April 25, 2012

Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest, April 22

Mark O'Brien & Dennis Sullivan
Another annual poetry-rite-of-Spring & I just had to be there. This was the third year for this event, with 10 poets competing for the laurel crown. This is a very well organized & structured contest, run by Dennis Sullivan, Edie Abrams & Mike Burke, with the wonderful support of the owners & staff of Smith's Tavern up in Voorheesville, NY. This year's judges were the reigning Poet Laureate, Howard Kogan, & Greg Gross, Thom Francis & Phillip Levine. Each poet read 3 times in random order, with different maximum line-lengths for each round. The score-keeper once again was Georgia Gray.

Charles Straney's poems were centered on the natural world, exemplified by his 2nd round poem "Poetics" in which words are objects, such as birds, wind, & insects.

Mark O'Brien (aka Obeeduid) is a favorite & his poem about sending his poems out as "children" resonated against his poem about his daughter driving off.

Sue Petrie's poems were quiet, pensive, like her reading style, about relationships.

Voorheesville stalwart Catherine Anderson's poems were full of the natural wisdom of gardens, hay & chairs.

Tom Corrado's John Ashbery rip-offs are fun, but his rage against the dark, "I Continue to Get Older," bounced words against each other & made us laugh.

Therese Broderick also drew heavily from the natural world, culminating in "Cemetary Rondeau." 

Stephen W. Leslie is another poet with a quiet, meditative style, even including meditation in his poem "Ornamental Cherry Tree."

Sara Anderson
Sara Anderson's work was new to me, captivating strings of images & rhymes, a poet whose work I'd like to hear more of at area open mics. 

Jim Williams also likes to use rhyme (after all he is also a folk-singer), but I particularly enjoyed his Pantoum 1 (which apparently is his only pantoum).

Faith Green is another poet who should try out her work more at open mics, particularly since she likes to use humor, as in "Terms of Endearment" & "I Hate Mushrooms."

Tom Corrado, Therese Broderick & Charles Straney
When the dust settled & the scores were calculated, Howard crowned Therese Broderick as the new, reigning Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate. Tom Corrado was in 2nd place & Charles Straney in 3rd. & the rest of us enjoyed the poetry, the food & drinks at Voorheesville's wonderful Smith's Tavern, where there is an actual "Poet's Corner."

Albany WordFest Karaoke + Poetry = Fun, April 21

It's all over except the shenanigans (or as we used to say, the "PsychoClusterFuck"). Karaoke + Poetry = Fun was held upstairs at Valentines. Lila ran the music machine & in order to sing you had to first read a poem. There was a great variety of poets & wannabee rock stars getting more & more energetic as the night went on. Some of us even went more than once. The evening's host was the most-inappropriate professor, Daniel Nester, who kept writing things in my notebook about people taking their pants off.

Nester's poem was his ball-scratching "Mott Street Pastoral" which he teamed up with "Dirty White Boy." Later, in a weird bit of synchronicity (see previous Blog) Nester read a poem by the 20th Century poet Robert Hayden (again, see previous Blog) -- how weird is that?

Dirty Dancing
Another particular favorite was Don Levy reading his poem "Action Figure with Kung Fu Grip," then making his way through "Harper Valley PTA." It seemed a perfect fit for me to hear Avery do the suburbanite's fantasy escape, "Margaritaville," although he wasn't bad later on (more juiced) as a rapper & a couple times as a back-up singer, stripped to a soaking tee-shirt. Speaking of which Sadie had an interesting poem about working in a tee-shirt factory, as well as serving as "back-up guitar" to Josh Harkins, who also had some pretty good poems, including one titled "Critical Thinking" (a love poem).

I was up a few times with various "Coyote" poems, & performed some Karaoke favorites, "Wild Thing," "I Wanna Be Sedated," & "The End."

Another poet whose work I liked (among the many) was Marie Frankson, whose strong poems & songs belied her small stature. One poem began "I love a man who…", & another recalled a "Bad Day" & she was even joined by Kevin Peterson & Avery as sweaty back-up singers at the end. Kevin Peterson read a poem "4 syllables longer than a haiku" & channeled Janis Joplin (minus the giggle) on the Mercedes Benz song; he also popped up increasingly as a back-up singer for Carlos Garcia, Marie Frankson & Carissa's grand finale. I think he's a dead-heat with Avery about which is the gayest straight guy on stage.

Lila even read a poem, "Too Many Clothes," & another one-timer was Jill who read a poem to her finance so she could do the Stones' "In My Life." A.C. Everson also did a Stones' tune, "Mother's Little Helpers" after reading her poem about pollution. Shannon Shoemaker recited one of her sad lost love poems before channeling Joan Jett. Ed Rinaldi was up a couple times, one time cloning the Violent Femmes, as well as backing up Thom Francis whose poem was a cover of Jim Morrison's "The Movie."

Mojavi's poems were of love & sex & then backed up for his song by Nester & Ron Shaver.

The grand finale was Carissa reading a rare poem, "Used to Do," followed by a raucous (could it be otherwise?) version of Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" with a motley crew of backup singers.

Oh Baby, if you weren't there you missed the end of WordFest 2012 & have to wait for it to come around again as the World turns. It was the biggest & best of the WordFests. Who'd had thought back in 2001 we'd still be doing this & making it better each time. Thanks to AlbanyPoets.com & all those whose venues made this week so powerful.  More photos can be found at my Flicker! site.

April 24, 2012

Albany WordFest Marathon Open Mic, April 21

Mary Panza keeps it moving.
One thing that has always characterized the WordFest since its inception has been the open mic. This year we were at the main auditorium of the Albany Public Library, a wonderful venue for community poetry. While certainly not of the scale/length of the old 24-hour Readings Against the End of the World, often held at this same weekend years ago, much of the day brought back memories of the rhythm & spirit of that great event. There was the languid start as the morning-eyed poets gathered, there were the no-shows & late arrivals, the just-showed up fill-ins, the hardcore poets who show up throughout the year, there were the virgins & near-virgins, & the wonderful surprise poets we had never seen before (or only at last year's WordFest). Poets read in 5-minute time slots, & with the loose schedule it hardly mattered when they went over (most of the time), Mary Panza cracking the whip as the MC & host.

Alan Casline was our good-morning poet with poems all written in the last month, including one for the late Catherine Connolly. Bob Sharkey was able to read all the parts of his wandering the city poem, "Albany." Edward Rinaldi shared some of the poems he's been writing each day (was he toasting Peeps with his kids in one of them?). Always great fun, Howard Kogan included his poem "3 Jokes of Science."

I think the award for the newbie of the week should go to Rick Harrienger, who showed up for the first time at the Slam Tuesday night, then came to the Third Thursday reading, & here he was today, with a series of poems "for the veterans," including a devastating "To the Mothers of the MIAs" about losing his buddies in a fire-fight in Viet Nam. Don Levy read some of his best, & included one of his "history of the Albany poetry scene" poems, "Tom Gogola Naked."

At this point I had to get lunch & so missed some of the poets, but there was a whole afternoon before me. When I got back there was a lull in the action, waiting for the clock to catch up to the poets.

Starting up again, the first poet up was Cheryl A. Rice with poems from chapbooks to-be, including "Moses Parts the Tulips." Frederick Glaysher  came all the way from Michigan to read an extended section from lunar epic "The Parliament of Poets," with the 20th Century Afro-American poet Robert Hayden as guide (the first of 2 references today to Hayden, a largely neglected poet). You can see the entire 15-minute performance on his website.

There was Kevin Peterson with a new piece, "Thru the Glass," followed by Albert with "a piece of rhyme" so fast I hardly caught it.  Avery appropriately enough included a poem about going to a Library, "A Trip Down Fantasy Lane," as well as the cosmic "Thanks for a Glass of Water."

Sharisse Williams was a walk-in with poems on Art & love. Tim Verhaegen cracked us up with his "obituary poem" about his brother & the whole dysfunctional family. Leo Ruiz read a poem called "Morning Announcements," followed by Michael Purcell reading from his book No Apologies Given (Xlibris, 2011).

Chad Lowther took care of the arrangements for this reading at the Library, for which I know AlbanyPoets are very grateful; his poems are experimental, misanthropic, surrealistic & read in a unique, sometimes unsettling style. Joe Krausman is always conversational & read a cluster of poems touching on Jung's "synchronicity." Another of the area's finest poets, Anthony Bernini, read some poems in manuscript. Shannon Shoemaker did all her poems from memory. Another contender for the newbie of the week award is Jay Toraty who was also at the Slam, Third Thursday, but had shown up Monday night as well; his poem today was "To the Crazy Man Preaching at the Podium." 

L-Majesty got some members of the audience excited with his gay sex poem, "Boy Pussy." Jill Crammond's poems took on love from a different point of view, as a natural disaster, as fire. Jan Tramontano read from her just-published chapbook, Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press, 2012) poems based on letters written by her grandfather. Carolee Sherwood reached back a number of years to the prophetic "Godzilla Tears up Main St. Castleton to Show Me the Way Out," among others. I've heard David Wolcott before read his "Scottsdale Summer" memoir about working on a horse farm & was glad & amused again. I sandwiched a very old poem, "Mayasarah," between 2 recent ones, "For Moses Kash III" & "The Key." Steve Minchin read a bunch of quirky poems, including "A Piece of Vincent" (on VanGogh's ear).

Jacqueline Kirkpatrick's poems were tuned to the Beats, especially her lament, "I Can't Beat." Tess Lecuyer included an old Persephone poem, with "Sad Food," & the witchy "Toll." Alan Catlin closed out the day in a bit of symmetry (see first poet who read) with a couple of poems based on "Desolation Row" then the horrific experience in Samford, FL at the "Emergency Room."

We were done about 4:15, WordFest drawing to a close, but not quite yet, we still had the psycho-clusterfuck of tonight's shenanigans at Valentines. Stay tuned.

April 23, 2012

Albany WordFest, etc., April 20

The "etc." was the final event of the semester in the Yes! Poetry & Performance series at the Social Justice Center, in Albany, NY. I was just passing through on my way to Urban Guerilla Theatre but caught part of the performance. This night combined modern dance, poetry & a dance party.

The small storefront space was packed with dance fans/friends for Rachelle Smith-Stallman & Company in an piece with grim & dirty (black charcoal) abstract dancing, abstract electronic & guitar music, &, well, abstract lighting & projection to-boot. I like watching such dancing, because I like watching human bodies in motion, but don't always get what's what (like a lot of modern "experimental" poetry).

After the dancers cleared out there was more room in the place & the one poet I caught was Tim Peterson reading his chapbook Violet Speech (2nd Ave. Poetry). The text was taken from documents from his life & a discourse on contemporary queer poetics. As Tim explained, he had been (almost) evicted from his home, from his poetry & from his body.

UGT had already begun so I split & missed the rest of Yes! Hopefully there will be more when the season starts up in the Fall (but let's not wish the Summer away!).

This month's Urban Guerilla Theatre was billed as "Skit Happens," featuring short videos, "Booty Credit" Parts 1 & 2 with the very sexy Tenesha Smith using her assets to buy things in a store. There was comedy (of sorts), Jessica did a porn-poem "I Faked It", Christopher the P.O.E.T. did some of the pieces he did last night at the Social Justice Center, FLOETIK (a group from Detroit) did some rap/hip hop pieces, including the moving "Cry for Me," even some characteristically uplifting words of wisdom from Poetic Visionz. There was more that I missed on this night of half-shows as the 2012 Albany WordFest continues.

UGT is usually on the 3rd Friday of the month at the Linda Auditorium of WAMC on Central Ave., Albany, NY.

April 22, 2012

Albany WordFest Third Thursday Poetry Night, April 19

In the past, when the weekend of WordFest started on Friday, the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center was often proclaimed "the official un-official start of WordFest." This year with a week of activities, this reading was folded in as an official part of the program. & I was pleased to be able to bring in young performer from South Carolina, who was coming up for WordFest, as this month's featured poet -- Christopher the Poet.

But first, after invoking the Muse, tonight a poem by Catherine Connolly, a little bit of the open mic. Alan Catlin was up first with a poem from a series with animals as metaphors "Elephants at Low Tide." Rick Harrienger recovered enough from his first Slam appearance to show up & read the autobiographical rhyme "The American Refugee."

Chad Lowther read here for the first time last night, but the first time tonight for Third Thursday, his poem "The Way of Venom" on peeps & tweets read in an intentional monotone. Sarah Gragosian, also new to the Third Thursday, read "The Fish beneath the Portuguese-Man-of-War" from a collection she is working on. Matthew Klane has not been here for Third Thursday in (literally) years & tonight reminded us why we like to have him here with a selection of short enigmatic parts of what he calls "entertainments." Jan Tramontano was glad to be back among us Northern poets again & read a short selection from her new book Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press, 2012).

Christopher the Poet (Christopher Fleming) just arrived this day from Columbia, South Carolina with his CDs, tee-shirts & wrist bands. He gave a spirited, at times tender, others times unsettling performance as anyone dubbed "The Poet" should. Actually "Poet" is an acronym for "Providing Opportunities for Education & to Teach," from Team P.O.E.T. His CD is titled Lyrical Alchemist. He began with one of his "Letter to My Unborn Children" in which he alternated love & advice to a son & daughter, & later read another version when the children are a little older. "Rotten Fruits" was a poem on the disconnect between the older & the younger generation, springing from his experience teaching poetry in middle school, then the piece "Souls of Black Folks" included spirituals & jazz & pop tunes. A new piece ("fresh ink") was about repairing himself after a breakup & how men don't show the hurt. He ended with "Addiction" where he plays the role of a crack-head. The other night at the Slam open mic Mojavi read a poem about wanting to hear more real poems from the brothers, & these poems from Christopher the Poet were just that -- poems about real issues & not just ghetto stylizing & self-promotion.

After the break & the generous contributions of the audience, I started off the 2nd half open mic with my poem dedicated to Catherine Connolly, "Tell Me Something That Matters," advice we all need to follow. Bob Sharkey read from the long saga "Sustenance" using names of local poets for characters & places. Jay Toraty, who has just surfaced in the poetry scene this week, responded to one of Christopher's poems with "Maturity" about the cultural gap between his more traditional parents from India & his assimilation into American culture.

Jill Crammond was a welcome sight with her poem from a prompt, "Icarus Takes Off the Wings, Puts on a Skirt." Dain Brammage read a string of cinquains that he made into "Reading into What is Not Said." Michael Purcell's poem "Prophet" was a tribute to Bob Marley. Mojavi closed out the night with "Intervention."

Even when it is not WordFest we are at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for all our community poets, a $3.00 donation (more if you can/less if you can't) keeps poetry happening.

April 20, 2012

Albany WordFest, April 18

It was a dual/dueling event night, with the Yes! WordFest Communal Reading at the Social Justice Center & Live from the Living Room at the Pride Center. I had hoped to participate in both, but there were others using the store-front space at the SJC so the Yes! folks were slow in getting in. I had to cut out before it began. Matthew Klane had organized a string of poets to put together 1 minute segments from poems that would be read in a continuous stream. Apparently it went off well by all reports.

Meanwhile I had gone over to the Pride Center on Hudson Ave. for Live from the Living Room. This series, with Don Levy as our host, is usually on the 2nd Wednesday of the month but because of other things going on at the very busy Pride Center they asked Don to re-schedule for this night. The features were 4 poets from the Java Poets Collective, Suzanne Myers, Cecele Allen Kraus, Terry Royne & Amy White.

They read round-robin style, with Suzanne beginning with a memoir of childhood drills in a fall-out shelter, "Basement View." Cecele read "Rail Time," followed by Terry reading a rhymed poem, also referencing rails, "The Wrong Side" (from their 2009 collection, Java Wednesdays). Amy read a couple of flower poems, "About the Anemones" & "Hallucinations" (peonies?).

Suzanne continued with her poem "The Conversation" from the book, & at about that time more poets wandered in from the SJC to sign up for the open mic. Cecele read 2 poems, "Melissa and Jimmy" & the title poem from her new book, Tuscaloosa By-Pass (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Terry read the ironic "Prayers." Then Amy read "Query," "Winter Moment," & the bitter-sweet "Alzhiemers."

Back around to Suzanne with a story about an encounter in the grocery store, then Cecele's "Shanty Town" about being in the Peace Corps in Columbia. Terry's piece "Dirty Little White Spoons" pondered adoption & what her birth-mother's life was like. Amy concluded with 2 poems about her late husband, 1 just written this Easter.

Now there were plenty of poets in attendance for the open mic & I went first with my newest poem written for Catherine Connolly, "Tell me Something that Matters," then a bit of salaciousness "Looking for Cougars." Bob Sharkey read "Alarm" imagining his execution, then "Elephants" reading Alan Catlin's poems in Maine. Alan Catlin himself followed with 2 poems from his collection of made up self-portraits, "Self-Portrait of the Artist Afraid of His Self-Portrait" & "Formerly Repressed Self-Portrait Viewed from the Deep End."

Sally Rhoades read a poem from her recent vacation in Anguilla, "Quiet Splendor," then the in-progress "My Father's Slippers." Brett Axel read his touching poem to his mother "About You" about how she never came out to him as a lesbian. Don Levy ended the night with a poem-memoir of Boston poet Jack Powers, "Stone Soup" & then the recent "Action Figure with Kung Fu Grip."

This series is (most often) on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7:30PM at the Pride Center of the Capital Region on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY -- a featured poet followed by an open mic.

April 19, 2012

Albany WordFest Nitty Gritty Slam #16, April 17

A packed house with plenty of open mic-ers & more than enough for the Slam, "N-4-2" tonight.

Carolee Sherwood began the open mic with a new poem from her Blog "On Varietals: Dressing for Dinner."  A new poet here, Leo, followed with a long, long piece "about what Leo wants," which is basically everything. Daniel "Not Mojavi" Nester read the list he made for his shrink of all the things he hates (was making a list on there?). I followed with an old piece about a late night phone call, "Henry Rollings." Mojavi's poem was a plea to hear more real poems from the brothers. It was a night of virgins, with Sadie one of them, reading a poem about free writing.

Surprisingly, AlbanyPoets intern Tiffany Burnett was a virgin too & read a guy bashing poem "You Are An Embarrassment."

Thom & Mojavi took over the ritual reading of the rules from the Slam Master, then I read "Where Were the Professors" as the sacrificial poet/goat, whatever, & scored a respectable 23.3.

Lots of strangers on the Slam list, beginning with Rick reading a rhymed piece, & Jay Toraty did his thoughtful "If I Had a Daughter." Up next was Ben "Golden Boy" Golden, Sabrina (with hugs from her team mates after reading), & Christine all from the New Paltz Slam team. They were followed by locals Elizag, & Kevin Peterson, then Julie Z, Shannon "In the Money" Shoemaker & Carly.

When the dust settled the four were Carly, with a poem about being in Zucotti Park, Shannon with the Dick poem, Kevin with a piece about being a poet, & Ben with what sounded like an ad for dating. Then all confusion broke out when Carly & Shannon tied for 3rd place -- what to do?

Well, I'll tell you what I wouldn't have done, which is exactly what they did do & that was re-do the round with all 4 poets reading. That turned everything on its head, with Carly (who had been tied for 3rd) now #1, & Kevin & Ben who had been in the 1 & 2 slots (to have been decided in the final round), now ending up as 2 (Kevin) & 3 (Ben). Someone got screwed. Call me Mr. Cranky-Pants, but I don't think it was fair.

In any event there was lots of good poetry this night, even some real poems in the Slam portion. 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY, $5.00 (just like at Subway).

April 18, 2012

Albany WordFest Saint Poem Reading, April 16

Uh-oh, a call from Madame Vice-President (of AlbanyPoets.com) Mary Panza just as I getting ready to head down to the UAG Gallery for the Saint Poem series tribute to e.e. cummings (open mic) that the host, R.M. Engelhardt was under intestinal assault & they needed me to be the host. So there I was on Lark St., now the person to unlock the door & to set up (with some help from the Sherwood boys), make a sign-up sheet, etc., etc.

Kevin Peterson showed up & took the coveted #1 slot to read cummings' poem "my girl is tall with long hard eyes…" then his own poem on his Saturday night at "P.F. Chang's" (& why he didn't eat on Sunday).  I recited cummings' "In Just Spring --" then his "I like my body when it is with your body…" & my take on that poem, "On a Poem by e.e. cummings."

Sally Rhoades read briefly from cummings' Six Non-Lectures, then her own recent poem about swimming at dusk on the island of Anguilla, & what she described as "half a poem," "My Father's Slippers."

Bret Axel announced he has a new children's book coming out very soon, Goblin Heart. He read 2 poems, "Stations" (on being a poet), & "At Job Services Center" with the great refrain that he would be "a better poet than a …. "

The night's virgin had been waiting outside when I got there & waited patiently to read for his first time, & quite a debut it was. Jay Toraty read a poem he wrote yesterday, a marvelously affirming "If I Had a Daughter," & based on this poem one hopes he does someday.

A short night, but it keeps Albany WordFest going. Saint Poem is regularly at the UAG Gallery on Lark St. in Albany on the 3rd Monday of the month, 8PM start, R.M. Engelhardt the usual host.

April 17, 2012

Albany WordFest The Founders' Reading, April 15

The 2012 edition of Albany WordFest is a week-long heart attack of events, starting with this night's reading by Albany poets who were there at the beginning: Thom Francis, R.M. Engelhardt, Mary Panza, Don Levy, Marcus Anderson, A.C. Everson, Mojavi, & me. In the past WordFest has been, among other things, an afternoon event in Thatcher Park, a weekend at Valentines, 12-hours over-night at the UAG, & 12-hours daytime at the Linda. This year a number of existing & special events have been strung together to create a week of WordFest. Check it out at AlbanyPoets.com.

We were in the back room of McGeary's where Poets Speak Loud! every last Monday of the month. The room eventually filled with poets & poet-gawkers & gawker-poets, et cetera.

I was first up with a reading inspired by the now-gone poet Catherine Connolly who left us way too soon last week.  I began with one of Catherine's poems from the just-published chapbook, Orion's Belt: Poems (Poet's Corner Press, 2012), then to a new poem of mine, just written, "Something That Matters,"inspired by a conversation at Catherine's wake.  A poem for Albany poet Moses Kash III, then "Good Friday Art Walk," the fragment "April Rain," "Coyote 4," & "At the End."

Mojavi began by recounting the history of the scene in Albany, from a Black perspective, from his perspective. His poems included the funny weed-inspired vision of the apocalypse, then on into a tender love poem, followed by (of course) a couple poems on the end of a relationship, then ending with a poem he said was inspired by me as a "poet cliché" (black clothes, wear a beret [but of course!]) about being a poet, with the marvelous phrase that he is "poem dependent."

Thom & Rob had been sharing the MC/hosting duties & as Rob introduced Marcus Anderson he gave some historical background on the open mic Rob used to run at Lionheart's (when it was where the upstairs of Bomber's is today). Marcus' poetry has always been rich in imagery with leanings towards hip-hop lines & rhymes, but delivered with quiet calm, letting the words take over. He began with a poem titled "Run On," then the Coltrane-inspired "Saxophone Love Jones," "Cornered" (from the Bush administration), & ended with a poem with a more positive view of life & the message that life is to be lived.

Before she got to her piñata, A.C. Everson read a selection of her poems from various points in her life, the very early "Mr. Wrong Guy," then the Memphis-based "Jesus on the Scene," "Soap Box & My 2 Cents," "Prattle Rhyme," & "Some Drunks." Also known as "Breaking My Art" & the Piñata Queen, Annine's offering tonight was a towering sun-flower/sun with shades, filled with small paper suns each containing a magnet of various designs (mine a candy-sucker ring), tossed with great glee into the audience, after she read, with audience help, "Under the Sun."

Don Levy is certainly a Founder of delight. Many of the poems he read tonight can be found on his FaceBook page. "Swanson's TV Dinners & the Merv" is touching poem describing his childhood dinners literally in front of the TV, while "Newsprint" is a tender tribute to his father, who worked nights as a newspaper sports editor. Don confronted gay bashing by a popular actor with "Growing Pain in the Ass," & struggled with dietary advice in "Shit My Nutritionist Says." He ended with a tribute, "The Annual Tom Nattell Beret Toss."

Of course, Mary Panza is one poet who can follow Don on a program without skipping a beat. Not only do her poems frequently contain snarky remarks & put-downs of phonies, but her banter in between the poems kept it going, directed at select members of the audience (me included). She began lusting after a waiter in the poem "The Treacherous End," then a handyman in "Roofing & the Art of the Kiss." The poem "Because of You I Believe in Housewife Tuesday" was dedicated to the actor Peter Falk, while you can guess the target of "Tattooed Crowded Day Care." She ended with 2 marvelous poems celebrating herself & the grand Sisterhood of family, "In a Post-Partum World" & "And the Women Cooked."

The last 2 poets of the night were our tag-team hosts. Thom Francis read what might be described as some of his "greatest hits," beginning with "Jesus Walks on the Water" (a Troy street character), the self-affirming "December 4,"& the thoughts on being the odd guy in the office, "Cast." The poem "Bar Hoper" is a sketch of someone at Valentines one night, while "Father Figure" is about his step-father, & "Hero" begins with his father but moves on to the real heroes. "Radioman" is a favored piece he does with Keith Spencer (as the duo "Murrow"). "American" is a critical look at military recruiters. He ended with Keith's favorite poem (& many other's I surmise, based on folks joining in) "Female Pedestrian."

R.M. Engelhardt was the poet responsible for first creating AlbanyPoets, then with coming up with the idea for Albany WordFest, an idea a myriad of poets have been carrying out since 2001. He began by reading his classic poem "Alchemy," then the poem titled "Et Cetera." A new poem, "Silence Falls," was followed by another classic, "The Day God Became Popular," with the deity as a CEO of a corporation running the world. He ended with a poem influenced by e.e. cummings (to whom tomorrow's Saint Poem reading will be paying tribute), "Underdog."

A great start to the 2012 WordFest by looking back & by readings from (some of) those of us who were there at the beginning. Now on to the rest of the week.

April 16, 2012

Third Annual Community of Jewish Writers, April 15

This special program was held at the Congregation Agudat Achim, with our MC, Leslie Neustadt. There were 9 readers in memoir & poetry, & each respected their time-limits to make for a pleasant afternoon of varied writing.

Marea Gordett read 2 sections of a "mosaic memoir" on Gods beyond Gods (including an invocation of the old afternoon TV show "Queen for a Day." She also read a couple of poems about loss, one on the loss of species in the environment, the other on the late singer Amy Winehouse.

Tina Lincer's prose memoir "Packing Aunt Gert" invoked in a lush, detailed piling up of details of the salvaging of her aunt's life-long accumulation of stuff from her Park Ave. apartment, done with humor & tenderness.

Joanne Seltzer's 3 poems, "In Search of the City of Peace," "Making Peace in Jerusalem," & "My Husband's Bones" were a beautifully linked tryptych. She has a new poetry collection out, Women Born During Tornadoes from Plain View Press.

Marlene Newman read 2 conversational prose memoirs, like a grandma telling tales of her youth to her grandchildren, on ironing (or "pressing") "The Table Cloth" of an long-gone aunt, & the broad description of life in "The City" (NYC, of course) during her youth.

Joseph Krausman read a sample of his poems, including a meditation on his "Doubts," the classic "Houdini on the Death of his Mother," "Going to a Double-Header" (a humorous fantasy of being married to a 2-headed woman), & the funny poem about a priest giving communion & asking for prayers for the Red Sox.

Terry Bat-Sonja's poems, starting with one about being at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pondered being Jewish in a complex world. She included a California poem, "My Roof is Leaking," & the marvelous "Disordered Meditation…" about being Jewish.

Susan Oringel began & ended with Coney Island: first the marvelous, spirited "Song of Coney Island" based on a Lorca poem, & last "My Coney Island." In between she found the meaning of being Jewish in food: a poem on making soup, & a dream of "Mom & Dad Barbecuing in Heaven."

Henry Tedeschi writes mainly short stories; his poems, he said, are written quickly with little revision. The ones he read today were philosophical: "Elsewhere," "After-thoughts," & a poem about how often one can find good in what is at first a bad experience.

Susan Comninos was a big part in putting this reading together & read a cluster of poems on religion & on relationships, the Biblical sounding "We Have Trespassed" with its parallelisms, "Commitment," the take on the 1980s cartoon character "Max Headroom in Mid-Life Drops Advice on his Son," & the lush "Italian for You, Cooking for Antonio."

A marvelous afternoon of words, thanks to Leslie Neustadt, Susan Comninos & the Congregation Agudat Achim.

April 14, 2012

My NaPoWriMo: Update (2)

On the eve of the start of AlbanyWordFest, I thought I had better write an update on my April assignment of reading a poet a day before next week when I will be posting frequently on the shenanigans & might not have time to.

My first post on this process brought me up to April 7.  April 8 was Easter so I selected Thomas Merton as my poet, both as an appropriate choice for Easter & to counter the overly self-conscious experiments of e.e. cummings in 1x1 (not my favorite of his books). Merton's work is more discursive, meditative, a poet I've carried with me since my High School days. I carried him over to Easter Monday as well.

April 10 found me reading Time & Money by William Matthews, mainly because the book had been perched on my book shelf for a long time. How could I not love poems about baseball, 3 poems about Mingus, a poem about Monk? They are also discursive, conversational with enough of the dark side of poetry to be poetry. He was the kind of poet I would've liked to have had a chance to sit down with for a long talk over a beer, or whiskey, but, alas, he died too soon at 55 in 1997.

Amy Clampitt's book A Silence Opens has also been teetering on my bookshelf for years so I turned to it on April 11. A switch in tone from Matthews & Merton to a more lapidary poetry, stretching for the musical, exotic word. I also realized today that this little notebook in which I am recording my readings will serve as a reading list in the future for those poets I want to return to & read at greater length & depth.

On April 12 I read Donald Lev's new book, A Very Funny Fellow (NYQ Books, 2012). The poems are mostly short, half-page notebook jottings so I got through the whole thing. Watch for a full review on this Blog site sometime soon.

The works by & about H.D. (1886 - 1961) take up almost 6 inches on my bookshelf, including Barbara Guest's biography, Herself Defined, & I have read others, such as a second biography, from the library. I read mostly from the Selected Poems & the introduction by Louis L. Martz, but also read in Trilogy, a copy from Ted Adams' library, with his handwritten notes in the back, including a phone number for a cholesterol screening. Born at the end of the 19th Century, H.D. lived through 2 Word Wars & sought help from Sigmund Freud. As a young poet she was wooed by a youthful Ezra Pound. She progressed on to become one of the early (can one say "seminal"?) feminist poets of the 20th Century.

For today (April 14) I settled on Langston Hughes, mainly as a result of a Blog by George Wallace about Hughes' poems about the Spanish Civil War. More on that next time.

April 11, 2012

NaMoPoWriMo, Again

While I haven't been writing a poem-a-day, or writing from prompts, the spirit, like pheromones in the room, have encouraged me to, if not at least to write (what I do anyways), but to publish the pitiful drafts this month.  Here's one from last Friday.  Another "first I do this, then I do that" poem.


Tom Whalen is sitting on a bench on Broadway
with his dog, & I sit down next to him.
I tell him I have met his daughter & his wife
but have never met him.  He doesn’t answer.

It’s Friday, both “Good” & “First”, so folks
are walking around looking at “Art.”  I talk
to Chris about Buddhism, photos, water & wine.

Uptown, on Lark St., “The Heart was Made
to Be Broken” is for sale at the UAG, & I
meet Lacy growing into her beauty as I watch.

There are babies in backpacks & twitching men
in wheelchairs & beat-off art on the top floor
of the Romaine Brooks Gallery on Hudson Ave.

Tom doesn’t tell me what he knows, but I
suspect his silence is only sculptural. 

April 9, 2012

Calling All Poets, April 4

"(… and poetry lovers)" is a series in Waterbury, CT at the Silas Bronson Library, run by Connecticut poet & musician Victoria Muñoz. "Calling All Poets" is a popular name for a poetry series. I had been invited to read with 2 other fine poets, both from Connecticut, Virginia Shreve & Baub Bidon.

I like to prepare a program carefully for such readings, especially among strangers, to give them a sense of the different kinds of poems I writer. But this program floated around a core of poems while other selections floated in & out until I was at the podium. I began, though, with a "seasonal poem," e.e. cummings' "In Just Spring --", then I introduced the group to the poets of Albany with "Where Were the Professors?" & "Joe Krausman," then on to "Poeming" & "Looking for Cougars." My political poems were represented by "One Day Longer" & "A Pain in the Neck". On to a more gentle theme with "On a Poem by e.e. cummings," "Freckles," & the poem beginning "This morning when i turn the key…" I ended with another season piece, "What Passover Has Taught Me."

Virginia Shreve began chronologically with a story she heard as a girl, "Knitting Bandages for Lepers" then a tender piece about her father only remembering his wife's hand, "The Guest of Memory." She continued the family connection with a poem written by her brother Paul Shreve, about a girl flying a kite on a beach, then carried that lovely image with "A View of Small Things: Gitaway Island."  Then came an interesting weaving of dog & butterfly poems, beginning with a poem on a dog's view of humans, then one on to chaos theory ("Butterfly Gods"), the philosophical speculation of "The Algebra of Fate," & then tying it up with "Butterfly Effect with Dog" (punch-line: dog eats butterfly). She ended with "Resumé," a poem stitched withe the refain, "did you never …", a litany of bad/un-wise things one could do.

Baub Bidon came up from New Haven, interjecting the energy of hip-hop to the night's reading, studded with musings on on his spoken word forebears, Gil Scott-Heron, Amiri Baraka, the Last Poets. He began with a tribute for Gil Scott-Heron, "a crying poem … a grieving poem … a strong poem … ". After some thoughts on the state of today's hip-hop, he launched into some phenomenal beat-box sounds from his own voice box, the into the piece "Hip Hop is Broken." He ended with a powerful, extended performance, with Victoria on flute, on the epidemic of kids lost on the streets of New Haven, filled with the painful images of teens & children in the thoughts of a "Ghetto Mama."

With the Library set to close at 8PM we had only a little time left for a quick open mic, & all the readers obliged. Tom (Thomas Michael McDade) read a memoir poem "Advice 1966" & a portrait of an old guy with an old car, "Insurance." Miriam's poem "The Calm After the Storm" reflected on the past. Deidre said this was her first time reading her poems in public & shared "A Visitation" (a woman at a bus stop who looked just like her grandmother) then a poem in response to Luke 20. William commented on my reading of e.e. cummings (a fan himself) & love poems & read a couple sonnets, one on Obama, another commenting on a black couple in a museum. Our MC/host Victoria Muñoz read beat list poem of images from a Blues festival, "Blues Cats Everywhere," then the poem "Shout" stringing together a series of advertising slogans.

So if you happen to be in Waterbury, CT on the first Wednesday of the month, check out this reading at the Silas Bronson Library (except for the summer months, I believe).

April 7, 2012


Catherine Connolly, at the QE2, 1991

Sadly, I just learned this today -- another member of our poetry community has gone to that big open mic in the sky. Below is the obituary appearing online; please go to the site & read the touching story there.

Catherine Connolly, at Borders, 1995

I first met Catherine when she was a young poet reading at the QE2 in 1991 & later at other venues around the area, such at the Boulevard Bookstore, Borders, the Palais Royale, Caffe Dolce in Troy, & others. I'm including 2 photos from those days, but sadly have no shots of her since her return to this area a few years ago.

Catherine Mary Connolly sailed away from this Earth on the evening of April 5, 2012, surrounded by her family and wrapped in all of her quilts. Her 42 years were filled with innumerable adventures, far more than most others would ever hope to enjoy.

Catherine had an incredible spirit, and each day she would awaken to impulsively choose the best that life had to offer. She loved to sleep late and never once met an alarm clock that she liked.

For more than four decades, she smiled, wrote poetry, traveled, drank, smoked, sailed, and spent every dime she ever earned. Catherine was generous, compassionate, and kind to all, except for people who ticked her off, and was well loved by scores of family members, friends and co-workers. She had a spontaneous wit, which was largely unedited, and would poke fun at anyone and anything. To say that she was irreverent is a huge understatement.

Catherine was a graduate of Clayton A. Bouton Junior-Senior High School in Voorheesville, New York. She then took seven years to earn a four-year degree in English and Women’s Studies from the University at Albany.

Catherine was a world traveler, having lived in England, where she worked on an archaeological dig. She lived in the Pacific Northwest and Corpus Christi, Texas, aboard her beloved boat, Madrona. She also lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Beaufort, North Carolina; and New York City, before returning to her hometown of Voorheesville, New York.

Catherine had countless friends all over the world, including the insane crew on Sailing Anarchy, many of whom she had never met in person. Her last wish was that people would remember her for her poetry, her compassion and kindness, and her humor.

She is survived by her parents, Kenneth J. and Diane Connolly, of Voorheesville, her sister, Christine Tolbert and brother-in-law, Doug, and nieces Molly and Audrey, and nephew, Alan of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania; her brother, Kevin Connolly, and sister-in-law, Megan, nephews, Zachary and Ethan, of Altamont; nephew Carson Adams, of Clifton Park; and niece Cloe Leininger, nephew-in-law Anthony, and great-niece Olivia, of Fort Lewis, Washington.

Catherine was fearless, and her final act while on this Earth was to smile before taking her last breath. Whatever she saw coming her way must have been absolutely wonderful. Look for her when you get there, she’ll be the one having a really good time.

As an avid reader and writer, it would have given great joy to Catherine to know that anyone who wishes honor her love of the written word would please give to the Voorheesville Public Library at 51 School Street, Voorheesville, New York, 12186.

As a thrill-seeking sailor, Catherine also found pleasure in sharing the joy of the wind and water with others, and anyone who wishes to honor her spirit of adventure would please give to the Spike Perry Memorial Scholarship Fund.org. The fund will provide scholarship money for deserving students from the Perry's hometown waters to learn more about sailing, seamanship and the region's rich maritime traditions.

A gathering of family and friends will be held on Saturday, April 14, 2012, from 2:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the American Legion Post 1493, at 31 Voorheesville Avenue, Voorheesville, New York. All are invited to join us to celebrate Catherine’s brief but remarkable life.

My NaPoWriMo: Update

Just so you know I'm still working at, I figured I'd better post something on my progress. Not sure this was a good idea, a poet-a-day. It reminds me of those survey courses in college where you didn't mind breezing through some minor/minor poet you'd never read again, but also had to breeze through that poet you really wanted to bed down with. But it's becoming useful just to work through the pile of poetry books I've accumulated recently (& not so recently). & I've actually written a few drafts of poem, having nothing to do with the poets I'm reading.

Sonia Sanchez, February 2000
As I've already reported April 1 was Adrienne Rich, April 2 was Robert Desnos. April 3 was Sonia Sanchez, her book Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995), that I bought at Busboys & Poets during Split This Rock. I also found in my archives photos of her taken when she read at the Writers Institute in February 2000, & actually read a couple poems that are in this book.

April 4 was Quraysh Ali Lansana who read recently in the Frequency North series at the College of St. Rose. I read his They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems. But due to traveling on April 4 I actually finished his book on April 5, when I turned to Dorothea Tanning, & her book Coming to That: Poems (2011). I didn't know about her poems until I read her recent obituary. Check out her paintings & soft sculpture at her website. So she got a day & a half. April 7 is devoted to ee cummings, reading the late Ted Adams' old hardbound copy of 1x1.

Here's the poem:


I am walking downtown in a hoody
a beret, a leather jacket, not
a fashion statement, just practical.

I need to check my Mega Millions ticket
buy this week’s lottery, continue dreaming.

A woman at the bus stop is wearing
a fur coat, variegated white, tan
brown ripples in the breeze
this is real – she looks at me, but
I am walking in the opposite direction.

& find a watch in the middle of the
sidewalk, rectangle face, jewel bracelet
I hope no one will step on it, that
whatever this wrist it fell from
will come back, retrace her steps, say
“here it is,”
               & the fur coat will arrive home.

April 6, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam #15, April 3

It was such a slow crowd growing -- who knew if we'd have enough for the Slam, let alone judges (always a problem), but the folks kept on coming in (while even Mojavi the open mic host was late). But AlbanyPoets Thom (el presidente) Francis took over the mic & read a one of his poems ("Gone") then a long piece by Henry Rollins.

By that time Mojavi arrived & introduced mini-Dain "Nervous Cow" (aka Dustin) who did the self-assertive piece "Power of Voice." Jess-Listen-to-my-Voice (Layton) did a new, not-sexy piece about violence on the street, "Nameless." Mojavi read a childhood memoir written in response to Nester's memoir pieces, but he wasn't here tonight.

The Coin Flip
Now the Slam became a 5-4-2 event, with a couple of name changes ("Poetyc Visionz" became "Ghost Writer", or Gnost Writer, & ILLiptical became "The Brock Wizard"). But with me in the mix you can guess who didn't make the 2nd round -- me! When the poetic dust settle it was "Brock Wizard" in third place while Ghost Writer & Shannon "in the money" Shoemaker battled it out, & Shannon pulled out the dick (poem) to win (with me in an exalted position as muse = when in doubt pull out the dick poem).

Lots of beer, lots of poem, lots of fun. 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at Valentines on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY -- 7:30 PM, $5.00 for a stamp on a selected body part. See AlbanyPoets.com for full info.

Poetry + Prose Open Mic, April 1

The confusion over when this was to be held wasn't an "April Fools" joke: this open mic is (usually) held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, in Troy, NY. But this year Easter falls on the 2nd Sunday, so this was held on the 1st Sunday instead. That didn't seem to faze the 8 writers who showed up to read, nor the few others that wandered in to listen. But my co-host wasn't there.

I started off with a tribute to poet Adrienne Rich, who died the week before, with readings of a couple poems & passages from her prose work, What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry & Politics.

There was a nice mix of poetry & prose writing today, with Bob Sharkey explemptlifying that with a little of each, "Alarm," the story of a person facing a firing squad, another piece of prose, "Bakery," & a poem, a portrait of "Billie." Strangely enough, Harvey Havel's piece was from a fiction narrative & involved the memories of man also about to be executed by a firing squad. David Wolcott saved us from firing squads & took us hopping freight trains & riding the rails in an excerpt from his memoir, "Roseville."

Mary McCarthy was back from Florida & reading for the 1st time here, from her self-published memoir written for her family, about the early days of her marriage, living in Morocco during the Viet Nam war. Howard Kogan read a long narrative poem bordering on prose, considering the alternative paths our intersecting lives can take, "Bit Players 2" (or "too"?), then a poem read for Easter/Passover, "My Awakening," which he said was about working on his "spirituality" (as well as "working on being obscure"). Trina Porte also shared a poem by Adrienne Rich from her collection A Wild Patience Has Taken me This Far then her own poem, in rhyme, "Ophelia & Juliet" as if they were together as lovers & didn't die.

This was Anne Decker's first time here, too, & she read "Valentine's Day," an excerpt of a memoir about her husband in a nursing home. Joe Krausman talked about the work of Robert Walser & read his quirky "Job Application, then his own "Two-Part Invention," referencing Vera Pavlova's view of poems as children.

This open mic is most-usually on the 2nd Sunday of the month, 2PM at the Arts Center in Troy. Free!

April 3, 2012

Yes, Reading, March 30

This eclectic series continued at the Social Justice Center, Albany, NY with 4 readers/performers. The first half MC was Matthew Klane, offering in addition to some home-brew "Poets' Porter" in the back corner, his characteristic cut-up/word-pile introductions.

Adam Roberts began with poems in what he called "robotics," short-line rhymes, little poems on big pages, peeled off as he read them, some about writing to Obama's daughter about policy, another series about privilege, a White Boy song. Then short poems on the different versions of military "Drones," while his "Character Sketches" were of a beagle, a bee & the sea. He ended with a piece in which he held up cardboard with hand-written lines & phrases, but it was too dark to in the center to see them clearly & folks were sheepishly quiet in reading them out loud.

Kate Sharpira read first from The Bounty: Four Addresses (Noemi Press), poems written while taking the bus to work, then from How We Saved the City (Stockport Flats), "Weird Math 2" (quotes from a Letter to the Editor on a real-estate sting), & "Weird Math 3." "Emotions" is a new project, with audience participation (somewhat). Much of her work, & particularly the last piece, are written in spare, direct statements of fact, trying to make the incongruity of the world around us stand in for the re-working of the world in words.

James Belflower took over the introductions, bringing in Michelle Taransky. Her running theme tonight was "the woods", poems that piled up images, often recycled phrases unfotunately read very flatly. "The Difficulty of Describing Trees" was a poem for poet Robert Haas; there was also "Sorry Was in the Woods," "Do Not Think Timber," & "Fear in the Woods" which she described as about teaching freshman writing, as all her poems were, apparently.

CA Conrad was clearly the most entertaining poet of the evening, not only because of his flamboyant, out-there style. He began with a couple selections from A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics (Wave Books). This is an intriguing, big book, 8x10 inches, nearly an inch thick, & includes some reproductions of hand-written pages from notebooks. The "(Soma)tics" are instructions for writing exercises (printed as white on black), followed by his poem written in response (so to speak). He read "(Soma)tic 1: Anoint Thyself" followed by the poem "Emily Dickinson Came to Earth and Then She Left" & "(Soma)tic 5: Storm Soaked Bread" & the poem, "One Day I Will Step from the Beauty Parlor and Enlist in the Frequency of Starlings." He ended with sections from The Book of Frank (Wave Books), outrageous images that reminded me of the vignettes of William S. Burroughs.

While Kate is a coordinator of a reading series in Providence, R.I, & Michelle worked at reading venues in Chicago & Philadelphia, they both seemed very inexperienced in reading, largely un-dramatic & un-modulated in their presentations, which marred the appreciation of their work. CA Conrad's experimentations on the other hand were successful because of their entertaining material & his equally entertaining presence.

You can find out more about Yes! Poetry & Performance Series at their Facebook page.

April 2, 2012

Frequency North, March 29

The last of this season's series at the College of St. Rose, hosted by the inappropriate Prof. Daniel Nester, was like deja-vu all over again: tonight's poets had been presenters at last week's Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington DC. Georgia A. Popoff & Quraysh Ali Lansana had presented in DC a workshop titled "Walking the Distance of Your Vision: Generating Poetry through Community Awareness and Self-Identiity," based on their book, Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community. Tonight they did a joint reading from the book, with other poems.

Georgia Popoff began with a couple poems from her book The Doom Weaver (Main St. Rag, 2008), "Matrilineage" & "The Implausible Diameter of the Moon," a chilling description of desperation. Similarly Quraysh Ali Lansana read from his collection of poems in the voices of Harriet Tubman & others, They Shall Run (Third World Press, 2004) 3 poems: "Long way Home," "Faithless" & "Hole."

They continued with a joint reading of the Prologue from their book, explaining their approach, & a criticism of traditional approaches to literature. Georgia read an excerpt from her essay "The Power of Language: the Struggle Continues," followed by Quraysh reading an essay "Name Calling: the Language of the Streets" & a poem "Sixth Grade," both on the words used on the street: nigger/nigga, bitch, ho.

At the end Georgia read "Tupelo Roses" on a childhood visit to her grandfather in the South, & Quraysh read a poem on his mixed, Okie background, pulling in the inspiration of Gwendolyn Brooks.

It was a good mix of poetry & pedagogic meditation, a book that sounds like an important resource for the imaginative teachers in our schools.