June 30, 2013

Vincent Ferrini Centenary Gala, June 22

I was back in one of my favorite places on Earth for a celebration of the life & work of Cape Ann poet, dancer, lover Vincent Ferrini, sponsored by the Gloucester Writers Center. The day included an afternoon panel discussion, "Holy Local," at the Cape Ann Museum, & an evening event at Maritime Gloucester on Harbor Loop, first "Bites on the Dock" followed by "The Poet's Cabaret." 

Holy Local:  Vincent Ferrini's Literary Legacy

The panel was moderated by Dorothy Shubow Nelson, & the presenters ranged from formal papers to free-ranging anecdotes about Vincent's life & work in this City in which he was so involved, with the presentations ranging from the tender, amusing personal to the dull scholarly. The panel members included Peter Anastas, whose recent book A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester (Back Shore Press, 2013) collects Peter's columns from the Gloucester Daily Times; David Rich, editor of Charles Olson: Letters Home 1949 - 1969 (Cape Ann Museum, 2010); Ammiel Alcalay, the General Editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, whose paper was read by Kate Tarlow Morgan, & who provided copies 2 broadsides of early works by Vincent; Kate, who danced later at the Gala with local choreographer Sarah Slifer Swift, has been working in the Vincent Ferrini archives in the Cape Ann Museum;

also, James Cook, president of the Charles Olson Society & co-editor of the literary journal, Polis; Elizabeth McKim, an artist, & close friend of Vincent's, on sound & movement & women; Ken Warren poet & editor; Peter Kidd unscripted, publisher of Igneus Press; Garrison Nelson with a few words on the relationships of his father Truman Nelson with Vincent; & Fred Whitehead with some fascinating photos from a conference in Kansas City in 1980, including a couple shots of Vincent with a young Joy Harjo.

A recording of the speakers can be found here at the Gloucester Writers Center.

As Vincent Ferrini said in another context (as quoted by Peter Kidd), "I got enough material here to blow the roof off this building!"

Poet's Cabaret: Vincent Ferrini Centenary Gala

It was a beautiful early Summer evening on the pier in Gloucester Harbor where Maritime Gloucester makes its home, a spectacular setting for a retirement lunch, a fund-raiser party, whatever, for a celebration of the salt air & fishes & boats & gulls & heroes & Poets of this Polis. & tonight for the life & work of poet Vincent Ferrini (1913 - 2007). First the food & drinks, the chance meetings, the conversations about the fish, the lobsters, the fisherman, the fishermans' wives, about poetry, about who knew who when, about young writers (& older, but new, writers) tripping across the large footprints of Ferrini & of Charles Olson.

It was also a celebration of the publication of Incredible Dancer: Poems from Vincent Ferrini to his friends on Cape Ann (Gloucester Writers Center, 2013) edited by Gregory Gibson & Peter Anastas, a book of poems & photographs that also contains a DVD of the documentary film by Henry Ferrini, Poem in Action: a Portrait of Vincent Ferrini. I'm certain many academic critics would find Vincent's work uneven, erratic, even slight -- just notes, letters to friends, random jottings, as indeed they are. Must all "poetry" be "grand"? The film, the book, Ferrini's work & especially this Gala tonight are a celebration of the poet's commitment to the unity of art & life.

The program, hosted by Michael McNamara & M. Lynda Robinson, consisted of an eclectic mix of poems, dance, film, music & combinations of them all, filled with humor, all centered on Vincent's words. We even learned to dance like Vincent did. Shep Abbott created a larger-than-life (wasn't he anyway?) puppet in Vincent's image & many of us ended up in a conga line dancing to Willie Loco Alexander's keyboard & chanting Vincent's words, "Life is the poem, life is the poem …

I've posted more photos from these events on my flickr site.

The Gloucester Writers Center has a regular series of readings & events, many at Vincent's old home at 126 East Main St., Gloucester.

June 27, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 20

Glad to be here again, this on the eve of the Summer Solstice, with a full complement of regular community open mic poets & our featured poet Glenn Werner. In a reward to the poets who got here on time, I abandoned the one-poem rule & let open mic poets read up to 2 poems! I reserved the right (after all I am le seigneur) to limit any late arriving poets to 1 poem. But we were it.

Sylvia Barnard began the night with a recent poem about the all-too-common sight in recent weeks, observing "Umbrellas." Jan began with a poem from her adolescence, recited from memory, "The Amateur" about a beauty contest, then a brief vignette of an old women remembering a lover, "The Faded Dock." Brian Dorn read a couple of social justice rhymes, the ironic "Standard of Living," & a poem for us poets, "Words." Mike Conner's poem "Steel Resolve" was about addiction to love, than about Spring time flowers, "My Friends Lily & Iris."

Man-about-town, Joe Krausman, read a timely piece, "Spring Cleaning" (he hasn't done it yet), then the punning "Sell Phone." Anthony Bernini began with a Spring poem by e.e. cummings (one I didn't recognize) & then his own computer-imaged poem "Let Us Shut You Down." I concluded the open mic with an older piece current again with the revelations about the NSA listening to our telephone conversations (& dedicated to the Russian poet Vladimer Mayakovsky), "Now Listen."

Glenn Werner has been a regular reader a mid-hudson poetry venues for a number of year & currently hosts an open mic in Beacon, NY on the third Wednesday of the month. He too read a Spring poem, "What the Cherry Tree Said" from his chapbook Premeditated Contrition (Mongrelpoet, 2013), followed by the title poem, & the hard-edged "Damascus Steel." Switching to a poem not in his book, he read the darkly metaphysical "The Endless Wake," then "Walking the Brooklyn Bridge" due out in the pending Up the River journal, & ended with the more optimistic "Wings." Glenn's poems are filled with images from the world around us, putting his philosophical & metaphysical ideas in things.

Join us every third Thursday at 7:30PM at the Social Justice Center, a $3.00 donation pays the featured poet & supports the Social Justice Center.

June 25, 2013

Poetry Night at Harmony Cafe, June 10

This is a weekly reading & open mic, quintessentially Woodstock. I used to get to Woodstock for poetry events on a fairly regular basis, but the Albany scene has been keeping me very busy of late. So it was good to make the trip, hang out with old friends & poets, & I was most pleased to be the night's featured poet.

 This series is hosted by poet Mike Platsky, who began tonight's open mic with some trenchant quotes by the Maurice Sendak, then a couple of tribute poems, the first, "Plain Ole Joe" for his father, & "Propper's Yard" for the occasion of spreading the ashes of the late Woodstock poet, Dan Propper. Teresa Costa, who runs her own poetry event over in Kingston at the Bohemian Book Bin, began with "Summer Storm," then "Threatening Poem," "With Black Elk," & a piece on violets, "Why Not Write." Victoria Sullivan gave us a performance of political satire, in character as the mistress of former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Donald Lev had a variety of short poems, from a funny take on a memorial ceremony ("A Pillar of Small Press"), to Aldof Eichmann's last glass of wine, to a dream poem, to "Barking up a Hidden Tree" (on the pirate Jean Lafitte) to a quatrain about the moon.

(photo by Dina Pearlman)

I was the featured poet, though listed in local publicity as "Dan Wilber," a useful heteronym perhaps.  I had planned my reading, as I always do, with some possible alternative paths, based on a read of the audience, time, etc., so of course missed some poems I had wanted to read, but think I covered all the bases. I began with a selection from Poeming the Prompt (which later sold 3 books). Then, since this was Woodstock after all, had to read "The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas" (based on reading the Lotus Sutra). Next the recent poem "Counting Moons," followed by a commentary on Suburbia, the Coyote poems, numbers 1, 2 & 4. A little relationship humor is good too, so I read "different tastes in music," followed by a political piece, "Baseball in Palestine." I ended with a recent revolt against censorship, "Delete this Poem."

Right back into the open mic, with Leslie Gerber in his colorful Guatemala hat reading a string of short poems, including, among others "Ice Cream Love," "Coincidences" which mixed together cancer, the rain forest & Beethoven, & a sub-series of epigram poems.

Pamela Twinning is a Woodstock poet I have heard only rarely, so I was glad to hear her read 4 of her poems, "Breaking Fast," "Desire" (rangeing from "I" to the Universe & back again), a poem for the rock star Captain Beefheart "Crow Dancer" & a love poem "Dressing for Dinner." Ron Whiteurs was up with some of his outrageous, irreverent rhymes, "No Room for God," "Ron's Hymnal" (based on the hymn "All Things Bright & Beautiful"), "Soccer Team" (drooling, "he's so sexy"), & "The Gutter Song." I've been reading Andy Clausen's latest book, Home of the Blues: More Selected Poems (Museum of American Poetics Publication, Boulder, CO) so I was pleased to see him read, a name-dropping prose piece on the last time he saw Allen Ginsberg & why the Left has failed America.

Christian read about a cross-country trip, searching, searching ("Departures"). Richard goes to lots of poetry readings on the arm of Teresa Costa but I can't remember him reading (it does rub off, they say), as he read his own piece on cars "Auto-Eroticism" & a couple pieces by Saul Eliot. Brian Dorn travels far & wide with his rhymes & I was honored he came down to Woodstock for my reading with a couple of poems of advice, "Bear It & Grin" & "The Peace Poem." I missed the name of the next reader, introduced as "Doctor/Author," which may be just as well since he read a long, obvious, apocalyptic fantasy. Woodstock fixture Shiv Mirabito read from a new book Field of Love, a triplet of haikus & the last poem in the book "Finally."

Well, like I said, this is Woodstock, a town with a grand tradition of poets who only show up for their own readings, leave early, etc., so I wasn't disappointed tonight when the last reader, Ed Allen, arrived at the end & spent the time before he read going through his poems, not listening -- as they say in France, the more things change they more they are the same (or was that Heraclitus?).

In any event I had a great time (thank you Mike Platsky) with poet friends I don't see frequently enough, some great hugs, even dinner with a lovely, talented artist/poet/friend (you know who you are).

As for this series, it continues every Monday with a featured poet & Woodstock open mic at the Harmony Cafe at Wok & Roll in Woodstock, NY.

June 13, 2013

Poetry + Prose: 2nd Sunday @ 2, June 9

A day of parades, the Pride Parade in Albany, & the Flag Day Parade in Troy where this reading happened in spite of it all. Nancy Klepsch & me, DWx, the hosts, readers & listeners.

I was first up with a clutch of new poems, the first perhaps goes on, "Counting Moons" then "Delete this Poem" (on censorship) & a sound experiment, "My Name." Brian Dorn has a distinctive style in writing & reading his poems & read a bunch of favorites, "Playing for Keeps," "Unglued" ("sort of a love poem," he said), a Sunday poem "3 Days," & "Back in the Day." Mike Connor began with a prose memoir from high school days, "The 32-coup" then the emotional tattoo portrait "Inner Ink." David Wolcott has been taking a class here at the Arts Center on performing written work so recited his piece he's read elsewhere about a drug experience "The Doors of Flagstaff." Tim Verhagen added to the his collection of family tales with a piece about his father (for Father's Day?) who said, famously, "I never loved my kids."

Elizag was fresh from her assault on Saratoga Springs last night, with a couple of short (haiku?) poems, then the slam poem she couldn't finish last night, "Are You Really Working Class?" Howard Kogan outdid himself today in just 2 poems, "I Remember America" with memories growing up in a post-WW II dream/nightmare, then the funny piece riffing off on the latest (or any) catalog from the Omega Institute. Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a piece about schools & gun control.

Lorraine Grund finally showed up here & introduced her new collection of poems Permission to Speak, the proceeds of the sale of which go for child abuse prevention, with a reading of the title poem, then a tender, ekphrastic love poem "Imprint." Ron Drummond was back from a trip to the left coast for a reading of his fiction/essay (that he has tried out here first on the 2nd Sunday) at KADIST in San Francisco at the beginning of May, as part of the launch of the art magazine White Fungus; for us he read a letter about ogling chicks at a cafe.

This series is taking a break for Summer (just like school) & will resume on the 2nd Sunday of September at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy NY, an open mic for writers of prose & poetry. Bring something you've written to read.

June 9, 2013

SLAM! - Saratoga Literary Art and Music, June 8

As you can see, this was not a "Slam" but a S.L.A.M., but 3 of Albany's finest poets performed in another of Saratoga's problematic "Arts Festivals." This was held on the patio of Sperry's Restaurant on Caroline St. The problem here being Caroline St. -- next door at Dango's was a loud rock band & a booze soaked crowd, not to mention the loud, booze-soaked crowd on Sperry's patio. Not that poetry needs a quiet, sober crowd, as we know. But this was the snooty, over-dressed Saratoga elite who has little interest (or awareness) of poetry.

Jill Crammond was first up, even before the bands, introduced by an enthusiastic M.C. who nonetheless equated "slammin'" with "poetry." This was not a Slam -- no judges, no scores, the poets did sets. Didn't matter, few in the audience knew the difference. But Jill, "blond, pink & beautiful" hit the suburban housewives in the audience with her biting commentary on marriage, the role of women (& men), sex & divorce with a selection of her best "Mary poems," reading against the rock beat next door & the 3-deep chattering at the bar. Not to mention her hair was perfect.

Next up was jazz-singer Donna Singer performing with the Doug Richards Trio. Miriam Axel-Lute is a poet/performer whose work is much closer to Slam than Jill's, reciting most of her poems from memory. Her poems were energetic pieces set in Albany, in New York City, even a little bit of radical economic theory. She ended with a piece that about being LOUD! & was able to get through some of the babble.

Elizag followed, a member of Albany's first Slam team that went on to the Slam Nationals last year. If anyone in the crowd was interested in Slam, Elizag gave them a major dose, beginning with her classic "Meatball" poem, riffing on "motherfucker." She continued in the same vein, baiting the audience until she got to a new poem, a quiz to see if you are truly working class, a powerful piece to deliver to a 1% (or at least 1% wannabee) audience, including a relentless, inarticulate heckler. That reminded me of the old axiom that the best poetry is kind that will cause a fist-fight to break out in the bar.

That was it for poetry, as the Hot 8 Brass Band took the stage. On the way out, Don Levy gave his blessing to the night with his classic assessment: "That was a good reading." I'll give the organizers credit for reaching out to poets to be part of the Saratoga Arts Festival, but Caroline St. on a Saturday night may not be the best venue for it. At least no one got stabbed.

June 5, 2013

Poets Speak Loud!, May 27

Poets Speak Loud!, May 27 This series is held on the last Monday of the month & so each year it falls on Memorial Day in May. Today we gathered in spite of (or because of) the Holiday in the back room of McGeary's, our busy, attentive waitress was Victoria (a real cutey) & our host was Mary Panza (another real cutey), who was also one of the night's featured poets. But first some open mic poets, eagerly clutching their poems in their fists.

Sylvia Barnard was 1st with 2 poems inspired by her front lawn, Washington Park, "The Morris Dancers" & a set of 8 haikus for the Tulip Festival. Then, abruptly, Lake Sally was created in the form of Guinness, an extra task for beleaguered Victoria. Brian Dorn strode across the lake to read 2 of his rhyming poems that folks have been enjoying, "Agitated" ("…over you…") & what he said was for our featured poets Avery & Mary tonight, "Poetry is Sexy." Joe Krausman's 2 poems were both inspired by birds, the first "People Left Hanging," then a poem written in Yiddish by his uncle, translated by Joe, about a bird in a cage. Cheryl A. Rice read a new poem combining images of an old doll & a medical exam, "Biopsy."

One featured poet, Avery, introduced the other, Mary Panza, both of who celebrated a birthday this past week with a tequila pub crawl, the story of which did not make it into this Blog (to protect the innocent, if there are any). In any event, Mary's set list tonight was essentially the same as her reading on May 1 at Caffè Lena, so go check that out here.

I was the next open mic poet up with a couple of poems for the day, "Memorial Day 1999" & the more poetic, "Patriotism." Karin M-T made an all too-rare appearance at an open mic, but instead of her own poems read 2 exquisite poems by her friend Victoria Moore, who died 8 years ago, "Dog & Pompeii" & "Report My Passing Krakatoa" (I recall a marvelous reading I did with Victoria & a bunch of other women poets at "Miss Mary's Art Space" near the beginning of New Scotland Ave. many years ago). Sally Rhoades read "What If My Father Was a Poet" for fellow poet Mike Burke, then the related "My Mother Was a Waitress," ending with an elegy for a friend, "Is That a Rain Cloud Passing Over Me?" A.C. Everson was the last of the open mic poets with her self-portrait, "Scrabble Slut."

The final feature & final poet of the night was Avery with what he attempted to describe as pieces on the Chakras & Kundalini Yoga, but becoming somewhat incomprehensible in his description. The first piece, "OM, a Kundalini Experience" was performed in very un-OM pressured speech. The 2nd piece, "My Kundalini Rising," was prerecorded, using cuts from the Grateful Dead, Dave Brubeck & selections of Soul music, & his reading of the text sounded like an announcer doing a commercial for a New Age venue like Sounds True or the Omega Institute, in a throaty, overly dramatic radio voice. In addition to being a bit tedious ("soporific" said one of the other poets in the audience), the pieces were marred by notably uninspired phrases such as "unadulterated creativity," "divine union," & "writhing with ecstasy." True spiritual experiences are rendered best in images that suggest what the person felt & saw, rather than in the abstract language of a sales pitch.

Spiritual or not, Poets Speak Loud! happens on the last Monday of each month at McGeary's on Clinton Square in Albany, at 7:30PM, with featured poets & an open mic for the rest of us. Check it out on AlbanyPoets.com.