September 29, 2012

Poets Speak Loud!, September 24

at McGeary’s Tavern on Clinton Square, especially when we are roasting el presidente of, Thom Francis, we are not only LOUD but out-fucking-rageous. Of course, led on by our host Mary Panza. But first she had to clear out the room of the open mic poets.

Thom Francis works his own roast, photographing
open mic poet Julie Lomoe
 First up was Julie Lomoe with the wonderfully cranky “A Meditation on Meditation,” in which she confronts the twin demons of pain & boredom. Don Levy explored the urban mystery of “Sneakers on Telephone Lines” & taxi drivers (“Cabbie”). The changing of the seasons is a favorite topic for the poems of Tess Lecuyer & she read “Autumn Equinox 2010,” experiencing the sounds & feel of the woods, & “Fall Equinox 1997.” Ed Rinaldi, dressed for the “hunt,” read us a long piece about talking to his daughter in a dream, ”Dreaming a Hallowed Ween,” once again proving that nobody’s dreams are as interesting as our own.

The newly appointed Secretary of, Avery, was up next with “Pondering the Silence of a Sunday Morning,” then “Confused,” mixing up the emotions with the reactions he is describing, like a Mime with words. RM Engelhardt has started a new project, The Literary Rogue, now a website, soon to be a journal.  His first poem tonight was a modern re-write of “Hamlet” as a satire on “poor rich kids” while his second piece, “Hipster,” takes on the same dead horse (I guess he’s not a fan of Mitt Romney either), both pieces with negative references to Starbucks as hangout for the well-to-do. Mojavi finished off the open mic with a religious piece, written yesterday, for his son, then tried out a portion of a mix-tape, a love poem, with music played off his phone, the poem better off without the barely heard sounds.

Then on to the Roast of Thom Francis. Of course, “Vodka Mary” had already gotten in the swing of things with her introductions, the Roast simply the institionalisation of her usual style, which means if you interrupt her with something witty (or not) to say you’ll be cut down with a “Shut the Fuck up!” & if your comment is something she wished she had thought of first, it will be, “Ooh, that’s cruel.” Anyhow, she let the old guy go first & I pondered just who is this “Thom Gendron/Thom Francis/Thom Job” who has been popping up in the poetry scene for years & whose pictures are in my files -- I brought copies for show & tell. Kevin Peterson observed (correctly) that everyone in the room who had been married has also been divorced & proceeds to roast everyone. His next best comment was that Thom’s pancreas is more useless than Dale (who was not here). Mojavi’s tribute, “I Thought You Were Taller,” was tender & funny, filled with references to their recent car trip to North Carolina to the Slam Nationals, check it out on FaceBook.

All night long there had been references to Thom’s partner in the poetry/music group Murrow, Keith Spencer, as a serial killer/rapist (or worse, a Republican), & his flowing beard as everything from ..., well you can guess. So Keith had his chance to also take on everyone in true roast style. Ed Rinaldi was back up, briefly this time, with his 2 cents (as my Grandmother would say), then el presidente hisself had his chance to bring the night to a close, graciously recognizing our acknowledgments of what he, Thom, has brought to our community with his poetry, his organizing skills, computer savvy, energy, humor, & killer good looks.

It’s not always a Roast (about once a year) but always fun & usually on the last Monday of the month (we were here first) at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany, NY -- check the website/calendar for info. You too can be the subject of Vodka Mary’s withering attacks.

September 27, 2012

Sunday Four Poetry!, September 23

is back, after the Summer off, the season thru June fully booked. & good it was to be back with a glistening string of open mic poets (including a “virgin”) & Suzanne Cleary as the featured poet.

Edie Abrams was the host for the open mic, & began with me in the #1 slot. I read 2 new poems, the political-piece-in-progress “Tuesdays” (about 9/11 2001 & 1973) & the slightly outrageous “Opinions.” Paul Amidon tends to write wry, philosophical meditations dusted with ironic humor & began pondering how he missed the most recent “End of the World,” then considered “Unemployment” & “Theologians.”

Sean Heather was a first timer here & read a couple of animal poems, one about an old woman feeding strays, & “Bird Again,” then a love poem to the “Honey Dew Mellon.” Co-host Dennis Sullivan also tends to the philosophical/discursive & read about imagining meeting himself as a 17-year-old, “No Oar to Measure By,” then the meditation on Death, “Elegy in a Country Farmhouse, for Arthur.” Obeeduid also confronted Death in the figure of his great-grandfather, “Conversations with Dead People.” Joe Krausman left us nervously laughing over a couple poems about a string of disasters, the first about being robbed by a blind man & his guide dog, the 2nd “Imagine Someone on a Highwire” (oh, boy!). Our host Edie Abrams was next & she celebrated both her old (“a New York City girl”) self & her new self, “The New Me.”

Rick Harrienger writes in rhyme & began with reciting the philosophical “Walls” then a poem about real the walls of being in jail, & read the Civil War tale, “The Ballad of Sean Maguire” (more death). Philomena Moriarty’s first poem, “Liberation,” kept to the theme of Death (& the self), then considered the boundaries of self, & settled down somewhat with “Outside on a Summer’s Night.”

 The 1st Poet Laureate of Smith’s Tavern, Barbara Vink, is saying goodbye to this area & moving down to Florida & her poem today was about being up late in her new house there, “Here I Am.” Barb is one of the folks who helped create the varied poetry scene we continue to enjoy in this area, initiating the “Every Other Thursday Night Poets” series at the Vooheesville Public Library as well as many other poetry events there; one could say that this series, Sunday Four Poetry, is the grandchild of the programs she started in this (former) hick town.

Bob Sharkey repeated one of the poems he read the other night (always good to hear good poems over again), “Bear,” then a poem about the homeless in New York City & the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Howard Kogan, another NYC transplant, has been collecting stories in his rural town & read 2 poems based on them, “Ben’s Thumb” & “They Took the Wife.”

Dennis Sullivan introduced the afternoon’s featured poet, Suzanne Cleary, who gave an entertaining, well-planned reading from her published poems as well as work from a forth-coming collection. She began with the improbable “Sausage Candle” then on to the breezy narrative on her hometown expression, “Anyways.” “Polka” was like instructions for the dance, while the new poem “Edward Hopper’s Paint Box” was an exercise in seeing. “Italian Made Simple” was a love story played off 2 characters in a language instruction book, & she returned us to the afternoon’s inadvertent theme of talking to the dead with an elegy for a friend, “Into the Night.” She ended with 2 poems from a new book Beauty Mark, the dream poem “Swimming with Miss Peggy Lee” & “Cheese of the Month Club.” Her poems were discursive, conversational, often funny & deep too, but suffered in a different way from some of the same weakness of Jared Paul’s performance Friday night: that of “everything but the kitchen sink” (& sometimes the sink too), exploring a topic by including every possible variant rather than poetically focusing on the 2 or 3 images that best do the job. But, like Jared Paul, again in a different way, very entertaining.

So, thru June, check out the poetry, & bring your own poems to read, on the 4th Sunday of each month at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, at 3PM.

September 26, 2012

Occupy Albany/Jared Paul Reading, September 22

Occupy Albany teamed up with & touring performance poet Jared Paul to present a high-spirited evening of performance & politics at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY.

To start off the night & to represent to the gathered crowd (part of) the range of poets here in Albany, Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets introduced a handful of us to read, beginning with his own new poem composed of lines from poems on the Web that actually worked as a poem itself. Kevin Peterson from the Nitty Gritty Slam Team began with a poem/lyric by Ani Defranco, then on to one of his signature pieces, what I call “the hangover/diner poem.” I followed with my piece written after visiting the Occupy DC & Occupy Philly sites last October, “One Day Longer,” then a poem read recently at a meeting of the Albany County Legislature, “If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow...” Another member of Albany’s Slam team, ILLiptical did his “Dark Knight” poem, often performed as a group piece, for the victims of the Aurora, CO shooting, then a new piece combining a homage to the wrestling star The Rock with his own role as a Slam Poet.

Jared Paul is a slam poet from Providence, currently on tour. His performance was high-energy, political & often filled with the cliches of Slam, though most of his pieces were extended performances beyond the bounds of the competition limit of 3 minutes. His ABCDerian piece on white immigration from Canada combined some of the best elements of his politics, energy & spit. And speaking of spit, he entertained us with a vigorous “bicycle vengeance” poem, landing a hawker on a cabbie’s windshield. He could quiet down as needed with a gentle love poem, & sing a bit as in a re-mix of a capella & hip-hop, a touring litany. But the rambling meditation on a train from Chicago to Salt Lake City was just too much as he threw in just about every thought he had on that long trip. But it was nice to end with a “victory story” about a police bus-load of arrested protestors singing the national anthem, & a chant right off the street. A energetic performance that the crowd loved.

I was pleased to see the Occupy Albany folks mixing it up with the AlbanyPoets who have occupied the scene for years.

One interesting aside: during Jared’s performance a guy wandered in from the street, thought it looked like a political meeting & wanted to talk about the environment. He was soon ushered outside, but explaining his urgency he said, “I always find out the next day about what’s going on.” Ain’t that the truth...

September 23, 2012

Third Thursday Poetry Night, September 20

at the Social Justice Center, competing with a couple other poetry events in Academe the same night, we still had 5 poets in the open mic & a number of non-readers who came to hear the featured poet, Cara Benson. But first I invoked the Muse, the Gloucester poet, Vincent Ferrini & also played Willie Loco Alexander's settings of Ferrini's words.

First up was Schenectady's (& the World's) Alan Catlin, to read a poem in 2 parts, referencing Leonora Carringon, Dorothea Tanning, & Max Ernest, "Dopplegangers."  Chad Lowther was back out at the open mics with a couple experimental pieces recently written in a workshop, "Love Song 28" (not sure who it is for), & "A Karaoke Bop," a procedural poem based on a song lyric played through a voice-to-text program, a favorite technique of the workshop leader Tomas Noel. Bob Sharkey also brought a couple poems, first reading about an encounter with "Bear," then a re-worked piece about St. Patrick's Day in NYC, "Curtains," cops & a chocolate shop. Matthew Klane also does experimental pieces, read 7 small "word investigations," strung together as if 1 poem. I tried out a new piece, still being worked on, about September 11, 1973, "Tuesdays."

It was a night of experimental writing from not just the open mic poets, but from our featured poet, Cara Benson. She read a new piece from a long work, "How the End Will Come," with the section titled "Cara Benson." It was a dream (right?) about doing a reading unprepared, & trying to fix the dream. Slowly the reading, her actual reading of the text, begins to break down, dramatizing what is happening (vomiting) on stage in the dream, but the audience (in the dream/poem) doesn't seem to notice. It was a compelling & at the same time uncomfortable performance. Then, strangely seamless, into a piece about a discussion with her boyfriend about Abraham Lincoln, & Teddy Roosevelt, then another piece (or part of the same one?) & a list of names of famous people, a list without Teddy Roosevelt & another (?) piece like a post-something sci-fi story. Or was it all part of the same dream of a reading & an audience (that doesn't seem to notice)? It really didn't matter, the audience (this real audience at the SJC) sat in rapt attention.

We gather here, no matter how many other events are going on in town, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month, $3.00 (or more) donation supports poetry & the Social Justice Center.

September 19, 2012

Live from the Living Room, September 12

but the living room of the Pride Center without the comfy couch & over-stuffed chairs, a bit more Spartan, one would say. But then our host, Don Levy, made it pleasant enough.

Kristen Day photographs her Mom, Marilyn Day
The featured poet(s) was the mother/daughter team of Marilyn & Kristen Day who did a tag-team style reading, often linking their poems to each others. One cluster was about children & growing up, including Marilyn's "Chiaroscuro," Kristen's funny account of dueling remotes, then back to a poem about the son/brother, "Offspring." Marilyn included poems to/for/about her husband, Bill, such as "Safari" & "Provincetown Honeymoon Florida Vacation." Another of my favorites of Marilyn's was an exercise on color, the roller coaster poem, "While Watching the Film on Black Holes…" (paired with Kristen's "Phobic").  Kristen included some of her more humorous pieces, such as the outrageous "Pick A Poem" & the work poem, "Summary of a Meeting." But the highlight of the night for me was her reading once again the dream-within-a-dream poem, "The 6:20 & the 2:45," one of the best "9/11 poems" I've heard. If the night had ended there I would've gone home on clouds.

But the night continued with a string of open mic poets, including me with a new, old-relationship poem "Adirondack Life" & a love poem "The Meaning of Roses."

A new face/voice Josh Handley began with an untitled piece about reading, then into wide-ranging random philosophical jottings. Joe Krausman read a bit of personal history as a "registered pauper" in Boston looking for a rich woman, "45," then a meditation on who aren't "Experts." Sally Rhoades read an old poem "A Trip Home," then the wonderfully domestic sexy "A Naked Swim." Julie Lomoe read an old poem from 2002, another 9/11 poem "In Memoriam Windows on the World." To bring us all home, our host, Don Levy read another in his series of high school poem, "Nerd Is The Word," & the gay-fantasy from the Food Network, "Poem for Cowboy Josh."

One of the more relaxed & informal reading/open mic series, held at the Price Center of the Capital Region on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY, on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7:30PM, & always straight-friendly.

September 14, 2012

Sunday Four Poetry, June 24

This was the last in this marvelous series until September, & it got off to a bang with Bernadette Mayer, the featured poet, reading her poems "Helens of Troy". They will be published as a "pamphlet" by New Directions in January. What Bernadette did was to interview & photograph women named Helen who live or had lived in Troy, NY. As would be expected, many were from a working class background, but her survey included some more well-off Helens, from business familys (Helen Nelligan, of the bakery) to an astronomer from Australia who taught at RPI. The poems themselves take many forms such as a series of repeated words, narratives, a list poem, a cut-up, even a villanelle, often images & stories repeated from one Helen to another. Later, after the open mic there was a lively question & answer session, much of the discussion on the role of the "local" poet as a participant & commentator in & on the community at large.

The open mic today was limited to 1 poem & the first up poet was Bob Sharkey with an old poem recalling the early years of marriage, "Cohoes." Edie Abrams' poem "The Snow Man" ends with a line lifted from Dennis Sullivan. Mike Burke read his eulogy to his father "He Never Said No," written a number of years ago soon after his death. Dennis Sullivan served as the open mic host & read a poem he had just finished this morning about the late Catherine Connolly. Philomena Moriarty said that while in college she had used the name Helen, read a poem about her husband & his cas-iron skillet, "I Only Know Exceptional People." Tom Corrado's poem "In the Hall (House) of Mirrors (Glass)" was a meditation in a sketch class.

Also touching on the visual arts, Sharon Stenson's poem was about "The Deserted Artist Colony, Malden, NY." I read (again) "The Transit of Venus." Obeeduid, like Dennis, read a poem he wrote this morning, a conversation between himself & his libido. Alan Catlin read a piece from his collection-in-progress ("My Dream Date with Sylvia Plath") which uses images & titles from the work of Carson McCullers. Mimi Moriarty's poem, "To Fly a Kite," was about being with her grandkids at a lake. Jan Tramontano read the chilling poem about a suicide bomber, "At the Marketplace" with its ironic "Postcript." Howard Kogan's "Ars Poetica" proposed that the poet make the life he/she wants to live in their poems (don't we?).

Philip Good ended the open mic with a poem titled "The Longest Day of the Year," then another summer piece with barefoot beauties, humidity & humanity.

You'll have to wait until September for the start up of this series again, but it will continue on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center, Main St., Voorheesville, NY.

Poetry + Prose, September 9

or as we like to call it 2nd Sunday at 2, into our 3rd year! Me & Nancy Klepsch (your hosts) & the fine collection of writers who show up to read. Nancy started us off with a poem she had just written, "Welcome," & what better place to be than at the beginning:

 by Nancy Klepsch

Bring a sweater
It gets cold in here because
it’s hard to fund heat with grant money
Remember to help yourself to a glass
of wine or water Lauren stopped on the way and
placed it on the table to my left
Read two poems or five minutes of
prose that soars through this bright September
sky and ebbs and flows like the river right outside of our door
Hug each other
it’s been a rough year a good year the year all of our friends
over 50 lost their jobs the year I finally met a woman in her 70s to
introduce to Esther the year that I had 30 kids in each of my classes
Keep the front the door open
I missed you and the warm soft whisper of your words
and the entire Fuck family needs to pay me another visit because I left
some extra pizza in my refrigerator for them but it looked so good last night
at 3:00 a.m. that I ate it Fuck
My first client died this year
I did not know she was the one who taught
me how to help and I don’t think she ever really lived one day
at all but they found all of my letters around her house I kept her number
Delete the cell phone numbers of
your ex-best friend your ex-wife and your way-ward son because
the poets have come to town and somewhere along this road
you took a break from all of it to say
a few words or one long poem to the shit heads that run our
Congress the angry white guys who want a government small
enough to fit into my vagina the Nay Sayers
I’m so tired of being tired that I got up early this morning to tell you
welcome rest say here we will be okay and
some of our fallen will not only walk but
will run marathons long before I do because
you me and the crazy cat that now lives in my basement
we belong
we gotta right to be here so when you
sit back in the plastic chair with the crack in it
move over take a more comfortable seat
it’s got your name on it it’s your turn to read and
I’m so damn glad you’re here

George Guarino was involved in the local music scene here as a journalist many years ago & now, among other things, is a clinical hypnotist, so his piece this afternoon, "Creative Space for Learning," was like an introduction into the hypnotic process, using his training in his performance. Joe Krausman's poems were on the theme of death & aging & writing (remember: always bring a pen). Howard Kogan also confronted Death, with "Caregiver at the Funeral" & "The Dead on FaceBook," & wondered who he was in "Celebrity." Harvey Havel read a quirky piece about a teenage romance & parakeets. David Wolcott's exerpt from his on-going memoirs was titled "The Solar Roller," from 1978, promoting solar energy. Bob Sharkey's first piece was the confrontation of one's high school past in a current a sporting goods store, then an odd sci-fi (?) piece "Curtains." I read 3 short pieces written over the Summer, "The Meaning of Roses," "A Note to Tom," & "Alcoholism." Tim Verhaegan's was a re-worked, poetic memoir about trying to get to work, "1981."

A new face/new voice was Aleister Mraz who began with a series of titles (like "Animal Poem #2" or "Human Poem #1) followed by a short phrase or sentence, then on to a longer piece about the dead, "I Want My Grandfather's Bones Back." Ron Drummond has been coming to these readings since the beginning, usually with sci-fi based fiction or the occasional philosophical musings, today he stunned us with a beautiful a cappella love song; he has a deep, sonorous reading voice which worked well here as a singing voice too in the Arts Center black box theater.

We are here on, like I said, the 2nd Sunday at 2PM, in the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY, for prose, for poetry, any written word, for free. Join us.

September 10, 2012

Adirondack Arts Festival, September 8

This event, titled Adirondack Arts: A Place to Dream, actually ran from Friday evening & continued into Sunday morning, but I drove up to Lake Placid on Saturday morning, to get there for the the presentation, "A Place to Photograph." Mark Bowie gave an enlightened talk on the mid-19th Century Adirondack photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard that led into the story of the photographic work of his grandfather Richard Dean. Dean became famous for his postcard images that literally sold millions of copies, documenting & spreading far & wide images of the Adirondack region, the mountains & lakes as well as the tourist attractions. Tourism & its growth in the region was a theme that ran from the images of Stoddard, up into the 20th Century images. Later, Bowie returned to discuss night photography in the digital age, a compelling slide presentation on seeing what you can't normally see.

John Radigan, founder & Director of the Adirondack Photography Institute, gave a short history of 20th century landscape photography, starting with Ansel Adams (who never visited the Adirondacks) up through the latest young photographers, such as Mark Kurtz, Zak Clothier & Shaun Odak, working today. He also conducted a brief interview with young photographer Shelby McGill, who works, like many of the younger generation, with smart phone cameras & apps that allow the manipulation of the images in the camera.

The afternoon session, "A Place to Write," was introduced by Nathalie Thill, the Executive Director of the Adirondack Center for Writing, as a "performance" rather than a lecture. Rich Frost, in the guise of Orson "Mountain" Phelps gave a literary tour of the Adirondacks, beginning with Bob Pettee, founder & Managing Director of the Pendragon Theater in Saranac Lake reading an old, humorous piece, "How I Killed a Bear." He was followed by storyteller Jeannine Laverty doing stories by Adirondack poet Jeanne Robert Foster (1879 - 1970). After more tours through the early years of the Adirondack literature of the 20th Century by Mountain Phelps, Bob Pettee returned to read from Russell Banks' (how can one have a talk on literature in the Adirondacks without Russell Banks?) great novel of John Brown, Cloudsplitter.

Later in the evening I attended a showing of the 1920's silent film, The Flapper, starring Olive Thomas. It was shown in the nearby Palace Theater which dates from 1927 & still has the original & restored theater organ. Tonight the musical accompaniment was by Jeffery Barker, a stellar tour-de-force which made one feel as if we were indeed back in the era of the great silent films.

It was a great reminder of how much Art is thriving in the North Country & what a pleasant way it is to spend a weekend. There are many fine restaurants & shops & hotels strung along Main St. & up Saranac Ave., not to mention the scenic beauty of Mirror Lake & the surrounding mountains. But still it has the walk-around city feel I so much enjoy. (now waiting from my check from the Chamber of Commerce).

Of course on the way back on Sunday morning I had to make my own attempt at Adirondack landscape photography.  As my friend Bert once said (sort of), "If you've seen one mountain, you've seen them all."

September 9, 2012

Caffé Lena Open Mic, September 5

Back up to Saratoga Springs, this month with my friend Don Levy tagging along for the first time in many months. It was another full list of open mic poets & a similar program of the featured poets, the Nitty Gritty Slam team out of Albany, NY, fresh from their appearance at the National Slam Championship.

But first, Carol Graser, our Caffé Lena host started us off with a poem, "The Quiet World," by Jeffery McDaniel. Rodney read a couple pieces (the rules being 2 short piece or 1 medium length piece) from his chapbook titled "Moons for the Moon to Read." Carole Kenyon outed Carol Graser as a Birthday Girl today, with a birthday/toilet paper poem, then read a piece about the recreational drug "K," "Anteaters." Kate McNairy's poems go by quick, like her first poem "White Heat" then "Architect," a meditation that whoever made lilies made us too. Steve Pillar had one long piece in rhymes, on a theme from the New Testament, "Mary Oh Mary."

Albany's Nitty Gritty Slam Team  members Kevin Peterson, Elizag, Algorhythm, D. Colin, ILLiptical, & coach Mojavi performed a wide-ranging selection of individual & group pieces. Kevin Peteson's "Self-Analysis" played on his name, & later he did his outrageous, over-the-top parking ticket poem. Elizag did her moving piece to her brother playing off the hymn "Amazing Grace" & later a series of playful haiku.

Algorhythm did a piece incorporating social commentary & his own personal record, as did ILLiptical's piece on hero teachers/mentors. ILLiptical also did a tribute to the singer Sam Cooke, incorporating (& singing) some of his lyrics. Mojavi "cheated" by reading his break-up poem off his phone.
The 2 group pieces included Elizag, ILLiptical & D. Colin doing a poem "to the company selling Trayvon Martin targets" & another about the shooting in Aurora, CO. D. Colin's musical poem to Haiti, "Beyond What They Say," always moves me, & her piece "I Am Not a Slam Poet" said to listen to her words, not her antics. Good advice.

Back to the open mic Carol Graser read her own piece "The Shopper" about the all-too-common response of being overwhelmed in the supermarket. Gordon Hayman's first poem rhymed about mixing & matching, while "Esther's Kitchen" was a childhood memory about a warm place. Patricia Kay first told us about an art exhibit she has at the Perrella Gallery at Futlon-Montgomery Community College (until December 14), then read a piece about painting a wall, "In the Company of Masters," followed by stories collected from animals in the forest, "Newstand." I followed with a couple poems written this Summer, "The Meaning of Roses" & "Alcoholism."

The young poet Eliza was inspired by the Slam team's performance & just wrote (or as she said "coughed onto the page") & practiced in the bathroom the emotion-driven "Slam." AlbanyPoets' el presidente Thom Francis read the tender poem to his grandfather, "Easter Visit," then his love poem to his insulin pump, "Machine." Don Levy's poem "70's High School Cafeteria Blues" was a letter to a classmate, while "Obama at the Nursing Home" was an outrageous response to Republican campaign rhetoric. Charles Watts was down from the High Peaks Region to read from his just-published book, Raptures: Tales of Darkness and Light (Ra Press); he read the "Stolen Preface" (a re-mix of sentences from Anton Chekhov), then a poem on the various ends of the World, "Raptures." Barbara Garro's "New Day Prospects" celebrated the "wonders" of aging, then another piece in rhyme, "Violence." A.C. Everson, the night's last poet, was also a Birthday Girl & began with a screed against the diseases that are taking our lives, then a poem for her recently-deceased mother, "Bad Daughter," ending the night with the pondering of "Probable Blunder."

Here at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, an open mic for poets with Featured Poets (there are also open mics other times of the month for musicians, comics, etc.) on the 1st Wednesday of the month, $5.00, 7:30PM.

September 6, 2012

Nitty Gritty Slam, #25, September 4

This was the start of the 2nd year (!) of the Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentines, after the return of Albany's 1st Slam Team from the Nationals. Ironically, this was also the smallest attendance/audience, with, in fact, more judges than audience, if you don't count the open mic & slamming poets, who are also the audience, so then what does it all mean (ay, Mr. Natural?). Anywho, Thom Francis did the general intros, & was the Slam Bastard, while Mojavi was the host/entre'acte comedian for the open mic. 

Another of the night's ironies was the presence of so many new faces/voices making up the small(er) crowd. Starting off the open mic was was a stroller-by poet Dad, David, whose kid wandered in during his Dad's reading; Dad's poem was titled appropriately enough, "My Commitment." Mojavi was up next with a long intro to a break-up poem with advice to a friend. The new rules here allow poets who sign up for the Slam to also read a the open mic, which I am not particularly in favor of, but it worked OK tonight.  So I followed with a short recent poem, "Alcoholism." Thom Francis, el presidente, read a piece he has read here about 12 times (a rough estimate), Charles Bukowski's sociological study, "Poetry Reading."

I had hoped, when I signed up for the Slam, that only a few folks would sign up, that way insuring I could make it to the final round (or at least the semi-final round). Ah, no: 5 Poets signed up, which meant that with scoring a 25.2 (for my poem "Autobiography") I still lost out to the night's virgin, Tracy. I mean, she has not only not read at a Slam before, but has never read her poetry out anywhere, & wiped me out with a break-up poem to a guy she used to love. But in the 2nd round, in spite of reading a poem ("Panama In the Wet Season", the only other poem she had with her) that Thom Francis creamed over because of the sexy words "Panama" & "crevice" she ended he night there.

Billy Stanley returned & Slammed with pieces from memory that got him a well-deserved 3rd place, but then he disappeared before the distribution of the prize money (Thom knows where he lives). The finalists were Elizag & Mojavi, with Mojavi's piece on being a poet squeaking into 1st place.

The Games continue, but at least there were some real poets (& real poems) in the house. You can find the Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentines on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at Valentines in Albany (NY) on New Scotland Ave. & check for a full calendar.

September 3, 2012

Yes, Reading, August 31

Yes, it was the last poetry reading in August in Albany, but also the 1st in the new season for this series, at the Social Justice Center in Albany (NY), for a packed (& sweaty) house, with the hosting duties shared by Matthew Klane & James Belflower.

The first featured poet was Colie Collen, also the most conventional poet; perhaps that's because as a farmer she constantly has her hands in the real dirt of the Earth, grounded in the ground one would say. What was significant about her work was the absence of the self-conscious "Nature" poems. I mean, there was a dead bird poem ("So Many That Could Be") but also what I would call her "farmer poems," e.g., "If My Elbows Are Muddy You Know I've Rested" & "I Was Swimming With This Raspberry In It." & there were love poems ("No Accept"), even a love poem/farm poem, "Is There a Way to Say?" One poem, "Glissande," invoked a discussion of the meaning of the word, which made me think of "glissando" (a musical term meaning a continuous slide upward or downward between two notes) but this title is apparently a skiing term meaning "sliding on your ass" -- oh well. At least her poems dealt with what an old farm boy once described to me as "clean dirt."

If this were a circus Douglas Rothschild would have been the entr'acte clown in his pale blue velvet pimp hat & faux zoot suit (badly in need of tailoring). He began by donning goggles & rubber gloves to handle "raw poetry" (i.e., poems that were un-mediated by literature professors). "The Cry of the Day Liner" introduced with much name dropping in an introductory essay as "a scientific experimental poem" was too-long & ultimately a vacuous exercise in opposites based on the poetry of Keats. He continued his name-dropping in a selection from a mss. titled "Redo," then on to his relentlessly clever 3-word haikus.

Michael Peters' experiments in poetry included recorded "environmental sounds" (from air vents, from a mountain ridge, or in a car) behind/around his poems, until he realized that with the door of the Social Justice Center opened there was real-life Central Ave. "environmental sounds" around us all night long anyways (like the ice-cream truck going by Poets in the Park). He started out by passing around some graphics & found-art plastic packing material, then read excerpts from a couple of manuscripts he has been working on. He was definitely the most performance oriented of the night's poetry (& most politically/environmentally engaged), although his reading style pretty much stuck to a breathless whisper.

The series is back for the school semester on various Fridays. You can Friend them on FaceBook to get their invites & find out what's going on. Contributions for the Social Justice Center are encouraged. The house tonight was packed but there were only a few faces I've seen at other poetry reading venues. If these "fans" of poetry lived in, say, Syracuse or Binghamton, they wouldn't find nearly as many poetry readings there as here. This is a great place to be a poet, if you get away from your comfort zone of grad-school colleagues or workshop buddies. See you out & about.

September 2, 2012

Poets Speak Loud!, August 27

Vodka Mary Panza was back as our host with that hot blue flame & during her pointedly personal introductions one spoke up at our peril. Thus, it was an energetic open mic, with the featured poet, L-Majesty quivering in the wings (if there were such a thing at McGeary's).

I started off the open mic with 3 short pieces, all written this month: a poem for Mary Ann Murray, "A Note to Tom," "Weather," & "Alchohlism."   Joe Krausman also had a poem on weather ("Weather Report") but before that he started off telling joke from the recent funeral for local philanthropist (& poet) Bob Herman, then on to a poem about Father Death, "Beware We Are Being Followed." Julie Lomoe evoked the end of the season with a poem about Snyder's Lake, "Last Day on the Beach."

L-Majesty, tonight's featured poet, had read at this year's Word Fest &, as Vodka Mary recounted, elicited quite a personal response from a particular poet member of the audience, oh yeah! Tonight, though, he said his theme was "letting go of our bitterness," beginning with the bitter piece,"Apologies Not Accepted." Then on to "There's Some Jim Crow-ity in this Poetry" responding to racism targeting his mother & himself, both direct & institutional. Then a sex poem invoking an absent father, "My Need." & on to "an empowerment piece," "Army of Me." He ended with what he called the solution, a poem titled "The Bitter Fix" which was cast as an ad for positivity, but perhaps the weakest poem of the bunch in an otherwise well-constructed reading.

Bob Sharkey continued the open mic with a schizophrenic piece he has been working on, 2 poems he thought were 1 (& indeed perhaps they are 1 poem masquerading as 2), "After Poem" & "Entangled" weaving together, like the image of the trees in the 2nd poem, gun control & Poets in the Park, & a party, & love. Shannon Shoemaker performed a lost love poem (again) beginning "I pluck petals…"

Emily Gonzalez's piece "Just A Poem" was also about love, a long relationship now over, & about herself. Continuing the theme even further, Kevin Peterson read some execrable break-up poems sent to him by a friend & read his quite funny critiques of the poems, then a poem about reading in the rain.

Speaking of love, again, Mojavi announced that he & his girlfriend have "a bun in the oven" & so read a letter to his unborn son. Avery read a short piece titled "Picking Blueberries" that incredibly managed to include the word "yummyness," then some dialogue from "a sci-fi future drama" in progress about a future where drugs are legal & education is not. Jill Crammond brought the night to a close with 2 poems with her characteristic long titles, "Romeo & Juliet Narrowly Escape Disaster at the Lake" with humor & sex, & the love poem to her son, "What Divorced A Mom Says to Her Son Who Unwittingly Reminds Her of her Ex-Husband."

Poets Speak Loud! is an event of held most last Mondays at McGeary's in Albany, NY -- check the website's calendar for more information.