July 31, 2012

Between the Lines, July 27

This is a new series at Francesscas Cafe during Troy Night Out, run by poet D. Colin. But before most of the poets arrived a neighborhood regular, Dan Schultz, stepped up to improvise a tune on an Irish tin whistle. Meanwhile other poets wandered in for the open mic, including some of the local residents, glad to have another poetry open mic to go to.

Our lovely host D. Colin started off the night with the ironic poem, "I'm Not a Slam Poet" (because she is a member of Albany's Nitty Gritty Slam Team), then the wonderful hymn "Haiti, I Never Left You." I was up next with 2 urban poems, "Morning Photo" & a poem about a chance meeting, "City Life." Kevin Peterson wandered in a bit late, but I guess #2 was open so he jumped right in with a piece about a confrontation with a cop "The End of the Dream" then on to one of his popular slam pieces, the hangover, drink recipe poem, "Sunday Funday." Nancy Klepsch (my co-host at the 2nd Sunday at 2 open mic at the Arts Center) started off with her "P-town Poem" then took us back to the thrilling days of yesteryear graphics with "Rubilith As a Revolution."

Maria (Diotte) is a poet who has surfaced recently & tonight stepped boldly into performance poetry with her conga player friend Kristen with a piece about a date, "Birds & Bees." Bless, on the other hand has been around a while, & began with a performance of a poem about sitting down to write, how the poem must come from the heart, then the familiar traffic jam piece with its sad, chilling ending. Thom Francis began with another familiar piece, "Paper Messiah," then a piece never read before, on a similar theme, "Saving the World."

"I'm not a closet poet, poetry wears me out," said D. Colin before her singing her piece about Haiti after the earthquake, still here & still strong, then on to a piece with the refrain "I cry for the …" like, little black girls on the street corner.  So just when the open mic list ran out, in strolled a couple more members of the Nitty Gritty Slam Team to keep the night rolling. ILLiptical performed a poem about the Inquisition, "The Last Jew in Spain."

Then Algorhythm practiced a new piece in English & Japanese, "Black Man's Search," followed by a challenging piece down from memory, alphabetical alliteration taken to the extreme.

Apparently there was a featured poet "on the way" but by 8:30 he hadn't arrived & all the open mic poets had read so I split. Who needs a feature when the open mic poets are so good?

7PM, Francesscas Cafe at the corner of Broadway & 5th street, Troy, on the last Friday of the month (i.e., Troy Night Out). (Note: tonight, by 7PM no one had arrived to set up, put out the sign-up sheet, schmooze, what we poetry hosts do, so be prepared for a late start.)

July 28, 2012

Poets in the Park, July 21

I like to gender balance my readings so since 2 male poets read last week (Don Levy & Donald Lev) I scheduled "The Women Poets of Willett St." for tonight's Poets in the Park. It was another fine Summer eve under the shadow of the Robert Burns statue in Albany's Washington Park.

Sylvia Barnard read an eclectic selection from a manuscript she is preparing for publication. A classicist, she said she was letting the gods make the selection for her, the way the Athenians chose their leaders by lottery. Tonight the gods did well with their selection. She began with her newest poem about a visit to SPAC, "Ballet on a Summer Afternoon." Most of her reading was a mix of poems about Great Britain (England) & New England where she grew up. She visited the old homestead to comment on the ravages of time in her poems "Magic" & "The Frog Pond." Poems set in old England included one about the ruins of a church in Thetford, & "Drum" (about St. Alban's Abbey), & one about her 15th century ancestor William Bardwell. The poem about World War II, "The Mothers of London," echoed in its images of mothers & children one she read earlier set in Athens, "Grave Stele." She included "Gallows Hill Madison Ave. Albany, NY" from the 1994 collection Open Mic: the Albany Anthology, with its mention of a cathedral, like her poems set in Great Britain. Even her poem about butterflies, "Monarch," recalled her trips across the ocean to look for records of ancestors. Sylvia reads regularly in downtown open mics where one hears only 1 or 2 of her poems at a time, so it was very rich to be able to hear such a broad sample of her work.

Carolee Sherwood also reads regularly here in open mics, another "Woman Poet of Willett St." whom was good to hear in an extended set. In contrast to Sylvia's play list chosen by the gods, Carolee had a carefully prepared program of "mostly downtown poems" to celebrate her past year, when she moved to Willett St. She began with "Ode to Tess' Lark Tavern Where Good Friends Meet" to the old Lark Tavern before the fire in May 2010. Her poems took us from her move from the suburbs ("What I Will Miss When I Move to the City") to urban images of her new life in poems such as "February Without Snow" & "Wednesday Night Poetry Reading." While she introduced her poem "January Divorced from Winter" as satisfying the need for "a relationship" poem in the reading, in truth that theme popped up in many others, such as "Do Not be Startled" & "On the Mend." But the tender poem of thanks "To My Dearest Friends on the First Day of Another Year, January 1, 2012" was really where her work was headed. She ended with 3 recent, upbeat poems looking forward & back at the same time. "Independence, July 4th 2012" contained vegetables, lilies & fireworks, & "Poem for the Albany Aqua Ducks," complete with a souvenir quacker, was about her boys & her city, proud of both. Her reading also included 2 birthday poems (the earlier "On Turning 39" was filled with images of her moving boxes), & she ended with the celebratory "On Turning 40 In a Basement Apartment Downtown," complete with fake glasses, a poem in which she smiles even at pigeons. It was a good year.

I must say I am most pleased with the pairing of these 2 fine poets that help make our poetry community the wonderful, vibrant, creative place it is. Another fine night in the Park.

Poets in the Park at the Robert Burns statue in Albany's Washington Park on the Saturdays in July since 1990.

July 26, 2012

Urban Guerrilla Theatre presents Erotique Noire: "50 Shades of Gray", July 20

This has become an annual event, the Erotique Noire night of sex spoken word & music at UGT at The Linda, so of course I had to drop in. Mojavi & Lady T served as our hosts/madams, warning "what says here stays here."

As in the past the performances were dominated by the women, not to say there weren't some guys attempting to represent our gender, it's just that the women seemed to, well, carry the message better, even when men (in the the women's experiences) were somewhat lacking or not quite what they had in mind. Of course, that's what it's all about then, isn't it, in the mind?

So while Carlos Garcia read a piece about a promise of pussy tonight, a hymn to oral sex, Jess wanted her lover to look for -- more, find -- it "in my pink" (like Kat So Poetic's piece "for the ladies?).

Jai Simone massaged the mic to get her message to us about a 3-way, & then a gentle poem about deep sex. But after her the (alleged) comic introduced as "I Am Sex" lamented about the UGT price of admission, "For $20 I expect a real blow job." I'd rather be sweet-talked than harangued, wouldn't you?

The infamous Naughty Poetry teased us early on with "Good Morning Sex" & Tenesha Smith taunted us with "Indecision" while later Alicia Ortiz told us a story of sex, & Bklyn Shay was, well, Bklyn (Sexy) Shay.

This account is just a tease because there was lots more. But like the ads say, you got to be there. UGT is each month at WAMC's Linda Auditorium each month & if you're lucky some of these same performers will regale, better, titillate but you will have to wait until next year for another Erotique Noire.

July 21, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 19

at the Social Justice Center. A lovely summer evening with poets & audience gathering early for the open mic & eventual arrival of the featured poet, Mojavi. But to start us off I invoked the Muse of the late poet/activist/fiction writer Grace Paley.

Hard-core regular, Sylvia Barnard, started us off with "Ballet on a Summer Afternoon" from a visit to the New York Ballet at SPAC. Joe Krausman's poem was titled, & about, "Marilyn Monroe's Dress" ($1.3 million) & what are things worth? The first of the night's SJC first-timers was George, with a philosophical poem about success & beauty & love. He was followed by another first-timer, Maria, with her poem "Perceptions," both physical & emotional.

If Joan Goodman had read here previously, it was a long time ago; her apocalyptic poem began with wondering "What if I never make a thing?" which just might be the title, & ended with chocolate cake & touch. Don Levy's poem "Cabbies" came about from a conversation with Carolee about their respective rides. Kim Henry was back again after a too-long absence with an emotional reading of a poem, "August 13," about the anniversary of the death of her father.

The featured poet was Mojavi, organizer of the Urban Guerilla Theater, force behind the Nitty Gritty Slam, & now coach of the Slam team. As an introduction he told an anecdote about showing me one of his poems a number of years ago, to which my reaction was it was "alright." But I must say since then his poems have by & large gotten much, much better, a small sample of which he shared with us tonight, beginning with a new powerful piece (he read it Monday at Saint Poem) about a sexually-abused interracial child. Then on to a love poem beginning "I can tell you about heartbreak," & one of my favorites the urban portrait, "Around My Block…" then another love poem, from memory. For his last poem he chased his son & a few other "kids" outside so he could delve into the explicit sex of the poem "She Was More than a Piece of Ass."

After a short break we were back with more open mic poets, including me, with a portrait poem from my January Florida vacation, "Veranda Delray." Shannon Shoemaker's brand new piece also required the youngsters to leave, "A True Story, or You Fucked the Drunk Out of Me," the kind of poem that cries out for a post-coital cigarette. Avery's poem from memory, "From Me to You," was like a TV sales promotion for Smiles. Emily Gonzalez repeated the luscious, multi-lingual picture of her mother cooking, dreaming of her home in Puerto Rico.

The 1-poem rule kept the night moving along so it wasn't that late when we all headed home, or wherever else we were going. Every third Thursday at the SJC, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, a $3.00 donation supports poetry & the work of the SJC.

July 18, 2012

Writers Institute Summer Reading Series, July 17

With all the poetry events in Albany & environs I'm not often motivated to head up to Skidmore College & the NYS Writers Institute Summer Reading Series. In past years I've been begged to be a companion to local (woman) poet(s) to see Robert Pinsky. Of course I said yes, thinking perhaps I'd be there for the "leftovers". But Pinsky had other plans this year, I guess, & was not on the program.

Charles Simic is a poet of whose work I of course was familiar from poetry magazines & of course the voluminously infinite Internet. But I was shocked to see I had none of his books on my shelf. I figured the A/C was better in the Davis Auditorium than in the Joe Bruno Stadium ("gag me with a spoon") for the Valley Cats game, or at the Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentines so instead drove North.

Of course the Davis auditorium was pretty much filled with Summer Writing Program students, both young & old. While the first row was filled with other literary luminaries who were at the Writers Institute Summer Program, there were some notable Regional poets (besides me) in the audience, such as Kate McNairy, Carolee Sherwood & Barbara Ungar, among others.

Bob Boyers did his characteristicaly informed, well-read & over-the-top pompous introductions, which I dread the way I like squeezing that minor infection festering on my back. The first reader was Danzy Senna, who read sections from her short story "Admission." The piece dealt with an upper-middle class black family in the LA area of California getting their 2-year-old into pre-school. It was hip funny sociology, drawing amused laughter from the young audience who could have easily served as models for the young aspirant in her story.

In his customarily ponderous introduction Boyers wondered if "Charles Simic is a poet for all seasons" & proceeded on to use words like "immediate" & "ineffable." Be that as it may, Simic gave a wonderfully relaxed reading, a human being reading his notebook jottings, what he thought on the street, in his bed, i.e., his "poems." He said he was reading poems he hasn't read before, with some new work sprinkled in. I had bought his 2003 selected poems, The Voice at 3:00 A.M. before the reading & later realized over half the poems he read tonight were from this collection, including "Mirrors at 4 A.M.," Hotel Starry Sky," & "Club Midnight," among others. Hotels & mirrors showed up a lot in his poems, including in the cluster of short poems gathered as "A Few Clear Moments." From his reading it was clear that these "poems" are not sacred texts, or holy utterances of grave import, but expressions of what a man feels, what he experiences, remembers, even if he has to change the word "wine" in the printed poem to "gin" in what he says tonight. One might call Simic an "American Surrealist," a poet whose work makes the leaps from image to image as in the best poetry, grounded in the place where he is in the urban landscape, or in a bed or cafe in some place in the world; I'm not concerned about the labels, I liked the poetry.  Of all the choices for this night this was certainly the best.

These readings are free, a wonderful asset of living in the Capital Region where the NYC Writers Institute brings in the A-list of 21st Century writers to read & discuss their work with anyone who can get there.

July 17, 2012

Saint Poem Reading, July 16

Our host, R.M. Engelhardt started off the open mic with a reading from the poetry of singer Nick Cave, from his book King Ink. Then on to the rest of us open mic poets.

I was first up with recent pieces, the salacious "Hemingway" & the cosmic "The Transit of Venus." L-Majesty did 2 pieces, "False Advertising" & "Black Men Have Become the Enemy" both sociological expositions with a message for us all. R.M. Engelhardt's own poems were about Poetry: "Addiction," "The Reckoning," & a "satirical" poem about Slam poetry, "A Difference of Opinion" (he doesn't like it). Poetyc Visionz (who is a member of Albany's Slam team) began with a recent piece on race, "I Am Not Black," then a shorter piece, "Be Courage."

Ford McClain photographed by Kali
Ford McClain's poem, "Paint Brush," just written today, was about his paintings that will be in an up-coming show at the Romaine Brooks Gallery on Hudson Ave. & could serve as his Artist's Statement. Mojavi, coach of the Albany Slam team, had trouble finding which smart-phone had his poem on, then found it, a new piece he's working on about a sexually abused inter-racial child, then countered that with a love poem.

Our host returned with 2 more poems about poetry, "In the Blood" & "The Poet," the grand theme for the night.

Poetry sure is holy at Saint Poem (for a while there I thought I was at church with all the preaching going on), every 3rd Monday at the UAG Gallery on Lark St., about 8PM (or later), an open mic for us Poets & poets. Donation helps support the UAG Gallery.

Poets in the Park, July 14

This was a booking I've wanted to do for years, at least since Don Levy once complained to me that he got an email from someone thinking he was Donald Lev. What genius, I thought, to have on the same program sometime the poets Donald Lev & Don Levy. So I had my chance this year for Poets in the Park. Donald Lev has been promoting his new book of poetry A Very Funny Fellow (NYQ Books) & one can always enjoy an evening of Don Levy's nostalgic gay humor. So here we were in Washington Park on another fine Summer evening, with listeners from as far away as Maine! -- & as close as Willett St.

Donald Lev read mostly from A Very Funny Fellow, wry, sometimes "funny" but always poignant. I had interviewed Donald & his partner Enid Dame back in the late 1990s on The Poetry Motel cable TV show, but had actually first heard him (& Enid) read in the late-1970s in the NYC poetry scene. His poems this evening included what sounded like dream poems, poems set in a bar he frequents in New Paltz while doing his laundry ("The Long and Short of It," "The Smaller Television"), movies ("To Embrace It"), even poems making fun of poetry & his role as a poet ("Poem on a Nice Sunny Afternoon," "Titanic," "A Wind Was Blowing"), sprinkled throughout with humor. He ended with a cluster of new poems, ranging from "A Landscape" ("…wretched…"), to the bones of Amelia Earhart ("Momento Mori"), ending with a vision of "goddesses bathing" in "Summer Poem."

I've known (& been a friend of) Don Levy since the early days of the QE2 open mic & worked with him on publicizing his reading series at the former Albany Art Gallery on Jefferson St. back in the early1990s, & editing Open Mic: the Albany Anthology. He has been featured here in the Park back in 1991 & 1997. Don said his poems this evening would be "pretty new", moving from darker to lighter, but you knew he would make you laugh too. He began with a couple of high-school memoir pieces dealing with bullying & being an outcast & continued with a tender memoir of his father, "The Mysteries of Barbecue." The next few poems took on the issue of being gay more directly. "This is the Way the Cookie Ad Crumbles" is a political commentary on some of the responses to the "rainbow" Oreo cookie. He returned to his memoirs of childhood with a poem about his fear of the movie The Wizard of Oz in "A Friend of Dorothy's. Don is notorious for his "gay-fantasy poems" & "Poem for Cowboy Josh" continues that hilarious genre, from an episode on the Food Network. He ended with a tender tribute to the founder of Poets in the Park in his poem "The Annual Tom Nattell Beret Toss."

It was another fine night of pleasant weather & entertaining poetry from 2 of the Region's finest poets. The series continues on Saturday evenings in July in Washington Park, Albany, NY, at 7PM. Bring chairs or blankets to sit on.

July 15, 2012

Poetry Reading at Pine Hollow Arboretum, July 13

This series of relaxed readings in Slingerlands as been gradually attracting more attention in a rare Friday slot for poetry. Our host, Alan Casline, the director of Rootdrinker Institute (which along with the Delmar Writers Group is a co-sponsor) & with funding from the Hudson Valley Writers Guild began with the open mic, assigning each reader a vital element needed for plant life, for whatever reason, not that we had to link our poems to his designations.

First up, Marion Menna ("nitrogen-fixing bacteria") flipping through her poems until she finds the invocation of food & bliss in "The Happiness of Fishes," a poem about about a beached whale & the family memoir focused around "The Tapestry Chair." Faith Green ("sun") read a series of relationship poems, including a haiku. I ("dirt") read "Not the Walrus & the Carpenter" & the salacious "Hemingway" (I guess there was dirt of different kinds in each of those poems). Howard Kogan ("farmer" -- he said his wife was the farmer) read poems about conversations with old guys in his town.  Sharon Stenson was designated as "wind as a pollinator;" she read what sounded like 2 dream poems, "Whatchamacallit" & "Kiss" which also referenced The Kiss of the Spider-Woman.

Bob Sharkey ("compost") began with one of his tales of Earl & Buster, this involving a dog & trapping squirrels, followed by a "twisted memoir" of a childhood trip in a car with his family. In what could only be an exercise of the droit de seigneur, Alan Casline designated himself "cosmic energy" before reading his poems, the first, "Broken Cliff," a tale of hiking & climbing, then a couple pieces from his poetic exploration of the I Ching Copper Coins.

Following a brief break we were treated to what I think was the most unique performance of the night by young poet Ari Miller, who also helped to bring the median age of the audience & poets down to a less than geriatric level. His poem was titled "Mind Fog" & was about insanity, the nature of reality & contemplation of death; he read it fast, with obvious influence from rap (without it being a rap piece), & read it clear & well.  Good work.

The featured poet was John Abbuhl, planter & keeper & host of the Pine Hollow Arboretum. He read poems he had written between last Fall & mid-June, stating that he sees poetry as a way to express philosophy. Indeed they were. Nearly all of the poems were one-word titles, with other titles no longer than 3 words. There were 3 poems titled "Awakening," others titled "Art," "Knowing," "Creativity," pondering the big abstract topics like Time & the nature of Change. Strangely, for someone so surrounded by & involved with trees there were few images of trees themselves, & the natural world showed up not as images but as Nature. As he said, a philosophical discussion.

I don't know about anyone else, but when I'm going to an open mic, I pick out ahead of time the poem or 2 or 3 I'd like to try out on the audience, of course always subject to the whim of the event. It was disconcerting to watch some of the poets tonight flipping through their packet of poems wondering should I read this, or that. I would guess it's due to lack of experience at open mics, which with the plethora of readings in this area just means they are not getting out to hear what other poets are doing. 

The Poetry Reading at the Pine Hollow Arboretum takes place on the 2nd Friday of the month at the afore-mentioned Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY, 6:30PM. A donation helps pay the featured poet, & there is usually an open mic as well.

July 13, 2012

Caffè Lena Open Mic, July 11

Usually held on the first Wednesday of the month, this event was moved to the second Wednesday due to the 4th of July/Independence Day holiday last week. Carol Graser is the host & started us off with Carl Sandburg's poem "Backyard."

Carolee Sherwood began the open mic portion with an old poem, "How the Body Decomposes" & a new poem from last week, "Independence."  Nancy Denofio was able to endure through her poems with laryngitis, a portrait of a person in "Congress Park," then a poem about fake tears at a wake, then stretched the 2-poem rule with "a 2-line poem." Carl Dana brought some levity in rhyme with "My Immortality" (for his children & grandchildren), then a poem for his grandchildren, "You Can't Say Don't or Can't to an Elephant." Joe Mangini read a memoir of his youth about the waters of Saratoga.

As has been the pattern here in the last year or so, there were 2 featured poets & first up was Capital Region regular Jill Crammond, looking stunning, from her feet in just-bought Saratoga golden slippers to the top of her head (her hair was perfect!). Her poems were a grand stroll through the land of being a single Mom exploring the world of dating & love, with nary an appearance of the ironic perfect wife persona, June Cleaver. She began with 2 poems for her son, then read the poem recently published in Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry (Two Sylvias Press) "All the Pretty Mothers." "Slipping into the Costume" was about the roles women play, while "Chinese Fortune #1" played off clichés. Some of her long titles can be short poems in themselves, sometimes too long for me to get it all, but I tried. For example there was "After the Husband & the String of Pearls the String of Dates," & on a similar theme the anaphoric, "St. Monica Defends Her Decision to Elope with an Unsuitable Boy" ("because…"). These did lead to a love poem, "Bedroom Triptych." Bringing us full circle she ended with another poem to her son, the tender, loving "What Divorce Moms Say to their Sons Who Remind Them of Their Ex-Husband." A real pleasure to behold & to hear.

On a different note, but also entertaining was the Syracuse poet Martin Willets, who began with a poem with local connections, "Maple & Cedar" on Georgia O'keefe at Lake George. Drawing on his life as a Quaker & as an American Friends Service Committee medic in Viet Nam, he dealt with different wars in his poems "Smoke Signals" (on the Trail of Tears) & "How to Find Peace" based on the painting "The Peaceable Kingdom." His poems were generally philosophical, discursive, but occasionally launched into humor as in "How to Expose a Witch" from one of his many chapbook No Special Favors (Green Fuse Poetic Arts, 2012), or outright exuberance as in "Singing in the Apron of Stars" (waking the neighbors with his singing in his yard). He ended with a native story of the sweetness of love & strawberries. He has a new book Playing the Pauses in the Absence of Stars forthcoming from Main Street Rag.

Carol Graser took us back to the open mic with her poem about that rarely used household item, "The Ironing Board." Caffè Lena's own Sarah Craig began with a poem, "Summer Afternoon," that was an unplanned response to the earlier poem by Nancy Defoio. Jessie started with reading a poem, a room in his memory, then on to a Slam-style poem from memory on a Saturday AM hangover. One of Michael Rush's poems, "Dawn's Early Light," has a chilling image of a woman with a knife standing by his bed. Tess Lecuyer celebrated gastronomic delights, first with the food poem "What Riches" then with 5 "Coffee Loving Haikus." I followed with the recent "Transits," a poem about points of view then the dream poem with the Saratoga setting, "This Dream is Not About You."

Andrew Sullivan began with a love poem, then one with "frivolous profanity" about word-processing auto-corrections (Carol confirmed that "frivolous profanity" is certainly permitted here). Jeff Barnes read about Art in the poem "Conceptions" then read "As the Oceans Rise." Sally Rhoades was heading out this weekend to the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma read for us her poems that had been accepted for the anthology celebrating the centennial of Woody's birth, "My Mother Was a Waitress" & "Battered Hurt Little Girl." Barbara Garro was the night's last poet with a poem contemplating "What is Real" & a family memoir, "Mom Vesuvius."

Always an interesting open mic & excellent featured poets at the monthly open mic at Caffe Lena, Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY.

July 10, 2012

Poets in the Park, July 7

The first of this year's series (which has been happening in Washington Park in Albany, NY since 1989) began with 2 very different poets, Adrianna Delgado & Howard Kogan. It was a lovely summer evening under the trees around the Robert Burns statue with old poetry friends, new fans, even a couple of (well-behaved) kids (future poets of America?).

Adrianna Delgado is a fixture in the mid-Hudson poetry scene as a host of readings & a frequenter of open mics, which is where I heard her work that tonight served a splendid contrast to work of Howard Kogan. She began with a a fitting introduction to her her own emotionally over-wrought romantic poetry, "Blood Jet," a Cento composed of lines from Sylvia Plath's poetry, then to "Draft me a Space in your Harbor," a love poem just finished tonight on her blanket here in Washington Park. From then on it was pretty much the same through poems about love/sex, word play, physics, St. Joan, even blood & menstruation. She read without introductions, the poems blending into a breathless (she even used that word in one poem) tapestry of a romantic poetic soul sighing into the night.

Howard Kogan was the 2011 Poet Laureate of Smith's Tavern (Voorheesville) & is the author of a book of poems, Indian Summer (Square Circle Press, 2011). He read a few poems from his book, notably the tender & humorous "On Reading Poe Late at Night," then on to a nice mix of mostly longer poems, characteristically philosophical & conversational, touched with gentle humor. One of his effective devices is to ponder the making of the poem in the poem, as in the generational confrontation in "CD Launch" & the dream-like "Imagination." Also reflections on family & generations is a major theme he explores, which is certainly not "kvetching about nothing…"

One of the joys of reading in the Park is the swirl of the world around us; life doesn't stop for Poetry (or any Art). Over the years poets have been interrupted (or not) by fire engines, ambulances, drive-by heckling, even the arrest of a run-a-way mental patient. Tonight someone drove by & screamed loudly about 2 seconds before Adrianna said the word "distractions" & Howard was briefly interrupted by the passing of the Aquaducks tour, then at the end his poems were punctuated by snippets from the Park Playhouse production of "Cabaret."

Join us the Saturdays in July at 7PM at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park in Albany.

July 8, 2012

Love Jones, July 6

Or more accurately, half of Love Jones, since I bailed out at the break (end of a long night), at Rudy's Restaurant in Rensselaer, presented by The Collective. Bless served as host with the lovely Shelly doing trivia contests between the performers. Nickey Negrito served as DJ.

It was apparently an open mic, but one without a sign-up sheet, Bless asking for volunteers, or in some cases, commanding volunteers to come forth. So he set the tone with a piece "Gettin' to the Flow," playing on those wonderful "--ooh" sounds. He was followed by one of the fancier dressers (he had a nice hat) who read a "joint venting" piece from his cellphone. Kevin Peterson also vented, about alternate side of the street parking, practicing his piece from memory to take on the road with the Slam team.

Of course when the trivia questions started flying, especially about hip-hop stars & songs, I just had to sit on my (white) hands. Poetic Visionz was up with inspirational advice deconstructing words & phrases to find the positive tucked inside. He was followed by "Puddin'" (David Hulet?) with a free-flowing string of comedic commentary on just about anything that popped into his head.

Bless returned with what he calls his "sober piece," definitely one of his masterpieces, "Jazz Music," inspirational without preaching, I like it everytime I hear it. Then he called me up & I pulled out the old hot summer poem, "Park Fantasy" & then the more recent love poem, "Morning Key."

At that point they took a break, I hung around a bit, but the night began to creep up on me so I missed the second half. Maybe next time I'll plan better & make it through the night (sounds like what I tell the women). The Collective has had some exciting programs in various venues in the Capital Region, promoted on FaceBook & otherwise in the community. Look for them again, if not at Rudy's, then somewhere.

July 4, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam #21, July 3

Tonight Nitty Gritty Slam, Albany poets entry to the world of Slam, had its 21st event, now legal to drink (& we did) -- upstairs at Valentines while a band set up downstairs. Someone somehow scrounged up a bunch of chairs & benches so most of the crowd had someplace to sit. The good professor, Daniel Nester took over the duties of the open mic, at one point interjecting a white boy's version of the absent Mojavi's attempts at narrative humor.

Thom Francis reads Steve Clark
el Presidenté Thom Francis began with a reading of 2 poems & commentary on some remarks someone posted on FaceBook about literary tradition & that writer's claim that it all is "dead" (or something to that effect); Thom first read his literary portrait, "Paper Messiah," then, reaching into "tradition," read from Open Mic: the Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994) Steve Clark's "Poem Car Job." Thom described this poem as a big influence on him as a young poet.  Back when I first heard this poem at the QE2 in the early 1990s, who would have thought it "tradition"? It wasn't back then. But it seems that for "Art" (human inspiration) to advance tradition must be seen as unfinished, & therefore open to re-invention.  Less philosophical, Daniel Nester read from his childhood memoirs, "The Last Spanking."  Jessica Layton did her neighborhood shooting piece from memory, then, as a promotion for the up-coming erotic UGT, "I Want You to Come Inside Me."

Carri LaCroix Pan hasn't been out to read in years, but was around in the late 1990s at the QE2 & when I was doing the Third Thursday at Café Web; her short piece was a sexy summer poem, about water. I continued the Summer/sex theme with an old poem, "Park Fantasy" then a new piece, "Hemingway," written about Nitty Gritty Slam #20. The big problem with being upstairs is one has to downstairs to get a beer, & so I missed the beginning (& title) of the collaborative performance by D. Colin & Elizag, a powerful piece on color & skin.

What started out as a 5-4-2 Slam became, with a late arrival, a 6-4-2 Slam with Slam team members competing against some new faces/voices. In addition there were some judges one rarely sees with the clipboard & marker in their hands, including some new audience members, as well as Carolee Sherwood & me(!). Also judging was Carri, whose connection with Slams goes back many years to Providence, R.I. (where she met Mojavi) before she moved to Albany. I am a particularly picky (shall we say "cranky"?) judge & my scores tend to be lower than most.

Elizag, Poetic Visionz, Shannon Shoemaker
& Thom Francis
Elizag's poem "Looking Up" was a real poem shoe-horned into a Slam boot & lost points because it went over 3 minutes. But in my scoring I also gave it less points because it went "too long," not in time but because it didn't stop when it was over, a common failing of Slam pieces. The 2 novices, Naomi (with a sex poem, "Falling") & Jeff didn't make it out of the first round, but other experienced slammers, Shannon Shoemaker, Poetic Visionz & ILLiptical, along with Elizag did. Shannon carried the sex theme through the 2nd round & into the final where she & Elizag (also a sex poem) battled it out. Of course Shannon's selection, her strap-on, whip-out-your-dick poem had a big effect on my scoring, since it's based on my poem, "To My Penis, on our 45th Birthday" & mentions me by name. Poetic Visionz ended up in 3rd place.

The Slam Team has got a couple of competitions coming up soon & will be traveling in the region before heading down south for the Nationals in August. But you can catch the action every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at 7:30PM at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, with an open mic, $5.00.