December 24, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 19

Tonight was the annual, pre-Xmas, visit from Sanity Clause ("everyone knows there is no Sanity Clause"), a yearly opportunity for the old fellow to have the badly-behaved good poets of Albany sit on his welcoming lap. Ah, yes. With a gift of poetry. As has been my custom at this holiday gathering I read the exquisite "Holiday Poem" by Enid Dame to invoke her spirit for our reading tonight.

(photo by Wendy Dwyer)

First up, appropriately enough, was A.C. Everson with her annual rendition of her "naughty Santa" rhyme, usually performed with a piñata, that she then smashes. Fortunately for Sanity Clause she didn't smash him, just gently sat on his lap as did each reader. Avery read the effusive "To Be in Love" with "dancing fairies of the night" -- who knew? Alan Casline introduced his poem "The Good Boy" as being in the style of William Carlos Williams & based on a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Joe Krausman read a poem written as an experiment, one written in 2-syllable words, "Knowing Oneself Baffling, Giving Advice Easy."

The night's only "virgin" was local peace-activist/Code Pink lady Wendy Dwyer with a poem about the use of drones by the United States to destroy others' lives just like ours.

Tim Verhaegen has long been a member of our writing community, a long-time member of the Every-Other-Thursday Night Voorheesville group & a frequenter of open mics, so I was pleased to finally bring him to the Social Justice Center as a featured poet. He writes family memoir & poems about the world around him. His first poem was from his childhood experiences, "Old People." "The Stones" was about being in the cemetery in East Hampton where he grew up. His next piece was the prose family memoir, "The Fuck Family," that kept us in stitches (& reverberated). Switching back to poetry he read the wistful portrait "Her Great Big Window," then back to another memoir, "Charles Verhaegen, Chronic Sufferer, is Finally Dead," which was written as an obituary for his brother, another exercise in outrageous family humor. In contrast his final piece "A Boy Walks on the Train Tracks Far From Home" is a sad poem, reflections about his self from his college years.

After a short break punctuated by lots of "fucking" remarks, inspired by Tim's reading, I continued on with the open mic with my only Xmas poem, "Christmas Eve, 1945." Sally Rhoades read 50 lines from a longer piece "I Carry My Mother's Tragedy." Dennis Sullivan could easily have impersonated Santa Claus & introduced his poem with a story from Lucretius, then read "Early for an Appointment" (with Death).

(photo by Wendy Dwyer)
Jill Crammond was finally back for the open mic with a poem about what she thinks about when walking her dog at night, "The True Story of Mary & the Spilled Milk." Tom Corrado handed out copies of his newest chapbook Screen Dump then read section #19 & 20 (as one poem). The night's last poet was Keith Spencer who read his poem "Monster," that if one is a "friend" one can find it on Keith's Facebook page.

Throughout the night, after each poet read she or he got to sit on the lap of Sanity Clause & explain how bad they had been during the year, for which they were rewarded by a gift of a book of poetry from Sanity Clause's big bag. It was quite a night, with perhaps Sanity Clause having the most fun of all.

More photos from the night can be found at my Flickr! site.

You too can join the fun each month (minus Sanity Clause who only comes once a year) on the third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY -- bring a poem for the open mic & support the featured poet.

December 15, 2013

Live from the Living Room, December 11

Back at the Garden Room (i.e., the basement) of the Pride Center of the Capital Region for this intimate, warm open reading (there is no mic nor no need for one), just our straight-friendly host Don Levy.

Brian Dorn (Left), Madeline & Joe Krasuman
Brian Dorn was the featured poet with a long set loaded with his (& our) favorites as well as many poems with Capital Region references, beginning with his "flag ship" poem "From My Poems to Yours."  Others included "Back in the Day," "Standard of Living" (on inflated salaries of athletes), "Words," & "Monkey Bars" (evolution).  A favored theme, which he does well, without being sanctimonious, is thoughts on spriituality, such as "I Need a Sign," "In God We Trust," & "Your Footsteps."  His local references ran the length of the Northway from Albany to Lake George, with "Paradox City," "Skyline" (on the Egg, & following the rhymes), "R & R" (Rachael Ray, from Lake George), "The Ethan Allen," "Huge," "Happy Dude," "Eyesore" (the ruins of Gaslight Village), & "Anna Lane" (where he grew up in Malta).  Brian has been reading at open mics poems about Schenectady, that he has now put together in 3-parts.  He ended with another signature piece, "We All," & recruited Avery's date, Madeline, to echo the lines in the poem.  Many of these poems can be found on YouTube.

Speaking of Avery, he was 1st on the open mic list & began with some untitled reflections from memory, then on to another of his "commercials" (enthusiastic promotion of one form of hippy spirituality or another), this for "Karma Yoga."  I took a totally other tack with my 1st poem, "The Anals of Perious Frink," then a poem about my father, "Asthma."  Adam Tedesco began with a poem he said can be read either way, "Front to Back," then what seemed to be an inner argument & negative view of a relationship, "Maximum Ordinate."

Joe Krausman read his poems in 1's & 2's -- "Union" about being married to a woman with 2 heads, & "Hard Time Did Not Write on My Door," a villanelle written entirely with 1-syllable words, a tour-de-force (based on the famous elegy of Chidiock (aka Charles) Tichbourne)Don Levy finished out the night with "Last Call at DeJohn's" (& referenced the passing of Lou Reed), & another in his series of blasts at homophobics, "No Cake for You!"

After such warmth of poetry, it was hard to go back out in the cold, but we can expect to be back on the 2nd Wednesday of the month at the Pride Center on Hudson Ave., the basement door under the stairs.

December 9, 2013

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 4

A group feature tonight, local poets in the recently published A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley (Codhill Press 2013), Edie Abrams, Mimi Moriarty, Sue Jefts, Judith Prest, Sylvia Barnard, Barbara Ungar & Carol Graser (our host). To set the tone Carol read Susan Griffin's poem "I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman."

But 1st a little of the open mic. Rodney Parrott began with a short poem by A.R. Ammons (did he at one point refer to him affectionately as "Archie"?), then his own slightly longer take on it. Tim Snider got choked up reading his rhyming memoir "Changing Roads." Fiona read 2 short poems with longer introductions, including a new poem on aging & changing. Ellen Finn's short poem was about the Great Mother of us all, she then blended into another poem with images of a blue lotus, 2 intense pieces.

Carol Graser started the featured poet section with her poem from the book, "Laid Off Summer," followed by an old poem, "Vagina," looking for a better word for the marvelous.

Edie Abrams just read her one sexy poem, "Edie's Mikveh," from the book (but returned at the end of the open mic to squeeze in a few more).

Mimi Moriarty's entry in the book is a dream poem, "Interpretation: Three Variations," then "Prayer of the Introvert" & another dream poem "Crying Baby."

Sue Jefts read 3 new poems, "A Tired Day," "August" (eating well), & "Traveling the Lake by Train." I've had A Slant of Light for a number of months, dipping into & out of it frequently, so when Sue read her poem "Returning to Earth (or Rediscovering Neruda," I wondered if she changed the initial of the name of the person in the poem, or was I not paying attention?

Judith Prest began with "Naming the Scar" from the book, then a poem from this Summer "Heron at Dawn." "Wild Woman Closing in on 62 Takes Stock" was just what it said, as was "Poet's Prayer."

Sylvia Barnard's poem in the book, the classical "Helen," had been previously published in Open Mic: the Albany Anthology, as was another poem she read, "Gallows Hill." She also read "Change" from her own collection, Trees, then 2 recent poems "The Seven Cyclists" & "Roman Baths, Bath 2013."

Barbara Ungar's poem from the book, "Hypatia," was also on a theme from classical antiquity. She also read "Geronimo," the anti-war "Ode to a Porcupine" & the chilling "Dead Letters."

After a short break to buy books we were back for the rest of the open mic. Andy Katz likes to rhyme & read a tasty holiday food list in rhyme then the funny story about hiding Xmas presents too well, "The Ghost of Xmas Past." I read just one poem, Enid Dame's classic "Holiday Poem." Effie Redman, perhaps the bravest poet of the open mic, read a poem written in January about snow melting. Jessie Muse likes to recite his poems from memory, but got tangled up in his first attempt, so had to move on to something else, a breathless piece about what is, & why. Barbara Garro was the first person of the night to (attempt to) adjust the mic, although the sound had been just fine all night; she read a tribute to poet Lucille (whom Barbara persisted in calling "Louise") Clifton, then a poem on the arts, "The Gathering."

Jackie Graven was a new voice; she read a poem about her lisp & being a young student, then another poem on her dysfunctional childhood, "Drawing in Paradise." Thérèse Broderick's poem was also a memoir, about her mother's table over time, 1968, 1998 & 2012. Sue Oringel's first poem was a descriptive piece about dessert, a girl & the gooseberry bush in her garden, then another poem "India: Delhi Imagined." Then Edie Abrams returned at the end to read "Under Tree Branches" & a new poem about an old cat dying, one of the grand themes of open mics.

It was a wonderful celebration of an important collection of poems, & the customary diverse open mic crowd. This open mic, with featured poets, happens each 1st Wednesday of every month at the historic Caffé Lena in equally historic, & occasionally hysteric, Saratoga Springs, NY.

December 6, 2013

Nitty Gritty Slam #59, December 3

I had to go to this one, the "Dead Poets' Slam," just to see if anyone was going to read one of my poems. Phew, thankfully, not. It was a crowded Valentines because students in the College of St. Rose MFA program had a short fiction reading before the gathering for the Slam, & some hung around to read in the open mic &/or Slam, & have a headstart on the drinking. But the night seemed to flow along nicely -- someone pointed out it was because Mojavi was not there to host the open mic.

Sarah Sherman
Poets reading in the open mic could read their own work & most did. Samson Dikeman started us off with a piece titled "Lincoln's Day." Jacky K. referenced Kerouac, Ginsberg & Lou Reed in a piece set at the Dead Poets Bar. Avery did his best to combine a guru with a motivational speaker in a performance on "padme hum." Adam Tedesco said his poem was inspired by a dead poet, whom I think was Richard Brautigan. Kayla, who went on to become the loudest cheerleader during the Slam, read 2 short rhymes. Sarah Sherman's reading was an intense piece of journal writing, to a younger sister (?).

K.P. & Avery adjust the mic for James Fox (center)
It took a bevy of poets to adjust the mic for James Fox who then read about "The Little Blue Pill." Juliet Barney performed the song from the movie The Jungle Book, "I want to be like you" (which took on greater significance as the night wore on, as you will see). Sparrow hung around after the short fiction reading to read what he called prose read as a poem, "Forget About It" -- but then we never know where the line breaks are anyway. Justin read a gay fantasy about George Clooney. Marie Frankson challenged the mic stand in the other direction then was enthusiastic about "Monday Morning Coffee." Kevin Peterson recited the "Unicorn" which had been a horrible pop song many years ago. Poetyc Visionz ran through a piece about women's self-images, & as the Fugs once said, "it's an old cliché but it's an old cliché." & that was That.

Algorhythm, Avery & Samson, Thom at the mic
It was a huge field, about 14, for the Dead Poets Slam, but ably moved along by el presidente Thom Francis. The poems ran the gamut from William Shakespeare (Marie Frankson) to William Bronk (Adam Tedesco), to Dr. Seuss (2 slammers, K.P. & Brian Dorn). Kim the bartender read from Mark Twain, & I channeled Lou Reed ("Pale Blue Eyes"). P.V. gave a spirited reading of Langston Hughes, as did Algorhythm of "Lower East Side" by Miguel Piñero. But the shocking surprise of the night was the number of "whigger" performances, in all 3 rounds. James Fox performed Tupac, & Justin read "Judgment Day" by James Weldon Johnson, one of the few poems not originally a song. But Avery & Samson, together & separately, did everything but put on black-face: Samson did Gil-Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" & Lord Buckley on Julius Caesar, while the only dead poet Avery could find was Jimi Hendrix -- twice. But, hey, it worked -- Avery was #1, Algorhythm 2nd & Samson 3rd.

For now, the Nitty Gritty Slam is at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month. Pay at the door.