July 28, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 18

A hot night in the storefront of the Social Justice Center with the little air-conditioning quickly overwhelmed by the vast crowd -- actually, not by the numbers but the intensity of the words. Our featured poet, Bob Elmendorf, did his job by drawing in some of his poetry friends who only rarely make it out to local readings.

Local stalwart Sylvia Barnard started off the open mic with a poem from her recent trip down the Danube with her daughter about a castle where Richard the Lionhearted was once imprisoned. Joe Krausman followed with an untitled sonnet about looking for his glasses, metaphorically speaking that is. Sally Rhoades read a poem she wrote at the Walt Whitman birthday reading, a tribute to the joy reading Uncle Walt. April Selley in a rare appearance here read "Night Shift" playing on time & clocks while driving at night.

Featured Poet Bob Elmendorf
Bob Elmendorf doesn't read out very often but his work deserves to be heard more, thus I invited him to be tonight's featured poet. He began with an interesting joke about doing genealogy research of his family. His reading ranged from poems of his childhood to more recent experiences, beginning with "Astronomy Lessons," mixing in Greek gods with his family & a poem about his father's store, "The Customer is always Right." "The Ophthalmologist" invoked the familiar experience of letters on a screen. Then on to some newer poems, including "Yews" (I heard "youse" & "use" at first) about the trees in front of his friend's house, an elegy of sorts. The poems "The Well" & "The Horticulturalist" were metaphors about a recent relationships that has ended, while "The Candidate for Suicide" he described as "one of the more hopeful poems." He ended with another garden metaphor, "Scarecrow" & a political piece on local activist Lynne Jackson's walk from Albany to Binghamton to attempt to secure a new trial for Yassin Aref, a fitting poem to end with here at Albany's Social Justice Center.

Laura Whalen
After the break I continued the open mic with an old, nun-chasing poem, "Angels" with its tongue-in-cheek nod to classicists, for Bob & for Sylvia. Brian Dorn likes doing a social justice poem when he's here on the third Thursday & so read what he called "a weapons of mass destruction poem" "Do As We Say." Laura Whalen also made a rare open mic appearance to honor her friend Bob, reading an Adirondack poem, finding words "On Stones." Tess Lecuyer brought the night to a close with the coldest poem she could find, "Ice Boom Song."

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center happens on ... at ... in Albany, NY, 7:30 PM, $3.00 donation, if you got it.

July 23, 2013

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, July 12

This congenial reading series is hosted by Alan Casline, who announced today's theme was "water" (I had to go pee) in honor of the featured poet, watershed protector Stephen Lewandowski.

But first the open mic poets, some of whom honored the theme, most of us not (I mean, who knew before tonight there was a theme?). Bob Sharkey began with "Libby Town" a memoir about a coastal town (water), then on to a conversation with a therapist, "The Lost Language" & it's marvelous image of 2 trees twisted together. Brian Dorn's first rhyming poem was a love poem, "High Wire," then his homage to Schenectady, "The City that Lit Up the World."

Madison Martin is also a rhymer with short poems, "Summer Storm," "Phoenix Reborn," & "The Challenger." Obeeduid also did 3 pieces, but his were longer, the first about poets being ignored ("Night Rite"), then a piece about the changes in our bodies over time, ending with a natural progression to "Compost." John Abbuhl, the host of the Pine Hollow Arboretum, began from his pocket notebook with a poem pondering if flowers know beauty, then a very short poem read twice "No One Knows," & a poem on the 4th of July "Stories by Starlight." Susan Riback made a rare open mic appearance with a list poem about a "Poet," then the wonderfully titled "Change Rooms in your Mind," & a poem responding to a poem by Yehudi Amichai.

The featured poet Stephen Lewandowski invoked the spirit of William Carlos Williams in a long, rambling introduction, then into a reading from his 1979 book Inside Out. The poems were about his grandfather, about the 1st day of hunting season, one titled "Speaking English," & about connecting to the ancient generations by finding an arrowhead in the field. A newer poem raised the issue of trees voting & invoked a former head of the Department of the Interior "What Watt?" He went on to a tribute to an Indian elder, "Watching Warren Sky Rest," then on to a series of ecology poems, "Buried in South Hill," "Poem of Preservation & Praise" (saving one of the Finger Lakes), "Orion Rising" & "Bear HIll by Starlight." He seemed surprised when his "timer" told him he was running out of time for the reading, certainly could have read more poems if his introductions weren't so epic.

After the break, Alan Casline (aka "Bird") read the hieroglyphic poem "3 Birds" then a "Look Around All You See" about standing by stream (water). Joe Krausman touched on the theme in an unexpected way with a poem on the African black fly that causes blindness, then a rhyming "The Cat." That was not enough for Alan who called hims back to read another, "Snake House." Edie Abrams contemplated the chain of being in a woodpile in her poem "Ants, they Will Be We."

It was good to see Jan Tramantano back in town & she began with a poem for her daughter Marisa who is pregnant (who once read many years ago when my third Thursday series began at Cafe Web), then a lovely little poem about the Moon & her grandson when he was 2. Tim Verhaegen explained that he talks to himself in his poems (i.e., "you") & read a piece titled "Worrying About Yourself as Usual," then one about his reactions to the death of his unhappy father, mother & brother. I had arrived too late to sign up but ended on the list anyway, but then not only didn't honor the the theme of water (who knew?), but didn't read poems about Earth, tree or sky either, instead read 2 new Coyote poems (#5 & #6) -- animals, including us humans, are a part of "Nature" too, you know. Therese Broderick read the introduction, dedication & acknowledgment to her forth-coming chapbook from Benevolent Bird Press, then Alan (the publisher) asked her to read a poem too, so she complied with "4th of July" about freeing a fly. Malcolm Willison made a rare appearance at an open mic & recited "What Do the Trees Know" -- Indeed!

This series, sponsored by the Rootdrinker Institute, the Delmar Writers Group & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild continues about once a month on Friday night at 6:30 PM at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY.

July 21, 2013

Live from the Living Room, July 9

Tonight's featured poet was Ken Denberg, who jumped right in before Don Levy, our straight-friendly host, could do a proper introduction. No matter, it's a casual group here.

Ken Denberg (left)
Ken read from his new manuscript of poems about, or rather mostly in the persona of, his dog. Now this is a guy's dog, a Labrador Retriever, the kind that can have a poetic persona vis-a-vis a guy poet, not some fru-fru lap dog that is basically a stuffed-animal that shits. So this dog talks back -- & bites. Some of the poems are sonnets, some in open form (not that one could tell from the reading), originally composed on post-it notes pasted all over his house. Speaking of biting, the titles included "Bite Me," "One Bite Fits All," & "Scratch & Bite." Other poetic-dog titles exploring the nature of "dog-ness" were "I Dog Wolf," "Good Dog, Bad Dog," "Kiss My Dog Nose," "I Dog Shrug," & the title poem "Wolf Star Dog Bone," some of which can be found on Ken's Facebook page.  He ended his reading with a long explanation of his writing & composition process & the last poem "Dog Paws." These are the kind of dog poems I'd actually buy a book of.

On to a short open mic. I began with "Baseball in Palestine" in honor of the season & read the corrected version of "Adirondack Life," that I've inadvertently been reading a corrupted version of for months (I should pay better attention). Brian Dorn began with a discussion of the movie "A Place Beyond the Pines" then read his poem about Schenectady, "The City that Lit Up the World," & then another poem in rhyme, "Invincible." Steven Minchin, who is the Administrator Coordinator here at the Pride Center, read a couple of intriguing poems, "Duet Whispers Out," & "Still Still" based on a suicide note. Our world-traveling host, Don Levy, read a couple poems from his recent trip to Italy, "The Sistine Chapel" ("Silencio!"), & one about having to pee & finding poetry as his religion, "Assisi."

Each month on the 2nd Wednesday we like to gather here in the living room of the Pride Center on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY for a poetry reading & open mic, starts about 7:30PM.

July 15, 2013

An Anthology of the Albany Vortex

… or, everything on the internet is forever, including things that were not ever on the internet.

My first foray (second, actually) into small-press publishing was An Anthology of the Albany Vortex, published by Bert Schultz's Cominsane Press in 1973. I served as editor of this collection of poems & other adolescent musings by myself, Charles Dugan, Joe Figel, Hugh O'Connor & Bert Schultz. The collection was centered on (& inspired by) a mimeographed zine, Naitnecniv that Charlie, Joe & I had produced in high school & that was subsequently banned ("squashed" actually) by our school principal. In recent years I've read my introduction from the book that describes this incident at Banned Books Readings sponsored by the local ACLU chapter.  I think it's still a good read & has held up well over time.

Recently Bert sent me this link from Google Books: here  -- note the generic graphic for our cover art. If you click through the Amazon links you will find there is one copy for sale from Jeff Maser, Bookseller  for $25.00 (!).  Hell, they sold for $5.00 in 1973 money -- & Bert tells me he still has a box of them left.

If anyone out there wants a copy, email me & I will put you in touch with Bert Shultz. Then I guess you can turn around & sell it on eBay for $25.00 -- Good Luck!

July 14, 2013

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, July 3

This Blog almost didn't get written -- I'd gone away for the weekend & didn't get a chance to write the Blog, then when I got home, couldn't find my "Reporter's Notebook" in which I record these readings.  But there it was, at about the level of Troy IV, buried on my desk. This was a warm Summer night in Saratoga Springs, but cool enough at Caffé Lena. Our host, Carol Graser, welcomed us with a poem by April Bernard.

Todd Fabozzi was up first with a couple of pieces done from memory, one on climate change, "Wake Up" & the other "Contentment." Jackie K. read a poem titled "5:49PM" from a Led Zeppelin record marathon with friends, what sounded like free-writing filled with memories of youthful sex.

Tim Sneider recited a couple of his popular biker ballads, "Beer," & the familiar "Down at Scully's East." Carol Schupp Star was a new voice for me, read a poem for her husband, then another about childhood memory. Another new voice, Andy Kazukenu, read a couple of holiday poems in rhyme, one on fireworks as flowers, the other about Benedict Arnold.

Fresh from his recent feature at McGeary's, Avery was the night's featured poet, with a mix of pieces, most delivered in his signature overly dramatic performance style, beginning with a white-boy rap pounding the repetitive rhymes on "creativity" in your face "Walking Life's Paths." Then on to a crow poem & one on finding a childhood homemade sword. "Plate of Soy Chicken Marsala" was the first of the pieces delivered like those hard-sell commercials that come on too loud late-at-night ("… another fine Popeil product…"); the others were a poem about a mantis shrimp & "the Smile poem" ("From Me to You"). Love & lust were covered in "Just a Little Closer" & "One Night at a Red Light." He also gave his version of the Led Zeppelin marathon, or, as he described it, "412 minutes of pure rock." He even included some aphoristic abstract musings from his daily journal. One might characterize Avery's work as unbridled adjectival responses to the mundane.

Carol Graser returned after a brief break with a poem about an attack on her chickens by a fox, "Alarm at Dawn." I was bit confused by the next poet's name, but the sign-up sheet had him listed as Wyler Graham, but did he say he goes by Dan? Anyhow, he was another of the night's rhymers with a poem on gender roles, "Life of Reduction," & a poem about working at the track, "Taking Bets is the Life for Me." Albany's Tess Lecuyer read one of her signature solstice poems, "Summer Solstice 2001," then a "1st reading of a 2nd draft," a villanelle for her sister & fiancé "Wedding Poem for Mandolin & Dobro." W.D. Clarke was back with one of his crowd-pleasers, "The 2-Holer," then a more recent poem, "Departed Relatives," their tombstones in cemeteries in Canada. I followed with Charlie Rossiter's 2002 "July 4th in the Year of the Terror" & my response with the same title.

Craig Irvin was in town to sing with the Opera & so with his training need no mic to read a ballad about cutting down a cursed tree, "The Tale of John Jacob Garvin," or as he described it, "Dr. Seuss meets H.P. Lovecraft". Brian Dorn's poem "I Need a Sign" amounted to a prayer to get through these times, then a poem for poets, "Words." Stately Mizana performed a long fable about a therapist/adviser "Challenges," then another piece "We Wear Masks." Barbara Garro's first piece was also long, the prosaic biography "The Poverty of Poe," then read a shorter poem, "Love Is."

Lorraine Grund was fetching in poets' basic black & read 2 very personal pieces, "Sing & Don't Cry" (which is tattooed in Spanish on her arm), then a poem about her journey of recovery from abuse, "Resurrection." The final poet had never read before, a true poetry virgin, & went simply by the name "Bunny"; she began with an untitled rhyming piece with violent visions of her death, then another rhyming poem summarized by its title, "How Many Times Can a Heart Truly Break?" & ended with a couple of haikus -- a good start down the rocky road of poetry readings.

If you haven't been to Saratoga Springs on the 1st Wednesday of the month, to the poetry open mic at Caffe Lena, why not? Check it out.