet, performed one of his signature pieces, a poem to his future son, or daughter. Poetyc Vysonz ended the open mic with one of his signature inspirational pieces.

There were only 3 contestants for the Slam tonight, guaranteeing that all would be in-the-money tonight. The Slam was done in 4 rounds, each with different time limits.

Tasha, Alyssa, Thom Francis, & Rita
Rita was a new-comer with decidedly un-Slam poems, most with attempts at rhyme, philosophical; in the 1-minute round she came in with a 15.8 seconds untitled piece. Tasha's poems were the opposite, done in Slam style & cadence, including themes of cutting & bullying. Alyssa, doing most of her poems from memory, included a poem on weight & body image, along with a couple love poems. When the dust cleared, the scores tallied, the money counted, it was Alyssa in the #1 spot, Tasha was 2nd & Rita 3rd. A good night for them -- & for the rest of us too.

The Nitty Gritty Slam is the 1st & 3rd (& the 5th) Tuesday of each month at Valentine's, check out the schedule at

December 14, 2012

Live from the Living Room, December 12

Our customary intimate gathering for poetry in the living room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, tonight not only poets to read in the open mic but some "ordinary citizens" to sit & listen. Our host, the ever straight-friendly Don Levy.

 Tonight's featured poet was Emily Gonzalez in her first featured reading since returning to the Capital Region earlier this year. In a sort of retrospective she began with a bunch of early poems, many of them about her mother, such as "Apron Strings" (in 10 stanzas), or about being a mother herself as in "Parenting 101" or a marvelous untitled piece celebrating being her kids, her mother, being Puerto Rican. She brought back her early days as a poet here with "Dreaming of Bukowski," or the sexy work & beach fantasy of "Office Space." I am particularly pleased that she included the every changing "Mami" with its images of cooking in Spanish, English, & Spanglish. Her new poems were about her grandson ("Grandson," "Seeds") & love ("Driving Me Back Home at 7AM"), death ("For Laura…") & being back in Albany ("Free Falling," dedicated to another fine Albany poet, Carolee). So glad to have Emily & her fine words back in this City.

I started off the open mic segment with 2 poems written in the last few days, the ghostly elegaic "Jim Morrison" & the break-up letter inspired "Trailer Park" (3rd in a series). Shannon Shoemaker read an untitled sex-in-the-summer piece, then discovered that the poems she wanted to read were in another notebook, not the one she brought.  The aforementioned  Carolee Sherwood also read recent poems, both available on her Blog, "December Puddles" & the wonderfully moon-struck "Learning to Love Again."

A shy, new voice, Edward read the philosophical journal musings of "Whatever," then a little later returned with "Life & Death." In between Avery effusively described baking a failed cake as a way to talk about marriage -- metaphor or recipe? Our genial host, Don Levy, began with an ancient Terence Winch poem about a draft physical, "The Psychiatrist's Office was Filled with Crazy People" then his own poem written today (!), "A Conversation in an Elevator," which you can find on Don's FaceBook page (& if you are not a FB friend of Don's, why not?).

Live from the Living Room happens on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Pride Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, 7:30PM, for a donation that pays the featured poet -- & bring your own poems for the open mic.

December 13, 2012

Poetry + Prose, December 9

It's me & Nancy Klepsch as the afternoon's hosts, with a nice sign-up of open mic readers &, more importantly, an audience of happy listeners.

Nancy, battling a cold & laryngitis, managed to get through a new poem, a love poem it seemed. David Wolcott read from his memoir, a chapter titled "C.O." about confronting his family over being a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War. Kate Laity used her own timer (damn, we need more like her!) to keep track of her reading, a segment of a medieval tale of a young girl being offered to a nunnery.

It is amazing to think that it was the first time here for poetry diva of Albany, Don Levy, but it was, reading classic pop-culture pieces, "Marilyn Monroe & Ulysses" & "The Prime of Miss Don Levy," on surreptitiously watching TV in his parent's bedroom. Ron Drummond began with an anecdote about this morning's church service, then on to the long personal essay, "29 April 2010" that begins with Philip K. Dick, moves to D.H. Lawrence & the chain of being, then he tacked on at the end "a short piece from a work-in-progress."

Tim Verhaegen had us rolling with laughter as he railed against his mother in a piece that began when he found a stack of unopened sympathy cards. Mimi Moriarty read a cluster of poems on holiday themes, "Inventory of Reasons I Will Not Be Celebrating the Holidays," "Two Wise Men & a Buddha," "Hemingway & His Polydactyl Cats" (about spending New Years in Key West), & ended with a meditation on aging, "Hair, a Travelogue." Howard Kogan's poems were also meditations, the first titled "Meditation" explored his "monkey mind" during a poetry workshop at Omega, his second poem is one of my own personal favorites, "Blue Heron." Actually, the piece that I ended the day with is a meditation of sorts, the short prose essay, "God on Alto."

This series continues at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, in Troy, on the 2nd Sunday of each month, starting at 2PM -- prose, poetry, whatever you got that's written.

December 8, 2012

St. Rose Students Open Mic, December 7

Students in the brand-new MFA in writing program at the College of St. Rose came down off the metaphoric hill to Lark St. during the First Friday Art Walk for the first of what's promised as a new monthly open mic at Ben & Jerry's. The reading was hosted by student (& local poet), Jacqueline Kirkpatrick, & most of those on the sign-up sheet & in attendance were students or friends of students. But there were a few community poets in attendance, notably Joe Krausman, Kevin Peterson & me, DWx. The St. Rose faculty was represented by Daniel Nester.

I ended up first on the sign-up sheet (how does that happen?) & read 2 poems from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011), "Looking for Cougars" & "The Lesson."

Our host, Jackie Kirkpatrick, read 2 untitled pieces, the first a list poem that she said is her email "away message," the second poem was dedicated to the bees who swarmed her when she was younger & put her hand through their nest. Sadie Hickman read a cluster of poems from her tablet, the first was addressed to her fears & horror movies, then "Centralia, PA," "I Blame Prometheus," & the funny, sexy "How to Survive Laundry Day."  Cayla Zaluki had one untitled poem in rhyme, "uncovering truths of a wasted youth" (or was that the title?)

Sarah Sherman began with a poem analyzing dream symbols ("Incubus"), then a tender piece, "Visiting Hours," falling asleep thinking of those dying; her poem "History of Violence" was not a dream poem she insisted, while "Math" was a portrait of an old professor (her father?) playing with numbers. Sampson Dikeman read from a bar napkin "The Kinder Gentler Charles Manson." Monica Mitsaka's poem "Decadent Reminders" exhumed bones, while "2004" was memory & speculation of another kind, as was the hymn to her youth, "Yeah, We Were So Punk Rock."

Juliet waving her magic wand.

Juliet Barney began with a poem using words from the Seneca language, recognizing her the culture, then to the skate-boarder poem "Fakey;" for her last poem ("a Harry Potter poem" she said) she pulled a magic wand from her boot & read "My Sister the Half-Blood Princess," waved her wand & turned the entire audience into toads. Kevin Peterson quickly found his human form & read "Simultaneous Events" about dart & trivia night in a bar, then "Nature Hike" & the list poem from a college lit mag "Chicago Musings."

Jackie was back briefly with another poem "On Being Gregory's Lover" -- I do believe she meant Corso. Dalla Trombley ended the night with observing "The Cracks Between the Deck Boards," then an unkind portrait of a girl in New Paltz, ending with a funny rhyme on Xmas (alas, 'tis the season).

This open mic expects to continue each month at Ben & Jerry's (they like poetry there) on First Friday. Watch for it.

December 6, 2012

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5

I like to be on time, particularly for open mics where I plan to read, so that I can hear the other poets on the sign-up sheet. Actually Don & I were on time in Saratoga, just that Hattie's Chicken Shack was not on time with our dinners. So we got next door to Lena's as the first featured poet was reading, & we missed the first chunk of open mic poets -- sorry.

Lynn Ciesielski has a new book out from FootHills Publishing, I Speak in Tongues & included a number of poems from the chapbook, as well as others not in the book. "How to Let Go of a Grown Child" is a Mom's list, tender & funny. Equally tender, but sad was a poem about an octogenarian former professor, "Chaos Theory." In "Let the Whistle Blow" the poet thought of her ashes being tossed on the train tracks to be scattered far & wide. Other poems were set in travel locations, such as the ironic feminist come-uppance of "Practicing Spanish at a Seaside Bar in Cancun," or the less frantic "Two Legs Toward Liverpool." She ended with the sexy & humorous love poem to her husband (dutifully tonight videoing her reading from his phone), "Pizza Again."

AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis was the night's other featured poet, surrounded by his adoring entourage. He said he was reading "mostly new" poems, a relative term to some of us who have heard some of these recent poems at open mics. He began with "At this Moment," then on to the portrait of sad characters at the "Bar." The poem "Stuck," about Time, was written at work (haven't we all), while "Run" examined the power of leaders, cult or otherwise. A particular favorite of mine is "Easter Visit" about a visit to his grandfather in the hospital. The one older poem was "Hero," an ironic portrait of his father as an anti-role model. He said he has been working on "Walk" for 8 or 9 months, a sad portrait of a friend. He ended with another new favorite, a love poem to his insulin pump, "Machine." It certainly was, as Thom described it, "the most personal reading I have ever done."  Good too.

After the break Carol Graser read "Out of Crackers" from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems. Then on to the rest of the open mic.

W.D. Clarke was back with another of his rhymed ballads of black humor, the story of a farting corpse, "Saint Shorty." Barbara Garro's poem "Blessing Bridges" was positive & up-lifting & "Wings" referenced the Sufi mystic poet Rumi. Don Levy dedicated his poem, "The Queen," to Thom Francis, then went on to explain "How I Know My Muse is a Gay Man," characteristic Don Levy gay & pop culture humor. I followed with 2 recent poems, the scary "This is Not Trick or Treat" & the true story of a failed Saratoga Springs love affair, "Adirondack Life."

Tess Lecuyer, who will be one of January's featured poets (with Kingston/Albany poet Cheryl A. Rice) read a list of a month's worth of specific prompts for poems, "Prompt Dates." Michael, who has read here in the past, but not recently, was back with 2 untitled poems, one remembering his father, the other perhaps about the force of desire, like walking on lava. Andrew's poem was a philosophical, modern dialogue appropriately titled "Said Socrates," while his 2nd poem was shorter, but with a longer title.

The last poet up, Leslie Nestor, was a (poetry) virgin (!) but you'd never know it from her poems, the wonderfully sexy "This Shirt" & the more involved "To Our Friend Who is in Pain…" advice to a friend suffering through the pain of a lost love.

Accomplished poets, dabblers, & virgins, that's what a poetry open mic is all about. The open mic at historic Caffè Lena is held on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 pm start, only $5.00, bring a couple poems to read.

December 5, 2012


(For the last 6 years or so we, the members of the Albany peace community at the peace vigil in front of the State Capitol building, have been handing out a flyer with an excerpt of Enid Dame's "Holiday Poem" on the Wednesday vigil closest to Christmas.  This is the text of the complete poem.)

Make your own holiday, I want to say
forget the scolding billboards      the feverish malls
the glittering tinsel      the hard and soft machines      the guilt.
Forget Santa Claus in his red suit
(it was blue in Yugoslavia,
a country that has fallen off the map).
Forget the gross national product forget      Wall Street      the rising market.
Make your own bread rise in your oven.
Make up new recipes.

Make your own candles, I want to exhort.
Make those bees work overtime!
The past glimmers seductively     that happy safe radiant place
where snow wrapped the village in angelhair
and Grandma’s cranberries winked like rubies.
They own it now    the conglomerates     the CEOs     the dream dealers.
They sell it back to us in bits and pieces.

They’ve downsized our fantasies.
They want us all wrapped snugly in electric blankets
dreaming the same-colored dream
while the locked-out people, who can’t afford dreams,
play with matches down the street.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say a word.
I’m a stranger in this culture.
In the milltown, the stores dazzled us each December.
Red electric bells sang on every corner.
Mothers and neighbors swung through the streets
gathering, gathering
Lionel trains     toasters     perfume     doll furniture     bedroom suites.
(My father the radical worked overtime
offering, offering
smiling, accepting greetings for a day he had no part in,
coming home exhausted after all the bells winked out.
We lit small candles     made pancakes     hung stockings
Santa Claus, my mother allowed     but no Christ child     no pagan tree.
We weren’t extremists.)

My mother the 30s radical
trapped in the 50s in a house too small
for all her talents – even her talent for sorrow –
told me, “Don’t buy me a holiday card.
Why make the card company richer?”
I thought of making my own     pulled out paints
too messy     too lazy     too undextrous     I grew discouraged
Hallmark could do it better! I
gave nothing at all those years.

But this year, in the diminishing ‘90s
when all the old hopeful flames have guttered out,
as the century melts down like a candle to a small hard nub,
when too many of us are locked out of our stories
in this dark cold overworked tunnel of time,
I want to give something back to the universe:

I want to be politically correct
(or incorrect, depending upon your viewpoint).

I want to say, Let’s make a feast,
a feast of candles     a feast of languages
Let’s celebrate each other’s Gods
(and dreams and histories). Let’s sit down and listen.
Let’s do Christmas     Hanukah     Kwanzaa     solstice
Let’s invite Buddhists     Muslims     Hindus     secular humanists     anarchists     Gnostics.
Late December is a needy time. But
we don’t need the solace of bought objects.
We need each other’s light.

Enid Dame (1943 – 2003) was a poet, writer and teacher. She was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and lived for many years in Brooklyn and High Falls, New York. Her books include Anything You Don’t See (1992, West End Press), Stone Shekhina (2002, Three Mile Harbor), and Where is the Woman? Letters and Poems from California (2006, Shivastan Publishing), edited by her husband, Donald Lev. Enid & Donald co-edited the literary tabloid Home Planet News. Enid Dame died on Christmas morning 2003.

December 3, 2012

Yes, Reading, November 30

This was the last of the semester's programs, the series mixing experimental poetry with other art forms.   Tonight it was poetry & "flexing", with Matthew Klane & James Belflower sharing the intro duties. It also was a "Brooklyn night" with all of the artists traveling up from there.

First up was the poet Rawaan Alkhatib, a poet & visual artist from Dubai.  I could only describe her poetry as "reverent Dadaism." She read a number of short poems, then a longer narrative in word/sound play (doesn't all good poetry have word play?) a funny piece with the recurring phrase "world goat." Other poems in rhymes, half-rhymes, & even some more goats.

Colby Somerville read one long piece, from his iPad, with the repeating phrase, "When the evil shredder attacked…", apparently built on images from videos games, Japanese & kid show super-heroes, a sci-fi apocalyptic narrative, of sorts.

Corina Copp's work was more fragmentary, less musical than the others. However, she did offer some minimal context for her work, though without explanation. One piece was dubbed a "translation" (i.e., English to English) of Shakespeare's sonnet #59, another was an excerpt from what she described as a "strange" large piece, "The Flat Bed," a haphazard collage from other writers & screen writers. Copp was the only one with a book for sale, a flip-book from Ugly Duckling Press (2011) Pro Magenta/Be Met.

As I've said before, with experimental work such as the writing from these 3 poets who read tonight the readers would do well with some explanation of the method or technique the poets used to put together the text. I mean, you can't call it "experimental" without some idea of what the "experiment" is about. Is it a cut up? A random sortex of phrases from some other writer, or themselves? A stoned/drunken/insomniac rant (e.g., Ginsberg's "… lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish").  In addition, all these poets read rather flatly, unexpressively, sort of the yin to the slam poets' yang, so that the words took on the abstract form of music, or at least of a drone.

Robert Williams Taylor (left) & Jason Cust
The final performance was by 2 "flexers," Jason Cust & Robert Williams-Taylor, beginning with a long intro about how they got into this urban dance form springing from reggae music, then a relatively short excerpt from a longer piece, a duet that could best be described as modern dance meets Chinese contortionists. It was, on many levels, more accessible than the poets, in fact I could see writing a poem, or 2, about it.

This provocative series is held sporadically during the academic semesters at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, donations appreciated. Friend them on FaceBook.  You can get on their mailing list by sending an email to

November 29, 2012

MFA Student Reading, November 28

Barbara Ungar & Jeanne Flanagan
This was a noon-time reading held in the Massry Center Gallery at the College of St. Rose in Albany by the students in the first class of the new MFA in writing program, an advanced poetry workshop. The reading was of poems written around/inspired by the current exhibit, "Ellen Driscoll Core Sample." The works on display were mostly drawings, paintings, some very large, others rendered as a series of folding pages for the single installation piece, an upside down landscape of oil rigs made of plastic bottles. The class' professor, Barbara Ungar, first introduced the gallery's director, Jeanne Flanagan, who welcomed us & spoke briefly about the work on display.

Professor Ungar served as M/C & read at the end. The first student to read was Matt Allegretti, with 2 poems, "The Drowning World" full of oozing oil & man-made disasters, then sex among the ruins in "Take Shelter." Jill Crammond, a frequenter of the open mics, read "The Mother Mistakes Her Son For an Empty Soda Bottle" & "The Artist Needs Titles, Refuses to Name Her Work" in which the poet compares that to not naming your children (Jill never has a problem with titles). Sadie Hickman read a poem about another disaster, the on-going fire in an abandoned coal mine in the (now-abandoned) town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Barbara Ungar read the poem "In an Art Gallery" by Carol H. Jewell (some of these students have day jobs they can't leave during the day).

Jeanne Flanagan takes the group shot.

Jacqueline Kirkpatrick, who has distinguished herself recently at the Slam at Valentines, read a poem based on a line in a poem by Al Gore (!), "An Inconvenient Shepherd." Sarah Sherman had a different, more personal response to the upside down installation, the poem "Upside Down Thanksgiving," thinking of her grandmother watching over the holiday preparations. Another Albany open mic poet, Carolee Sherwood, read a poem about the Gulf oil spill, "Spill," that included not only oil-drenched birds but lust & desire as well. Barbara Ungar read a couple of her own environmental poems, "Lament" on global warming, & an abcderian poem on animals on the endangered species list, a found poem, "Things Do Not Look As Dismal As They Did."

Good work by all, even the Professor. Check out my Flickr! site for photos of the individual students.

November 28, 2012

Poets Speak Loud!, November 26

Sometimes it is difficult to write about this event. Not because I don't know what to say, but that my notes start to disintegrate towards the end, either due to the spirit, or spirits, of the night. If I leave something out, please feel free to comment with your corrections, additions, whatever. Of course, it's just as likely that your recollection is as faulty as mine, whatever.

Mary Panza served as our host & instigator for the night. She began by announcing that our wonderful waitress here on the last Monday of the month, Allison, who is in the military & is being deployed overseas so this was her last last Monday with us. Walt Whitman said, great poets need great audiences -- but we also need great waitresses: thanks Allison, & be safe.

Tess Lecuyer began the open mic with the marvelous poem she read at the Third Thursday Poetry Night, "Wild Pumpkins."

Sylvia Barnard's poem "Boston Public Garden, November 2012" was written today (!), which she followed with "Russell Square, London" written in 1975.
Don Levy also gave us a tour of London with his imagining of "The Queen & I," followed by the elegy, "Twinkies." 

I was up next, repeating "This is Not Trick or Treat" followed by a very ancient piece, "The Pool Shark," read for tonight's featured poet …

… who was Rebecca Schumejda, reading from her long-awaited collection Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012), poems about a pool hall she & her husband once owned, & the characters who hung out there. She began with a poem about her daughter, "First Steps," then on to an introduction to some of the characters, first Mikey Meatball ("Table of Truth"). Next was Spanish Fly in "Afterall This is a Bad Neighborhood," "Wheeling & Dealing," & " Because a Smart Man Can Dignify a Lousy Moniker." The eponymous "Bobby Balls-in-Hand" shows us what's it like to be a loser. She ended with the pool-hall regular, Aristotle, in the metaphysical poem "Sober on a Snowy Day." I've said it before & I say it again, buy this book, it's like a short story collection, only shorter -- & more fun.

Back to a continuing list of open mic poets with Shannon Shoemaker reading an old piece from 2010, filled with the cold moon & loneliness of lost love.

el presidente Thom Francis' poem "Stuck" was from a prompt, no less.

Jill Crammond, who is the prompt mama at Up the River, a Journal of Poetry, Art & Photography,  read a love poem to a fisherman, "The Last Thing This World Needs is Another Poem About Flowers," & the villanelle, "Jude (10) Schools His Mother on Psychedelics".

Carolee Sherwood's poem was from a prompt from a headline, "Salmon Swims Across Flooded Road" (to be eaten by a dog), then to another "dinner poem" (or is it romance?) "The Surprise of 2 Red Roosters."

Kevin Peterson began by reading from his pocket notebook a short list of "things people have called me since I've started growing in my mustache" (of course, one doesn't grow a mustache, one just doesn't stop it from growing), then a poem he said wasn't a "slam poem," but had the heft & attitude of one, an angry put down of a sad girl on a train.

Sally Rhoades read from the 2007 High Watermark Salo[o]n journal, "The Cardinal" & the poem for her daughters, "Roosting."

Avery returned us to the Twinkie theme with the distraught poem "Meanwhile at the Hostess Outlet," then the descriptive piece on a flock, I mean murder, of crows.

Poetyc Vysonz ended the night with the new piece he did at the slam last week, part 2 of "Upside Down Inside Out."

I'm sorry I couldn't do justice to the entre poete remarks of our hostess but you just had to be there, it was fast & furious, funky & not true, or at least almost not true -- you had to be there. Poets Speak Loud is at McGeary's on Clinton Square most last Mondays (not in December), about 8PM, sponsored by

Sunday Four Poetry, November 25

Back again to this most pleasant of reading series, a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There were about 20 folks in the Old Songs Community Center for the open mic & today's featured poet, Phillip Levine.

First up to the open mic was a peace vigil companion from Grannies for Peace, Dorothy Richards, who read a series of haiku in the Japanese style; a first-timer we were glad to welcome. Joe Krausman began with a diversion on translating, then into a poem that uses Thanksgiving travel in a grim/humorous way, then the equally quirky "Tsunami." Dennis Sullivan, our host for the open mic, began with a poem he wrote for "E.A.", filled with images from the Catholic version of Xtianity, including the remarkable line, "… prepare to take one in the groin for Jesus" (!), followed by a poem on forgiveness, written during storm Sandy, "I Chose Liberty." Obeeduid began with a long introduction, about Xtian monks in ancient Ireland creating illuminated manuscripts, to the poem "My Great Hunger," invoking the idea of the Gaelic language (or "Irish" as it is also called) being fashioned from the leftovers of the other languages of the Tower of Babel (explains a lot about why Irish is so unpronounceable).

A word-sculpture by Alan Casline
Alan Casline referred back to Native images & stories in his poem about 2 springs that spoke as books, & read a new poem, "Before the Predicted Storm," backwards as suggested by a poet friend (it worked!). Tom Corrado presented a word-play dialogue, with his characteristic puns, "The Nuanced Perceptions Survivor in Nine and a Half Acts." Edie Abrams explained that she has written 2 poems in response to poems by Dennis Sullivan, that her poem to the one he just read she will read in December, then read her response to his frequent use of "hoi polloi" by declaring us/we not philosopher kings.

Arlen Westbrook was back again, this time with an anti-war poem from written during the 1960s, "All Fall Down." I followed with a recent poem that considers my less-than-compassionate reaction to others, "Shredded Pants," then my response to the prompt to write a scary poem, "This is Not Trick or Treat." Mimi Moriarty read her recent poem "Learning Vietnamese," a tender picture of music & sharing among women who share much without the common language to explain it all, a marvelous piece. Howard Kogan read what he called "2 vaguely theological poems," the first from a workshop with Bernadette Mayer, a poem from the point of view of a firefly, then a stunning poem about looking for god, "Blue Heron."

Rick Harrienger was also back (as "Sir Charles" so as not to be confused with "charlie") with poems in ballad rhymes, "The Warrior's Song" (from his experiences in Viet Nam) & a holiday theme poem, "Reflections in a Fire," or, as he proclaimed, "so what if I make it rhyme." Philomena Moriarty read a duo of disaster poems, "Corpses" (for the victims of Hurricane Katrina) & "Fukashima 50."  Ann Lapinski rounded out the open mic with the more gentle "The Magnolia."

Phillip Levine is one of those activist poets who not only writes poems but makes things happen in the poetry community, running a weekly series for a long time at the Colonie Cafe in Woodstock, the ongoing monthly Woodstock Poetry Society reading series, another monthly series in Kingston & serving as the poetry editor of the regional magazine, Chronogram. He read from a wide-spectrum of his poems, including 2 influenced by the work of James Joyce, "Soon" (inspired by Ulysses) & "Hooked" (in the style of Finnegan's Wake), also "Small Things" from a recent profile in Ulster magazine. Sometimes his intros became long diversions that filled up his time & got in the way of the poems, but he managed to squeeze in a series of pieces on writing, "The Clown at the Chalkboard," "Poet on Point" & the related "A Riderless Horse." His poem "Colors" was for a woman who at the time was threatening suicide. He ended with his familiar card-trick/aphoristic poems, short pieces written on playing cards, shuffled & chosen at random.

This series continues on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center up in Voorhessville, NY, a modest donation -- & a trip after up the road to Smith's Tavern for pizza or sandwiches & beer, or whatever. How else do you want to spend your Sunday afternoon?

November 22, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam #31, November 20

or, since this was "Ladies' Slam Night," this might be called "Nitty Titty Slam." Only women were permitted to sign up for the Slam, but the other half of human existence was allowed to read in the open mic, with Mojavi arriving just in time to host the open mic.

 First up was Alyssa Nieman, with a breathy reading of a piece about building a sand castle. Tasha read a poem from her cellphone about a friend with depression. Since it was "Ladies' Night" I pulled out "The Bra Poem" & the bra (sorry, I don't have pictures, but someone must). Jess ListenToMyWords read from her notebook a poem to her sister. "Hey Girl" from Emily Gonzalez is a stark piece about a woman in rehab. Kevin Peterson read a new piece for his brother, "Rock Paper Scissors Shoot." Eugene O'Neill/"Truth" performed rap to a background tape, could've been anything. Poetyc Vysonz had fresh ink too, "The Last Shall Be First," part 2 of his frequently performed "reversal poem," history turned inside-out. I think Avery's poem "Avoidance is a 9-Letter Word" was about taking a shit. Mojavi, from his cellphone, wondered "How Much for a Kiss?" Christopher the Poet was back in town with what sounded like an erotic poem, but it was about weed.

Sarah reading a sestina at a Slam
el presidente Thom Francis was the host for the Slam, 6 women poets (Sarah, Shannon Shoemaker, D. Colin, Elizag,  Jackie K. & Alyssa), with different rules: 4 rounds, no elimination (girls hate that), with varying time limits, with the 2nd round at 1 minute perhaps the most interesting. I was one of the judges & no one got less than an 8.0 or more than a 9.1 from me, with the self-referential "I slam/I don't slam" poems getting the least points, no matter how great the delivery or entertainment value. There were a few real poems, including at lead-off sestina by virgin poet Sarah, who left after 2 rounds, & a couple of titillating pieces by Jackie K.

Thom Francis (right), with "Charlie's Angels":
D. Colin, Elizag & Jackie K.

When the dust settled the winners were Slam team members D. Colin (#1) & Elizag (#2), with Jackie K., MFA student 3rd. As far as I'm concerned, every night is "Ladies' Night" with me, but then you all know that.

Nitty Gritty Slam is every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., check out for a schedule, then show up & read/perform. $3.00 for students, $5.00 for the rest of us.

November 21, 2012

Community of Writers, November 18

[Disclaimer: This event is sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, of which I am the President. While some folks have labeled my Blogs as "reviews" I like to characterize them as "reports" & I have never made any claim to "objectivity," since I am an active participant in many of the events that I report on.]

As it turns out, this was the 10th annual Community of Writers at the Schenectady County Public Library, which has happily co-sponsored the event with the HVWG. This year there were 10 authors in various genres who read, including a couple of amazing young writers from whom I hope we will be hearing lots of good writing in the future. The Schenectady County Poet Laureate (yes, Virginia, the position does exist) Stephen Swartz got us off to a good start with rousing ode to the city of Schenectady in the style of Allen Ginsberg, & dressed in what he called a "Romney meets the Village People outfit." Bob Cudmore didn't so much as read as recount in the style of a story-teller 3 stories from his recent book, Stories from the Mohawk Valley.

Erin Billings read an early section from her novel Sincerely (Open Door Publishers, 2012), written last year when she was 15 years old (!). Poet Sharon Stenson read a cluster of poems, ranging from "A Country Garden" to "Roadkill," including a sestina about Clipper ships. Patrice Kindl gave a fine, in-character reading from her novel set in the 19th century, Keeping the Castle. Chaitali Banerjee read an essay about observing a great blue heron while bird-watching at the Old Niskayuna railroad station. April Seeley, who has read her poetry here in past years, today read a short fiction piece, "Sand," about young friends growing up & what friends do to help each other, seasoned with a touch of humor.

Ryan Smithson is another young writer who has been reading excerpts from his moving memoir Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI (HarperCollins Publishers, 2009) at a number of local events; today he read a late chapter, "Words on Paper." Victor Smith read suspenseful & humorous excerpt from his novel Huntington Pass (Author House, 2011), involving the character Buck Avery breaking into a funeral home. The afternoon had been hosted by poet Alan Catlin, who concluded the event with some of his poems, including some inspired by trips with the library group, some poems on the theme of "white" both dreams & nights, a "found poem" from a conversation by 2 Viet Nam veterans, & ended with "Memorial for Tom Nattell in 3 Parts," short parts in fact that sounded very like some of Tom's short poems.

The Hudson Valley Writers Guild is proud to have had this long & productive association with the Schenectady County Public Library (& the Friends of the Library) in bringing local authors to the library audience & we hope to continue to do so for many years.

November 20, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 15

On a night of many events, competing poetry readings, a jazz concert, etc. we still had a decent crowd of indecent poets for the open mic & for our featured poet, James Belflower. I invoked the Muse, "the old poet of the City" (as Lawrence Durrell dubbed him) C.P. Cavafy, then on to the open mic. 

First up was Alan Catlin, playing off the city poem of Cavafy, with his own "neighborhood poem" "Parallel Lives." A new face & voice tonight was Arielle Gumson with a poem in rhyme about the need for people to work together (her father told her she should come here). Comrade-in-(dis)arms Dayl Wise came up from Woodstock tonight & read funny piece about taking Ho Chi Minh to a Mets game.

Shirley Brewer came from an even further distance, Baltimore, MD & was there with Rezsin Adams; she read a poem written for Ted Adams that she had read at his memorial service almost a year ago, "Staircase Anthology."

James Belfower, tonight's featured poet, is one of the organizers of the Yes! reading series. After checking for Johnny Cash fans in the audience, he read a single long piece "Johnny Cash at Folsom," an exploration of myth & how we make it, he explains. The piece includes quotes from the taping of the concert, ponderings of prison movies, & stones & words, lines from the songs, the lines often broken off, the way a tape machine will truncate a line or word. An interesting piece.

After the break I read a new poem written in response to a prompt to write "a scary poem," written just after Halloween & just before the election, "This is Not Trick or Treat."

Jan Farrell has been coming to the open mic of late, but this was her first time reading, a nature poem "The Quiet Life of a Recent Wave." Tess Lecuyer has been reading on this street for a long time, a brand new poem, "Wild Pumpkins," another nature poem, on making a jack-o-lantern, & more. Kenyatta Jean-Paul Garcia read in the open mic last month & was back (wishing Ted Berrigan a happy birthday), a wild ride titled "Don't Lose the Sun." The evening ended with last month's fine featured poet, Anna Eyre, with a piece from her Snow White series, her mirror on the wall.

Another night of varied poetry at the Social Justice Center (33 Central Ave., Albany, NY), just like any other third Thursday, 7:30PM, donations support the featured poet, other poetry venues & the Social Justice Center.

November 16, 2012

2nd Sunday at 2 -- Poetry + Prose Open Mic, November 11

My co-host Nancy Klepsch could not be here today so I had to wing it alone, but it was easy. While some of the open mic readers were here early, others came in later, adding to the bottom of the list.  I began with an old poem for the day (Veterans Day), "Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial."

First timer Bruce Ottmer read a string of rhyming poems, to his late wife Clare, who was a painter, & to his cat, even one for a dog, complete with a painting by his wife; he got carried away & didn't have time for the poem he wanted to end with ("Ode to an Artist") but had copies for us all. Kathy Smith was more careful about her time & began with "In the Distance," again a dog -- I was beginning to worry if this would be a theme today -- but she went on to a recent poem "Midnight After the Hurricane in the Garden Near the Airport." David Wolcott read from his prose memoir, an excerpt from a chapter titled "The Wooden Shoe," about a commune he lived in in Vermont around 1972.

Bob Sharkey read an ekphrastic/museum piece, "Offering Bearer," from his new chapbook Surface at Sunrise (Benevolent Bird Press, 2012), then a prose piece, "The End," from a series about the fictional bar The Iron Ear. Joe Krausman read "The Answering Machine," funny & metaphysical, then the crazy poem "My Son the Meshuggahna." Sean Heather McCraw's first poem, "Tomasina," was about the seasonal appearance of a turkey in the neighbor's garden, then a remembrance of being 17 & waiting for the surf to take her away, "Nightwaves, a Memory." Ron Drummond began with 2 sentences on crows in his yard, then a long piece celebrating Obama's election victory in 2008.

Poetry + Prose takes place on the 2nd Sunday at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St. in Troy, NY -- it's free!

November 14, 2012

Book Launch for Cadillac Men, poems by Rebecca Schumejda

Finally, the book of poems we have been hearing from for years at her readings is out from the great New York Quarterly Books. This reading was at Half Moon Bookstore on Front St. in Kingston, where Becky has hosted many readings over the past few years. She read with Cheryl A. Rice & Nathan Graziano.

Cheryl A. Rice has a new chapbook out from her Flying Monkey Press, Kingston is Burning, but most of the poems she read were not from the chapbook. But most any poems from Cheryl are worth hearing/reading, from the bar poem, "Poets Night Out," to the consideration of alternative lives in "Delorean," to wedding poems ("Exhibit B" & "We Live in a World") to the sexy "Hot Tub." The one poem she read from the chapbook was the one the title of the chapbook is taken from, "Baghdad/Kingston" that is based on/inspired by my poem "Baghdad/Albany."

Nathan Graziano also has a new book out, the collection of short prose pieces, Hangover Breakfast (Bottle of Smoke Press). He read mostly from the book, short, first-person narratives, usually with humor, often referencing pop culture, such as his opening piece, "The Teenage Couple Who Has Sex in a Slasher Flick." One of his sub-themes seems to be puking, as in "Confessions of a Recovering Crier" & "Bad News." And how could he not write about being a poet ("The Published Poet")?

The small back room of Half Moon Books was not only packed with most of the mid-Hudson Valley's literati, but also with a noisy flock of little girls whose insistence chattering & clattering was ineffectively on occasion shushed by one of the moms in the room. But the readers kept on, & Becky even confessed later she didn't mind the distractions.

Anyone who has been at any of Rebecca Schumejda's readings in the last few years as heard poems from this series now collected as Cadillac Men, about the characters & events in a pool hall Becky & her husband once owned. She introduced us (again) to such characters as Mikey Meatballs ("Table of Truth"), "Bobby Balls-In-Hand," Dee ("Going Our for Ice-Cream") or Aristotle ("Sober on a Snowy Day"). There was even a poem about her daughter as a toddler among the pool tables, "First Steps." Good stories, good poems & always good to hear.

These books (& others by local writers) area available at Half Moon Books, Front St. ("every city on a river has a Front St."), Kingston, NY.