March 30, 2013

Poets Speak Loud!, March 24

Mary Panza put on her sexy high-heels, then made sure we noticed, as we gathered in the Back Room of McGeary's, chasing out the interlopers on their way to the Palace Theater movie or the Capital Rep. Hey, all the theater was here! The featured poet, Ben Figueroa, brought some of his poetry peeps with him (you could tell by their hats), & Mary cracked the whip as our host. Meanwhile competing with a music open mic out at the bar area made me think we were back at Valentines, exiled to the attic. But we were poets speaking loud & we prevailed.

Sylvia Barnard was up first (an early arrival for dinner at Don Levy's table in the Back Room), with a couple poems from her poetry chapbook, Trees. I followed (I was also at Don's table) with the new poem "Living in Wilcox" & a poem for this night, "What Passover Has Taught Me."

Jamie Martin was part of Ben's entourage with a piece based on Alice in Wonderland, "Alice at 50 Writes to Her Old Friends." Brian Dorn read a couple of love poems in careful rhyme, looking for "Luck" in love, & in praise of subtle beauty "Plain to See." A.C. Everson recalled a moment of good luck with an 8-ball break, "A Ball Breaker." Tess Lecuyer's "Driving to France" presented an alternative to doing your laundry.

Tonight's featured poet, Benedicto Figueroa, is the Poet Laureate of Union City, New Jersey; the fact that he as an office made some of the Albany Poets seethe. While Ben competes on Slam teams the poems he read & performed tonight were mostly of the story-teller variety without Slam attitude or spit, & were from his book, Was. Most of the poems were memories of childhood & school, teasing a girl ("Karate Chop"), finding god in sharing an ice with his mother ("St. Pete"), getting advice from a gay friend ("Friends & First Dates"), & the "Letter to my 8th Grade Self." He ended with a couple of poems in the present, the tender love poem "That Finger" & an "occasional poem" he wrote for an event in Union City, a poem about the children of Newtown & about his own 4-year old daughter, "Tendencies."

Don Levy was up next with one of the finest of his new poems, "Growing up Queer," then on to getting lots of laugh with his dream poem, "NRA Pride March." The night was getting long & raunchy (&, like I said, Mary Panza was in heels) & Ed Rinaldi was getting the brunt of it; about the poem he read, "Portage Reported" I can only report what I wrote down in my notebook: heading towards the Promised LandBrian Roessel was last month's Featured Slam poet here & made the drive again to support his friend Ben, but he forgot his notebook of poems so did one from memory a poem he had performed last month, "Microsoft Word is a Mother-Fucking Prison." One of Albany's Slam poets, Algorhythm, followed with his dialogue-in-dialect imagined conversation with his father, but almost got derailed before it began with a lot of in-joke heckling from the crowd.

RM Engelhardt is definitely not a Slam poet & began with a poem about drinking at an open mic, "Poetry Whiskey & Buk," then a poem from his new book, Resurrection Waltz, remembering the 1980s. Julie Lomoe's poem "Library Sale" was about the trashing of books. "K.P.," another member of the Albany Slam team, had a couple of short poems, an untitled piece on writing a clever folk song, then a good Ketchup poem, "Realization Over Eggs." After much joking & snarky comments, the Albany Slam team's coach, Mojavi, did a tender poem about his new son, then a sadder piece about a dysfunctional relationship.  & that was the night.

The last Monday of the month finds this event at McGeary's on Clinton Square in Albany, with lots of open mic poets & a featured poet -- check for compete information.

March 27, 2013

Sunday Four Poetry, March 24

Another 4th Sunday in Voorheesville, with a bevy of open mic poets before today's featured poet, Charles Straney, our host Edie Abrams judiciously keeping the list.

First up was me with 2 recent poems, "Winter Peace" (the last time this season I will be reading this) & the new poem "Living in Wilcox." Alan Casline did a couple of "songs," "Song: Muse Blues" & from 1981 "Song after Car Crash" & something I think he said was "Colors with Linen Trucks" (which is a great title even if I got it wrong). Dennis Sullivan began with a memory of grade school & played on the word "civil" in "My Grammar School," then on to his favorite theme with "Continuing With the Theme of Death" & then the pensively philosophical "A Safe Confession is Good for the Soul." Edie Abrams' single poem "Schrodinger's Cat" pondered the paths that face us at mid-life, this path or that?

Obeedúid's book of poems, Telluric Voices, has a troubled history with an interim edition bootlegged by Benevolent Bird Press for Obeedúid's reading at Caffe Lena while FootHills Publishing struggled to recover from a fire. Today he read 2 Spring poems from the book, "We are born" & "Where I am safe," then ended waiting for the Sun "Early in the Morning." Now, apparently, the official FootHills edition will be ready out soon -- stay tuned. Lloyd Barnhart started with his poem "Boxes," one filled with ashes, the other with "life," then on to a poem about 2 women in his family "Suicide," & ended with a funny poem lamenting all the reasons he can't be a cowboy. Mimi Moriarty also has a new book from FootHills Publishing, Crows Calling & read 2 poems from the book, "Unfinished Hymn" & "Waving from Shore," & finished with a seasonal piece "Good Friday" mixing family with the Bible story.

Howard Kogan read "His Father's Mittens" from a conversation with his neighbor Earl, then a profound Proustian meditation on the fickle nature of memory, "Memories Are Made of This." Joe Krausman read his poem "Unanswered Prayers" that was a finalist in a contest, then a poem that really happened (to him) "Job Seekers Car Stolen," & ended with a piece in rhyme about the dreams of youth & of old age. Brian Dorn read what he described as 3 Easter poems, "Guilty as Sin," "Belove Poem" (an anaphoric list piece, "Love is…") & ended with his fabulous poem on the life of Christ, "3 Days."

Dennis Sullivan introduced today's featured poet Charles Straney, who was a finalist last year in the Smith Tavern Poet Laureate contest. He began with a poem about life's messages, "When Youth Pleads Guilty," then on to "Unknown Rose" & "Moon Enough" & a poem about the theft of old, salvaged radiators. Like the best of poetry his poems are meditations on meaning written in images drawn from the life around him. "The Leading Road" was about false prophets (at least based on my hearing it just once, a problem at these readings), then the pensive "Sunrise at 50" & a poem on climate change "Snapshots of the Aftermath." He ended with selections from a longer piece "Well Digger," from an experience in his youth, a wonderfully rich poem filled with images of the land, dirt, & working in a deep pit -- it would make a great chapbook.

Of course there was an extended après reading conversation over drinks & food at Smitty's Tavern Poet's Corner.

This community gathers each 4th Sunday at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY at 3PM, usually a featured poet & an open mic, for a modest donation to pay the poet & support the work of Old Songs.

March 26, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, March 21

We began the night with a little background music from The Chieftains & the invocation of the muse, tonight the recently-gone poet Anselm Hollo (1934 - 2013); I read his early poem "Poemology" ("…it is easier to eat an apple/than to make a poem…"). Since there were only a few of us I dropped the one-poem rule & each poet could read 2 poems (if they wanted to &/or had them). Even a couple of late arrivals were "grand-mothered in."

First up was Alan Catlin (who had been 1st through the door), who said he had been trying to find "something Irish, but this is not Irish," "Beckett Plays Self-Portrait" & for his bonus poem, the unexaggerated account of "Senior Citizen Day at the Supermarket," engendering a discussion by Sylvia about shopping for old men (which gives many of us hope). Avery admitted he planned to read 2 poems anyway & read "The Egg The Seed The Acorn" based on versions of the Tarot card, & a poem written on St. Patrick's Day, like his first poem a meditation on the Eternal Moment. Sally Rhoades read a recent poem from a dream about her mother, then an older piece, a self-assured celebration, "I Am a Many Splendored Thing."

Brian Dorn referred to the movie Lincoln & read his poem "Freedom's Name," then a poem he hasn't read out before, "Invincible." I had brought only 1 poem (besides, as the host, I'm running my mouth constantly anyways), a recent fun piece, "Living in Wilcox." Kevin Peterson, in spite of the many poems in his Slammer head, also brought only 1 poem, a short one from February, another in his continuing series of lessons not-learned from behaving badly, oh well. Jan Farrell was "thrilled" to read 2 poems, one by Emily Dickinson (#165), then her own based on on a true experience, both about wounded deer.

Sylvia Barnard has been popping up on my Blog a lot recently as she sails through her local book tour. I was pleased to feature her here at the SJC where she is a regular reader in the open mic & supporter of the other poets in the community, to help her promote her collection of poems, Trees. Tonight she let the poetry gods pick her poems, beginning with "The Exorcism of Emily Dickinson," responding to Jan's poem. The gods kept her bouncing from theme to theme across many locations such as poems about her daughter at the Natural History Museum & at school, poems set in England ("Change," "Sir William Bardwell"), & of course, ancient history ("Beyond Babylon," "St. Albans, Hertfordshire," "Grave Stele," "Epidauros"). Closer to home, she read poems about a music festival in her Massachusetts, a portrait in the Clark Museum, and ballet at SPAC, ending with a love poem, "Easter 1988." It was a wonderfully eclectic reading giving us all a taste of the wide-range of subjects of the poems of Sylvia Barnard.

We gather together each third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, around 7:30PM to listen to a local or regional featured poet, & an open mic for community poets. A donation of $3.00 supports the reading series, pays the poet, & helps the Social Justice Center continue its work.

March 20, 2013

Book Signing: Trees, by Sylvia Barnard

I have known Sylvia Barnard since my undergraduate days at SUNY-Albany & we have been colleagues in the Albany poetry scene since I moved back here a number of years ago. I also featured her at Poets in the Park last year & she will read in the Third Thursday series this month. While she was preparing the manuscript of her book she asked me to read through it for her & I offered a number of suggestions.

It was a pleasure to see Sylvia surrounded by friends at the Book House this Saturday afternoon. She talked briefly about her life & her poetry, with reminiscences of the early days of the Albany poetry scene. She read a generous selection of her poems, which in many ways is an autobiography in verse, with poems of memory of her youth, her mother & her ancestors, of her daughter, her loves & losses, & her travels to Britain, Greece, Cyprus, & elsewhere.

Her book is available at the Book House & anyone interested in the poets of the Albany scene, or who just likes good poetry, should have the book in their collection.

March 18, 2013

Elisa Albert & Rebecca Wolff, March 15

This reading was presented by the College of St. Rose MFA Program in Creative Writing, at the new Huether Hall on the ever-expanding St. Rose campus.

Rebecca Wolff is a familiar face/voice in this area as the editor of Fence Magazine, housed at the NYS Writers Institute at the University at Albany. She read a late chapter ("Late November") from her novel The Beginners (Riverhead, 2011) with the ongoing monologue of a most-annoying character, real or not. She also read a selection of her short, spare poems from her collection, The King (W.W. Norton, 2009), described by one critic as "poems about motherhood."

Elisa Albert is the MFA visiting writer. She read a series of short segments from her new novel currently "in the publishing pipeline" (as she said), "The Fourth Trimester." What the chunks she read were about were the trials & tribulations of being a mother of a new baby, meanwhile building/rehabbing a house with an indifferent husband, with a bit of hero worship of a poet/punk-rocker thrown in for spice.

There was an informative, thoughtful discussion afterwards about the "literature of Motherhood" with references to the late-19th century short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ironically the pieces read today (with the exception of the poetry), while dealing with marriage & child-rearing from the women's point of view in the 21st century, sounded a lot like the tone, the strutting, of mid-20th century male-dominated novels like the work of John Updike or John Cheever. But then, what do I know, I'm a poet?

In any event, hearing these current, young novelists I was reminded of another mid-century women novelist, Doris Grumbach, who taught at the College of St. Rose, & wrote what I recall was a roman à clef about the school, The Spoil of the Flowers (Doubleday, 1962), back when St. Rose was an all-girls Catholic teaching college. I think it's out-of-print -- sic transit gloria mundi, etc., etc.

Book Signing: The Resurrection Waltz by R.M. Engelhardt, March 14

The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza was the scene of the book-signing of R.M. Engelhardt's latest (his 13th he says) book of poems, The Resurrection Waltz. Just that morning the Metroland Readers' Poll was published & Rob, a perennial contender in this rite of Spring, tied for 2nd place with, of all people, me -- Mary Panza was this year's "Best Local Poet."  In addition the Albany Times-Union Preview section contained an in-depth profile of Rob by Amy Biancolli.  So "congratulations" & hand-shakes were the order of the night.

The poetry/music duo, Murrow (Thom Francis & Keith Spencer), performed first, with alternating old & new material, including the favorite, "Trucker."

Rob read a substantial selection from The Resurrection Waltz (Infinity Publishing, 2012). I lost count of how many poems, but then so apparently so did he: having announced he would read "2 more poems" he read 4 -- the more the merrier (or scarier, given the dark-angst of most of his poems) I say. The book is available online & at the Book House. It is certainly the best produced of his volumes so far & includes, he says, some older poems in revised versions.

Rob is also re-starting his "School of Night" poetry open mic series next month on the 2nd Thursday of each month at the Pearl St. Pub on Stueben Place (because to be on Pearl St. would be redundant). It's billed as a "Traditional Open Mic" so bring "traditional" poems.

March 16, 2013

Live from the Living Room, March 13

Always high on my list of the monthly poetry events to join in, listen, read, with our host & my passenger, Don Levy. Tonight the open mic list included a covey of regulars, with a visitor from afar & a couple of shy listeners -- as it should be.

Tonight our featured poet was Alan Casline, director of the Rootdrinker Institute & publisher of Benevolent Bird Press. He titled his reading "Political Tracks on the Face of the Tao of Nature." Like a good Taoist, he cast the I Ching before the reading, getting hexagram #22 (Bi), variously translated as "Grace," "Elegance," or "Adorning," leading to the poem "When Flexibility is in the Balance." Of course, the natural world was the subject of the poems he read, including a poem about a spring in New Mexico, "Gate Closed" & the playful song in the voice of a "Lightening Bug/Firefly." Another poem explained "Why I Don't Pitch My Tent Inside the Fairy Circle" (good advice I hear). Some of the other poems were "The Last Will & Testament of Frederick Krause," the Spring rain poem "Off the Face of a Field of Grass," & "Downstream from the Escarpment." Often philosophical & meditative, Alan's poems can be playful too in their use of language, as well as tender & wistful.

Sylvia Barnard is out & about promoting her new book, Trees, but tonight read new poems, "Wind" about wind-turbines in Sicily, & "Autumn 2012" in which she combines the loss of lab mice at NYU during Hurricane Sandy with the killings in Newtown. Obeeduid celebrated his heritage with 2 Irish-themed poems, the first on the Irish language, "My Great Hunger," then a poem on Death "The Melancholic Truth" (or as the Irish put it, "life is a dirge"). Alan Catlin's poem "My Dream Date with the Bronte Sisters" recalled the early Albany rock club, J.B. Scott's, while "The Happening" characterized a modern poet in 1950's era film noir. I did 2 poems of Winter, the older, darker "Winter Light," the newer "Winter Peace." A.C. Everson read from her early self-published chapbook, And Then Some, from "the worst time" the poem "Twice More," then a poem from "good times" "Close to Home" with the audience quickly joining in on her repeated refrain. Bob Sharkey read from a couple of his ongoing projects, first from "the Genome Project" the poem "Wise Guy," then "What's That Sound?" single words from his word-a-day project.

Terry Provost was still in town & began with an old poem on Chaos Theory (& the butterfly as the leader of the Free World, or not), then the equally philosophical "A Day Without Wittgenstein…, on words, spelling & meaning. Our genial host, Don Levy, concluded the night with the urban poem, "Noisy Neighbors" & a poem on the old-time TV show, "Hullaballou." There was a good crowd tonight with some listeners who wandered in &, of course, Alan's wife Jennifer Pearce in addition to the poets who read.

A wonderfully relaxed, straight-friendly venue at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & open mic for a small donation. Join us.

March 15, 2013

BookMarks: Are You Experienced?, March 11

David Wolcott
BookMarks is the Memoir Project Reading Series at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. This night's reading, "curated" by David Wolcott, was devoted to writings about drug experiences, which ranged from the expected stories of getting high on illegal drugs to experiences with clinical & prescription drugs.

Carol Derfner's "Kitchen Witches" was about her experiences in college with pot & pot-head friends.

Darby Penney wrote about a religious experience while under Nitrous Oxide in the dentist chair ("Wisdom Tooth").

D. Penney, J. Lomoe, C. Derfner, K. Appleman
Leslie Neustadt's poem "Brush with Madness, Circa 1970" was about a vision of herself as Medusa in a near-deadly combination of a man, LSD & depression.

"Jim and Mescaline" by Bonnie Cook described a hippy summer escape from New York City & the appearance of a toddler while tripping -- was the baby there, or not?

Jill Rafferty-Weinisch was instrumental in getting the Memoir Project started (among other wonderful things) when she worked here at the Arts Center. Her piece "Ace Frehley Tried to Kill Me" was about attending an Iron Maiden concert back in 1988.

B. Cook, L. Neustadt, B. Engelman, J. Rafferty-Weinisch
"My Encounter with Gentleman Jimi" by Julie Lomoe was about her 2 meetings with Jimi Hendrix, & about smoking pot, taking mescaline.

Bonnie Engelman wrote about her teen-age experience with acid as a high school student in New Jersey in "Smashing Sunshine."

Ken Appleman's "When She Died She Left a Houseful of Drugs" was a tender extended metaphor on grieving, carefully using the leftovers.

Each of the readings were carefully timed, as were the question & answer periods after each reader, & the variety of styles & subject matter within the theme, not to mention the excellent quality of the writing, made for a most enjoyable evening. Check the Arts Center website for information on the remaining readings in the BookMarks series.

Metroland Readers' Poll, 2013

Imagine my surprise to wake Thursday AM to a message from Thom il papa Francis that Mary Panza, R.M. Engelhardt & I had won the top 3 spots in the 2013 Metroland Annual Readers' Poll for "Best Poet". Then it dawned on me, I had not voted. I mean, I didn't even know to vote. Somehow I missed the Metroland issues with the ballots -- actually, I think I've missed the last 6 months of Metroland, that's how irrelevant ole Metrobland has become to my life.

Those of you who are regular readers of this Blog will know that I annually (anally?) parse the results of the poll to determine how the voting came about. But this year I blew it. I didn't even realize the voting had begun. It slipped by me, was under the radar, I didn't notice, just plain forgot.

The results this year were that Rob & I tied for 2nd place, with Mary Panza on top (as we like her to be) in 1st place. The 3 of us have been circling about the Readers' Poll for years, with the occasional flash-in-the-pan non-poets inserting themselves randomly in the list now & then. It proves the point that I've made year after year that it takes only a handful of votes to make the list. & as I've also said, each year I vote early & often for R.M. Engelhardt, so if I had voted this year as I had in the past there would be no tie: Rob would be #2 & I #3. Whatever.

But congratulations to us all, for if nothing else than for living long enough to become this 3-way of Albany poets (hmm?).

Now, as I do each time I appear on this list, I wonder where is my token? (as they once said in New York City about awards, "that & a token will get you on the subway").

March 14, 2013

Poetry + Prose: 2nd Sunday @ 2, March 10

I was the solo host this lovely Sunday afternoon, with a list of 13 readers from near & far, as well as an audience of rapt listeners.

Bob Sharkey was up first with a prose piece, inspired by an exhibit here at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, "Clumsy Federal Agent Goes Undercover at a Beauty Pageant," then a poem from his chapbook, Surface at Sunrise, "Twilight." Harvey Havel was up next with a piece about a frustrating experience all-too-familiar to PC users, about trying to download audio software. Howard Kogan's poem "Kaddish for Newtown" was a meditative prayer & a call for action. I inserted myself into the list at this point with 2 Winter poems, the 2011 "Winter Argument" & the recent "Winter Peace."

Kathleen Smith said her piece, "Ice & Summer," about a crash & its aftermath was inspired by watching truckers at a diner. Terry Provost's connection to the Albany poetry scene goes back many years; he now lives in Ohio, & today read a long, intense poem, "Celestial Mechanics," starting with a paean to an orange then progressing to a lime-sized tumor in his brain, fortunately benign -- good to have him back, & still with us.

Next was a new voice & face, T. Rusch with a small cluster of poems, "Kristallnacht," an untitled piece about the last election, & "New Surroundings." Sean Heather McGraw's poem "The Tattoo" was about a relationship & the way it marks one, while "Compass," a song, but not sung, was about hope & love.

Brian Dorn read 3 poems, all rhymed, the first about chess played on a board v. video games, "My Queen," then "Monkey Bars" about evolution, & finally "an Easter poem," the marvelous piece on the life of Jesus in a minute or 2, "3 Days" -- marvelous even to an Buddhist/Anarchist/Church-burner like me. David Wolcott read from his ongoing memoir, this an excerpt from a chapter about building his house with his Dad, & the subsequent naming, "Champ du Soleil," under the influence of psilocybin. Tim Verhaegen had poems to read today, "Physical Pain" (in the life of a drama queen) & "Letters," on saving old correspondence. Kate Laity read an essay/meditation on writing (& her vision of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.), "Me & Margery Kemp." Barbara Kaiser finished off the afternoon with 3 short, humorous poems, "Superhero," "Hedges & Sketches," & "A Weather Coma."

This open mic is friendly to prose as well as poetry & takes place on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM in the black box theater of the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY -- Free!

March 12, 2013

Caffè Lena Open Mic, March 6

I try to get up to Saratoga Springs for as many of these Caffè Lena readings as I can, but this was a definite "must see" with Albany poet Bob Sharkey as one of the featured poets (along with Tim Sneider).

The reading began as it always does with our host Carol Graser reading a poem by someone else, tonight "Under a Certain Little Star" by Wislawa Szymborska. I followed with "Reading Kant in China" (that my daughter Madeleine Wilcox had helped with the Chinese), & this year's "Birthday Poem 2013. Carole Kenyon followed with a humorous poem, of sorts, "Habitat for Humanity," documenting the cigarette haze, sounds & beer-farts in a bar. Alan Casline read "Retreat that Distance Darkness," then "John Murray Spears" building a "God machine." Brian Dorn read "a couple of Christian poems" in rhyme, "Guilty as Sin" & "Three Days" a simple, straight-forward re-telling of the Life of Jesus, without sentiment, preaching or acrimony.

The night's first featured poet was Tim Sneider, who demonstrated the frailty of poetry by tossing away "poems" on squares of toilet paper. Those of us who have heard him here at the open mic previously are familiar with his rhymed, narrative ballads, often laced with gritty humor & biker details -- he characterizes himself as a "biker poet."  But tonight his range was broader with poems from his life, such as "Old Age" dedicated to his grandson, & a seasonal poem about dandelions, "In Like a Lion." He also read 2 longer poems filled with nostalgic, personal emotion, "Life's Country Garden" & "Changing Roads." & tonight I was able to take a little of Tim Sneider home with me in the form of his slender self-published chapbook, Road Riding: Poems & Photos by TF Sneider.

Tonight's other featured poet was the peripatetic Albany poet Bob Sharkey, who also has a recent chapbook out, Surface at Sunrise (Benevolent Bird Press, 2012). A few of his favorite characters, such as Earl & Mary Bean, popped up in his poems, in "Cycles," "Another Deposition" & "Bear." Other poems were based on dreams, notably "Curtains" & its flowing chocolate, & the Mike Tyson poem, "An American Dream." Often his poems spring from simple observations of life ("North Pearl 4PM," "The Dutch Girls") or conversations with other poets ("Bonnet Doggonet"), or simply reading the obituaries (what have been called "the Irish funnies") "Winter." Other poems he read were "The Kids on Miller Road," the haiku "Blackout," "In Bed with a couple of Eggs," & "The Tabitha Maine" (a lobster boat). It was nice to hear a spread of Bob's poems beyond the 1 or 2 he can do at open mics.

Right after the break, Carol brought up a young high school student (who had been brought here by his English teacher), Aaron Stanley, who recited from memory a rhymed poem of lost love. Then Carol Graser herself read "The Appendix" a funny narrative with the afore-named body part playing a key, if disasterous role. Rodney Parrot read an excerpt from his novel "The Wanderer" about being among the redwoods. Ann Morse described her 2 poems as both "end with someone leaving," the first a narrative of a "rainbow man," the second about a wedding gone all wrong.

Melissa Anderson recited in Slam cadences a poem about remembering a boy from long ago, "Maps." Julie Lomoe read an excerpt from her novel-in-progress about the novel's prortagonist. Barbara Garro read 2 new poems, "Emotional Weather Report," & a poem of childhood memories, "Green." The night's last poet, Dale, said she had just moved back here from years in San Francisco, & read 2 poems from her phone, "How I Write" & "How I Love," fitting introductions.

The poetry open mic at Caffé Lena takes place on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:30 PM, $5.00 -- bring poems to read.

March 9, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam - Dead Poets, March 4

It was with fear & trepidation that I went to this Slam, nervous that someone would read one of my poems, that I had missed the obituary, but then, even dead, no one would probably read my poems, & no one did, not even me. Kevin Peterson, getting used to being the MC at poetry events, served as substitute open mic host.

First up was L-Majesty with "Job Market Minstrel," a poem for our time. Brian Dorn was more personal with a really-bad-breakup poem, "Wishing Well." Alyssa continued that dark theme with thoughts about 2:45 as the darkest of the night. Miriam Axel-Lute was back with a Winter meditation, "Breaking Trail." Gerrit (not sure of his spelling) gave a strangely flat, mechanical performance of a hip-hop piece about white rappers (of which he is one). Leslie Michelle read a love poem she wrote today. Sampson Dikeman read what sounded like a rhymed sonnet, "I Ask God to Give You Health & Fire." Always good to hear Jackie K., tonight with a tough piece mixing memory & being abandoned after losing her cherry. Mojavi, who was the host for the Slam, read 2 pieces, the anaphoric "I Know that Broken Things Can Grow" & the love poem "My Heart is Strong Enough For You." Avery was the only open mic poet to use the Slam theme of "Dead Poets" & read Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky" (Avery also served as the time/score keeper, without the computer & the spread sheet algorithm to calculate the scores; seems like math is his thing).

I had decided to enter the Slam because I actually have more poems committed to memory by dead poets than my own poems. I did reasonably well in the 1st round, reciting Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California" (26.4). But I performed first, which meant the deadly score creep clicked in & even uninspired, apparently un-rehearsed readings scored higher than me later in the round.

It was a crowded field for the first round, a 10-4-2 night. The Dead Poets read/recited ran the gamut from T.S. Eliot & Charles Bukowski (Kevin Peterson), Lord Buckley (Sampson Dikeman), Lucille Clifton (twice: Jackie K. gave an inspired recitation of "To My Hips" in the 1st round, with L-Majesty in the second round reading the same poem from his smart phone), Anne Sexton (Brenda Rusch), Walt Whitman (Emily Willworth), Big L (Gerrit), William Carlos Williams & e.e. cummings (Miriam Axel-Lute), Rumi & Billie Holiday (Alyssa -- actually, "Strange Fruit" was sung by Billie Holiday, the songwriters were Dwayne P. Wiggins, Maurice Pearl, & Lewis Allan), & Edgar Allen Poe (L-Majesty).

Miriam, Kevin, Mojavi, L-Majesty
All the really interesting poems were done by the time we hit the final round, which degenerated to competing mediocre pop lyrics by Big L (Kevin) & Amy Winehouse (L-Majesty). Miriam won 3rd place, Kevin 2nd & L-Majesty 1st place. To tell the truth I'm perplexed by L-Majesty winning the Slam, even to making it into the 2nd round, with a string of lack-luster readings; his performance of his open mic poem was much better than anything he did in the Slam rounds. In big Slam venues elsewhere the random picking of judges from among even novice members of the audience usually insures against the packing of the scores, but at Valentines the available pool of judges is small & frequently the same folks are holding up the mini-white boards week after week. There is also a penchant here among certain "professional judges" for "10s" being flung about like dollar bills at the bar, even for halting, sloppy performances, as long as it's the right person. But then, as is often said, "real poems don't get a 10," which was why there were few of them on a night of poems by Dead Poets.

Nitty Gritty Slam is on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at Valentines in Albany, NY, 7:30PM -- check for details.

March 7, 2013

First Friday Open Mic, March 1

The staff at the Albany Public Library, notably Chad Lowther, organized an open mic for musicians & poets at the Library's Main Branch on Washington Ave. during the monthly First Friday art gallery stroll. This first event was well-attended & I was there briefly before joining the Homeless Action Committee's Sleep-a-thon up the street in Townsend Park. The MC for the night was Albany poet Kevin Peterson. There was a generous 10 minute limit, which even that was violated.

Among those who read were Michael Purcell with a long string of poems & quotes, Sheldon Carnes with prose ramblings on white consciousness verging on racism,
Chad Lowther included a sound poem ("Terra Morpha") with Audrey on saw (she also has visual art on display this month at the Main Branch), & the venerable Don Levy read a poem on ending poems & the poem "A Friend of Dorothy's."

In between Daniel McDonald played blues harmonica & sang, & Dan & Dave did covers of rock songs, notably The Who.

There was a good audience & more poets & musicians on the sign-up list, but I had to leave. A good start for what is planned as an ongoing monthly series. Support your public Library!

March 5, 2013

Poets Speak Loud!, February 25

This is always a "don't miss" open mic for me, not just for the poetry, or Ms. Mary Panza's acerbic tongue, but also the fine bar-food & drink & enchanting wait-staff here at McGeary's. There was quite a crowd tonight of regulars, some from as far away as Kingston (NY, that is), even a 1st timer.

First up was Sylvia Barnard with a new poem about turbines in Sicily, "Wind," then a poem about the Temple at Delphi, Greece. I read yet again my new poem "The Leprechaun's Cottage" then a non-Valentine's Day poem "The Meaning of Roses." Carolee Sherwood's 2 poems were new, the 1st a pantoum based on a Frida Kahlo painting, "Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace & Hummingbird" then "Mother Downtown with Bows & Arrows." Tess Lecuyer tried to jump-start Spring with "April Understanding" & a bouquet of Spring haiku. Cheryl Rice was up from Kingston & read one of her Albany poems, "Community," from Moses Parts the Tulips (A.P.D., 2013), then a poem based on an old photo, "On Horseback." Mike Jurkovic was Cheryl's driver & read a poem about being on a train with a car full of coughing & hacking passengers, "Bio-hazard," then a Jain-like meditation about killing a bug that might change the universe.

Tonight's featured poet, Bryan Roessel, drove a long way to get here up from southern New York. He read a variety of poems, many if not Slam poems, at least leaning that way, sprinkled with a few "fake haiku" (as he termed them).   Many of his pieces were tinged with cynical humor, such as the love poem, "This is For My Girl" & "Breakup," using images from geology, the "nerdiest poem" he has written, he said. "Microsoft Word is a Prison" was in praise of writing with a pen in a notebook. While many of his poems used Slam cadences (& tended not to end at the end), he often broke with the tradition & read. One of the pieces he did recite was "Paradise Lost," good images & clever phrases, marred by Slam preachy-ness, as was his last piece, what he described as "a morality poem" about a resolve to make more time poetry -- good advice for all of us.

Boys hanging out: Avery & Kevin
Back to the open mic, Julie Lomoe read some of dog-walking haiku. This was Brian Dorn's 1st time here as he makes the rounds, trying out the local open mic venues; his first poem was on economics, "Humans United," then a poem on evolution, "Monkey Bars." Michael Purcell likes to begin each of his poems with a quote; he introduced his political manifesto "I Am a Patriot" with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, then a quote from Socrates for "The Thinker." A.C. Everson read her new poem "Skaters Observed from a Distance." Avery read a couple poems from his big, fat notebook, one on fire & growth, the 2nd a bit of preachy life advice. Kevin Peterson read a new piece, "Civil Integrated Management Workshop Open Remarks" which was exactly what it sounded like, only short; as he left the mic, Mary P. ordered him back ("That's it? That's all you got?") so Kevin came back & free-styled a piece about a bartender. R.M. Engelhardt ended the night with some Lark St. haikus & a revised "The Song Which Never Ends" erupting into a sing-a-long of sorts.

This happens, in one form or another, each last Monday of the month at McGeary's on Clinton Square in Albany, NY, near where Herman Melville lived as a young boy, check for details.

March 4, 2013

Sunday Four Poetry, February 24

Quite a full house of audience & open mic poets to hear the featured poet, Sylvia Barnard. But always, here, the open mic first.

I was first on the list (surprise!) & did 2 recent poems I've been reading at open mics lately (don't worry, there are few venues left to read them at so on to something new, perhaps), "The Leprechaun's Cottage" & "Birthday Poem 2013." Brian Dorn also repeated himself (but worth hearing again) with 2 love poems, "Can't Escape" & "Chemical Smile" (I missed the title when he read it at Valentine's last week). Dennis (O')Sullivan introduced the first mini-theme of the day, namely "death," with "When the Weather of the Day is the Weather of Eternity" & "Fatal Wonderment" (for Annie Willis), then on to memory, "Thinking of Kenny."

Obeeduid's poem "Query" was a dream of his wandering, lonely poetry manuscript, then a poem "About Love" (or as he called it "documentary mythology") inspired by a great-aunt's postcard collection, & he concluded with a crow poem. Bird, aka Alan Casline, began with an old poem from his college days, "Mount Morris," then "Scales of Wizards" for a sign-painter/draftsman, & the short descriptive piece "With a New Crescent Moon." Joe Krausman said he has been going through his old poems, some of which he doesn't remember writing, so he read a few: "The Endless Toothache," "Re-Tired in Time," & "Body & Of-fender" (about a car).

Therese Broderick read off her iPad, the first time she has done that she said, from a new manuscript of poems based in Watervliet, & continued the theme of death with a list of names of children from tombstones, "The Cemetery Runs Downhill," then her father's memory of a sweet treat, "Charlotte Rouse." Frank Robinson began with a hilarious satire of open mic announcements, then a political piece about Col. Khadafi, "Death Near Certain." Howard Kogan has also been going through old poems, re-writing them, such as "My Wife & I 4 Months Pregnant Take a Walk" & spot a snake, then more on Death, "The Last Act" first his plea, then her answer & the reality of who will take care of her? Edie Abrams had a much more pleasant thought, a poem about putting on a bra, "Opportunity," then a poem dedicated to Larry Rapant & Alan Casline "Mona Lisa Smile."

Incredibly, A.C. Everson said that this was her 1st time here; she read her famous Valentine poem "Cupid is a Bastard" (often done with a piñata), then a more recent "Skaters Observed from a Distance." Sally Rhoades began with an old poem (which also seems to be mini-theme this afternoon), "Red Barn Innocence," then the self-affirming, "I Will Be Your Poet Tonight" & concluded with a poem for the late Tom Smith, "Maps." Ken Collins was here for the 1st time, & read 3 poems, in rhyme, of love & loss, trying to reach an understanding of what went wrong.

The afternoon's featured poet was Sylvia Barnard, who is on what might be described as a local book tour to promote her poetry collection, Trees. She likes to let the "book gods" choose her poems for her at her readings while she carefully monitors her time. The book gods did well today, with an excellent selection of poems, starting with "Home," then the anti-war "The New Athenians" & a poem from a trip to France, "The Paleolithic Horses." She touched on today's theme of death with "Hurricane." "The Western Wall" recalled a trip to Israel, while "Rings" reflected on her mother in the nursing home. She also had a "Crow" poem, this set in Seattle, while "My Grandmother's Bones" took us to Vermont. From her many trips to Britain we heard "Memory" & "The Goddess of Grimes Grave" & from Greece we heard the poem "The Frankish Cathedral, Andravida, Greece." In response to Dennis' request for a love poem she read "Helen" then finished with "The Museum," about a trip to the Natural History Museum with her daughter when she was 10 years old. Of course, the book gods have a lot of good poetry to work with when guiding Sylvia's reading.

This gathering of community poets occurs on the 4th Sunday of most months, at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, 3PM & a modest donation to support the featured poet & Old Songs.