December 31, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 18

This reading included the annual visit from Sanity Clause. The featured poet was Adam Tedesco, but first I invoked the Muse, Enid Dame, read her “Holiday Poem.” Then a bit of the open mic, with each poet getting the rare opportunity to sit on the lap of Sanity Clause, explain how bad they have been & receive a gift of a poetry book or zine.

Alan Catlin was the first poet up (as he often is) with a holiday poem, “Too Drunk to Work, Sober Enough to Drive.” Sylvia Barnard followed with a hopeful little poem, “Spring.” Avery delivered a breathless description of some guitar music, “Masticating the Maggots of the Mind.” Richard Propp said he was just getting re-interested in poetry after many years & read “Desire” by George Bilgere, a funny poem about lusting after a woman in a checkout line. Joe Krausman read a poem praising the light for the longest night (harkening back to Enid’s poem). Mark O’Brien’s poem was about climbing the steep stairs in his house, remembering his father, “Setting Out.”

It was good to be able to hear a big chunk of tonight’s featured poet Adam Tedesco’s work after usually hearing only a poem or 2 at a time at open mics. His work is, as he acknowledges, dark, depressing, beginning with “Post & Kill” painful images of adventures growing up, then a poem loosely based on his 1st landlord “A Real Life Durango” filled with images of violence. “Logic is a Sword We Fuck With” was his philosophical treatise on poetry (he said) & the title pretty much sets the tone, while “At the Mouth of the Cave” was based on a conversation with an ill-tempered fishing partner. He described “The Bit” as “kind of a political poem,” “The Star Reposed” was from a challenge to write about something depressing without being depressing (& not sure he succeeded), while “Human Centipede” was loosely based on one of his favorite movies. “Anaxarchus” was an interesting exploration of speechlessness, reason & kings, based on the the ancient Greek philosopher (c. 380 - c. 320 BCE), none of whose work has survived; ironically, in the context of this reading, he was called “the happiness man.” His final poems were “Blazing” & "Psychogenic Transplant" a poem that was a message to his son after visiting an uncle dying in a hospital. Before he began his reading Adam mentioned that one of his goals was to write a poem that I can’t summarize in one sentence; many of these poems fit that category, but writing this Blog it was enough of a challenge for me to find enough synonyms for “depressing” or “bleak.”

After the break I read a new poem responding to the times, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” (for Tamir Rice). Alan Casline read a 2-part poem on Jack Kerouac, Charlie Parker & Dr. Sax. W.D. Clarke was back after a hiatus, read a poem about his Grandfather in Canada, “Coffee Royale.”

Those of you who are keeping count will note that only 1 woman so far had sat on Sanity Clause’s lap, while there had been 8 men. I was so relieved when Jacky Kirkpatrick was the next reader that I almost asked her to sit there all night, but thought it would be unfair to the rest of the readers. Fortunately the ratio of women to men improved from this point on. She read an untitled memoir about a trip when she was 8 to a Slayer’s concert, written in response to write about Death Metal. Thérèse Broderick’s poem was about struggling “In Yoga Class When I Do Tree Pose.” Frank Robinson, who wore a matching Sanity Clause hat, did not read from his book Love Poems, but read another love poem (to Thérèse, of course) “Possession.”

Samson Dikeman was also challenged to write about Death Metal, but said he found this uncomfortable, so he turned to the Old Testament, & Joshua bringing down the walls of Jericho for inspiration -- seems like the same thing to me. Phil Good showed up to read from a series of poems on the months, read the lyrically playful December entry, “Double Dark.”

Jessica Rae, before sitting on Sanity Clause, said she had brought the wrong copy of her poem “Snow” to read so she edited it along the way. Sally Rhoades ended the night with “I Love the Wander,” then as she sat on the lap of Sanity Clause, her cellphone rang & it was her husband, checking up on her — I guess Sanity Clause is not the only one who is watching!

A complete set of photos of poets sitting on the lap of Sanity Clause is available at my Flickr! site, photos taken by Avery & Jacky Kirkpatrick.

& we’ll return to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY next, & every third Thursday, 7:30PM, to read & to listen to more poetry — for a donation that pays the featured poet & supports the Social Justice Center, & poetry events in the community.

December 21, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #84, December 16

Our MC/host/dominatrix was Albany Poets Vice-President Mary Panza, but the host for the open mic was K.P. (Kevin Peterson). He set the tone by reading one of his own poems, this one about a tree growing outside his window at work.

Tonight was the annual “Dead Poets Slam” in which the Slam participants, contrary to usual Slam rules, must read a poem by a dead poet. The rule didn’t apply to the open mic poets but a number of them did read poems by dead poets, beginning with Amani doing Maya Angelou’s iconic “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Jeff did his own poem, also about a bird, this one in Thailand. Tom read an untitled rhymed piece on love. L-Majesty’s poem “Unfamiliar” was written today.

Quira returned to Maya Angelou with “Phenomenal Woman” (the only dead poet to be read more than once tonight). Nessec read a poem written by her father about her turning “21.” The poet signed up tonight as “Bucket” has read/performed at Caffe Lena as “Jesse Muse” & did a free-style piece he called “Who’s Next?” on death.

There was a huge sign up list (13) for the Slam &, since this was a dead poet slam, one could rightfully be nervous that one might hear one’s own poem read — fortunately, that didn’t happen. But it was an eclectic mix of dead poets, with a couple of disqualifying live poets & even a hoax, or 2, (undetected). Poor Stephen struggled through a reading of a Philip Larkin poem & bottomed out at 9.5 points. Pat Irish eased the score up a bit with Edna St. Vincent Millay’s quatrain on burning a candle. Jimmy scored a 0 for reading his own poem. From there on it was Robert Frost read by Jeff, Bukowski read by K.P. (of course), I read Allen Ginsberg’s “In a Supermarket in California,” Shel Silverstein was read by Ringo (losing points for a time penalty), L-Majesty read a poem by Essex Hemphill (1957 - 1995), Ainsley (a Slam virgin) read Sylvia Plath, Samson Dikeman did Etheridge Knight, Josh an excerpt from Carl Sandburg’s “The People Yes,” & Shannon was disqualified for combining Shakespeare & Eminen. “Bucket” pulled one over on the judges with a piece he said was by “Pat Muse,” but I doubt it.

The much pared down 2nd round found Josh reading Frank O’Hara, Samson doing Gil-Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not be Televised,” Ainsley reading Anne Sexton & K.P. with a song lyric (“Blood of Angels”) he said was by a dead singer, but, again I doubt it, but judges being judges it landed him uncontested in 3rd place.

Ainsley, Samson, K.P.
The final round was a squeaker with Samson & a Lenny Bruce piece edging out Ainsley’s reading of Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet #17. Hey, at least there were some real poems tonight (amidst a couple of fakes).

The Nitty Gritty Slam is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month at The Low Beat 335 Central Ave. in Albany, NY, 7:30 PM, discounted admission with a (valid) student I.D. — & an open mic if you don’t want to Slam.

December 16, 2014

Sunday/Funday, December 14

It was a poetry double-header — after leaving Troy & the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic I made it into Albany to The Low Beat just in time to catch most of the first reader’s set & everyone else. Samson Dikeman served as the afternoon’s relaxed host.

Adam Tedesco was reading when I walked in. I caught 2 poems, “Day of the Dead” & a grim tale with a long title of a dysfunctional family during the holidays.

Joe Hesch talked about growing up in Albany not far from The Low Beat & read a cluster of poems mostly about Albany. But he began with a poem about a late night in the suburbs from his book Penumbra: The Space Between. Then on to a series of true stories/memoirs about Albany, including “Empties,” “Keys,” a bit of prose “The Best Gift Ever,” & “Silent Night in Arbor Hill.”

Sari Botton is from New York City. She read a memoir-sounding short story of mistaken identity at a Thanksgiving dinner with strangers in 1994.

The final 2 readers/performers were what could be characterized as “The Goofy Silly Guy Segment.” Douglas Rothschild, dressed for Albany Winter (on a pleasant, balmy day), complete with scarf, gloves & a snow shovel, did a rambling routine in the raconteur style of Jean Shepherd on that tedious Xmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy” mixing in Greco-Roman mythology with Xtian myths.

Sparrow has built his career on being a Goofy Silly Guy. He began by telling us we shouldn’t clap (but we did anyway) & by playing the tonette. His stand-up routine mixes rambling chatter with very, very short musings on palindromes, things overheard on the subway & a list of new words (without definitions, of course).

This series has been going on this past semester on the 2nd Sunday of the month, but Samson expressed at the end some doubt as to whether they would continue. I suggest you check the poetry calendar at for information about this & many other poetry events in the region.

December 15, 2014

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 14

It was great to be back again together with my co-host Nancy Klepsch here at the Arts Center — I was absent last month & she the month before. Today, we had 12 readers.

Peggy LeGee was the first up with a defiant piece titled “I Am Peggy Love Swimming in a Sea of Hate.” Howard Kogan’s first poem, “They Took the Wife,” was from his new chapbook, General Store Poems (Benevolent Bird Press, 2014), poetry meeting oral history, then to a poem about the funeral of a colleague “Burying Paula.” Nancy Klepsch read 2 new pieces, “the most unfinished poems” she has ever read, on the killing of Michael Brown & Eric Garner, “New” & “And I Can’t Breathe.” A new voice Patrice Malatestinle read a couple of rhyming poems, “Mother Issues” & one about an invasive squirrel “Occupied.” Bob Sharkey continued one of the afternoon’s themes introduced by Nancy with a thoughtful essay on race, flowering up from his experience in the ‘70s working at Albany Medical Center, beginning “I am not color blind…”

Karen Fabiane read a poem from her Bright Hills Press chapbook Dancing Bears involving gang violence in New York City, then on to another poem “Be Gone” about the memory of past loves & the flashes of things we see from the corner of our eyes. William Robert Foltin’s poems “Crows in the Snow” & “Christmas Snow” were both written in December in years past. I read 2 new poems “TV - Fire” & the evolving “Didn’t Shoot” following up on Nancy & Bob's pieces.  Kate Laity read a tantalizing excerpt from her prose fiction “30 Versions of ‘Warm Leatherette’,” an exploration of obsession & seduction; find the complete piece online.

Another new voice, Taylor Parganon, unfolded a sheet of paper from his pocket & read the thoughtful poem “The Man at the Door,” imaging kids on their way to a concert & the life of the ticket-taker afterwards. Sandra Rouse said both of her poems had something to do with color, a political piece linking the invasion of Iraq with Springtime in Atlanta “Yellow Rain,” & another, set in 1968, from a longer, 5-part piece. Sally Rhoades was last with an excerpt from her memoir “Broadened by Laughter,” this emotional section about being raised in foster homes.

2nd Sunday @ 2 is an open mic for writers of poetry & prose, held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM (Duh!) at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free!

December 8, 2014

Frequency North, December 5

This was the last of the semester’s series, a semester of prose, with a reading by visiting professor & novelist Dave King. He was introduced by Frequency North director & coordinator Prof. Daniel Nester. Nester introduced Prof. Barbara Ungar who introduced student Josh Sheridan who introduced the evening’s reader.

Dave King began by talking about how writing poetry helped his novel writing, & read his poem “My Heart Disappears Among the Trees.” It was originally published in Big City Lit, an early webzine I remember fondly. He read 2 sections from the middle of his novel The Ha-Ha (Little, Brown & Co. & Back Bay Books). It is the first-person story of an aphasic Viet Nam veteran, told in the present, with flashbacks to family memories before he went to Viet Nam.

The reading was well attended by faculty, students & community folks in the St. Rose library.

Frequency North is a series of readings held at the College of St. Rose, Albany, NY. Check their website for the schedule of upcoming readings.

December 5, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #83, December 2

It turned out to be quite a night of poetry, performance & Slam at The Low Beat. Kevin Peterson (aka K.P.) was the host for the open mic & el presidente Thom Francis was the host for the Slam.

The first reader on the short list of open mic poets was Brian Dorn who read about what inspires his poetry, “Her Attributes.” Jeff S., whom I hadn’t seen before, did 2 short pieces (& later participated in the Slam), “Another Rainy Tuesday in the Trailer Park,” & “Noodling the Noodler.” Amani began her untitled piece on lovemaking versus homemaking with singing a bit of Joni Mitchell’s “Little Yellow Taxi.” Avery, finishing off the open mic, performed “Coming Together” (which wasn’t about sex, I don’t think).

The feature was NYC Slam poet Thomas Fucaloro, who had performed up the block at The Linda in the WordFest Invitational Slam back in April, doing a piece he also did tonight about moving from being a cocaine addict to earning an MFA literary degree (hmm?!). Few of his pieces were introduced with titles, but moved from such topics as being at his sister’s dance recital, to about finding our own ways to god (“No Experience Necessary”), to used books, to having babies, to rape recidivism, to the Dead Poet’s Society. His delivery, while eschewing Slam clichés, was energetic, modeled on stand-up comics, &, yes, Robin Williams. His book It Starts from the Belly and Blooms is available from Three Rooms Press.

el presidente brought us back into the Slam with 7 competitors, ranging from Jimmy on Hobbits, Stephen Roberts’ “The Year the Grinch Struck Back,” K.P. with a tribute to his high school science teacher, Jeff S. “On the Road,” Eliza Ryan reprising (from Poets Speak Loud) “Instagram,” & Algorhythm on experience. I achieved a respectable score of 24 for my commentary on religion “The Lady Bishop,” just enough to beat K.P. & to get me into Round 2.

Eliza Ryan, Me, Algorhythm (Photo by Thom Francis)
From there I squeaked by — barely — into 3rd place behind Algorhythm & Eliza Ryan with an excerpt from “Richard Nixon Must Die” that timed out at 3 minutes, 9.8 seconds, as Jeff S. went over time & lost points despite scoring 3 10s (I had scored 2 10s!) with  a piece titled “Scooping Granola” about working in a diner.

So I was “in the money” & could sit back & watch Algorhythm & Eliza battle it out, with the visiting poet coming out on top, a good position for her to be, shall we say.

So, should I keep at this, become a member of the Slam team, delivering real poems to a bunch of punk poseurs, show them what poetry, not performance, is really about? Heck, I’m an old white straight guy in good health. What are the odds? At least I’m not a Republican.

Nitty Gritty Slam, a production of is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month at The Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY. If you are a student (with an I.D. for other than “Student of Life,” etc.) it’s only $3.00, otherwise us old guys have to pay $5.00 (still cheap).

November 30, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, November 24

& we really had to this night in the back room of McGeary’s as the bar was filled with football fans for the snow-delayed Bills v. Jets game. Of course, Mary Panza has no problem with being loud, she was our host.

Sylvia Barnard was the first poet up with the new poem “North Dakota” about her father that she had tried out at the Third Thursday open mic, then a poem from her book Trees “To My Father on his 110th Birthday.” Joe Krausman read about a “Scene in a Subway Car” where a couple texts while making out, then a lesson on where babies come from “Gratitude.” I followed with 2 new poems, “Garrison Keilor” & the Halloween inspired “The Move.”

Lexee had been waiting patiently for the poets to gather & the open mic to begin, did a piece from memory “Like Tinted Diamonds” accompanied by cheers from the bar & encouragement from the audience. Tess Lecuyer has been spending too much time outside in the North Country, saw “Bears” in her kitchen, & a poem from February “Ice Bloom.”

The featured poet/poets was/were "the Pilot Light Collective," 4 poets from Western Massachusetts. First to the mic was Eliza Ryan, who had read here a few months ago in the open mic. Her first poem was about fighting dragons in divorce court, “The Unburnt,” then a poem addressed to “Instagram.”

Stan Spencer ranged from an intro about a tattered cape, to a funny, rhymed piece on farts, another on gender transition, & an angry piece about a triple murder in Pittsfield.

Melissa Quirk Cairns had also been here for the open mic (with Eliza). She began with “Finding Forgiveness at a Funeral Mass, an Open Letter to a Priest,” then a rhymed piece on science & what it means to be human “Even Seuss Was a Doctor.” Her last poem was “new shit” on belief & magic, taking off from a childhood Xmas memory.

Gabriel Squailia read a cluster of poems from a mss. titled 31 Sonnets For January, “Roller Skates,” the funny rant “Best Buy,” “Newborn,” “Snow” (a prophecy?), “Lists” & “The Moment I Decided to Marry My Wife.”

Back to the open mic, Pat Irish read a sonnet “written years ago” about a sunrise over Columbia County. Sally Rhoades proclaimed “I Want to be Swathed in Beauty” & also read an anti-war poem “Between Hope & Despair.” Adam Tedesco’s poem “Parallel Construction” began with an epigraph from Leonard Cohen, was like a letter, while “The Artist as a Paranormal Romantic Comedy” was based on a twisted childhood dream of women on a conveyor belt. Shannon Shoemaker read a poem about looking for happy endings “Phone Booth,” then another, untitled leaving love poem. Kevin Peterson’s “Vice” was a drive-by made up of 2 very short vignettes. & appropriately enough Julie Lomoe ended the night with “11 Ways of Looking at November.”

We took the cheers from the bar as a credit to the fine poetry we heard tonight, which also inspired the Bills to victory. Join us at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany every last Monday of the month, about 7:30 — bring poems for the open mic, have dinner, a drink or 2 & speak loud!

Community of Writers, November 23

The Hudson Valley Writers Guild has sponsored the The Community of Writers program at the Schenectady County Public Library for about 12 years. The event presents local writers in various genres reading their work & (hopefully) selling their books. This year’s reading included writers of young adult fiction, adult fiction & poetry. The MC was me, Dan Wilcox, President of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

Rose Kent first talked about her experience in bringing her books into schools & the kinds of questions the young students asked. She read a section from her most recent novel Rock Road (Knopf Publishers), the narrator a young girl with her brother & mother moving from Texas to Schenectady. She is also the author of an earlier novel Kimchi & Calamari (Harper Collins).

Thérèse Broderick is well-known in the poetry community as a reader, teacher, & former Poet Laureate of Smith’s Tavern. Today she read poems linked by memory & family, -- poems about her childhood, her husband (“Blue Pinto”), baby-sitting & as a recent tourist in the Holy Land. She also read from & offered for sale her poetry “favors,” each a poem written on coffee filters & bound into a fan-shaped chapbook.

Bunkong Tuon has recently been reading his poems at area open mics. He teaches in the English Department at Union College. His poems were about growing up as a refugee from Cambodia, about being educated in the US, & about his family, & confronting racism. A full-length collection of his poems, Gruel, is forthcoming from NYQ Books.

James Pavoldi had the best book display: a full-size suit of armor holding copies of his self-published novel No Fat Knights. It is the story of the adventures of a woman who travels from Brooklyn to England to attend a seminar by on weight loss run by a knighted physician. More information about the book can be found on his website.

Steve Swartz is the first Poet Laureate of Schenectady County & a former host of the Community of Writers reading. He read a selection of his poems, which were often humorous, full of wordplay & rhyme. He began & ended his reading, appropriately enough, with the word “Schenectady.”

This is an annual event at the Schenectady County Public Library, so watch for it again next year at this time. But both the Library & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild has programming throughout the year. Check their websites for more information.

November 24, 2014

Yes! Reading Series, November 22

This series, curated by poets James Belflower & Matthew Klane, is held at the Albany Center Gallery, 39 Columbia St., Albany, NY & they characteristically mix the reading of poetry with other art forms. Tonight’s readers Michael Ruby & Marthe Reed was joined by dancer (& poet) Sally Rhoades. In addition the gallery was filled with the sculpture of Mary Pat Wagner adding a further aesthetic dimension to the evening’s performance.

James Belflower introduced Michael Ruby first & he read from his American Songbook (Ugly Duckling Press, 2013). Although he has nicely melodic reading voice, he barely moved except to turn the pages & look up. The poems used the words & phrases from pop songs that he then fills in with his words. It worked best with songs that I knew, like the Door’s “People Are Strange,” & where I was not familiar with the song’s lyrics it was hard, on only 1 hearing, to know where the poems were going. Some of the other songs he used were “Cigarettes & Coffee,” “You Know I Know,” & “Little Girl Blues,” among others.

He remained in his spot as James introduced Marthe Reed, then Michael & Marthe did a collaborative reading of a piece from her new book Nights Reading Lavender Ink, 2014), the poem having something to do with a talking knot. The rest of the reading she did solo, explaining that the book is based on The 1000 & One Nights translated by Richard Burton, the poems using stories, Burton’s commentary & her own analysis, many dealing with gender issues. Again, I was left wondering how the poems were put together, though I frequently got carried along by the music of the language. The poem “The Room” contained a line that made it into my notes, “narrative dancing in its own embrace.” There were also frequent quotes from poet/translator/scholar Rosemarie Waldrop.

Co-host Matthew Klane read short tribute poems to Michael Ruby & Marthe Reed in his signature cut-up method, then went on to introduce Sally Rhoades. She entered the darkened room with a candle that she placed on a small table containing a notebook & iPhone, then danced as she recited a poem “My Mother was a Mohawk…” about exploring her native ancestry traced back through both her mother & father’s familes, who had suppressed these roots when she was young. Her control of her memorized words & of her expressive movement was impressive. She then sat on a chair next to the small table & read 3 poems also referencing her native roots, “I Can’t Hear You,” “The Sky is My Witness” (about her father) & “A Silence.”

Yes! Reading Series can be found on FaceBook, as can the Albany Center Gallery — a community-based and community supported non-profit art space dedicated to exhibiting skillful contemporary art of the Mohawk Hudson region.

November 23, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 20

Tonight I invoked the Muse by reading 2 poems by Jim Spurr from his chapbook Open Mike Thursday Night (Village Books Press, 2010), “Patriotism” & “Lady Across the Way,” one of the great Oklahoma poets who left us for that open mic in the Sky in September.

Here the first open mic poet was Alan Catlin, who said he thinks he met Jim Spurr on line, began with a bartender poem about New Year’s Eve, “The Conga Line from Hell.” Joe Krausman read a piece titled “King of the Free Lance Writers” about the prolific American author Richard Gehman (1921 - 1972). Sylvia Barnard read a short, new poem about her father’s trip as a young man with a herd of cattle on a train to “North Dakota.” Frank Robinson’s poem “The Second of May” is from his charming chapbook Love Poems (Verity Press International, 2014) & was a funny piece in rhyme about the day he met his wife. & that wife was the next poet up, Thérèse Broderick, with a poem about a “butterfly zoo,” “Within the Mariposario,” weaving in English & Spanish phrases.

The next poet will be the featured poet here next month, Adam Tedesco, who gave us a preview with a poem of colors & San Francisco “Yellow.” Jessica Rae read a bus poem, a little love poem to Albany, “Central Ave.” Chad Lowther read from his Airbook a poem constructed from phrases heard in a lecture on Moby Dick from a University course on Herman Melville, “Staring at Rolling Seas.” I was the last poet in the open mic with “The Night Sky,” a poem recently published in the online journal Pine Hills Review.

I’d met tonight’s featured poet, Karen Skolfield, at this past year’s Split This Rock Poetry Festival & when I found out she lived in neighboring Western Massachusetts, I invited her to read in this series. She began with the first 3 poems from Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013), “Where Babies Come From,” “Homunculus” & “Art Project: Earth.”  Also from the book “Lost Mountain” & “Rumors of Her Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” (“dancing around” her military experience), then on to another poem (not in the book) from a series based on Army training manuals, “Army SMART Book: M-18A1 Claymore Mine” (on the limits of the imagination). Other new poems were “Double Arm Transplant,” & the new, never read out “On Veterans Day My Daughter Wishes Me Happy Veterinarian’s Day.” She ended with 2 poems from the book, “Chiromancy” & “Frost in the Low Areas” (because she likes to end with weather poems). A relaxed, playful reading full of description, laughter, often with family members as bit players, taking an idea & playing it out in a conversational tone.

Every third Thursday we gather at the Social Justice Center for a featured poet & an open mic for community poets, 7:30PM, $3.00 donation, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY.  Join us.

November 13, 2014

Live from the Living Room, November 12

Back in the downstairs “living room” of the Pride Center with our host Don Levy.

Tonight’s featured poet was Elizabeth Gordon/Elizag who began her reading with a new piece “White Privilege” done from memory. Then from her book of poems Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2014) “If Gay Marriage Had Been Legal For Me I’d Be Divorced Twice, at Least, & I’d Have A House,” then a revised, Slam version “I Do” written in response to workshop comments; we agreed that what she has is 2 poems on the same theme. Then she read a section from her earlier non-fiction memoir Walk With Us: Triplet Boys, Their Teen Parents, & Two White Women Who Tagged Along (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2007) about being in family court. She ended with a poem spun out of this book, a commentary about being in a cross-cultural community. As always with Elizag it was a good, entertaining, engaged reading.

I was the 1st poet in the open mic, read my ever-expanding “The Communion of Saints” & a peace poem from Poeming the Prompt “Fast & Slow.” Leslie Gerber has a brand-new chapbook of poems out from Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, NY Lies of the Poets, so new he hasn’t had the book release party yet. He read the chilling “Hot Line” then the often funny title poem “Lies of the Poets.” Bob Sharkey read an old poem “Anticipation” based on a dream about a poetry reading/party at the former Lemily Gallery on Washington Ave., then a poem from a longer piece about an encounter with a ghost of an ancestor “Cathy Gives Me a Good Scolding.”

Sally Rhoades read a “very new” piece, “On a Night with a Poet,” in which the poet in the title is herself, a long weaving of words like a stream. Jaida Samudra was here with her father, Leslie Gerber, & began with a poem from memory to Lucky, a trans-sexual friend, then on to “A Letter from Singapore” full of word play in multiple languages. Don Levy ended the night, as he does here, with a couple poems, the first titled simply “G.B.” about a boy he had a crush on in 9th grade, then another high school memoir “Climbing the Rope.”

Live from the Living Room happens each 2nd Wednesday of the month with a featured poet followed by an open mic at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY 7:30 PM $3.00 donation.

November 12, 2014

Fall Book & Author Event, November 8

Paul Pines has been filling up my bookshelves. At last count I have copies of 10 of his books, which doesn’t count my old copy of the original paperback of the novel The Tin Angel that I gave away. His most recent collection is Fishing On the Pole Star (Dos Madres Press, 2014). I even have a copy of his 1972 Onion (with drawings by Basil King) (Mulch Press). In addition to his poetry & being a practicing psychotherapist he runs the annual Lake George Jazz Weekend. Today the Friends of the Albany Public Library honored him for his literary work & contributions to the larger arts community with a lunch at the University Club, then Paul gave a lecture at the Albany Public Library Main Branch.

Titled “Voco, Vocatus — Who Calls? Tracking the Voice & the Vision” the presentation was about the sources & nature of the poetic imagination. He began with reading a couple of poems from his Divine Madness (March Hawk Press, 2012), one about Vulcan, the other about Citizen Tom Paine. From there to images projected on the screen behind him by painters Joan Mitchell, Mike Goldberg, Larry Rivers & Robert Indiana who had been patrons (as I had) in Paul’s bar The Tin Palace at the corner of Bowery & 2nd St. in NYC. On to a discussion of the work of upstate poet William Bronk, some poems from Paul’s New Orleans Variations & Paris Ourobouros (Dos Madres Press, 2013), to the Popl Vuh & the “submerged center,” to Rimbaud, Plato from the Phaedrus on divine madness, the poet as visionary with reference to Blake, Black Elk & Walt Whitman. On to Wolfgang Pauli, finishing with a discussion of an essay by Thomas de Zengotita, “Naming of the American Mind, Culture as Anesthetic.” Phew, a whirlwind of references, enough for a semester of study at the University of the Self.

The Friends of the Albany Public Library also sponsors weekly book-reviews at the Main Branch, 161 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12:15PM, free — & free refreshments.

November 10, 2014

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, November 7

The last of the season here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, until the thaw in April, with featured poets Joe Krausman & Me (DWx). Alan Casline was the host.

Brian Dorn was the first of the open mic poets, beginning with “Changing Ways” (of seasons, of life), then a poem he said he has not read out before “Under & Over.” Alan Catlin’s poems were from a series of animal poems, “Armadillos at the Ball Park,” “Guide Dogs with Lead Harness Consider Trench Warfare,” “Elephants at Low Tide” which is the title poem of a new collection. Paul Amidon began with “School Concert” & “Report Card” (his grandfather’s) & one in a “Diner.” Mike Connors read Archibald MacLeish’s poem “Ars Poetica” then a funny “Cranberry Day,” & a poem written yesterday about a maple tree “Forlorn Women of Autumn.” The genius behind the Pine Hallow Arboretum, the planter of trees, John Abbuhl always reads in the open mic & tonight read 2 short poems, “Clearing” & “The Fog Will Clear” then a short, concise essay written recently “The Unity of Reality.”

Don Levy is known to his FaceBook Friends as having a, shall we say, rich, detailed life on FB, so his funny poem “Life Without FaceBook” becomes quite hysterical in context, then he read a stream-of-consciousness “Googling Rain Poems.” Frank Robinson has been piling up poetic “firsts” all week: 1st time reading at Caffè Lena on Wednesday night, 1st time “solo flight” here without his wife Thérèse at a poetry reading, with 2 interesting poems, “When I Was a Kid America Was Like Africa” & “Ce n’est pas un poème.” Mark W. O’Brien first read a poem by W.W. Christman (1865 - 1937) then one by an Irish poet Gene Barry, & on into a long introduction that could have been a long poem in itself before he read the poem itself "I've Heard the Beautiful Message."  Dennis Sulllivan, on the other hand, read only one poem, a characteristically philosophical piece, “Are You Sitting Alone Tonight?” inspired by the Woody Allen flick, “Broadway Danny Rose.”

Photo by Don Levy
Joe Krausman & I were the featured poets. I had met Joe when I moved back to this area in the late 1980’s when we were in a poetry workshop with the Poet Laureate of All Ireland, John Montague, & would often meet on the way as we walked to work each morning for the State of New York. I began with a poem about meeting Joe one morning on a street corner as he read the The New York Times, & we went on from there with poems about Death & Love, done as an interlocking set, weaving our poems in & out of each other's, a technique I had learned from performing with the poetry performance group 3 Guys from Albany. Joe is a constant presence in the poetry scene as well as the literary/art scene in general here in the Capital District — not to mention a great friend. We had a lot of fun bouncing our poems off each other.

After a break our host Alan Casline returned with a piece about a leaf falling inspired by “Michael McClure Line I Find Climbing 10 Mountains.” Adam Wells was a new poet here who eschewed the mic to do 2 pieces from memory in hip-hop rhythms & rhymes, “Turkey” & “Perfect for Me.” Howard Kogan’s poem was too late for either Joe or me, titled “Advice to Poets” it contained such gems as “we have to become musicians…” & “never use the word ’Truth,’ or ‘Love’ either.” Tom Corrado proclaimed it “a great night for a screen dump” & read #138. Edie Abrams' poem described “10 Days in Utah.” Susan Riback read what she called an “inner song” “The Good Place to Be,” then a piece on internet dating. Barbara Garro was “an Arboretum virgin” & read “The Curio Cabinet” that went from the figurines inside to animal myths. Megan Gillespie ended the night with a poem about talking to her neighbor in the backyard titled “Insulin Shock” & we hope to see her at more open mics soon.

This was the final reading in the series until the Spring. But the Arboretum is still there throughout the Winter (trees don’t migrate very quickly, you know). Watch for more readings here sometime in April, 2015.

November 9, 2014

Frequency North, November 6

When I arrived in the rain there seemed to be some confusion about where the reading by Marc Spitz would be. The publicity was clear: the St. Joseph Hall Auditorium, but for some reason we were led to the Standish Room (where other Frequency North readings had been held). In fact, next to the sign for the Standish Room there was a poster announcing Marc Spitz’s reading in St. Joseph Hall Auditorium. Then we were lead back to the St. Joseph Hall Auditorium where other listeners were already chatting, waiting, & the book table was set up. Go figure.

Daniel Nester (right) introduces Marc Spitz
But the experience showed the truth of the old axiom “if you are going to have a poetry reading, hold it in a small room, that way it looks crowded.” This wasn’t a poetry reading, but it holds true for prose. The audience in St. Joseph Hall Auditorium looked small, spread out, but they would have looked cosy & packed in if held in the less cavernous Standish Room.

Marc Spitz, writing about rock’n’roll & pop culture, is the author of a couple novels, rock star biographies & a memoir Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the 90’s (Da Capo Press, 2013). His most recent book is Twee: A History (It Books, 2014). He read from the introduction as an explanation of what “twee” is, a dizzying list of movie & book titles & other recent pop culture references, then on to a description of the scene in Brooklyn, stating “everyone is young & most of the young are twee.” At the end I was beginning to draw the conclusion that “twee” was simply an extension of “twit.”

He also read a couple of brief sections from Poseur. The sections he read actually dated from the late 1980s, about getting a room at the legendary Chelsea Hotel & an encounter with Allen Ginsberg at the Poetry Project’s New Years Day Marathon reading. Those sections as memoir & story-telling were much more satisfying than the pop-culture anthropology.

Frequency North is a series of readings at the College of St. Rose by young writers. Check out their schedule here.

November 8, 2014

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 5

I hadn’t been here since the September reading, but wanted very much to hear new work from one of my favorite of the local poets, Mary Kathryn Jablonski. Carol Graser started us off with reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, & announced that this series is now being supported by Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, then on to the open mic.

Alan Catlin was first up with a “bus stop poem” titled “Home Schooled,” then a poem about a fight in a bar “Last Man Standing.” Tim Sneider read a poem inspired by his car’s odometer “242,242,” then a poem about his motorcycle “Winter Sleeping.” Dave Jakes came over from Great Barrington & read 2 short pieces, “The President of Spring” & “Wave Rider,” then imagined snowflakes with bar codes in “Chicago Snow.” Todd Fabozzi’s poem “The Couple” described a bitter scene in a coffee shop, while “Hey So-Called Conservative” was a preachy political rant. Rodney Parrott read a poem from a set of pieces on flying.

The first featured poet was Richard Levine, from Brooklyn. He began with a poem in many parts about a conversation in the bar, that he read for Veterans Day, “Disturbing the Peace.” Next he read the title poem from his new book The Cadence of Mercy, then a poem inspired by the writer William Least Heat Moon “Spirit,” & 3 poems inspired by growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, "These Are the Generations,” “Out of Light’s Reach,” & “Saturday Night Fights.” “Autumn Burn” was from an earlier book, while “Picket Fences” was from his 2012 book of poems A Tide of a Hundred Mountains from Bright Hills Press. He ended with a poem about Troy, NY “The Drowned River” from The Cadence of Mercy. His work was often narrative, discursive, & he had asked the audience, after reading his first poem, not to clap for each poem, as the appreciative crowd here usually does, which made for a strangely quiet reading.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski laid down no such rules & the audience showed its appreciation for each poem. Many of her poems were childhood memories from growing up on a farm — “Stone,” “World of Two” (about dressing up a pet cat), “Girls Washing Eggs,” & “Elderberries.” She also read one poem, “Mare Vaporum,” from her collection To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008) (full disclosure, I am the publisher of A.P.D.). Other, newer poems, were “For the Russian Space Dog,” “Mis-remembered,” “Under-Rated Bird” (on the Robin), “A Feathered Thing,” & “Train” in which a bird makes still another appearance.  Good work as ever (I did say up front I am a fan, didn't I?).

After a short break for book sales & bathroom, our host Carol Graser returned with one of her own poems on ice & snow. Anthony Bernini read a couple of nature-inspired poems “The Scent of the Earth” & “Wind Above the Tree Line.” Both of “Storm Cat”’s poems were inspired by solitude, the first, “a blues art-rock fusion” he sang & read, then the short “Circular Reasoning” on solitude v. companionship.

Ellen Finn read a Harry Potter dream poem, wondered “what does it mean?” & also had the wildest shoes of the night. Sally Rhoades’ poem “The Sky is My Witness” was about her father, while “A Silence,” which she dedicated to the poet Maurice Kenny, was about paddling a canoe. Barbara Garro read a poem titled “Lost Days” then a series of 6 Haiku, mostly containing bugs. Thérèse Broderick read about being the “Friday Babysitter” & about taking her mother to the bank, “Please Remove Hats & Dark Glasses.” Frank Robinson, Thérèse’s husband, announced he was a “Caffè Lena virgin” read the very funny “Migration” (of body parts) & the equally funny love poem “Thérèse 5.1.” Rachael, who had read here in the open mic in years past, was back with a couple of untitled notebook entries, pondering war & peace & beautiful ideas.

Joe Bruchac has been a featured poet on this stage & it was great to see him as an open mic poet; he had brought the gladiolas that sat in a jar-vase on stage, & read a poem he had just written about them, then a couple pieces up out of his Abenaki culture, a poem on fireflies, & the freshly written warning “Deer Woman’s Eyes.” Jay Rogoff was another past featured poet; he read 2 love sonnets “The Fountain” on menstruation, & “The Table” the Annunciation from the Angel’s point of view.

Carl writes funny rhyming poems & read one on a New Year’s resolution to ogle minds rather than behinds, then a somewhat related piece on Viagra “On Golden Years.” Susan Riback said she had been reading Pablo Neruda’s A Book of Questions & read to us a sample of these gnomic couplets, then her own versions, then a poem about “The Alphabet Psychic.” Jesse Muse, who the night before had been at The Low Beat in Albany, free-styled a couple of Slam pieces both relating to being at work & not titling his poems. Lynn (also from Great Barrington), the night’s final poet, hadn’t intended to read when she first got here, but was inspired by what she heard,  & read “November Bath Night” & “Communion” based on the question, “what kind of wine is she?”

There is always a great variety of poets here which makes the trip worth it, to Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs on the 1st Wednesday of each month, $5, 7:30PM.

November 6, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #81, November 4

I’ve missed a few of these gatherings, but found my way back to The Low Beat in time to hang out & catch the open mic, with Kevin Peterson as host.

Josh started off with “Disassembly” which sounded like a youthful memoir about breathing fumes. I followed, & since it was Election Day in the USA performed “Put Down the Government Rag.” Jessie read a poem in which he talked about “folding 1000 paper cranes for serenity.” L-Majesty's poem “With Dignity & Justice For All” was for Brittany Maynard.

Ainsley’s poem was titled (I think) “Cojones” but it was about cooking. Brian Dorn’s poem was about looking for cooperation (in spite of its title, “Politics”). Mojavi read a new piece, from his phone, inspired by a student of his who was recently arrested — twice — “You Never Had A Chance.” Tenesha Smith did a very short piece that she dedicated to L-Majesty, then a more substantial poem, “Hands Up,” dedicated to black men who have been beaten by the police. The last open mic poet, Casey Fisk, performed “Do Not Bring Me Flowers” from memory, a clever poem playing with the names of flowers.

el presidente, Thom Francis took over hosting the Slam & I almost choked when he announced it would be a 12-4-2 Slam. The sacrificial poet, Brandon (from the Buffalo Slam team), set a high standard scoring 27.3. But with that many slamming in the 1st round there had to be variety & few pushed the 3 minute limit, including P.V. coming in at a shockingly short 1.2 minutes stringing positive phrases together free-form. Stephen rhymed, Mojavi read from his phone, L-Majesty sounded like he’d been to P.V.’s Church of the Positively Positive, Amani showed that Slam clichés get you 10’s (she got 3, but of course only 2 counted *); others included Anna, Josh Kent (talking to God from his phone), Jesse, Elizag, K.P., Jimmy (fighting a Civil War video game), & Shannon believing in happy endings.

Round 2 boiled down to K.P., Elizag, Amani & L-Majesty, with both Elizag & L-Majesty scoring 3 10’s. And when that dust settled, Amani ended up in the 3rd spot while Elizag & L-Majesty battled it out. Elizag scored 4 10’s with an outrageous “I” piece, so of course 3 10’s counted for a perfect 30.0, with L-Majesty scoring close behind with 29.5 reading about slaves & racial struggle “The Shade of Our Struggles.”

The Slams continue every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at the Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY — with an open mic for the rest of us.

*  (In the Slam there are 5 judges; each performance is judged on a scale of 0 to 10, with the high & low scores dropped so only the middle scores are counted, so 1 10 is as good as a 0, you need at least 2 10’s for it to matter.)

November 2, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, October 27

I was having dinner at the bar, eyeing the pretty staff at McGeary’s when the poets started coming in, heading to the backroom, so I followed them. Mary Panza was the host for yet another Poets Speak Loud!, tonight featuring poet Mike Jurkovic from down the Hudson.

Photo by Don Levy
Everyone had left the #1 spot blank so I signed up & read a couple of pieces I’ve read before, “October Land” based on the opening of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” & a poem I first read many years ago at the QE2, the scandalous “Prayer.” Joe Krausman followed with a couple of food poems, “Food for Thought” & a poem about thinking about lions while fancy dining. Sylvia Barnard’s 2 poems were about her mother, first “Learning Greek” then “Last Farewell” after she had died.

Shannon Shoemaker read a new poem she hadn’t read out before with the tentative title “Phone Booth” & then was about to sit down, but Mary Panza called her back & she attempted to perform “Tongue in Cheek” but had to abandon it — great opening likes just the same. Thérèse Broderick was really tempting fate (& me) with, first, a poem about the death of her cat, then a lyric about a dead puppy — again, no comment. Frank Robinson followed with a trio of poems from his chapbook Love Poems (Verity Press International, 2014), “No Jive” (Thérèse at 50), then a poem for Mother’s Day, & a poem, “Genesis,” about how they met.

Mike Jurkovic has been reading around a lot lately, promoting his new chapbook Eve’s Venom (Post Traumatic Press, 2014), which I’d already bought, but it is always fun to hear Mike read. He began with some poems not in the book with minimal introduction, because his poems often tell a story, cynically pondering the world around him, such as a poems about being stopped at a traffic light next to “the dwarf Morpheus,” or “Crows Gathering at the Grey Sky,” or “Andy Martin’s American Letter.” Then to poems from Eve’s Venom, some read without the titles, “New Frictions,” the hysterical “Bio-Hazard,” “Yearbook,” “The Girl and Her Parachute” (another encounter along the road of life), “It Was a Nice Day,” & “Curator.” He finished with another cluster of new poems, many very short, but I particularly liked one about a girl with a broken doll. Appropriately enough he ended with “Close.” In the past Mike would wander the room performing his poems, tonight he stuck pretty close to the mic, his poems doing the wandering.

Pat Irish got us back into the open mic with a poem by someone else titled “The Foxholes of Hollywood,” then read his own poem about creatures from the movies “A Halloween Party.” Don Levy imagined the (for him) unimaginable, “Life Without FaceBook,” then a fantasy of picking up a Bible student, “Gaytheist.” Cheryl A. Rice began with a poem about “Dioramas” then on to a stirring poem about hearing about the death of “Paul Newman at the Dodge.” Adam Tedesco managed to mention Hoffman’s Playland in a poem about death & defiance “I’m Only Going to Show You This Once,” then another grim piece, with a playful title, “Games.”

I hadn’t seen Ed Yetto before, & he began with a stream-of-consciousness dated journal entry mixing demons & blue curaçao, then to a defiant night-time monster poem “Dear Door-Sucker.” Sally Rhoades began with a poem about a native chief at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, then a poem to her husband “Old Love” & she said the title in Turkish, then a poem to her daughter who just got married. Brian Dorn ended the night with a poem written for the (yet-to-happen) roast of Mary Panza, “Reality Bites,” with Mary (as actress Jeanane Garofalo) & Thom Francis as movie characters — aren’t they?

Poets Speak Loud! is in McGeary’s backroom each last Monday of the month, in Albany, NY 7:30PM (or thereabouts) — come early & enjoy the food & excellent service from the lovely wait-staff. See for details.

October 30, 2014

Sunday Four Poetry, October 26

This turned out to be quite an historical event here at the Old Songs Community Center, but you’ll have to wait for the end to know what I’m talking about (just like we did that day). Our sole host today was Dennis Sullivan.

Somehow I ended up first on the sign-up sheet & read 2 related poems, “A.J. Muste” & the ever-expanding “The Communion of Saints” in which A.J. Muste appears, & to which I have just added Ed Bloch. Alan Casline read 2 of his hexagram poems based on the I Ching, “#22 Grace” & “#52 Keeping Still.” Our host, Dennis Sullivan, talked about poet Denise Levertov & Whitman biographer Horace Traubel & read his own poem thinking about a perfect world, “In My Society.” Bob Sharkey read his cento “Velvety Heart” (revised somewhat from last we heard it), & a funny piece about his young daughter hiding & hoarding “Missing.”

Thérèse Broderick & coffee filters

Carol Jewell read a bunch of snippets from her journal, on kidney stones, a line from Emily Dickinson, an "un-love poem," on not doing housework, & carbon monoxide. Peter Boudreaux (who will be the featured poet here next month) read a new, untitled poem mulling over the past, how things could have been different. Joe Krausman also read poems on changing, “Becoming Something Else,” & another on an old couple changing over time. Thérèse Broderick read a poem, “Holiday,” about a trip to Jordan to visit her daughter who is studying over there, then a poem about the death of her cat (no comment), written on paper coffee filters & made into a little chapbook. Howard Kogan ended the open mic portion with a poem about attending a Catholic funeral, looking at it as an outsider, “Burying Paula.”

The featured poet, Elizabeth Gordon, has published a wonderful book of poems, Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2014) which I have commented on here  & read from it today, but first a selection of other poems, a new poem “Instead of Meditation Looking,” “On Not Going to Paris or Anywhere This Summer” (sitting in a diner in Waterford), & some of her performance pieces, “Fig Newton” (on writing a slam poem), the in-your-face “Are You Really Working Class?” & “Carpenter’s Helper” (which she said would be coming out soon in a recording with music). Later she also did another slam piece “White Privilege.” From Love Cohoes she read “A Heron I Know,” some lines she wrote in response to a poem about the Falls by Thomas Moore, “Practice Cohoes Lacks,” & “The Spinner’s Defense.” She ended with a performance from memory of her poem in 2 parts, “Proof,” recalling family & music. Always an entertaining performer doing good poems.

Dennis had alerted us that there would be another bit after the feature, causing brows to wrinkle; at the end he brought up Tom Corrado. I was puzzled why Tom wanted to read then, he is a quiet, unassuming guy who normally doesn’t hog the spotlight. He said he was going to read a new “Screen Dump” from his series, & a Limerick. After reading “Screen Dump #129” he went back into the audience to drag up his companion Didi Sogaro, who, thinking he was going to ask her to read, was quite reluctant, but went along. When they go back before the microphone, Tom got down on one-knee & recited the Limerick, which was a marriage proposal, complete with a diamond ring. It was a stunning performance — & Didi said “Yes.” And we all clapped.

In the long history of the poetry scene in the Capital District I have witnessed 2 other on-stage proposals. The first was when James Dutko proposed to poet Rachel Zitomer at the Third Thursday Reading at the Lark St. Bookshop in February 2006. The other was at Caffè Lena in October 2007 when poet Josh McIntyre proposed to Beatriz Loyola. Sure beats a billboard on the Northway.

This series continues (with or without marriage proposals, death-threats, etc. on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3:00PM at Old Songs Community Center, Voorheesville, NY, a donation supports the featured poet & Old Songs.

October 28, 2014

Reading & Open Mic, October 25

I was invited to be one of the featured poets at the monthly open mic at Inquiring Mind Book Store in Saugerties, NY. The series is run by Laura Lonshein Ludwig & Sean Willett. It is a loosely run, intimate event, with folks who seem to be regulars there & friends of the features.

First up was not a poet but a painter of wildlife pictures, Fred Adell, from Flushing, who passed around some of his hand-painted cards while holding up a few of his paintings.

The first featured reader was Babette Albin, a friend of Laura’s from Queens, NY. Her poems & introductions were often sprinkled with references to other poems & poets, such as a Yiddish poem, “In Sullivan County,” she read then her own translation. Another poem, “The Question of Good & Evil in the Golden Medina,” referenced a poet friend of hers & Laura’s, Robert Dunn (now gone). Other poems included “It’s True,” “The Queen of Sleep,” “Out of the Revision of My Mind,” & “Thank You Note to My Regrets.” She ended with a poem about reading her poetry in Russia, “Hold the Door Open.”

I was the 2nd featured poet & this is my set list: “A.J. Muste,” 2 poems from Poeming the Prompt, “What Really Happened” & “The Lesson,” “The Pussy Pantoum,” “Different Tastes in Music,” “Saturday Hawk,” & a poem from boundless abodes of Albany, “Planting Tulips.” I had fun.

Featured Poet Babette Albin (right) with host Laura Lonshein Ludwig
After a long, long break Laura brought us back for the open mic. Maddie Taliese read one of Laura’s poems, “Love,” then invited Laura to read it also. Mary Lee Giodano read 3 of her own poems, “Consciously,” “A Poet’s Lament,” & “The War’s Nightmare Was Mine,” then a couple of famous poems from a gilt-edged anthology. Lawson Upchurch read a series of short, philosophical musings, shyly into the mic from what looked like 3x5 cards. Mona Toscano talked about her poetry group down in Newburgh, NY, then read a Halloween poem “Father Will” about ghosts in her house, a story of a priest’s sex with a housekeeper. Gary Siegel was the last reader with a cluster of sometimes compelling, sometimes humorous poems, beginning with “Shimmer,” then a a piece about the futility of waiting in an airport, then a longer poem filled with crows on a “Brisk” morning, & a list of fanciful headlines riffing off “Pregnant Duchess Shows a Lot of Leg.”

There is a regular series of readings here at Inquiring Mind Book Store, 66 Partition St., Saugerties, NY with features & an open mic; call the bookstore for information about the next reading 845-246-5775.

October 24, 2014

Writers Institute Reading Series, October 21

It was a rare night of poets at the University at Albany with Kimiko Hahn, Edward Hirsch & Marie Howe, introduced by Writers Institute Director Donald Faulkner.

Kimiko Hahn read from her books Toxic Flora & the 2014 Brain Fever: Poems, which she described as books “triggered” by science, by reading The New York Times Science section, beginning with “The Blob” set in the 19th Century & the Daddy-Long-Legs poem “Just Walk Away Renee.” The poems she read from the new book were short, self-consciously based on prompts from her reading, or from her own experience (such as “Gag” about a conversation with her therapist), or dreams (“The Dream of a Pillow,” “The Dream of a Knife Fork & Spoon”). An interesting experiment was “Erasing Host Manipulation,” her erasure of the text of one the Science Times articles.

Edward Hirsch began with “To Poetry,” the dedication in his brand-new &, as they say, “monumental,” A Poet’s Glossary. He read a bouquet from his selected poems & some new pieces, such as the gentle humor of “Self-Portrait,” “The Partial History of My Stupidity,” & “A New Theology.” Also, “God & Me,” & “Variations on a Psalm” (#77), which seemed to set up his theology against Kimiko Hahn’s science. I noted that the audience, for all the poets, were “respectfully” silent & didn’t clap for the poems, only at the end. I wondered, like Hirsch’s last poem, if this would be “What the Last Day Will Be Like”?

Marie Howe is the current New York State Poet & has done some projects to bring “poetry” out into the larger community. She read mostly new work & most of that were poems in the voice of Mary Magdalene, dramatic monologues that reminded me of the gone Enid Dame’s Lilith poems, based on un-Canonical writings, such as the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi. The poems were anachronistic, mixing & weaving the ancient stories with modern detail, such as the intricate poem about the 7 devils from the Gospel of Luke. Of course her biggest hit of the night was her poem about Magdalene talking about all the penises she has known (as we used to say for a “3 Guys from Albany” performance, “ when in doubt pull out the dick — poem”).

The following Q&A was generally uninspired, with Edward Hirsch getting cranky about young Polish poets now writing like Frank O’Hara or John Ashbery rather than the hallowed Czeslaw Milosz.

Sorry Ed, I get it, I don't want to write like Milosz either.

For the full series (few poets), check out The Writers Institute website.

October 23, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 16

It seems the fabled tour bus was unable to find a parking space, but a few poets arrived by city bus, by car, & by foot. & with a short sign-up poets were even allowed to read 2 poems, & a few did.

I invoked the Muse by reading a poem from his memoir, Courage, Coward, Courage!! Steps Along the Way, by activist/union organizer Ed Bloch, who left us in August; Ed had read once here in July 2010.

First up to the mic was Alan Catlin with a couple poems, or rather 1 poem in 2 parts “Twilight of the Gods” about the hell of war, then part 2 about the grim aftermath for the warriors. Jamey Stevenson had spent some time working in Scotland, read “Dundee Dismantled” then “Pulp” an angst-ridden rhyme.

BK was a new face & voice & read poems on the evening’s continuing theme of war, the first poem about being a refugee learning English “ESL Lesson,” then read a “dirty poem” about learning about sex as a youth. Sylvia Barnard had only brought one poem, just written today, about her late mother, “Learning Greek” & referencing Homer’s Odyssey. It’s getting too dark to play golf in the evening so Anthony Bernini stopped by to read a poem about love “Letters of Young Lady Bird & Lyndon” based on early letters between President Johnson & his future wife. I ended the open mic with a new poem, that I dedicated to the memory of Ed Bloch, “A.J. Muste.”

Tonight’s featured poet, Elaine Cohen, is the author of the biography, Unfinished Dream: The Musical World of Red Callender & of a poetry chapbook, Solita: A Sojourn in Mexico, which she read from. “Journeying,” the first poem in the book, is about a bus trip to Oaxaca, the trip continuing with “Land of Shining Clouds.” “La Noche De Los Rabanos” (The Night of the Radishes) continues the description & her broken heart. “Mornings” is in the grand tradition of morning songs, then “Uprising” was on the night’s theme of war, then the heat of May in “Monte Alban,” & the charming title poem “Solita” (which is read to a jazz orchestra on Alan Chan’s CD Shrimp Tale).  Then on to a manuscript “Snapshots from a Family Album,” a piece about her grandmother’s funeral “First Loss,” a biography of her mother “Snapshots of Miriam 1910 - 2005,” going through her mother’s things with her sister “Legacy,” & ending with a whirling poem from a workshop “A Stranger in the Mirror.” Elaine & I exchanged poems & letters many, many years ago & I’m pleased that we have met again & again exchange poems.

The Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center takes place on the third Thursday of each month, with a featured poet & an open mic before & after the feature — 7:00PM sign-up, 7:30PM start, $3.00 donation.