January 26, 2012

Birthday Poem 2012

(at Delray Beach, FL)

These morning Palm trees painting clouds against blue sky
this sitting half-dressed with coffee, outside
these breeze & sunshine drenched streets
is the furthest I’ve been on my birthday
from my birthplace. Past birthdays
I’ve shoveled snow, layered up for the cold
not walked on the beach, lathered in sunscreen.

This birthday where my tan is the birthday cards
that don’t reach me down here, & my present
is the smell of the ocean that will carry me
through to wherever I will be next year.

January 25, 2012

Urban Guerilla Theater, January 20

After the Yes! Reading I raced (not quite) up Central Ave. to WAMC’s Linda Auditorium for the monthly gathering of UGT. I thought I’d be late, but Mojavi had just taken the stage & was talking about getting smacked as a kid by his mother in the supermarket. He must’ve been soooo cute! Mojavi was very spiffy in a tan suit & a bowtie -- this was the night to roast him, so the host was DJ 250.

Blue Storm was back in town from Brooklyn & performed the just written poem about how she “…loves to screw…” oh yeah.
Then Kat the Poet with a sexy piece called “Technology.” Next up with a song was Alicia, who can be heard as back-up on Poetyc Visionz' new CD. I followed in a role I often make fun of when others do it, as a stand-up comedian (or a close facsimile thereof), with some personal observations about Mojavi & his role in the community, the point being, “he keeps it real.”

I only had a little time left before I had to leave, but had to stay to hear Poetyc Visionz perform with Alicia “Dreams are Unrealistic” from his brand new CD “Life” The Meaning Vol. 1., & of course grabbed a copy before I left. The last performer I caught as my exit music was the singer C.J., but there were more later.

Check out Urban Guerilla Theater on the third Friday of the month, music, poetry, performances, even some food & drinks, at the Linda Auditorium, 9PM.

January 24, 2012

Yes! Reading Series, January 20

Somehow there has (almost) always been conflicts in the world of Albany arts with this series that brings in a variety of young writers/artists tied to the academic world. But tonight the conflict was what the newspapers, in referring to a non-plane crash, a “near-miss” -- I was scheduled to be at Urban Guerilla Theater up at the Linda later in the evening (more on that in another Blog). But I wanted very much to catch this particular night of Yes!

One of the unique features of this series is the inclusion of music or visual (or any other) arts along with the reading of prose & poetry. The program is not really integrated, just whatever is available, sort of like a Ed Sullivan program for the “avant-garde.” Tonight’s artist was Maureen Jolie Anderson displaying a table of photos for the taking, the show called “The Lost Photographs of M.” Each time she does this particular installation/performance the title changes. Unfortunately, when it came time for me to scoot out the door & race up Central Ave., I had no time to grab a photo.

Matthew Klane, the series’ co-coordinator, went on to introduce Jessy Poole, a fiction writer, with a cut-up/jump-cut word salad that seemed to parody the stuffy, sententious intros one hears at readings at area (to be unnamed) universities. He began with a short (it was “flash fiction” after all) piece about an encounter at a bus stop, then on to a couple scenes from his novel-in-progress, "The Von Darling Family Circus," set in Wisconsin in the 1960s with characters named after ancient Persian kings.

Co-coordinator James Bellflower took over the intro duties, but his sounded just like Matthew’s, so I wonder… Peter Fernbach interspersed his poems with those by women writers, such as Amy Gerstler & Sylvia Plath in a self-conscious reference to gender rather than poetic talent. His comments tended to sound like he was teaching one of his classes & made me wonder if he’s ever been to a poetry open mic or read his poetry in public much, other than before students. He introduced the Amy Gerstler poem saying, “it goes like this,” & his own poem “Everyday” by describing it as “social justice-y.” When he gave the background to his poem “The Model” he identified the Buddhist practice of sand mandalas as being located in India, whereas sand mandalas are more closely associated with Tibet & China.

But my main reason for doubling up my schedule, & waiting to the very end, was to hear Anna Elena Eyre, who has served her time helping to run this series in the past. She has 2 books of poetry out recently & began with poems from Are Me (Dancing Girl Press, 2011). She read “He,” “She” & “I,” the last read so effectively with the word “I” always uttered as a cross between a gasp & a sigh that she garnered the rare (for academic readings) applause for a single poem (it is the practice at such readings, as opposed to most community readings, not to applaud each poem but to pile it all at the end). Anna’s most recent book is Faceless Names: Two Books of Letters (BlazeVOX books, 2012), namely, poems responding to William Carlos Williams’ early work, Kora in Hell (or, as she refers to him “W Carlos W”), & “Nameless Mail,” (or “Letters to Evelyn”, her mother’s mother). As one says, it was worth the price of admission.

Then I had to dash off to the second event of the night (stay tuned). Meanwhile you can catch the Yes! Reading Series every little once in a while at the Social Justice Center, in Albany, NY.

January 23, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 19

Tonight’s featured poet, Anthony Bernini, brought his cheering section & his new book, Immediate Worlds, to the Social Justice Center. But first some of the open mic & a good crew it was tonight.

Bob Sharkey was first up with his poem “Marshals,” a look back to political demonstration in the 1960’s. W.D. Clarke’s “Gideon’s Eye” is another ballad about a prosthetic device in what may be a continuing series.

D. Alexander Holiday by-passed his own poems to read one by Roger McGough. Elizabeth Haight squeezed in 2 poems, “Love Arrived,” & the second on reading Anthony’s first book of poems, Distant Kinship. Slam champ Elizag performed her slam-winning poem “I Am Troy Davis,” & showed it could work in this smaller, quieter setting.

Anthony Bernini read mostly from Immediate Worlds (The Troy Book Makers, 2011) & dedicated his reading to Mohammed Ali, describing him as “one of the great men of the Earth.” He began with the poem “Meterological Spring,” then, staying with the theme, of death “Visiting the Dead” (in Malone, NY) & “The Disposition.” Then on to “love,” beginning with “Because Her Any Place Can Touch,” then to a interlude with some love poems by Rumi, & back to his own with “Love Light.” “At Honorable Bryant’s House” was about the meeting of 2 old friends, down in South Carolina. “The Rain that Farmers Love” was a musical examination of what we need, while “The Warmth” acknowledged farmers & dancers. He closed with a poem about San Francisco from Distant Kinships, “Top of the Wheel.”  Anthony's poems can be challenging hearing them in a reading, but that's the reason to buy his books.

After the break I re-started the open mic with an old piece (for my birthday month) “This Birthday is Not Divisible by 10.” Avery read from a Kerouacian pocket-notebook about the view from the 22nd floor of the hotel he was in recently in Hawaii. Sylvia Barnard read her poem “Rapp Rd. Community” about an early black community on the outskirts of Albany. Then Moses Kash III, who had taken a cab to get here, finished off the night with a recent piece “Egyptian Turmoil” focused on political events here & abroad.

Each Third Thursday we gather here at the Social Justice Center on Central Ave. in Albany (NY), about 7:30 for an open mic & a featured reader. Your generous contributions support the work of the Poetry Motel Foundation by paying the featured poets, & the wide-ranging work of the Social Justice Center.

January 20, 2012

Occupy Albany: Words, January 18

I stopped in a the UAG Gallery on Lark St. in Albany, NY on the First Friday Gallery Walk to take in their exhibit "Occupy the UAG," art from/inspired by the Occupy Albany movement. The art was compelling, varied & affordable. I bought a handmade book of ephemera by Carol Bruening, then talked to the staff about a poetry reading in the space to help promote the exhibit & support the Gallery through donations.

On a blustery January in the great Northeast about 10 people gathered to hear 4 performers. Later a few others wandered in late to look at the art. For most in the audience it was an introduction to the vibrant poetry scene here. One of the messages of the Occupy movement is to spread the idea that we are all artists creating our own lives, that we don't need corporate media to dictate to us our thoughts, images, ideas, we will tell them what we think, what we envision. We are not receptors, we are visionaries.

I began with my poem inspired by the Occupy DC movement in October, "One Day Longer," then "What Really Happened."

Ed Fagen, who recently moved to the area with his wife, read a humorous, rhymed piece "Christmas Owed" (say it out loud).

John DelSignore brought his guitar to perform what could become an anthem, "Occupy, Don't You Know," then to cover Bobby Bare's "Drop Kick Me Jesus."

Albany poet Carolee Sherwood read her poems "Apiary" & "Boy Leaps from Burning Building."

Support your local artists/performers/poets/musicians -- download your own life, find the art in your community & go there.

January 19, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam #10, January 17

At some of the previous Slams here at Valentines, notably #9, the scores were so uniformly high, no matter what was performed, that it was like the judges were all clones, or smoking on the same crack pipe. But tonight the scores were all over the place, including being off the scale & down in the judges curmudgeon dungeon. & so were the poems/pieces. In fact Joe Krausman aptly summed it up during the open mic. He said that his reading of a short poem (a real poem) at a Slam was like bringing Emily Dickinson to a circle jerk.

Speaking of circle jerks, Daniel Balzac Nester's youthful memoir of trading porn, & of the notorious Jungle Juices tape, was right up that alley (or down that gutter), as was Bless' declaration of not doing poetry for pussy (well, some do...). Others in the open mic were ILLiptical with a tribute to Macho Man/Randy Savage, & open mic host Mojavi doing "Incarcerated" (encouraged by Bless from the bar to "read the poem & stop telling jokes"). But the open mic "10" was definitely D. Alexander Holiday leading the audience in a raucous recitation of his incantatory "This Poem is the Bomb" -- it was nothing short of Kurt Schwitters, worthy of the best Dadaists, turning Valentines into the Cafe Voltaire, & worth the price of admission.

Miriam Axel-Lute
But they don't really give scores at the open mic, as they do in the Slam. Bless volunteered to be the night's sacrificial lamb to prime the judges with a piece in hip-hop rhyme on writing, then on to the first round, with 8 performers. There were a couple of virgins: Tasha with a slam-patterned cutter poem, & Jay with the short "Urine Paranoia," Champ Elizag had an angry piece recited too fast, Ben Golden talked about losing his virginity, while Poetyc Vyzonz was the night's motivational speaker. Rain Dan reminded us to notice & cherish what we have, Miriam Axel-Lute gave an argument against exercise & I read "To My Penis (on our 45th Birthday)."

Getting the Scores
Well, as used to say in the 3 Guys from Albany, "when in doubt, pull out the dick (poem)" -- it worked. For the 1st time in Slam History Dan Wilcox got into the second round! I could've gone home right then, but that, of course, would've been most rude. There were now 4 of us, only 3 would be "in the money." I was first with the long-awaited "Slam Poem," then Poetyc Vyzonz did another of his signature God pieces, this with Adam & Eve, while Ben Golden did another bit of autobiography. Elizag's "Looking Up" was actually a real poem, on inspiration & writers' block.

Ben Golden performing
When the judging flurry settled, like lint shaken from an old pillow, low & behold, Elizag's real poem was good enough for third, & left me & Ben Golden to duke it out. Ben won with "Archetype," more bio from his smart-phone, & I scored 2nd with my ancestral "Going Postal." What crazy planet alignment brought this about? Will the world of Slam ever be the same? Dare I ever go back & Slam again? Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? What am I going to do with all that money?

This insanity takes place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., in Albany. Check out the scores here on the AlbanyPoets website.

St. Poem Reading Series: Occupy the Word, January 16

Unbeknownst to me, the December version of this regular monthly open mic held at the UAG Gallery that had been titled "Occupy the Word" had been postponed. So this month's version of the St. Poem series was on the theme of political pieces inspired by the Occupy Albany (or fill-in the blank). Meanwhile I had planned another, albeit one-shot, open mic for the following Wednesday, to highlight the "Occupy the UAG" exhibit currently at the Gallery. 2 open mics, 2 nights, 1 theme. This town can handle it.

Our host, RM Engelhardt, began the reading from Songs of Wall Street: An Anthology of Verse for Literary Investors, edited & written by Michael Silverstein (Running Press, 2001). The book consists of pastiches on investment themes of famous poems & includes the original versions of the poems as a reference. Rob began with "The Ten Market Commandments," a version of Arthur Hugh Clough's "The Latest Decalogue," & "Globalizaton's Coming; Too Damn Fast," based on William Wordsworth's "The World is Too Much with Us, Late and Soon."

Hard act to follow, so I started off with a poem on the theme, "One Day Longer," then "What Really Happened" & a poem inspired by an earlier exhibit here, "The Clever Cleaver." Rob followed with more from this book, this time 2 based on Emily Dickinson poems "I Tanked on Options," based on "I Died for Beauty" & "I Never Met Al Gore" based on "I Never Met a Moor."

Cara Benson began with an Occupy movement inspired poem beginning "And when we woke we heard the sound of a drum…" then a notebook draft, "What Do I Say When I Say Environment;" both pieces build on running, stuttering flow-clusters of words bouncing off each other. Bless performed a couple of his signature pieces (that I always enjoy hearing), the poem about returning to his old neighborhood, beginning "Up the Street from history…", & finished with "Guilty Pleasures."

Our patient host ended the night talking about a dream he had that included fences & work permits & police, then his poem "Occupy, or Under the Harvest Moon."

This series continues every 3rd Monday of the month at the UAG Gallery, 247 Lark St., Albany, NY, 8PM. But the current "Occupy the UAG" exhibit will only be up until the end of this month. Better run if you want to see it.

January 13, 2012

Poetry + Prose Open Mic, January 8

Nancy Klepsch & I were back together again as co-hosts after a couple of months of playing tag-team. It has always surprised me how many folks show up on a Sunday afternoon for poetry, but, hey, I like surprises.

I began with a cluster of poems circling around the suburbs, "What the Deer Sees" & "Coyote 3" & "… 4." Tim Verhaegen read 3 pieces, playing with telling his stories in short-line repetitive rhymes, "Third Grade Rhyme," "Washington Park at 2AM" (being chased), & the contentious portrait "Cynthia." Howard Kogan began with a poem about reading John Hersey's Hiroshima in Townsend Park in Albany, then with a poem, "First Responders," to be found on the Occupy Poetry website  & ended with the rural portrait, "His Father's Mitten." David Wolcott brought us more of his drug memoir, this time about taking LSD, "Doors of Perception."

I don't recall having heard Elizabeth Haight read before, but was totally beguiled by her poems, the dreamy "While I was Sleeping," "Love in Fashion" (in which she lists past lovers together with what she was wearing at the time), & the fantasy/spy story/memoir "Apricots." Aviva Rossman has not been to any open mics in recent months (years?) & spent a lot of time hunting for her poems, but they were worth it; "Dancing on George Washington Bridge" was based on a painting in a Art textbook, then "Jasmine Queen," & a poem for a friend, "Last Days in a Nursing Home." My co-host Nancy Klepsch responded to the media swirl around the Iowa Republican caucus with a rhythmic piece repeating "Iowa."

Brett Axel pondered what it means to be a pastoral poet in the 21st century, where fields are turned into shopping malls, then explained "The Difference Between the Dodge Poetry Festival and the National Poetry Slams," & read a brief poem on conversation as a metaphor. Ron Drummond read the opening section of a story (that he wouldn't tell us the title of) from which he had previously read to us a later paragraph; in today's section there is a confrontation with an old man that may or may not be an actualization of a dream. Barry Goldman read a piece off his netbook about a bee (& a pretty girl) in a coffee shop. Bless Wize Words performed 2 pieces, one pondering the "Perfect Life," the other, one of my favorites, "Man Oh Man," about a conversation (& a lesson) with a homeless man.

This open mic is for prose & poetry writers & is held on the 2nd Sunday at 2PM in the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY -- Free!

January 12, 2012

Inquiring Mind Bookstore Reading & Open Mic, January 7

I knew that this reading has been going on for a while in Saugerties, hosted by Laura Ludwig, but it also conflicts with the Chronogram Open Word reading in Kingston, so hadn't made it here until tonight.  I wanted to see one of my favorite featured poets, Donald Lev, & I wanted to hear Chris Wood, whose work I was not familiar with. While there seemed to be some confusion about how many open mic poets our host could squeeze in, & when the features would read, etc., by the end of the night everyone had their chance.

Eric Fishbein was up first with an excerpt from a one-person theater piece he is working on, "C Minus," about someone thinking he could go to school to become a rock star. Victoria Sullivan also did a theater-like monologue about a homeless woman in New York City finding the Occupy Wall St. encampment. Adriana Delgado is a fine, young poet I've enjoyed hearing at open mics in the mid-Hudson area; tonight she did a small cluster of poems, "Upon Waiting for Spring," "The Great Anxiety," & the dreamy "Soliloquy & Synopsis in Sweet Sleep."

Pamela Twinning started off with a couple of poems, "Juggernaut" & "Danse Macabre," filled with intense, poetic images, then to a prose piece (memoir?), "Sunset Strip," about a teen-age runaway in Los Angeles in the 1960's. Mary Girodano's short notebook entry went by so fast I blinked & it was gone. I did 3 poems, "One Day Longer," "My Last Bardo" (just published in Donald Lev's Home Planet News (#65), & from Poeming the Prompt, "Looking for Cougars."

Donald Lev is one of the poetic resources that makes living in the Hudson Valley so exciting & rich. He has been publishing Home Planet News since paper was invented, first with poet Enid Dame, then, since her death, on his own. He read a stack of mostly short poems written in the last month. Many of the poems came from dreams (or seemed to), such as "An Elevator Filled with Wheelchairs," "Sundae," & "My Country's Battles." Others were more political & weighty ("Thick & Thin," "Death Before Dishonor"), while others were whimsical musings (in the poem "Respect" he has the trees thanking him for breathing). In a sort of Hanukah poem he skillfully combined the music of Duke Ellington & Jewish history. His tender poem "New Year's Eve" evoked past eve's with Enid, then he read Enid Dame's fine poem of Brooklyn in the snow, "Waiting." He ended chronologically with "Poem for January 7."

I was not familiar with the work of Chris Wood, so that became half of the reason to make this trip. He is the publisher of Heyday Magazine.  He began with poems, "The Cost of Poetry" (on being a publisher), the title poem of his chapbook America the Pitiful (Your Name Productions, 2011), "I Like that One," "Spleen" & "After Sipping Tea" which has been accepted for Home Planet News). Then on to some songs, his own ("Victory" & "Threshing Floor") & a cover of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic." He ended with a brief scene from a children's story he wants to produce as an animated film, with Adriana Delgado & Marina Mati acting with him.

Andy Clausen was gracious while being subjected to uncertainty about reading, but fortunately stuck around to read his phantasmagoric tale, "The Bear," in his rich, sonorous voice. Marina Mati ended the night, first with a reading of "Good Night World" by the Yiddish language poet Jacob Glatstein (1896 - 1971), then her own poems, an untitled piece on being an exile rather than a tourist, "Chewing on Words" & "Long Moon Night."

A pleasant night of poetry & theater at Inquiring Minds Bookstore, Saugerties, NY.

January 7, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam #9, January 3

Like a punch-drunk fighter I keep going back for more, & signed up once again for the Slam. There were just 8 of us, so I was in. But first the open mic, which was worth the price of admission.

El Presidente (Thom Francis) filled in the hosting responsibilities until Mojavi arrived, resplendent in a pink sweater, so cute.
The first poet up was a virgin, Tasha, with a long litany for a friend, "Kat is Short for Soul-Mate." Jessica Layton got us hot & bothered with the sexy "Staring at the Front Door Waiting for that Good Date." Dominick Rizzo hasn't been on the scene in many, many months & jumped right in tonight with a poem from his book, The Spiral Staircase of My Life (AuthorHouse, 2008). One of this event's co-organizers, Prof. Daniel Nester, regaled us with a section from his memoir from high school involving basketball, ping pong in a basement murder scene, & of course a cute girl's ass. Normally one either reads in the open mic or in the slam, not both. But tonight Elizag had packed the house with visiting friends & relatives from out of town so was granted dispensation to read in both & picked up Jessica's theme with the anaphoristic "First Date." Ed Rinaldi did 2 short poems on longing, the first called (I think) "Potatoes," then "Antigone Has Gone On Ahead." Mojavi ended the open mic with more longing, more tears from his iPhone.

Slam Master Dain Brammage came on stage to the theme from Battlestar Galactica, to stumble into his poem set in the old Tess' Lark Tavern "Notes." Mary Panza was the "sacrificial lamb" getting a huge 28.8, which presaged the night's early high scoring, with "The Tattooed Crowd at Day Care." The field of competitors included Shannon "In the Money" Shoemaker, Ben Golden (back in town on school break), Poetyc Vyzonz as God (again), Ka in hip-hop rhyme, Elizag in the voice of Troy Davis, Kevin Peterson railing against Parking Enforcement,
Ann with a love poem to Albany, & me. I didn't do so well last time with a political poem so switched themes to "The Pussy Pantoum." Well, that didn't work either, & Elizag's political rant scored highest. But I managed to score a 27.1, with 4 others scoring below me, including past champ Kevin.

You can see the scores for each round at the AlbanyPoets site, but when the dust settled, Elizag, even with a time penalty, squeaked by Shannon to win the big bucks in front of her family.

If you've just been reading my Blogs & haven't gotten out to the Nitty Gritty Slam, what kind of a wimp are you? It's spirited, it's fun, there's heckling, there's beer, & even a real poem once in a while. Check it out on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, Valentines's, 7:00 sign-up, $5.00 (less with a student ID).