August 29, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam #52, August 20

The "Season 2 Night of Champions" was delivered to us like Monday night wrestling, only not quite (but almost) as scripted. The competition was limited to winners of the bi-weekly Slam during the year, of which 8 showed up tonight to battle it out for the coveted belt -- so this is what it's all about, a fat, gaudy belt that wouldn't go around the waist of Don Levy or hold anyone's pants up?

But first the open mic, which I always find much more interesting & varied, tonight hosted by Mojavi. Brian Dorn read his poem "What's the Use" ironically enough about the frustration of being a poet. Jacky K's poem was written 11 years ago, the perfect match: drugs & music. My poem was also old, written many years ago, about my parents & grandfather, "Going Postal."

Interestingly enough the next short cluster of poets read childhood related poems, beginning with Rose (from her phone) as a "child of light." & also from his cellphone Billy Buchanan read about childhood & growing up. Thom Francis rounded out the "memory lane" segment with his version of his childhood memories.

Jes ListenToMyWords read about love & sex, telling us, "he said my nickname should be 'Sunshine'." Bless was back to rail against our powerlessness in the age of social media.

el presidente/il papa Thom Francis appropriately enough served as the host for the Slam, wishing a fond farewell to the season of Nitty Gritty Slams, noting that the AlbanyPoets team came in 35th in the Nationals in Boston. For the calibration/"sacrificial lamb" poem for the judges, Algorhythm & Christopher the Poet (now going by the handle "SayMo") performed a group piece which could be best described as "cliches of being black."

The field of Slam-mers included Tasha, Poetyc Visionz, Algorhythm (doing his wonderful real poem about being black & speaking Japanese), Mojavi (wanting to bang Judge Judy -- ! --), SayMo, D. Colin, Kevin Peterson (with a real poem about suicide), & the defending Champ ILLiptical (with the title of the piece, "just Bring It,"a Slam self-referential, on his tee shirt).

T. Francis, SameOle, D. Colin & Kevin P.
In the second round, the survivors Kevin P. & D. Colin each did real poems, while SayMo & ILLilitpical did pieces that could combine to a single Slam poet called "SameOle," -- both doing all their performances in the same ole way, often the same ole pieces we've heard Slam after Slam.  Then  SayMo & Kevin P. battled it out in the final round, with the belt being taken down South with Christopher the SayMo Poet as he moves out & on back home after a brief Slam sojourn here.

Now on to the 3rd season of Nitty Gritty Slam still held on each of the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at Valentines (for now) on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY, with an open mic for poets followed by a Slam for slam-mers. Discounted price for students (of age or with (im)proper ID).

This Upstate Life: Local Writers Read - Rensselaerville Festival of Writers, August 18

I was a reluctant participant in this reading. A few months ago I had received an email announcing this Festival that ran from August 15 to August 18, & inviting me (& others in the local writing community) to submit material for 2 different events for local writers, amidst a full schedule of readings & workshops by mostly out-of-town writers. The folks up in the hills have been running this Festival for a few years now, sometimes bringing in big-name writers, as a fund-raiser for their town Library. Now, I am an ardent supporter of Libraries & support the Albany Public Library by voting for their budget & advocating taxing the rich to finance our Library. But I am piqued that the folks behind this annual event rarely make it down off the hill to where literary events happen week after week throughout the year, while expecting those of us who are busy here throughout the year to fund & be enthused about their once-a-year flurry.

There was also a curious requirement in the submission guidelines that the work submitted for consideration for the local writers' readings be unpublished. I understand that publishers would want fresh, first-rights work for their zines or journals, whether print or on-line, but for a reading? Why? These folks were either totally inexperienced or snooty, or both. So I was determined to just ignore them & go about my (poetry) business. Alas, late one night after hours of tinkering with poems & an extraneous Bourbon (if there can be such a thing), I said, "What the fuck" & sent them some poems -- irreverent, cranky, & in bad taste -- that I was sure they wouldn't accept. Some weeks later I got an email that my work had been "accepted." Oh shit, I'm actually going to have to go up there & read. Usually I keep track of the poems I send out, just like I always wanted to know where my kids were, but I hadn't bothered in this case; so, I had to write back to ask what poems I would be reading. Now, I have no problem being outrageous at poetry readings, in fact I revel in it, but I felt like Groucho Marx who said he would never want to join a club that would have him as a member.

But then when I saw the final schedule of readers I was very pleased to recognize most names & knew I would be in good company, although among the names I recognized were one or two that rarely stick around to the end of an open mic, particularly when I am signed up after them.  Strangely,  on the on-line schedule we were listed as "Capital Region Writers" (since nearly everyone else was from elsewhere, I guess), while in the printed program it was "This Upstate Life: Local Writers Read."  Hmm?

Prior to the reading I was sent an email advising me to practice reading my pieces, to read slowly, to look at the audience & to not do introductions; also, "inflect and modulate your voice when appropriate…", &, my favorite, "if a piece or a line is humorous, pause for audience laughter." (Should I pause or keep reading when they laugh at me because I'm being such a jerk & my piece is really stupid?) More Hmm? I was pleased that at the reading all of their 6 or 8 rules were broken by one reader or another at some point during the afternoon -- we still had a good time. The reading MCs were Linda Sonia Miller & Mimi Moriarty.

Anne Decker

Most of the pieces read were poetry, though there were personal essays read by Anne Decker (humorous instructions for friends borrowing a summer cottage), by Marion Menna about getting her nails done, & by Mary Cuffe Perez about an old dairy farm.

Co-host Mimi Moriarty & Jack Gordon

The single piece of prose fiction was a compelling piece that eventually centered around a farmer's dilemma to sell his land to a natural gas developer, by Jack Gordon, a World War II vet who has published a memoir about his experience in the famous Flying Tigers.

Howard Kogan

Among the poets were some frequenters of the scene, such as Tom Corrado reading "A High of 51, Homage to Schenectady;" Susan Jefts with her characteristic North Country poems, including 2 set along the Hudson River; & Howard Kogan with 3 poems populated with the characters of his small, rural town, wry, philosophical work.

Sarah Giragosian

Less familiar poets included Sarah Giragosian with a selection of poems from a series on sea creatures, like the crab or the octopus; Marea Gordett who read what she described as "love poems," to robins & to Ausable Chasm; & Himanee Gupta-Carlson whose 1st person stories were more like the prose essays, although she described them as "poems of identity & scarcity."

I was next to last reading my 3 poems from a series based on a breakup letter & there were a few chuckles & gasps in the right places -- & I did squeeze in brief introductions to each. Co-host Mimi Moriarty closed out the reading with a couple of poems for writers.

A final word on cost. The price list was lengthy & abstruse, with prices ranging from $10.00 for individual readings (!), to $25.00 for the Authors' Reception, $50.00 for a single Writers' Workshop, up to a 4-Day Festival Pass for $275.00 (which included 2 workshops). I don't know about you but $10.00 is a lot to pay to hear a single writer read (at least outside NYC). By comparison, I went to 3 days of readings at the Scissortail Writers Festival in Ada, Oklahoma for free. My favorite festival is Split This Rock in Washington DC & registration in 2012 was $100 ($75) if you sign up early, which included any & all workshops & readings for the 4 days. Granted, the Rensselaerville Festival is a fund-raiser for the local Library, but if those well-heeled locals can afford these Festival prices, they could certainly afford a greater tax assessment to support the Library.

Good Luck next year!

August 27, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 15

A lovely summer night to gather for poetry. The featured poet, Jacky Kirkpatrick, did her homework & dragged in as many of her friends as she could, making for a wonderfully full open mic list. But before the open mic we invoked the muse, the American poet Lenore Kandel (1932 - 2009), with her poem "Age of Consent."

Starting with the "A"s, Avery was up first in the open mic, with a Monday poem filled with happy birds, "In the Air." Alan Catlin's poem was a chilling true tale of looking for his step-mother in the "Emergency Room Sanford, FL 2004" (& now dedicated to Trayvon Martin). Carol Jewell made a rare appearance here with an untitled poem about storing stuff after a break-up [see Comments below for correction]. Chad Lowther introduced his piece as a "procedural poem" based on a transcription of a conversation with his wife about their honeymoon photos (would've liked to have seen the photos!).

Featured Poet Jacky Kirkpatrick
I remember first hearing Jacky Kirkpatrick as one of those pleasant poetic surprises at Albany WordFest a few years back. Now, even as a student in the St. Rose MFA writing program, she finds time to get to some of the poetry events in town. She began her reading with a "really, really personal poem" (that she tried out at Valentine's on Tuesday) -- "break me? this does not break me." The rest is easy, she said, such as "I Am a Poem Created by my Mother a Haiku & My Father a Sestina," but not leaving the personal very far behind. It was a fast ride from there on out through her life & loves, breathless short poems like "Palais Past 3 AM," "Dick," & "Germantown." Poems with Sylvia Plath & Lou Reed & Anaïs Nin. There was oceanic sex word play ("Octopus") & an anatomy lesson the subway ("Jason") & poems with titles like "Love Poem 5270" & "Anonymous Entry No. 3." She ended with the poem "To My Daughter (may She Remember Dan Wilcox)" (how could I not love it). A one-two kick poetry reading.

On to the open mic after the break. Jacky had done her work as featured poet, bringing in a metaphoric bus-load of her friends for a full open mic sign-up list. I read an old poem about an open mic that didn't happen, "Imagining the Mews." Samson Dikeman was another of the St. Rose students, he read an urban vignette "The Stoop." I introduced Brian Dorn as our first rhyming poets & wouldn't you know he read "23 Reasons This Poem Doesn't Rhyme." Bob Sharkey had joined us for the reading of John Hersey's book Hiroshima early in the month & he wrote a poem about it (Thanks, Bob). Da Professor, Daniel Nester, read another of his memoir pieces, this about sex with a girl at a summer camp, a "tootsie tantalizer" with hairy tits (as he said), on a trip with a bunch of altar boys. On another note, Sylvia Barnard read a poem titled "Trilogy," about a trip on the Danube with her daughter; we had heard a couple of these before as individual poems, but she wove them together a poem composed of 3-parts to get around my 1-poem rule.
Poet Juliet Barney

Jan Farrell began with an aside about British history with Sylvia, then read a poem for the hard workers of the Earth, "Toil for Sunshine." Another of Jacky's class-mates, Juliet Barney, was next with a bi-linguial poem (English & Seneca), "A Childhood Recognition of Seneca Heritage through Colors." Sarah Sherman's intense poem of sex & regret & betrayal was set in a bar, in "Familiar Territory." The final poet was Jessica (sometimes known as "Jess ListenToMyWords") & she read another poem of love lost.

It was a fine Third Thursday Poetry Night with a fabulous featured poet & long list of open mic poets, which happens every Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY. Your $3.00 donation helps pay the featured poet & helps support the SJC & other poetry events. See you there.

August 22, 2013

Live from the Living Room!, August 14

Our usual host, Don Levy, had called me earlier in the day to ask me to fill in for him tonight, so I tried to get there early, looked for a parking spot close by. Alas, there was a food festival with music at the Empire State Plaza & a play at the Park Playhouse so I ended up way over on State St. It didn't bode well for our out-of-town featured poet, Jacqueline Ahl. But when she eventually did find a parking spot, she came bearing brownies & seltzer -- & poems, of course.

But first the open mic, while Jacqueline settled in. Since Don was unable to be here, I thought I would read one of his poems & pulled up "Poetry Workshop Junkie" off Don's FaceBook page. I realized why Don often has problems reading his own poems -- there were a lot of typos, minor errors in the text that made me stumble too, including in the title. Maybe we should hire a secretary for Don to go over his texts, maybe a cute young guy, as editor?

Matthew Klauber was checking out the Pride Center & the open mic, didn't bring a poem, but recited one of Emily Dickinson's from memory (she would have been proud).  Alan Casline introduced his poem of belief & dogma & philosophy as "not a great open mic poem," but I did catch a reference to Botticelli. Obeeduíd (Mark O'Brien) also referenced art in his poem "My Deposition" from a series he is doing on pietas.

Our featured poet, Jacqueline Ahl, began with her contribution to a new anthology just out from Codhill Press, A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley, "The Burial -- Sarah," a selection from a longer work.  The anthology is worth checking out (i.e., buying) as it contains work from many of the fine women poets in the Region. Jacqueline continued with a poem from another collection (Riverine, a 2007 anthology also from Codhill press), about the Civil War era house she lives in, "The Laws of What Happens." The next poem "What They Teach Us About Sin" was a meditative essay on just that, & she finished with a poem about waiting, hope, expectation, "Altars."

There were still brownies left at the end, which I neglected to save for Don. But he will return next month on the second Wednesday, here at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, an open mic with a featured reader.

August 21, 2013

WordXWord -- Poetry sCrawl, August 12

WordXWord was a week-long festival of spoken word, poetry & storytelling in Pittsfield, MA. The folks organizing it reached out to AlbanyPoets for folks to come over & read & Kevin Peterson & I stepped up to the plate. This night was, as the publicity said, was "A multi-step, poetry-filled good time 'crawl' through the Upstreet Cultural District."

James Burden at Dotties
We gathered first at yBar on North Street for our "assignments" then on to the first location.   Dotties is a small coffee bar on a corner, with plenty of light & mirrors & it was packed. The first of the night's celebrity poetry hosts, Jon Sands served as MC & read a funny childhood narrative. James Burden read a just written Haiku & a "To the Cook" written for this event (he's a cook here in town). Albany's Kevin Peterson followed with fresh ink about a bat in his room, then a salacious, hilarious piece on the logistics of a 3-way. Then folks, poets & poetry-followers & curious citizens walked back along North Street to yBar.

Christin O'Keefe Aptowicz was the celebrity poet host at the yBar, with its windows emblazoned with poems. I was first up & following Kevin's lead went for the outrageous, reading "The Pussy Pantoum" & the short "Patriotism." Emily Palfer-Terino had a cluster of poems about friends, including "The Best Ideas" about an apartment she shared with her boyfriend right here on North Street.

From there we were led around the corner to Mary's Carrot Cake, where host Adam Falkner sang & read a poem about a memory of girls in his school. Then he introduced Bruce Garlow who read a series of rhyming poems ranging from political criticism to a story of being a bouncer at a bar. Seth Brown's poems were more in the performance mode, on a great poem turning bad in the AM, on Zombies & the school memoir "Biblio-Sexual."

Back across North Street we gathered under the old movie marquee of what is now a Senior Center. I don't know what it is about Pittsfield, good or bad, but I think I saw tonight more motorized wheelchairs up & down the street than anywhere else in America. Is this the image of the future, we poets going from coffee shop to open mic to bar to bed in our little individual motorized chairs? MC Omar Holman began with a performance piece about the Academy Awards. James' poem "Job Requirement" was an urban piece about being a DJ at a club. Kori Alston did a couple of formalized Slam pieces, urban, improvisatory, angry.

Samantha Thornhill & her Cupcakes
We continued up North Street & stopped briefly at Palace Park for Samantha Thornhill to give an inspired performance of "Ode to Twins" her tits, or cupcakes from Mary's Carrot Cake shop, either way it was tasty.

The final stop was at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, amidst an exhibit of contemporary Islamic art. Chicago poet Robbie Q Telfer served as host & led off with "The Nintendo Christmas," a Jean Shepard inspired childhood memory more stand-up comic storytelling than poetry, but a long on the rambling side. Eliza Ryan read an essay about longing for the names her ex- once called her. Melissa Quirk read 2 political pieces about the Barack Obama inaugurations, watching the first on TV with middle school students, the poem titled "True Patriotism," then the second piece questioning her earlier feelings, her poem. Curtis Asch finished off the night with "a poem for Pittsfield" ostenibley a tribute but what amounted to more a stand-up comic schtick.

All-in-all a night of fun on the streets of Pittsfield, but more performance than poetry, more pop-culture pandering than expressive art, with a few stellar exceptions of course. But then what is poetry on the streets all about?  Poetry for people who don't like poetry, kind of like those sweet drinks in bars for people who want to drink but don't like the taste of booze. The night was a great success because of it, & I did have fun.  Me? I drink because I like the taste of Bourbon & Gin.

(More pictures at my Flickr! site)

August 19, 2013

Poets of the Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, August 9

This was the 5th Annual "Poets at the Arboretum" invitational in which poets who have read here before are invited back as a cluster-fuck, I mean group feature -- there were 11 of us! & a few open mic poets. It just goes to prove the old axiom of poetry readings: if you want to have big audience, have lots of featured poets, if no one else shows up at least the other poets are there. We each had 10 minutes & each of us "filled it up" in our own fashion, some seeing it as a pitcher to fill up (sometimes to overflowing), others seeing the time as a frame to stay within.

Our host, Alan Casline, was first in the alphabetical list, & presented an "interesting fact" about each reader as the night went along. His own selection of readings included short segments strung together as "Fish Tales Loon" then an old poem from 1975 & a new one inspired by Bernadette Mayer, "Why I Live in the Country." A.C. Everson ("Breaking My Heart") began with old poems, moved to new, moving through burning her wedding gown ("Wedded Miss"), on to a recent poem ("Sorry Walt") about being distracted by stuff happening in the Park during the Walt Whitman birthday reading. Phillip Good actually had his 3 poems in a folder rather than folded up in his pocket as he usually does, the Altamont Fair poem "Always Under Weather," "Old East Nassau Cemetery" & the recent "Landscape Poem."

Bernadette Mayer also read 3 poems, beginning with the nostalgic love poem "Under the Boardwalk"then on to one on marriage & a rollicking pile-up of words & rocks.  Marion Menna's poems were a tightly gathered 10 minute selection of Nature poems (about ducks & flowers & nettles & starlings), about writing ("My Good Left Arm") & memory poems, "Voyages," "Rockaway 1948," & the word play "Axioms for Children." Obeeduid began with poems of memory, of his mother & other "ghosts", then some poems from his pending (soon) book from Foot Hills Publishing, Telluric Voices, following up on the earlier version from Benevolent Bird Press.

R.A. Pavoldi made a rare appearance with poems on crickets, the Summer Solstice, & August, & ending with one "For Lorca."

After a short break to give our butts a break, as well as to pick at some of the leftover food, Susan Riback pushed the limits with as many short poems as she could, including poems by other such as Mary Oliver. I much preferred Susan's own work, such as her exploration of the Lewis & Clark expedition ("I Am an Unknown Territory"), the poems from her Pudding House chapbook (2000) Gratitude, & her recent poem "Drawing Hearts."  Sharon Stenson was very brief with a fable on Freedom & the story of a shooting in the context of a rhetoric book, "The City Street." Tim Verhaegen was grim & hilarious as usual with a personal essay on his brother's ashes, then his 143rd poem "Her Great Big Window." I used the date, the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki Japan once again perform Tom Nattell's poem "Hiroshima" then a trio of my own on the theme of nukes & death & a little nuke humor with "Nukes for Piece."

Then on to the open mic poets. Faith Green made a rare appearance with a series of short, mostly untitled, aphoristic pieces, but I was particularly taken with was perhaps a title or a first line, "Our Simulated Virtual Romance Not Expected to Last" & a short piece with yarn as the metaphor for life. Joe Krausman's introduction was longer than the 2 poems he read, but then, once again, was called back by host Alan Casline to read a third piece, "Facing Blank," in rhyme. Arlene Crawford said she was a fiction writer but the piece she read, "It's Not Funny," was a personal essay or just a "pondering" about losing her funny bone. Actually, a nice way to end, laughing.

This series takes place at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY on the 2nd Friday of most months (or thereabouts), until November. Sponsored by Rootdrinker Institute, the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & the Delmar Writers Group.

August 14, 2013

Caffè Lena Open Mic, August 7

I was surprised to find Saratoga Springs not nearly as crowded as it usually is in August, although there was the usual blue-blazer-white-shoes crowd in Sperry's. After dinner over to Phila St. for the open mic. Carol Graser, founder & host, announced it was the 10th year anniversary! How time flies, as they say.

That first open mic in this series was on July 23, 2003 with featured poet Franklin Whitney. There were 29 readers in the open mic, with 16 of us making the trek from Albany to help Carol pack the house in an effort to convince the Caffe Lena management she could actually get an audience for poetry in this venerable house of folk music. It worked, so that on September 3 the series went into its current 1st Wednesday schedule. There had been other attempts at poetry open mics at Caffe Lena prior to this, but it was Carol Graser who managed to make it stick, for 10 years now.

The first reader tonight was Rodney Parrott who read from his "investigation into the 3 states of matter," this example set in Washington State. Ellen Finn was back saying she is writing a long piece titled "Kissing Death" & tonight read 2 excerpts. Biker-poet Tim Sneider read one of his rhyming poems, "Changing Roads," a long, nostalgic & emotional story for his grandson. Michael C. Rush read 2 philosophical poems, "Compromise" & "The American Book of the Dead."

The featured poet was Greenfield Center native Joesph Bruchac, who "likes to throw things," i.e., the small press journals where his poems are published to lucky members of the audience. He began with an Indian (native American) flute piece, then read his poem "We Are the Story" published in Every Drop of Water: Voices from the Caffè Lena Poetry Stage (2008). He included some poems Abenaki & English, such as "Spring" from Wilderness Magazine & "My Grandfather" from Yellow Medicine Review. Other poems he read for his grandfather were "No Sleep Thompson" & "By Guess & By Gosh." A poem about pine trees was for the poet Jimmy Santiago Baca & a new poem was dedicated to the ancient Chinese poet Li Bai (Li Po). And he included a sample from his book The White Man's War, Ely S. Parker: Iroquois General (Bowman Books, 2011), "The Sun-Burnt General." Joe has been active in the regional poetry/performance & small-press scene for years & years, & it was great to see him out & about on his home turf.

After the break, Carol was back with one of her poems, the hilarious "The Appendix." Albany poet  Don Levy shared a poem from his recent trip to Florence, Italy, "Gelato Run." Kristen Day began with the funny list poem "Everyday" then the equally amusing "Where's Why." George Fisher was back after a 4 year absence & read "Chaparral" & an untitled recent poem on water & rocks. Eliza! announced that she would be moving to Montana soon to be with her boyfriend & read a most hopeful poem. Elissa was enthusiastic & expressive, performing "Crunch" (about eating crackers) & the emphatic "Ebb & Flow." Andy imagined a speech after his death, then read a childhood memory poem in rhyme, "The Punishment."

Rachel Cullen was here from Idaho & read a poem about Time, playing on clichés, then a poem rich in images of memory ("memory lane is busy…") & Nature & wonder. Nancy Denofio read a just written piece she read in lieu of the 5-page poem she originaly brought, she said, then a piece titled "Trial" about comparisons & differences over the years. I read 2 poems for the season (again), Tom Nattell's "Hiroshima" & my irreverent "Nukes for Piece." Barbara Garro read 2 poems of death & life, "Moment by Moment Life" & "Angels of Life & Death."

So now on to the next 10 years of poetry on the 1st Monday of each month at Caffè Lena, Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY -- it's even less crowded the rest of the year.

August 13, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam #51, August 6

The crowd at Valentines tonight was such that the Slam & open mic had to be moved upstairs, to the bigger room. Tonight, the open mic host was Avery & the Slam host Kevin Peterson, who also did duty on the sound board, while the smoke from the pizza ovens next door made us hungry from something to go along with our beers.

Julie Lomoe read an interesting piece on the "weight of words" & buying books by the pound at a Library book sale.
 Just wandering in looking for the Slam was Cohari (? spelling), & he began with a short break-up poem, then a slam piece about young men in the ghetto joining the military, and a long, rambling personal poem, slam style but too long for a slam.

Jacky Kirkpatrick had a poem about looking through her bag, finding a piece of paper …, & a wine-drinking poem.

Kevin Peterson came down from his sound-perch with short "I Never Had a Sister" & a poem he "hasn't written yet" about his lunch break from work his brother. Avery jumped in briefly with an untitled rhymer.

Since this day was the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan I read Tom Nattell's poem "Hiroshima" then my own comedic piece "Nukes for Piece." Julie Lomoe was back with an old poem about driving, "more true now," taking the wrong turn. Cohari had yet another break-up poem, this one too angry.

Then Kevin was back with the Slam, tonight a rare "2-1 Slam" with us judges scoring with our fingers. Kevin scored an 18 with "My Cousin is So Under Age" (another in his series of poems on drinking experiences), but Jacky K beat him easily with a 27 for a very personal, first time ever read, poem playing off the put-down "I will break you," a real poem in a Slam venue.

Between now & the next Nitty Gritty Slam, Albany's Slam team will be off to the National Slam Championship in Boston. As someone once said, "It's not a poem, it's an Attitude!" But otherwise we gather at the famous Valentine's on New Scotland Ave. (in Albany, NY) on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month, open mic & Slam.

August 10, 2013

Poets Speak Loud, July 29

Back in McGeary's once again, our host(s) tonight, Mary Panza & Molly (little does little Molly, the daughter of Thom Francis & Carissa, know the seas her canoe is being sent out upon this night), with a loving hard-core of community poets for the open mic & tonight's featured poet, Brian Dorn. But first, as they say, the open mic.

Sylvia Barnard got to the list first, & read a trio of poems from a recent cruise she took on the Danube River with her daughter Siobhan, including "Durnstein" about Richard III & a castle in Austria; another poem contrasted Mozart with the von Trapp family in Salzburg. I followed with 3 Albany poems, "Sort of a Love Poem" & 2 new Coyote poems, #5 & #6. Mary came back to turn the mic around (duh!) so that Don Levy could read poems from his recent trip to Italy, "Elio" (their driver in Florence), "The Sistine Chapel," & "Assisi." Il papa Thom Francis read a couple of domestic poems, the first to his new daughter (tonight's co-host, Molly), & one about his parents cheating, "Listerine." Sally Rhoades also had a poem about a foreign land, Turkey (is it Europe of Asia?) a love poem to her husband, "Old Love" & a poem about discovering the poetry of "Walt Whitman."

Albany Poetry impresario, RM Engelhardt, said he was just back from a training session in Texas for his job & announced he was about to move to Maine for a position there. Rob has over the years organized many different poetry reading series under various monikers in bars & coffee houses all over Albany; he also organized at one time an annual Halloween reading of the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe. He was a force to be reckoned with on the scene. He read a new poem written the other day, "Poets Are Welcome" & then an old favorite "The Prophet Drove a Taxi."

The night's featured poet was the rhymer, Brian Dorn, with a wonderful selection of pieces he has tried out at open mics, such as "From My Poems to Yours" (a poetic "Nameste"), & the commentary on technology, "Back in the Day." Of course he included a "protest poem," "I Need a Sign," as well other political pieces such as the anti-war "Out of Whack" & "Standard of Living" (on the difference between the salaries of sports stars & ordinary workers). In between he described how he first got into poetry communities through internet sites, then branched out into the actual poetry community of the Capital Region (we're glad he did!). Another of his favorites was "Monkey Bars" (on evolution). "This Day" was a new poem he had never read out before, what he described as "an assortment of stuff" on the mix of life. He ended with a performance with his wife, Laura, of the poem "We All." Brian has done his "homework" going to nearly all the open mics in the Region, ranging as far South as Woodstock, & it's gratifying to see him as the featured poet.

A late arrival -- from out the past, one might say -- was former Albany performance artist Jason Martin, now living in NYC, who did a typical free-style performance (this time without tearing apart the stage -- as he was known to have done back at the QE2).

Old fart poets, younger poets, ghosts from the past, poets moving on, even infant (potential) poets -- I guess this is why I stick around & keep showing up. Poets Speak Loud! is the last Monday of most months here at McGeary's, Clinton Square, Albany, NY -- check for more information about everything poetic in Albany & elsewhere.

August 5, 2013

Tom Nattell 

in city,
air burst,
sun melt,
fire burning,
casting forth
dust of death,
the sky
with clouds
of broken
smashed from
live cell
upon hillside
cease to echo,
where silence
is a scream,
where terror
eats into
and cancer

(Tom Nattell was an Albany native, poet, activist, coordinator of Readings Against the End of the World, Poets in the Park, and the legendary QE2 monthly open mic. He died of cancer in January, 2005.)

Poets in the Park 2013

This Summer tradition has been going on since 1990 at the Robert Burns Statue (& it started even earlier elsewhere in the City), the brain-child of poet & activist Tom Nattell, & since 2005 coordinated by me -- but then you would know all that & more if you were at the Poets in the Park reading. This year we had 3 Saturdays in July & 5 poets (6 actually scheduled). There were great, attentive audiences each night, ranging from about 15 to about 27, not including random passers-by who paused, listened & smiled.

We started off on July 13 with Dennis Sullivan, the dean of the Voorheesville poetry scene, who was our first reader. That in itself is ironic since so many of Dennis' poems are ponderings of the end, beginning with "Greetings," a consideration of the land of the living & dead, bouncing off a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé. Others on that theme included "While I was Musing Earlier Tonight" about a visit from the dead, & the 4-part "The Beginning of My Farewell Tour." But there was a love poem & one on Whitman, & the eco-poetics "The Firefly." Dennis is characteristically poetically philosophical, & he was in character tonight.

Elizabeth Gordon (aka Elizag) was a member of Albany's first slam team to compete nationally last year. She began with some selections from her pending book Love Cohoes, about living in the old mill housing near the Falls. She then threw in some her slam favorites, intense & political, such as "Addition & Subtraction" (for the Sandy Hook victims) & "To the Company Selling Trayvon Martin Shooting Range Targets…" (included in her self-published chapbook Fear No Evening). She also included a new piece, a satirical social survey to determine if you are working class. & I was pleased with her ending her reading with a personal favorite, "First Date," also in Fear No Evening.

We were back in the Park with fine weather on July 20 with poet, activist & co-founder of the Split this Rock Poetry Festival Melissa Tuckey. Most of the poems she read were from her recent collection Tenuous Chapel, the winner of the 2012 ABZ First Book Poetry, selected by Charles Simic. These are short, intense poems, marinaded in word play & wry humor, including among others "John Cage," "Venus & the Space Station," "Al Fresco," & "Pete Tells Me Things." She included a few newer pieces, always challenging our attention, leaving us with a smile.

Tomas Urayoán Noel took the bus up from the Bronx, although during the rest of the year he teaches at the University at Albany. He is also playful in his words, mixing languages in Spanglish variations on Spanish & English. He began with the sideways poem "precipitation and its discontents/el malestar de la premura" from Los Días Porosos (The Porous Days) (coleccíon latina, 2012). He engaged the audience to participate in the bilingual title poem from his earlier collection, Kool Ligic/La Lógica Kool (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2005). He also tried out newer work, such as "Alphabet City/Ciudad Alfabeto" combining bilingual prose & poetry, manipulating words & sounds.

As Albany poet Carolee Bennett pointed out later over beers at the party on my back porch both poets love the sound of their words, which is a compliment that all of us poets would love to hear.

The final reading of the 2013 season was on July 27, another beautiful Summer evening, with the equally beautiful local poet Jill Crammond. She said most of her poems are about being a mom, getting divorced & relationships, as indeed they were. She began with a poem on mothers by Catherine Barnett, then on to her own fine work, briefly interrupted by the sirens of emergency vehicles. She began with a series of her mother/housewife poems, sometimes "I" sometimes "you," including a childhood memory of a horse auction for Shannon, who had just lost a beloved horse. Then on to a recent series of poems about Mary (i.e., the Blessed Virgin version), although she, Jill, is a Methodist (which in its own way makes it better), such as "Mary & the Commandments" (there are more than 10), "The Pope Writes a Poem to Mary," & "Mary's Terrible Heart" (which sounded to me like a love poem with an edge). A great way to end this series with this local poetic bright light.  Did I say her hair was perfect?

We hope to be back next year at the Robert Burns statue in Albany's Washington Park on Saturdays in July. But in the meantime there are lots of poetry events -- reading, open mics, etc. -- here in New York State's Capital Region. Check out the calendar here. & until the next time, may the Muse be with you!