January 28, 2014

Tom Nattell Memorial Reading & Beret Toss, January 27

Each year since the first Poets Speak Loud! in 2005 at the old Lark Tavern, on the last Monday in January AlbanyPoets.com has held the Tom Nattell Memorial Reading & Beret Toss as part of its ongoing series. This is our story of this year's event, complete with photos & parking ticket.

A small group of us gathered at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park, in the dark, to place flowers, a candle, sage & a newly knitted scarf (courtesy of Cheryl A. Rice) in Tom's memory. It is always an unknown as to how we are to "toss" a green beret to the head of Bobbie Burns, since that first time when Nicole Peyrafitte scrambled up with (rhyming) bare feet. Thom Francis has made the trip a number of times, & this year Obeeduid (Mark O'Brien) was the brave one who did the deed. This was quite fitting given Mark's Scots background & that he once appeared at Poets in the Park at this site in the guise of the Scots Bard hisself. The ceremony was short (it is January in Albany you know) & sweet.

Downtown we gathered in the backroom of McGeary's for the open mic, good food, drinks & service (first by sweet Melissa, then finished off by the wonderfully chapeaued Allison). I was the host & began with Tom's words from the 3 Guys from Albany CD ("The Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue"), & my short poem "Theology 101."

Leslie Gerber made the trip up from the mid-Hudson area & read "Religion" & the title poem of his forth-coming book, "Lies of the Poets," ranging from Shakespeare to Mary Oliver. New voice/face Joanne Luciano wasn't planning to read but found "It Wasn't Decaf" on her laptop, a philosophical poem in rhyme. Mike Jurkovic also made the trip from down river & read "My Meeting with Vonnegut" & a poem on the work of revolution, "Company Meet." Alan Casline had joined us for the first time for the beret toss, & now read about a visit to an "Arkansas Pig Farm," then the strange rhyming "Past Bankers Riding News."

The limber Obeeduid read a poet about his ancestral family of Scots living in Ireland, from the Kindle-iszed version of his book Telluric Voices, then another family poem, "Looking at the Table to Keep the Memory of the Living." Cheryl A. Rice is pretty much an Albany poet although she also had to make the trip up from Kingston; she read 2 new poems, both from a recent trip to Costa Rica, "Plane Ride," & the nostalgic "Lady in Red." Tess Lecuyer paid tribute by reading Tom's poem "Ronald Reagan's Got Me Worried" from Open Mic: the Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994).

Another new reader, at least here (he said that it's been about 15 years since he has read out), Gerald, read a new poem, "This is How it Is," & the humorous & violent "Killing Gerald." Julie Lomoe read her poem about Tom's last reading at the Lark St. Bookshop "Open Mic on Lark St. December 2004." Carolee Bennett was back out to open mics again with the "sentimental" "2013 Retrospective" about her boys, then a modern sonnet "Insatiable" (both poems included mentions of fish). Jill Crammond began by talking about her memory of seeing Tom at an open mic at Border's many years ago, then read "Puppy Diary 10th Month" & the snow-globe poem "Reading Snowflakes" which she insisted she hadn't read before (but had). R.M. Engelhardt has re-located, once again, back in the Capital District & began with some Albany & Lark St. Haikus, then the just-written rhyme "The Kazoo Versus the World, or, Another Poem for Tom Nattell."

Jessica S. was the 3rd of the night's new voices, another poetry virgin, & read the anti-fracking poem "The Rape of Our Mother." Avery's poem "When You Find Someone" was written for a friend's wedding. I took the bottom of the list & read my tribute "Chasing Tom." Then, to end the night, read one of Tom's last poems, published in the Times-Union (of all places), "That Are Good For the Planet And You:" & that was that.

Oh yes, the parking ticket. For the beret toss I had parked in my usual illegal spot near the statue, after which, as we headed to our cars, there was one of Albany's finest Parking Enforcement Officers placing a ticket on my windshield. I apologized to her, explained I was leaving & but of course would pay the fine. She was sorry about Tom. I figure that parking in that spot had cost me about $3.00 each time I did it, a cheap rate & much more convenient to pay it all at once.

Poets Speak Loud! is a on-going open mic, often with a featured poet, held on the last Monday of each month at McGeary's Tavern on Clinton Square (near where Herman Melville once lived) in Albany, NY -- check out the calendar at AlbanyPoets.com.

January 22, 2014

Albany Poets Presents, January 18

Of course you know AlbanyPoets, who for years have been bringing you poetry programming such as Poets Speak Loud!, the Nitty Gritty Slam, &, of course, Albany WordFest (next one coming up in April). They/It has been a singular force in the Capital District area bringing together poetically & socially diverse poets that reflect the grand diversity of the region. They do all this based on the contributions of poetry lovers & supporters who come to their program.

This program was a fund-raiser to both help the Nitty Gritty Slam Team to get to the Slam Nationals this year in Oakland, CA & to support their on-going programming. As to be expected the performers were as diverse as the world of poetry can be.

The first set included poets L-Majesty, Ezekial, Adam Tedesco, Avery & Shannon Shoemaker.

Sally Rhoades & I performed a shortened version (edited for time, not content) of our duet "Howl, a Poet Dances" in which I read Allen Ginsberg's masterpiece "Howl" while Sally improvises dance moves.

We were followed by AlbanyPoets executives Thom Francis (el presidente) & Mary Panza (Vice-President), then the 2013 Nitty Gritty Slam Team, Elliptical, K.P., Algorhythm, Daniella Watson, & Poetyc Visionz.

The final set included Bless, Mojavi & Jamal St. John.

There was also a silent auction & sales of poetry CDs & of the new journal Up the River. As the saying goes, a good time was had by all.

January 21, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 16

It was a night of ekphrastic poetry at the Social Justice Center, with our featured poet Amy Nelson McVeigh, to start off the new year. Our muse was the recently deceased, controversial American poet, Amiri Baraka, but the poem I read was from his earlier incarnation as poet Leroi Jones. Then on to some open mic poets.

 One of the first to arrive was a new voice & face, Kathleen O'Brien, who appropriately enough read a poem "Curse or Blessing" based on an engraving by Albrecht Dürer.  We missed Alan Catlin last month so he decided to read a poem he would've read if he had been here, as an elegy for Ed Galing (1917 - 2013), "Love in a Time of War."  Catherine Norr, who will be the featured poet here in March, gave us a sample to whet our appetite, "Seeing a Pattern," about women conversing at the supermarket. Joe Krausman read a short poem on humor & politics, on what is is & forgetting. Miriam Axel-Lute's poem was titled "Marriage Among Shape-Shifters," a meditation on what-if.

Amy Nelson McVeigh gave a rare multi-media reading here at the SJC, with a large-screen TV hooked to a laptop to show the photos taken by her husband Andrew McVeigh, while she read the short poems related to each. The order of the program was modeled after "the course of my education," she said, beginning with images of eagles from the Court House in Albany, "Symbol," then images of eagles from a WPA mural in New Jersey, "Memorial on Success." Showing images of the barn at Olana, she read "Cupola" about the color red, then yellow with the flowers of April. She read a poems while showing an image from the Albany Institute of History & Art of a sculpture of an young Indian woman "Forlorn," then a poem about a related image from Québec. The poem "Box Step, or The Rescue" was about getting a box turtle our of the middle of the road & back to the water. From a free-range chicken farm the poem "Poule Pondering" was about the proverbial chicken-crossing-the-road, then a poem about an old Packard, "A Beautiful Thing." Introducing her next poem stated a conversation about bodies being found in corn fields, then she read a poem based on a song by Jack Logan, "Sixteen Years." "Letter," was about an image of a fire-escape in North Adams, MA. Finally, a poem from a visit to Chicago, "Bean," thinking about reflections, of ourself & things around us. Amy & Andrew have also published a book of images What Time and Tempest Hold is True, words by Amy Nelson Hahn, images by Andrew P. McVeigh (Author House, 2011) & you can find more of their work at their website.

After a break we continued the open mic & I read "Paintings of Spain's Golden Age on the Curving Ramp of the Guggenheim Museum." Another of the evening's new voices/new faces was Dan Extrom who performed the song lyrics "Come Summer," a love story. Anthony Bernini read a poem titled "The Intrusion," about the fleeing birds in the forest. W.D. Clarke was back after a hiatus with a chilling, humorous Halloween ballad, "The Mausoleum." Rod Aldrich had also come back after a break, & read a poem thinking about the characters in a novel he was writing, another form of ekphrastic poetry.

You can find poetry here at the Social Justice Center 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month, 7:30PM, $3.00 donation supports poetry programming & the Social Justice Center.

January 19, 2014

Live from the Living Room, January 8

A cold night but into the warmth of the Garden Room & the company of poets, at least for an hour or so, with our host, Don Levy.

The featured poet was one of my favorites, who was featured back in August at the Social Justice Center, Jacky Kirkpatrick. She said she was reading, with 1 exception, poems she had written in the last 7 days, beginning with a pile of snow poems, "Caught in the Snowbank," "State St. Snowstorm" & "Arriving Poem." "The Pub is Closed Because of the Fire on Dove St." was reacting to another recent event. Of course there were some poems on motherhood, "Popular" & "To Her." Her poems of love tend to be edgy, like the short "Kirkpatrick Love Poem," "Every Sunday" & the "older" poem that brought in Pablo Picasso, tattoos, past lovers & songs. She ended with a rhyming tour-de-force "grievance poem" commenting in a letter to future children about the current Slam poetry scene. The reading whizzed by, partially because many of these poems were quite short, partially because she often went into the poem with little or no introduction, & partially because she reads a bit too fast, leaving us all breathless.

There were a half dozen of us for the open mic. I was up first with 2 older poems, "My Sather Gate Illumination" & "Freckles." Both of Avery's poems could be described as love poems, the first, "When You Find Someone," commissioned for a friend's wedding, the second, read in a faux pompous/British accent "Should One Be Fortunate Enough" for the suburban Jilly-bird. Jill Crammond also read a (new) love poem "Reading Snowflakes" then an older piece "In Case of Fire Fly a Kite" in her characteristic 2nd person/advice mode.

Adam Tedesco's poem "Cannot" seemed to combine a pursuit with childhood imagination & sledding; his second, untitled poem was written last night, his past loves gather around his ashes at his wake while he remembers picking up a hooker. Samson Dikeman read his second sestina in 2 nights, this "Sestina for Work." Our host, Don Levy, ended the evening with a screed for Winter, "No Snow's is Good Snow" & then a grateful narrative of my New Year's Day open house -- ah yes, a good time was had by all.

This pleasant gathering of poets takes place on the 2nd Wednesday of each month in the downstairs "Garden Room" of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, with a featured poet, followed by an open mic. Always "straight-friendly."

January 17, 2014

2nd Sunday @ 2 - Poetry + Prose Open Mic, January 12

My co-host Nancy Klepsch & I were impressed by the number of readers & just-listening audience members today.

First up was Robin Denault who read the work of 2 men who are incarcerated. Kevin Pelzner's poem "An Angel's Doodling" was about the joy of getting mail, while "Pull It Back" by Ralph Bolden writing as Malachy, was in rhyme & about not being able to go back in Time, as in "pull back the bullet." Peggy LeGee was back with a piece about a school, "Prometheus of the 3rd Floor Burning."

This was the first time here for Albany poet Miriam Axel-Lute with 2 poems, "The Incrementalist Considers the Metamorphosis," then a Xmas monologue "The Bethlehem Innkeeper Speaks." Don Levy began with "Duck You!" a poem on civil rights sprung from the recent pages of the entertainment section of the newspaper, then his tale of "Last Call at DeJohn's, for Lou Reed." Tim Verhaegen's work often takes an outrageous view of death, particularly of his own family members, so his extended piece on sudden deaths, "The Elephant in the Room Death Notice" was no surprise, then he ended with a short funny "Bad Attitude," but not by him.

Our hosts were next, first me with an older poem as topical as today's news, "Now, Listen," then Nancy Klepsch with 2 poems written this AM, the urban piece "Because this Road is a Street" & a poem about forgetting -- I watched how she tapped her foot in time with her lines.

(Poetry) virgin John Burton decided to be more than audience & read to us a poem about becoming a poet, "The New Direction." Sue Riback read from an on-going work, "Poem of 3-Line Stanzas," aphoristic pieces, then a few other random short pieces that didn't make it into the longer poem. Sally Rhoades extended the time-limit so she could read the entirety of her poem of family history "My Mother's Tragedy," which we had only heard bits & pieces of before -- good to hear the whole thing. Mike Conner had 3 poems for us, a love-letter never sent, "Smiling Eyes," "Moment at Home" during a storm, & "Waves of Life," written last night.

David Wolcott has in the past read from his auto-biographical memoir, "The Relentless Contrarian," & today read from the preface, "Rittenhouse," in the form of a very short 3 act play. Elizabeth Haight read 2 poems, the 1st on persimmons, "Language is the Fruit of the Gods," then a story of Xmas in Penn Station, "Clueless the Train was Late." Ken Wolman followed with poems about his family, with long introductions, the first about his son in Israel, then a poem about his mother, "Buying the Casket" & a poem about his birth. John Lloyd said he was just getting back into reading his poetry out after a long absence & read a poem on the un-poetic topic, "Cheese," then paid tribute to the poet & translator Ben Belitt (1911 - 2003) by reading one of his poems. A nice way to end the aftenoon.

This free open mic is held on the 2nd Sunday of most months (we take the Summer off) at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY.

January 10, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #61*, January 7

So, this was my horoscope for January 7: Today you might attend at least one festive social occasion, Aquarius, and therefore you may meet some very interesting people … Expect to hear some bizarre stories, some of them true, others that are clearly exaggerated.

Hmm, seems like an apt description of tonight's Slam/Open Mic -- glad I went. The first controversy was that since NG Slam #60 was cancelled due to weather, is this #61 as planned or should it be re-numbered 60? I guess it will forever be "astericked," like baseball stats from the Strike.

Kevin Peterson was the host for the open mic & first on the list was L-Majesty -- oops, he wasn't ready so Marie Frankson was the first reader, with a tender piece about patient love.

Sally Rhoades
Meanwhile, el presidente Thom Francis & his staff had to deal with a mic stand that refused to stand up, so Sally Rhoades performed (ably) her poems without a mic "Because I Am a Poet" & "The Cardinal" (about Truth in a red dress). Jacky Kirkpatrick followed with a piece written today, a sad poem about her mother being "alive but not feeling it." By this time L-Majesty was ready to read his "Male Monologue" about his father & why he likes dick. Adam Tedesco's poem "Bathysphere" was a deep metaphor. Samson Dikeman's first poem, "Humane Society," was brief fly-by, then he read "Sestina for Sarah" which was set in a bar. Pat Irish, a new face here, read "On this Night" then a poem by mid-Hudson poet Mike Jurkovic. Brian Dorn read his rhymed apology, "My Impropriety." Avery read 2 poems from notebook, "Becoming a Home" & another with an interesting line about how it's hard to see the flowers for the sand. Tenesha's poem "Black Noise" was about the sounds in her neighborhood when she was growing up. Thom Francis himself read 2 poems, the crowd-pleaser "Paper Messiah" & a poem to an ex, "Walk Away." Poetyc Visionz was his preacherly self with a piece on responsibility in which Stevie Wonder makes an appearance.

Scott Knox
Interestingly enough although there were 8 slots for the Slam, 9 poets had signed up -- hey, what's another 3 minutes among Slammers, right? Thom Francis was the host so he moved us right along. Competing were Poetyc Visionz, Kevin Peterson, Scott Knox, Samson Dikeman, Algorhythm, Me, L-Majesty, Marie Frankson, & Daniel Summerhill. Kevin did a grievance poem he would've done if NG Slam #60 had been held; Scott Knox, a poet from the old QE2 days, made a rare appearance & left; I managed a respectable 24.4 with "The bass players thoughts…" & Daniel Summerhill made a big splash with a piece about growing up in Oakland, CA.

Lo & behold I made it into the 2nd round, but another jazz poem was not enough to get me beyond that. I'll take 4th place anytime. The top 3 were Kevin Peterson, Algorhythm and Daniel Summerhill, with K.P. & Algorhythm duking it out in the final round, with Algorhythm taking it with his grim poem in the voice of his father.

So, check out the Nitty Gritty Slam on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month. Better yet, bring poems for the open mic &/or the Slam, bring your friends, your mother, your cousins to be judges & vote for you (5 judges needed each time, no experience preferred). But check AlbanyPoets.com to see where Valentines will be in the coming weeks. & check out my photos at my Flickr! site.

January 5, 2014

A Valentine for Valentines

There will be in the coming weeks, no doubt, media tributes to the rock club Valentines on Albany's New Scotland Ave. I feel a need to offer my own private homage to this location before it moves across town & creates a new history on Central Ave. For me, an aging urban poet on the outside edge of punk, it has been a poetry & music playground, the turned-out sister one turned to after the demise of the QE2. I'm certain that the word/guitar&drums/alcohol energy will continue, as it always has, from here to there. So this is not an elegy, but just a portal to some of my images of what so many of us experienced at this club. I just want to say how much fun I've had on New Scotland Ave. & how much I look forward to doing it again on Central Ave.

You can check out my reports from poetry events at Valentines over the years, including (especially) the Nitty Gritty Slams, here at my Blog by entering a search for Valentines. Just nose around, you'll find some interesting stuff.

I've also created a special set of images on my Flickr! site that includes pictures from my pre-digital film days & the open mics there (pre-Slam) under various auspices & poetry hosts & even some music events. Not to mention the archiving of the texts lost on the bathroom walls. You can also find more shots of poetry events at Valentines by entering the tag "valentines" in the Flickr! search window.

But, as the old saying goes, "If you remember Valentines, you weren't there."

January 4, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, December 30

The eve of New Year's Eve was a fine time to gather for a classic open mic night of poetry, with lots of Albany poet regulars & some out-of-town visitors, all ably served in McGeary's back room by sweet Melissa. Our holiday host dressed in holiday black was the ever-snarky Mary Panza.

Somehow I ended up as #1 on the sign-up list & I began the night with a reading of Nate Leslie's poem "Billiards" from his book Moving to Find Work (Bottom Dog Press, 2000), then on to my recent experimental jazz-poem "Saturday Hawk" & an older piece "Balthus." Kevin Peterson breezed by with a short poem about cleaning & decorating his place while on drugs. Julie Lomoe treated us to the pastiche "'Twas the Night Before New Years," as indeed it was.

The evening's token virgin (her first time here) was Chelsea with a piece she said was written today at work (cheers from the audience for writing poems at work), a bitter-sweet tale of digging up pieces of old china in Oneida Lake, then this year tossing dishes into the lake. Pamela Twining was up from Woodstock & began with "Crushed Pearls," an intense poem, then a long rant/chant about human's wanton killing of animals, "Bald Eagle Woman's Song." Tess Lecuyer took one of her old poems about the fire at the old Lark Tavern & reworked it with the refurbishing of McGeary's, "13 Ways of Looking at a Tavern, for Tess Collins," then one of her classic seasonal poems, "Solstice 2002."

Elizabeth Gordon said her new poem, "Intervention with Trees," was a "depressing one," but a typically sensitive, moving one as well, then she recited "The Clotheslines of Cohoes" from her work-in-progress "Love Cohoes." Shannon Shoemaker read 2 poems of lost love, "Brought Low" & one just revised today, "I Pluck Petals." Adam Tedesco read from his phone his poem "Mind Treasures" like a note from God with a gun to his head, then the poem "Delilah" singing to relieve the pressures of life.

Avery assists Sally with light.
Andy Clausen also made the trip up from Woodstock & read from his book Home of the Blues: More Selected Poems (Museum of American Poetics Publication, 2013) the long political (& frequently humorous) screed "If Seinfeld Were a Poet." Avery read a pleasant little piece about planning redecoration, "Enjoying a Brisk Evening in my New Home." Sally Rhoades had difficulty seeing her text in the low light around the mic so enlisted Avery to be her "light-guy" while she read an excerpt from her long work "My Mother's Tragedy;" we've heard a couple segments of this poem in recent weeks but would love to hear the whole thing sometime.

Poets Speak Loud! is held on the last Monday of most months in the backroom of McGeary's on Clinton Square in Albany, 7:30PM -- good food, good drinks, attentive service & lots of words -- good, bad & indifferent.

So that does it for my reports on the poetry scene in 2013. & as they used to say in the Uncle Wiggly stories, "If the snow doesn't cover my doors & the below zero temperatures don't freeze my locks I'll be back out at more poetry events in 2014 & you can read all about them here at this Blog site."

January 2, 2014

Sunday Four Poetry, December 29

It seems like a long time since I'd been to an open mic, & what with travel & family & the Xmas I guess it was -- & I would've missed this too if it had been held on the 4th Sunday, as it usually is. Seems like the poetry gods are smiling. It was a cheery gathering of the usual gang for the open mic & the featured poet, Karen Schoemer.

Edie Abrams served as host for the open mic, & I was the first on the list. I had been saddened this morning to read the obituary of local poet Nate Leslie; Nate taught at Siena College & has a flock of books out, & I had featured him at the Third Thursday series back in 2011. He left us much too soon. I read his poem "Beside the Point" from his collection of sonnets on the theme of Mothers, The Last Best Motif (Bright Hill Press, 2005), then read my own poem, with bubbles, "Dancing the Mandala." Tim Verhaegen followed me with a couple of pieces he read recently at the Social Justice Center, "Old People" & "Her Great Big Window" (his alter ego, he announced). Dennis [O']Sullivan read a couple of poems dedicated to others, "The Nature of Art" for Benjamin Reeves (pondering the subjunctive), & a poem for his sister Rita, "A Leaf Fallen from the Tree of Life."

 Dan Lawlor's first poem was a rhymed piece about watching old movies, "The Couch Potato's Prayer," then on a more philosophical note, "Silver Lightening." Edie Abrams began with a poem composed of a series of questions that took us through her family history, then to a recent poem written for her colleagues (& herself), "Retirement." Tom Corrado read a couple of additions (numbers 21 & 22) to his ongoing series, "Screen Dumps." Alan Casline had 3 poems for us, the first based on a New York Times photo of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the 2nd, "Nothing Remains of Yesterday," a re-write of a poem by Irish poet Brendan McCormick, then the chill-poem "Icicle Frost." Sue Oringel's poems reflected the season & her love of gardening, "Winter Birds," "Gardener's Reprieve" (about what's left undone), & "Gooseberry Fool" about a dessert made from the fruit of her lone gooseberry bush. Joe Krausman began with an epic shuffling of pages trying to find his poems, the first titled "Table Manners" imaging a lion while fine-dining, then "On Bashfulness." Howard Kogan warned us that his poem, "In the Beginning," was long -- a self-conscious meditation on words & writing that brought in a lion (again), skaters, & Mother Theresa.

Linda Sonia Miller made her first appearance here to read, along with her husband & their grandchildren to listen; "Lessons from a Green Tennis Ball" was really about lessons from her dog, while "Girl Playing Basketball, or Preparing for Revolution" was a look back to her youth, & she finished by embarrassing her grandchildren by reading a short poem about them sleeping as infants (from her book Something Worth Diving For, Finishing Line Press, 2112).

The featured poet, Karen Schoemer, from Kinderhook, won an honorable mention in the Hudson Valley Writers Guild 2012 poetry contest, & began her reading with that poem, "Julia in Her Room," imagining a character from a Jean Rhys novel. Her next poem, "Mevillian," was also inspired by a book, specifically Chapter 111 of Moby Dick. Karen has spent some time as a music critic & her descriptive poem "Hotel Minor" used the language of music, while her poem "Getaway," which had a definite film noir tone to it, was written to go with musical accompaniment. "At the Crest" was about being at the beach in New Jersey, & "Studio City" sounded like a letter written to a friend. "Birds of a Precipice" was based on a stay in the Adirondacks, while "Couplets" was based in the Catskills. & just like a jazz set where the musicians "bring it on home" her last poem was titled "Home." Interestingly enough, she had no chapbooks for sale, but did have a small, vinyl EP with 4 of her poems performed by Oli Heffeman with musical accompaniment, Detective Instinct (Third Uncle Records, Richmond, IN) that I bought.

Then of course as is our custom we moved on to continue our discussions over food & drink at Smith's Tavern.

Sunday Four Poetry is an open mic with a featured poet on the 4th Sunday of most months, at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center, 37 South Main St., Voorheesville, NY.