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.

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