May 31, 2013

Sunday Four Poetry, May 26

The house was packed for today's featured poet, Jill Crammond, with a long list of open mic poets, introduced by Edie Abrams. I'd gotten there early before the doors were even open, with a carload of Albany poets, including the perfectly coiffed featured poet, so I ended up at the top of the sign-up sheet.

Seeing the long list I read just one poem (the limit was 3), an old piece I like to do for Memorial Day, "John Lees." I was followed by Carolee Sherwood with 2 new pieces, "The Surprise of 2 Red Roosters" (the surprise was the birds themselves in her poem) & the urban scenes of "Mother Downtown with Bow & Arrow." Dennis Sullivan began with a short love poem, "Musetta," then his more characteristic metaphysical musings of "A Day in May when the Frost Comes" (for his grand-daughter) & "A Disconcerting Fact About Nature" (for Larry Rapant). Lloyd Barnhart also did a poem for Memorial Day, "Collage from a War Footing" on the endless wars & profiteering, ending with reference to the old Pogo cartoon comment, "We have met the enemy, & it is us." Don Levy, whose life is richly detailed on his FaceBook page, wrote a poem about an altercation on FB, "The Right Side."

Dan Lawlor read a poem in rhyme written 20 years ago about how everything is more expensive, "Money's Worth," then a newer piece on Death as a card dealer. Tim Verhagen is known for his hysterical, outrageous stories of his family; today we got a heavy dose, with pictures, of "Grandmama," "Things Mom Used to Say When I Was 6 Years Old," & the poem about his brother, who, like grandmama, took many years to die. Edie Abrams reprised the poems she had read Friday night -- no apologies necessary, Edie, it was good to hear them again. Mike Burke said he pulled his poems "from the vault," the first a character study of an old guy & his Yorkies, then an angry rant on reading the ages of the military killed in Iraq. Brian Dorn brought back rhyme with a love poem, "Luck," & a poem about Schenectady, "The City that Lit Up the World."

Mike Burke introduced the featured poet Jill Crammond, explaining that he earned the honor by beating Dennis Sullivan in a leg-wrestling match -- I would have paid to see that. Jill read poems from her new series about Mary (of the Blessed Virgin type), explaining that she thinks she should become a nun, having heard the voice of the "Blessed Mother." Just listing the titles will give you a sense of what these fine, poignant poets are about, beginning with "How to Wear Rosy Glasses," followed by a couple of list poems, "Mary Goes Camping" & "Mary Prepares for the Storm." Then "Mary & the Greener Pastures" & a trio about a broken heart, "Mary Writes a Prayer," "Mary's Terrible Heart" & "Mary Writes a Personal Ad." Some of these were written for the Tupelo Press poem-a-day project, including one I had suggested to her, "The Pope Writes a Letter to Mary." "Mary & the Commandments" raised the possibility of more than 10. "Mary Waits for the Grass" & "Mary Kneels in the Garden" had her comparing her yard with the "better" yards of her neighbors. Ex-s were coming out of the woodwork in "Mary Does Not Return the Affection," & she ended with a poem from a sub-set of the series, "Mary & the Deer, Part 3." There are lots of "you"s in her poems, like advice, on gardening, on relationships, & her poetry is refreshingly about as far from abstract as a poet can get ("no idea but in things" indeed). It was a one of the best readings in this series, tender, ironic, humorous, -- & did I say her hair was perfect?

Usually at Sunday Four Poetry the featured poet is the last one to read, but due to the packed house the open mic continued. Tim Dwyer is scheduled to read here next year, but showed up today to check out the scene, giving us a sample with 4 poems from his manuscript on Irish themes, "Between 2 Shores," one poem, "Mid-Summer," drawing parallels between the American Indian battles with other tribes & the Irish conflict. Lee Slonimsky had driven up from Red Hook with Tim Dwyer, read 3 sonnets from his book Logician of the Wind with a variety of strange themes: one from the point of view of an atom in a girder in old Yankee Stadium, another at Vesuvius, & a 3rd from the point of view of Pythagoras.

Is it me? Did you ever notice that whenever there is a long open mic list, some poets toward the end of the list tend to read the longest poems? Obeeduid read 3 poems, abstract, philosophical, & long, his last poem, "Anything Can Happen," in multiple parts, was as long as the other 2 combined (& one of those was long too), sort of a "half-feature". Sally Rhoades began with a poem from a visit to D.C., "High Water Mark," then an old poem "The Cardinal" & a recent dream poem "I Could See My Mother." Alan Casline, after some announcements, read poem about a cast-party for a chair (!), then another from wandering around Nashville, & then his poem to the late Jim Williams, "Good-Bye to Shadow Poet."  Joe Krausman began with a fable in rhyme, "Apples," then a humorous piece written many years ago, "My Poem Shop." Bob Sharkey read a piece about the issue of re-building our cities & covering over memories of what the city has been, then "Flying High" about a trip to visit his new grand-daughter & finding a poem in a box.

The last 2 poets rarely make it to open mics so it was a refreshing end to the reading by hearing their work. Sharon Stenson's first poem, "The Chickens" was about freedom, then a poem of lost love, "Tango Del Morte" & a portrait of 4 year old playing a piano for her teddy bear, "The Truth About Mary." Faith Green's poems were short, with quirky titles, "Irregular Yardstick," "The Deja Vu of Love," ending with 2 haikus.

There is one more in this series of Sunday Four Poetry, at 3 PM, at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, before they take a summer break, then return with a new schedule for the Fall & into next year (including Tim Dwyer).

May 29, 2013

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, May 24

This is a sorta regular series in the non-snow months of the year at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, that brings in a featured poet & an open mic for the community poets. This night there was a full list of open mic poets as well as a number of just-listening audience members, with Alan Casline, the host, polling each reader for their astrological sign.

Given the title of this reading series I ransacked my list of poems looking for some "nature poems" & began with "How I'm Doing My Part to Preserve the Adirondacks" an urban older piece, then the much more recent, rural "Leprechaun's Cottage." It's funny how some people don't know their astrological sign, say "I'm on the cusp," but in fact your are either one or the other (we're talking Sun signs here, al la daily newspaper horoscopes), so Edie Abrams said she is either a Sagittarius or a Capricorn. She read 3 poems playing to one degree or another on her Jewish heritage, the tender "I Remember" about lighting the yahrzeit candles, then "My Night With Leonard Cohen," & another memory poem, "Day of Rest."

Bernadette Mayer, a Taurus, read a poem she said was so short she had to give it a long title. Obeeduid, a Pisces, read a trio of "big idea" poems, beginning with one about Jim Williams, "As a State of Being," then the hopeful "To What Warmth," & "The Power of Maintaining Life" pondering school shootings. Michael Conner, Sagittarius, read some nature poems, "Auto Moment" (about rain), the rhyming "Almost Spring," & "Post Peak" (Autumn). Phil Good read 2 short seasonal poems, "Above Average Temperature," & another on the confusion of the names of flowers.

The featured poet was Stephen Ellis who read long, philosophical pieces pondering the Big Questions in singularly un-poetic terms, often in what he aptly termed "second-rate abstractions." Obviously he was an Aquarius. The poems were titled "Poise," "Rebel Forces," "I Didn't Know," "Bunny Lake is Missing" (on movie themes, of course), & "God is My Girl Friend" (thinking about existence while in a tent), a notably undramatic reading.

Gene Damm, a Leo, read a couple poems from his travels in China, "Congee" (the pale, rice porridge), & "The Gingko Girl." Brian Dorn, another Sagittarius, read 3 rhyming poems, "Playing for Keeps," "Plain to See" (on subtle beauty), & the environmental "Another Step Forward." Joe Krausman, another Leo, read a poem about Mary Baker Eddy, & taking a shit, & a poem based on a New York Times obituary about a woman funeral director. Our host, Alan Casline, is a Taurus, read "Good-Bye Shadow Poet" (for Jim Williams), then "My Navajo Butterfly Song," & a short poem with the long title "Born Along by the Propitiousness of the Times."

The first Scorpio of the night, Alifair Skebe, made a rare open mic appearance & read a poem to her daughter, "The Writer, After Richard Wilbur's 'The Writer'" then another poem for her daughter, "A Life for a Life," & the simply stated "Spring." The only Virgo of the night A.C. Everson began with a poem on being wrong, "Probable Wonder," then 2 related poems written 10 years apart, on clouds & dragons in the sky, "Surprise Scene" & "Waking."

(left to right) C. Roohan, R. Mendoza
Robin Mendoza, another Scorpio, had popped up earlier in the month at Caffè Lena, began pulling poems from different pockets, first the descriptive "5 Girls," then from another pocket the strange, dream-like "Egg," & a poem about spending all night traveling around New York City, "Christ in the Wilderness." Then he joined his friend, the last reader, Conrad Roohan (a Pisces) in a dual voice reading in a stylized manner of what could've been a song lyric, or a parody of one, I wasn't sure.

This series continues roughly monthly on Fridays into November, at 6:30PM at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, sponsored by Rootdrinker Institute, the Delmar Writers Group, & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

May 26, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam #45, May 21

Now that the Slam team has been selected, nominated, whatever, this was a wide-open slam for anyone to give it a shot & it was refreshing to not see all the same faces.  But 1st K.P. (Kevin Peterson) served as host for the open mic.

First up with a love poem in rhyme ("High Wire") was Brian Dorn, who later made a brief appearance in the Slam. Avery read an homage to Led Zeppelin, a "cocktail of the mind, the soul" (actual phrase), "Time to Flip the Record." Rose Marie also made an appearance in the Slam but for now read a rhyming poem wondering where was the man in her life.

Katie Leach
Katie Leach's poem centered on the image of a kitten becoming a lion. "O.P.P" who later appeared in the Slam as Michael, read a love poem from his phone. K.P. read a new Slam piece he is working on, using such literary allusions to suicide as "a Hemingway" & "to van Gogh." Jess ListenToMyWords read a new piece written today about feeling broken, "A Letter to Myself."

The Slam had 6 of us signed up, for a traditional 6-4-2 Slam, with K.P. as the Sacrificial Lamb earning respectable points with his "Deviant Behavior" poem, il papa Thom Francis our mild-mannered host. At the end of the first round Brian Dorn & I were at the bottom of the pack & eliminated. I had done "Pussy Pantoum" but lost points because I was over time. I have timed performing it between 2 & 3 minutes, but must've read a bit slower than usual (some lines are a bit of a tongue-twister). In any event I wouldn't have beaten the 4th/3rd place place performers, Michael (formerly "O.P.P.") even with his singularly bad performance dropping lines, & Rose Marie. But Rose Marie was the next to go, not enough sympathy for her Mother's Day poem.

Thom Francis, "Love," Melissa, Michael
3rd place went to the poet with the handle "Love", leaving Michael & Melissa to battle it out. Melissa took first place with her series of Slam-style/Slam-coached pieces, ending in the final round with the "small poem" she has done here before.

Speaking of small, it was a small (barely enough judges between us competing poets & the guys running the show) but enthusiastic crowd that didn't need a cheer-leading Slam host insulting us to shout louder, as we've had to endure in the past. But if you want to judge, or not, show up some 1st or 3rd Tuesday at Valentines in Albany, NY for the Nitty Gritty Slam. You can read in the open mic, too. All for $5.00 & whatever you spend at the bar. Sponsored by

May 24, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 16

Every third Thursday is special here a the Social Justice Center, but I was particularly pleased to have as our featured poet one of the "greats," Bernadette Mayer. Back in the late-1970's I lived in the East Village in New York City & attended many events at the St. Marks Poetry Project, when Bernadette was there giving workshops. I never took her workshops but read her books & I may even have a copy somewhere of the mimeographed zine she edited "United Artists." But before I go on with the history of modern poetry in the late 20th Century, I need to finish this report. Tonight's muse to bless the night was the mid-20th Century (she died in 1970) "condensery" poet Lorine Niedecker.

& first up for the open mic was another of the greats, Alan Catlin, with a poem about the 1960's, "Sunshine Superman," a portrait of a drug dealer. Phil Good said he brought some tiny poems, didn't know about the one poem rule, read instead "Ellie's Other Weather," a tale of country living. Mike Connor's poem was titled "Rolling," on spinning through another day. Brian Dorn said he likes to read poems appropriate to the Social Justice Center when he is here, so tonight read an anti-war poem, "Out of Whack." Joe Krausman has been reading a book about memory to talk about it for the Friends of the Albany Public Library noon-time book review, so he read a poem on memory, "Losing It." K.P. (Kevin Peterson) tried out a new performance piece about playing Tetris to measure a person's true abilities.

Bernadette Mayer now lives in East Nassau & her new book The Helens of Troy, NY was published this year by New Directions in their new Poetry Pamphlets series . She read a selection from the book, starting with a poem about her neighbor, Helen Green, who was the inspiration for the project, then to the youngest Helen in the book, "Helen Willett Sonnet." The poems are based on interviews with each Helen & includes a photo of each. One of the oldest Helens is "Helen Worthington Bonesteel," a short poem of memories of going to school in a sleigh, & of Troy on fire, as did "Helen O'Neill Davis." "Helen Fuller" is more of a list-poem description. She ended with a poem she said she wrote for me, her "social justice poem -- maybe," "I'm Glad it Was on My Porch," about a warbler on her porch.

After the break, & the accumulation of a fewmore open mic poets, I read my poem about the Gulf oil spill, "Pindar's Shrimp." Jacky K. said her poem, an unsettling, anaphoric piece playing on "Simon Says…" about sexual predation, is untitled, or might be titled "Didn't Say." Sylvia Barnard read a series of 8 Haikus, "Tulip Festival 2013, Albany, NY." James Belfower read from Hannah Weiner's Open House, Day 52, which mentions Bernadette. Matthew Klane, a local "condensery" poet read what he called "Some Words on the Street," short pieces like definitions. Jan Farrell was up next but then couldn't find her poem, so Alan Casline took over & read "Lap Water Off the Roof…" a description, perhaps, of Bernadette's house & garden. Jan came back having found what she wanted to read, a story poem for Mother's Day, "Dear Mom," a jobless man calling home. Kenneth Williams, a new voice & face, snuck in to give us a little baseball history, talking about Jackie Robinson & racism. Although he had gotten here earlier, Kenyatta Jean-Paul Garcia signed up last & so was our final poet for the night with some abstract philosophical musings on language & truth.

Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place each month at the Social Justice Center, 7:30PM, a featured poet with an open mic before & after the feature, $3.00 donation helps pay the featured poet, supports poetry events in Albany & helps support the work of the Social Justice Center.

May 21, 2013

Poetry + Prose: 2nd Sunday @ 2, May 12

This is just an open mic, no featured reader, held most months of the year at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY for writers of prose & poetry. The hosts are Nancy Klepsch & me, DWx.

Brian Dorn has gotten brave & signed up first, & started with a poem on poetry, "I Surrender," then a love poem, "Clear Into Space," & his take on evolution, "Monkey Bars." I followed with some poems for the day, "Mothers' Day Meditation" & "Whose Mom is That?" Both of Howard Kogan's poems pondered death, the first, "The Sense of the Question," from a workshop with Bernadette Mayer, then "The Life We Want." Inna Erlich brought some translations from the Russian of other writers & asked me to read them for her, a short prose piece, "The Blue Wagon," by Inna Goukhman, & a short poem (actually a song) by Bulat Okudzhana, "Open Door." Harvey Havel read a quirky fictional piece about a woman who buys a new pair of eyeglasses then finds lots of others wearing the same style.

Mike Connor began by reading Baudelaire's "Be Drunk" (Mike has been hanging out at the School of Night), then on to a couple of his own poems, "The Last Few Moments" about "nothing" he said, & a poem about cilia, "Paramecium." Co-host Nancy Klepsch read an old poem based on a Swahili proverb, "The Daughters of Lions Are Lions Too," then a poem by Naomi Shahib Nye, "Kindness."  Sally Rhoades read a poem about her mother, "Woke Up," then a segment of a longer prose piece, "Mountain Ash," & the tender "A Trip in Home."

Tim Verhagen can be sexy & funny & outrageous as he was today with "The Pool Boy," then "Grand Mama" (who is close to death "…for years"), & "Old People." Kathy Smith also had a poem about her mother, this about visiting the Cohoes Falls on the way to visit her Mom in the nursing home, then a poem about struggling to write about the World Trade Center destruction.

This open mic is on the 2nd Sunday of most months (off July & August) at 2:00 PM at the Arts Center in Troy -- Free! Bring prose or poetry (in any language too).

May 10, 2013

Live from the Living Room, May 8

There were actually about 5 more folks in the living room of the Pride Center in addition to the poets that read this night, so the cozy was getting crowded. As always our host was the straight-friendly Don Levy, who had touted this as "Haiku night."

The featured poet was Tess Lecuyer who goes back to the roots of the open mic scene at the QE2 & she began with a poem that dates from that era, "Ahab's Leg." She said her reading set tonight was determined by a "random fistful of poems" she grabbed heading out the door, but a good selection it proved to me (& nary a haiku in the bunch). The next 3 poems were her signature crow poems, which are often rain poems as well, "Crow Sonnet" (with the line "the rain is coming"), "This Sound," & a poem of a skyfull of crows, asking questions & rain. Next was a poem about lilacs & a Maypole, "May Day Chant" then 2 poems set at Camp Little Notch, the seasonal romp "Wild Pumpkins" & "Camping at Little Notch with Irene" (the Hurricane, that is). She ended with a nod towards Oz, the poem "After Dorothy Has Gone." Tess is one of the poets here whose work I never tire of hearing & whose new work is often a surprise, never the feeling that she is just re-writing the same poem over & over again.

Then on to the open mic, with the first poet Delilah, who had tried us out last month. She read a long series of haiku on issues of gender, sex, religion, introduced by a discussing having learned the form in school & being a bit confused about it -- isn't that what school does to poetry, confuses us? AC Everson read from a new work-in-progress, "Heaven Sent," a segment about a weekend of music, friends, a gift sent from above from her Mom. I actually attempted some Haiku, the "American" version of the form, from my series of "Portland Haiku" from the 3 Guys from Albany tour in 2000.

Sylvia Barnard read her recent attempts at the Japanese version of the form, a couple of Park Haiku, then a May Day poem in rhyme, "Morris Dancers." Sally Rhoades read a tender poem "Dream Afar My Lover." Our host, Don Levy, ended the night appropriately enough reading from Gay Haiku by Joel Derfner.

A cozy gathering each 2nd Wednesday in the living room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, 7:30PM, $2.00 donation (or more, or less).

May 9, 2013

Caffè Lena Open Mic, May 1

I was away last month & missed the open mic but had to be here tonight for the featured poet Mary Panza, whom I've known since she was a young poet (& I guess I must've been younger then too) making her poetic debut on stage at the QE2 open mic. I had no idea who the other featured poet, Dorothy Randall Grey, was but I'm glad I was here to hear her too. But first a few of the flock of open mic poets.

Our host Carol Graser began with a poem by Tu Fu, who has so many. Rodney Parrott read poems from his novel The Wanderer, sounding very influenced by the Asian wandering poets. Brian Dorn brought us up into the 21st Century with a poem on technology & war, "Back in the Day," then one on environmental issues "Another Step Forward." Barbara Garro's poem "Hope" was, she said, about "having tea with Rumi," & a long tea-party it was. Carolee Sherwood was finally back here with 2 parts from a new, experimental poem with surreal characters like an avalanche & her familiar images of crow & duck, even a dragon boat -- something to look forward to. Aaron, who was introduced as a high school student, read a dream sequence/fantasy with random rhymes on being alone.

The first featured poet, in an inspired paring, was Dorothy Randall Grey, who began with an exultant, humorous celebration of "Breasts." On to a poem about her family/racial history, "Looking for My Name" then on to a true story of being locked out & "Half-Naked in the Bronx." Continuing the erotic celebration was "I Come", & the Rumi-inspired "Fallen" & she ended with a another celebratory poem, this one to the Lower East Side, filled with familiar place-names from my incarnations there (wonder if we ever crossed paths?).

Back in Caffè Lena was Mary Panza. I say "back" because Mary was the featured poet here many years ago soon after Carol started the poetry open mic & as Carol put it Mary almost ended it with her don't-fuck-with-me poems & attitude. Not much has changed as she demonstrated by starting with "Fuck the Giving Tree." She went on with making it better "In a Post-Partum World," then took down "The Tattooed Crowd at Day Care." Mary writes a regular column for the AlbanyPoets website, "Housewife Tuesdays" & read the poem behind the columns, "Because of You I Believe in Housewife Tuesdays" & read a recent column about the pajancho. Next was one of my favorites, "And the Women Cooked." She ended with a trio of Mary Panza classics: "This is Not an Angry Poem…," "I Dream of London" (based on the film Wings of Desire) & the to-the-point "The Cock Kicker Manifesto."

Of course we needed a break after that, then back with Carol Graser reading her poem "Root Canal." Peg said it was her first time, read a poem about a kayak trip ("Fresh") & a tree branch ("Fall & Recover"). Nancy Denofio's long piece "One Man" was in 3-parts, over time. Scott began with a rambling apology for not being here in a while, then read 2 long pieces about being enthralled by beautiful woman. Alan Catlin read a piece from his "The Life of the Poet" then another about college characters & pranks, "The Season of the Witch." Sally Rhoades began with the poem "Traveling Somewhere" then an elegy for a friend "Is that a Rain Cloud Passing Over?"

Don Levy did a poem about guns at school, "Shoot & Tell" then bit of New York City history with "Love at the Automat." I followed with a poem about the shootings at Kent State & Jackson State colleges in May 1970 ("44,000") then the very short "Old Hymn." Judith Prest's poem "April Morning Southeast Connecticut contrasted being at a poetry retreat during the Newtown shootings, while "Poet's Prayer" was about herself & her mother. Tim Snider celebrated the coming of dandelions in his poem "In Like a Lion," then recited the Winter poem "Window Gazing."

The night ended with a quartet of young poets, beginning with Maria, her first time reading, with her poem "To Anorexic Girls" & a tender poem "to a special woman" comparing her to a flower. Robin Mendoza's poems were strange, quirky stories of himself & of his friends. Robbie Held's poem "Lunch Sandwiches" was also stories of lunch with her friends. Dylan's first poem was also about a friend, full of strange, funny images, while his second piece was serious, abstract musings.

The open mic at Caffè Lena has survived since the first reading by Mary Panza & i suspect it will continue to survive & thrive on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:30, $5.00, on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY. Eclectic featured poets & an open mic for the community.

May 6, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam #43, April 30

One of the rare 5th Tuesday Slams at Valentines & the visage of il papa Thom Francis has yet to surface from beneath the pile of diapers & extra laundry, but somehow the Slam goes on. Christopher the Poet was the host for the open mic while the rest of the gang rounded up judges for the Slam. In the audience (& a particularly hard-ass judge from her experience with the Providence Slam Team) was Carrie LaCroix Pan who hadn't been here since Autumn.

First up was RoseMarie (who also did the Slam), with a relationship piece in rhyme, "Why Did I Give Up On Us?" Avery read a piece about the mega-coincidence of the Laura Buxton(s), a great pile of words, but read much too fast. K.P. (Kevin Peterson, of course) read his classic Stewart's hangover poem ("Sausage Egg & Cheese Defined").

Daniella Watson's poem was a Slam piece about urban violence, invoking the spirit of MLK & probably would've done well in the Slam portion. Algorhythm didn't Slam either & his piece was about trying to pay with a $100 bill at Dunkin' Donuts (duh!). I played off the up-coming anniversary of the Kent State/Jackson State massacres in 1970 with an older poem from 2010 "44,000." & that was it.

(from left) Michael, Victorio, K.P, & Christopher

On to the Slam, with K.P. as the Slam host -- 5 poets, 2 rounds, all 5 both rounds, then the final 1 to 1 round. It was a low-scoring night, only 1 "10" (Christopher the Poet) due to some particularly tough judges & the absence of some particularly uncritical folks who often volunteer as judges. There were also a majority of new Slammers, Rose Marie, Billy & Michael.

When the white boards were all whiped & the tallies counted off on Avery's fingers & toes, Rose Marie was 5th, next was Billy, then Michael. Victorio & Christopher the Poet went head-to-head for first place, with Christopher taking first with his signature "Dear Future Son or Daughter."

Nitty Gritty Slam is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday, with a 5th Tuesday when there is one, at Valentines, New Scotland Ave., Albany -- $5.00, unless you have a student I.D., then only $3.00.

May 2, 2013

Poets Speak Loud!, April 29

In a more informal, intimate arrangement we were gathered back in the back room of McGeary's for another last Monday edition of Poets Speak Loud!, hosted by Mary Panza (il papa, Thom Francis, otherwise pre-occupied at home).

First poet was Sylvia Barnard with a love poem, "The Last Voyage of an Old Sloop," then a poem about crossing the Hudson River, on a bus. I read a new poem about women in combat & military drones, "Nurture or Shooter," then an break-up piece "Opinions." Annie Sauter made the trip back to Albany after being here for WordFest, read a long-line breathless rant (seems to be her style) "Drunk at Dreamtime."

D. Colin was the featured poet, a member of the Nitty Gritty Slam team, she is a favored poet of mine; I had booked her to read in 2011 at Poets in the Park.  She began with some of her signature pieces about Haiti, a wonderful untitled poem inspired by & celebrating the women of Haiti, then on to another Haiti poem, like a love poem, & a free writing piece from Poetry Month that also connected back to Haiti. Then she defiantly celebrated her hair, a luxuriant afro. "The Voices" was a poem about questioning herself, making choices. Another poem sang the praises of "little black girls" & she ended with "We Are Beyond It," an angry poem about the Haiti stereotypes, but also in some sense an anthem. Good work, strong performances of real poems.

Angie is a new volunteer at AlbanyPoets & a read some of her notebook jottings, "Hard Times" & "The Baffled State," both about her feelings. Brian Dorn began with his poem "Poetry is Sexy" (for sure) that he said is used in the UK by poet Peter Thomas to promote poetry in the schools, then another poem "Playing for Keeps." The poet known as RainMaker said he had done the 30/30 of poems, read a weaving, spinning piece "Synaptic Afro" with the great line, "masturbation was the first iTouch," then a poem about his grandmother coming to the USA from Jamaica. Nicole finished off the night with poems from her iPhone, "I'm Hungry" (advice on how to be a successful black woman) & the rhymed love poem "My Passion."

Sometimes on the mic, sometimes off, Poets Speak Loud! is a wonderful place to be on the last Monday of any month, at McGeary's on Clinton Square (near where Herman Melville once lived) -- see for information & a wonderful calendar of poetry events.

Inside Out: Poems & Music from Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, April 23

This was a benefit held at historical Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs to support the Mt. McGregor Arts Fund, providing poetry workshops for inmates at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility. The program was introduced by Gordon Boyd & Cara Benson, who runs the poetry workshop.  

Cara talked about her experience with the poetry, & politics, of working in the prison system, then introduced 2 poets who had been in her workshop.

D. Anderson (standing), S. Dalpiaz (seated, right)
Derek Anderson read a weaving, lyrical piece with repeating lines, "My Man Dog," then a love poem "Rock-a-bye Baby."

Seán Dalpiaz read the more philosophical "Calvin Klein Thought" then a descriptive piece about an old woman in a supermarket.

Cara then showed a short video interview with 4 inmates Mo Santana, Chris Taylor, Michael Adam & RC Brown, discussing their experiences in the writing workshop, & each read a poem they had written. The video was produced by Cara Benson & Joel Patterson of Mountaintop Video.

The program ended with a panel discussion with poets Derek Anderson, Seán Dalpiaz & Judith Brink of the Prison Action Network, discussing the effect of the poetry workshop & other programs on inmates & the issue of prison reform.

Poetry is everywhere, even behind prison walls, since poetry resides in the human heart. If you would like to contribute money to keep the program going you can donate online at the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region  -- please specify Mt. McGregor Arts Fund.