September 18, 2013

Live from the Living Room, September 11

We gathered at the living room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region to chat, waiting for the (proverbial) tour bus to arrive before listening to the night's featured poet & the poets of the open mic.

Judith Prest began, as all good poets do, with "A Good Poem," then "Naming the Scar" from the new anthology from Codhill Press, A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley, edited by Laurence Carr & Jan Zlotnik Schmidt -- lots of familiar names in this important collection. "Wardrobe Alchemy" was a poem for her mother, while the work-in-progress, "Wild Woman Closing in on 62 Takes Stock" looked back to her youth. Some of her poems are products of workshops, such as "Migrant Dreams," & "The Poet Prays to the Ocean," while "April Morning South East Connecticut" was a result of a poetry retreat. She included a couple poems from her collection Late Day Light (Spirit Wind Books, 2011), then ended with the humorous list of excuses, "Why Poets Are Late for Work." Great to see this fine poet out reading once again.

This being the anniversary it is, I read 2 poems for the day, "Another Tuesday" (on September 11, 1973 & 2001) & my impressionistic notes from that day in NYC, "2." Carolee Sherwood was back out on the poetry scene & read 2 new poems, "The Falsification Principle" full of images of wasps, apples, deers & thighs, & a carpe diem poem for a poet with cancer, "Anna Will Lose Her Hair."

Brian Dorn impressed us all not only with his recitation of his poem/manifesto "We All" but also with his adroit juggling. Our host, Don Levy, read a poem he would've read last Wednesday at Caffe Lena if he'd been there, "10 Years" (for Carol & Caffe Lena), & a poem from his recent trip to Italy, tasting the sunset "Last Night in Priano."

Each month on the 2nd Wednesday, our host Don Levy gathers us together "Live from the Living Room" of the Pride Center on Hudson Ave., in Albany, NY -- 7:30PM with a featured poet, followed by an open mic.  Relaxed & always straight-friendly.

September 15, 2013

2nd Sunday @ 2, September 8

Back again after the Summer off for the Poetry + Prose open mic at the Arts Center in Troy, on a lovely Sunday there were still folks who wanted to read their words rather than garden. My co-host Nancy Klepsch had a stroke of minor bad luck so had to take the day off, but we will see her next month I bet.

Brian Dorn started off quite timely with his anti-war piece "Out of Whack," then into a poem about the difficulty of following in "Your Footsteps" & a carpe diem poem, "This Day." David Wolcott continued his serial reading of excerpts from chapters from his memoirs, this an LSD trip on a plane with his parents. Howard Kogan read his study on the fragility of memory, about a childhood experience, "Memories Are Made of This," then went on to a shorter piece "Over." Mike Connor is starting to be at home here, read 3 poems, the first a sad portrait, "She Lives Alone," then a piece about sitting in a bistro, "Window World," & the seasonal "Summer Wanes." Mystery writer (& poet) Julie Lomoe has read at many open mics in the area, but this was her first time at 2nd Sunday @ 2 & she treated us to an excerpt from Chapter 6 of her new, as yet untitled, novel of murder at a soap opera.

This was F. Russell Hawkins' first time here & he tried out 3 poems, the rhyming "Vertical Sleep" & another in rhyme, a dark poem about a serial killer, "Skin Song," & ended with a political poem. Elizabeth Gordon read 4 poems from her laptop from a new project writing about Cohoes, 2 about cats (I could identify with the poem "What I Hate About Cats"), & a couple about the history of the mills & of segregation in Cohoes. I jumped in at this point to read "Chatham Peace Vigil," written a couple years ago, but still relevant. Lorraine Grund read a poem abut keeping your dreams, then a poem to her sleeping daughter, "Little Goddess" & a healing poem from her book Poetry for Healing. Sally Rhoades read a prose portrait/memoir "Ellen" & one of my favorite poems, "My Father's Slippers."

I hadn't seen William Robert Foltin out at an open mic in years, though he still runs a monthly open mic at the Colonie Town Library. He began with a poem based on an assigned list of words, "Too Many Love Songs," then a portrait of a house "Where We Live," & a poem of unrequited love, "A Broken Glass." Ron Drummond read in his requested spot, the 1st draft of a piece he said he finished at 3AM this morning, a rhapsodic flow of words of dreams of the womb & blood & the long river of women over eons that have led to him.

So join us, writers of prose &/or poetry, the 2nd Sunday @ 2 (PM) at the Arts Center in Troy.

September 11, 2013

Open Mic at the Albany Public Library, September 6

Not sure if this series has a title, but it occurs every 3 months during the 1st Friday Night Out/Art Walk in Albany, NY, at the APL Main Branch on Washington Ave. Kevin Peterson, member of Albany's Nitty Gritty Slam Team, serves as MC.

The beauty of this event, besides being surrounded by thousands of books in the public library, is the folks who show up who don't go to the on-going poetry open mics in town. Perhaps it's the safe, familiar feeling of the Library, or the feeling that you are surrounded by other "ordinary" folks like yourself (who perhaps also (secretly) write poetry) that makes some of these poets step up to the mic.

Of course, I'll read poetry anywhere (have read poetry everywhere) so I ended up first on the list to read an Albany poem "A Love Poem of Sorts" & a political poem "Chatham Peace Vigil." Joe Galu was introduced as "Tony Adams" & read a poem based on a remark by "bi-sexual Steve" "Woody Allen is Full of Shit."

Chad Lowther, who we have to thank for coordinating this event at the Library, began with a "procedural poem" based on internet texts on the words "economy" & "language," then a lyrical piece to his wife, "When in Truth," another piece to his wife also a procedural poem "Fiji" & a poem salvaged from the landfill & Google "Leachates." Nicolette Calloway has her visual art on display this month in the Library & talked about her use of pages from gossip & fashion magazines to create her pieces.

This is an open mic, not just for poets, so Rebecca came up with her ukelele to sing a trio of songs, including a wonderful piece for her sister "& all the ladies" "Little Flowers Basil."  Billy has been to the other open mics in the area over the years, his first poem here, titled "Disconnected Graph," mixed politics & movie clichés in a stoner's rambling, then on to a surrealistic story of a zombie at a circus, then on to another stoner's ramble, untitled. Anna J. Montes read from her phone a piece on mothering she just wrote today, then the poem "Love Don't Hate You Anymore."

Harlan, who works here at the Library, recited his poem "The Capacity" (for goodness), keeping the printed poem in his hand as if it were Dumbo's feather. Shaneeka Andrews followed with 3 short poems, "These Eyes," her response to someone on a bus "Just A Girl Like You," & a piece written 10 years ago, "This Is My Life." Kenyatta Jean-Paul Garcia finished out the list with an experimental poem, an day dream sequence on emotional withdrawal read from his pocket notebook.

A rich mix of poetry as diverse as the audience, the readers, the Library itself. Watch for it when it happens, & go. Support your local Library!

September 9, 2013

Writers Night Out, September 3

This event is presented on the 1st Tuesday of the month by the Straw Dog Writers Guild in Northampton, MA at The Elevens. I decided to take a little road trip & see what is happening outside Albany. It was about 2 hours over there, with rush-hour traffic getting out of Albany, but otherwise a pleasant trip to 140 Pleasant Street. The Elevens is a small rock club & bar attached to an Irish pub-like bar.  There is a stage with professional lighting & a sound-guy in a sound-booth.

Jacquelline Sheehan & Nila

They have an interesting system here where each writer who wants to read puts his or her name on a slip of paper then 8 names are drawn at random. Names not drawn are saved for next month & if you show up then you are guaranteed a slot; my name was not picked. The room was filled with mostly women, 40s & 50s & older, a handful of younger folk, but most of the readers were men. Although all the folks in charge were women. Jacqueline Sheehan served as host & introduced Terry Johnson to talk about the 30 poems in 30 days project & writing from prompts.

Then Jacqueline introduced Nila who served as MC & timer, enforcing a 5-minute rule. Grant was the youngest reader & one of the few poets, reading "Striations" about clouds, then a long heart-break poem in many parts, filled with "the pathetic fallacy" (i.e., weeping trees, sad skies, etc.). Beth followed with short prose pieces, "Storm Over the Marsh" & a piece of prose fiction set in a mental hospital, "Man Singing."

Richard Horton read from his self-published collection of short fiction, Strange City. The first piece sounded like a journal/memoir of the 1966 event, "East Coast Blackout," followed by "The End of the Vegetables" -- all art is autobiographical, I guess. When he saw me taking pictures, Shane, the next reader, had asked me not to take his; he was a tall, thin guy, with neat hair & trimmed mustache in a 3-piece suit without a tie; his piece was a tedious interview of a rock star, part of a longer work (thank god for the timer).  I usually accomodate folks who ask not to take their picture, but he didn't ask not to print his name, or his description.

Nila, the MC, was next with a single, long poem "Among the Gardens" filled with cicadas, a yew tree & the Moon. The next reader read a section from a book by Harriet Rogers, the beginning of a mystery story, but she said she was not Harriet Rogers. Another mystery.

Mark Hart
Mark Hart read a couple of poems, elegies for his father. The first, "Flight from Ducksford," about the father surviving as a pilot in World War II, followed by a consideration of Quantum physics & immortality, "The Field." Dick Bentley was the night's last reader with what was either prose fiction or memoir -- does it matter?

It was fun, different, but a long way from the busy poetry scene of Albany, NY, even with a stop-over part way at the Leprechaun's cottage, so if anyone who shows up next month wants to claim to be "Dan Wilcox," that's OK with me. You'll probably make me look good.

September 8, 2013

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, September 4

Our host, Carol Graser, was quite surprised when Sarah Craig, Director of Caffè Lena, took the stage & presented Carol with a book of poems honoring Carol & her 10 years of running this event here. Carol was admittedly flustered by the attention as she read the late Seamus Heaney's poem "Blackberry Picking." Then on to the open mic.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski made a rare public appearance to read her tribute to Carol, "UG2BK" (i.e., "you've got to be kidding me…") about Josh McIntyre's proposal of marriage on stage here to Beatriz (who was here as I arrived with their young son). Marilyn Day read a new piece written today, "Fairy Tale Twins," a lyrical look at fairy-tale clichés.

Nancy DeNofio read her tribute piece for Carol, "One Long Two Short," a long memoir of an open mic at Caffè Lena. Tim Verhaegan began with the lyrical "Her Great Big Window," then read his tribute to Carol, "Poetry Mother." Josh McIntyre, who was already mentioned above, read his poem to Carol, ironically titled "Proposal."

There were 2 featured poets tonight, the first, Rachel Cullen, from Idaho Falls, Idaho, identified as a "Slam poet." But interestingly enough she not only read her poems but her introductions as well. Her poems were mostly first-person cries of teen angst & high school rivalries, such as the list poem "I'm the Kind of Girl," "Judging Eyes," "Me Without You," & "I Wish I Could." She confronted the cruelty of families in the poem "Skinless" but became quite preachy, hitting us over the head with a fable about accepting those who are different from us in "Picture It Now." Not sure how well she would do in the cut-throat world of East Coast Slam, but if she keeps writing & remains true to herself she should be able to channel her energy into some powerful, mature poetry.

Michael Steffen was certainly the more "mature" of the featured poets. Many of his poems referenced pop culture, such as "Adios Sweet Larry" (the hokey-pokey), "The Guy Who Followed the Beatles" (on the Ed Sullivan Show), "Every Inch of My Love" (Led Zeppelin), & "Lincoln Continental" (the car in which JFK was shot), as well as the horrors of day-time TV, ""Home with the Flu," & the autobiographical "Vengeance" on mutilating Barbie. Other poems dealt with clichés, marriage & couples therapy, & some drew their inspiration from paintings, such as Matthias Grünewald's "The Crucifixion" & Van Gogh's "Irises." His poetry collection Bad Behavior was published by Brick Road Poetry Press in 2012.

After the break, Carol Graser, admitting she rather likes have folks read tribute poems to her, read one of her her own poems "The Calculator," a wonderfully playful piece about a calculator who wants to sing.

The night's virgin reader was Marcella Hammer who read a break-up poem, "Dear John" &  a fable of the gods, "The Immortals." Kristen Day, who will be the featured poet here in October, began with a haiku for a plugged ear, then her moving dream poem on the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, "The 6:20 & the 2:45." Sarah Craig came back with her tribute poem to Carol, likening the open mic to a rich & varied pot luck dinner, then shared with us a poem found in the Caffè Lena archives, "Phila Street 1960," perhaps written by Lena herself. Andy returned to recite a long, philosophical rhyme "A Solipsistic Lullaby."

Barbara Garro began with a motivational poem "Leaps Without Bounds," then read her tribute poem "Carol Graser Queen of Poetry Open Mics." I followed with my tribute, "The Wild Twitter of their Stencils," an n+ exercise on Carol's poem "The Wild Twists of their Stems." Andrew Sullivan's poem delved into the nature of a couple's relationship, "Our Quiets." J.J. Johnson returned after a 5-year hiatus from the open mic scene to read the poem he read at his first open mic 10 years ago, "Death of a Virgin," then a recent poem reflecting on the history of racial segregation, "5 Months & 50 Years."

While there is no requirement that when you come to the Caffè Lena poetry open mic on the 1st Wednesday of the month that you read a poem to Carol, I'm sure she would be quite thrilled if you did. It was a night of great fun & words & a fitting salute to 10 years of wordful open mics here on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs. Come join in the fun.

September 5, 2013

Yes, Reading!, August 30

The series is back, with the start of the Academic year, & is now at the Albany Center Galleries, on Columbia St., just off Broadway. Matthew Klane & James Belflower shared the hosting duties as is customary.

These readings typicially feature experimental writers whose work doesn't always "work" on first hearing. But tonight's readers were much more listener-friendly than many in the past, beginning with David Emanuel. He started with some poems from a series written with Jennifer Karmin, 40 word poems for Frank O'Hara's 40 years, the poems punning on "frank" & poetic imitations of O'Hara's wise-cracking. But I imagine if one were not familiar with O'Hara's work one would think, "what the fuck?" He followed with a prose piece (or excerpt from a longer work) "Properties" read a bit too-fast in which the characters/creatures kept changing to carry the narrative along, from "Sea King" to "Owltopus" to a monkey & organ grinder, to a hog hunting to truffles, to …, well you get it.

Brenda Iijima began by noting it was the anniversary of Princess Diana's death (actually August 31) & ended her reading with a journal entry written in the subway in 1997 on Lady Di's death, & on the Wizard of Oz. In between were pieces she characterized as about "the Hole," including spare poems in short phrases from Animate, Inanimate Aims (Litmus Press, 2007) & other poems of ecological paleontology using facts as images. She also included a section from a prose futuristic speculative non-fiction novel on the tear in the ozone set in an ice-hotel in the Arctic.

Cara Benson, who has performed at local venues here such as the Pride Center & the Social Justice Center, read from her recent chapbook from Least Weasel Chapbooks (a subsidiary of Propolis Pess) Cara Benson. She was the most performative of the readers, shedding her sandals, then launching into a rendition of a dream piece about stepping up to a mic & vomiting her words & the garbage of the Sea, then into a piece on Teddy Roosevelt & Abraham Lincoln's (alleged/debated) syphilis, a confrontation on the streets & a list of historical names -- or perhaps it was just one long piece.

Speaking of Least Weasel, I should note that Brenda Iijima also has a chapbook out from the press, Glossematics, Thus.

You can check out Yes, Reading! on FaceBook for their Fall season, readings now at the Albany Center Galleries, 39 Columbia Street, Albany, NY.

September 2, 2013

Poets Speak Loud!, August 26

I had been away for the weekend for some perfect beach time on Cape Ann but managed to arrive at McGeary's backroom just in time for the start of the open mic, with il papa/el presidente Thom Francis (who very obviously was not Mary Panza) as our host.

When I arrived Sylvia Barnard was just introducing her 3-poems-in-1 "Trilogy," each part gets it's own introduction, about a recent vacation trip on the Danube River with her daughter. Joe Krausman read his versions/re-workings of 2 nursery stories, Jack & Jill & the Bible. Naddi hadn't been here in a couple years but is back in town & treated us to 2 untitled poems, the first perhaps a love poem, the 2nd clearly a love poem, but to candy & chocolate.

Amy Schock has been away from the poetry reading scene even longer & was back with a couple of musical, rhyming pieces like song lyrics, "Barter," & "But I Do Love You." In contrast, Brian Dorn, who usually rhymes, gave us "23 Reasons Why This Poem Doesn't Rhyme."

Our featured poet was Bertha Rogers, the doyen of poetry in Delaware County where she oversees the Bright Hill Literary Center & publishes poetry under the imprint of Bright Hill Press, along with her husband Ernie Fishman. Most of the poems she read can be found in her 2010 collection Heart Turned Back (Salmon Poetry). This included the childhood memory "The First Time" & the revenge poem "When You Were Dead." From a series of dog poems (the book is dedicated to the memory of 3 "dog-friends") she read "The Old Dog's Lament" & "Dog Girl Tells the Truth." Among others were "Black Rock Forest" with its allusion to the demise of Nelson Rockefeller, "For the Girl Buried in the Peat Bog" which is a prayer for her preservation, & the New York City memory "Truman & Me." She also read the ekphrastic sestina "Klee's Wandering Off" & ended with a poem on the passing of Time, "Change Places." It was a real treat that she made the long trek from Treadwell to downtown Albany to share with us a rich selection of her entertaining, thoughtful poetry.

Tim Verhaegen was a breeze from a different direction with a look into his past on Long Island, "Old People" & "Letters." Our host Thom Francis took his turn with a poem on leaving, "Why I Look Out Windows." Bless was also back among us with a recitation of his philosophical piece "The Perfect Life." Since I'd gotten there late, I ended up on the bottom of the list & read a poem with a nod to Cape Ann, "Marsden Hartley's Eyes" & 2 short segments from the longer, on-going "Counting Moons."

Poets Speak Loud! is a production of It is held on the last Monday of each month at McGeary's on Clinton Square in Albany, NY & is usually hosted by Mary Panza -- an open mic with a featured poet, not to mention great food & drinks & lovely waitresses & bartenders.