May 31, 2014

Love Cohoes by Elizabeth K. Gordon

I admit to a penchant for “poems of place”: William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, Charles Olson’s Maximus, Hart Crane’s “The Bridge,” Walt Whitman’s poems of America, C.P Cavafy’s Alexandria, Charles Baudelaire & Paris. So how could I not like this attractive little book, especially since I enjoy so much the energy & engagement of the performances of this poet also know in the Slam world as Elizag.

Half the book is “The Clotheslines of Cohoes,” poems about the people & the place where she lives, under the mist of the Cohoes Falls; the other half of the book, titled “What Grace is For” is a (welcomed) collection of her other work, largely Slam/performance pieces, many of which I’ve seen her perform, some more than once, but never had before the pleasure of a text, a script.

The Cohoes Falls (& the adjacent housing, once for the mill workers) is an attraction to which I often drag out-of-town visitors. It’s a spectacular vista, especially in the Spring with the run-off from from the rivers & streams but still stunning in the Winter & peaceful in the Summer & Fall. Visitors are always impressed by the Falls, but also by the working-class housing sitting right there over-looking the next-best-thing to Niagara Falls.

Elizag’s poems capture this place, and the details of the everyday working-class existence in a dead mill town. I remember the first time I heard her read “The Cats of Cohoes” with its mix of characters both human & feline, how the few lines made the place real. & in the true spirit of poems of place, there is the back-story, from the native people who gathered right there to make peace (“The Great Peacemaker”), to the Irish fleeing the Great Famine, to the more recent racist segregation in whose shadows she still lives. The tour-de-force “The Clotheslines of Cohoes” is an eco-poem riffing off Allen Ginsberg’s “America.”

I am glad to have the texts collected in “What Grace is For” as well, not just for the performance pieces such as “First Date” & “Are You Really Working Class? Test Yourself,” but also for the wonderful surprise of “Sketch for a Hummingbird.”

As I add this marvelous book to my shelf I realize that my “poets of place” list doesn’t include any women, forgive me. But now the list does, with “Love Cohoes.” Thanks Elizag, & keep at it.

Love Cohoes is published by Crandell, Dostie & Douglass Books,, who also published in 2007 Elizag’s tender & moving memoir Walk With Us: Triplet Boys, their Teen Parents and Two White Women Who Tagged Along, both available at & from the author at readings.

May 29, 2014

Sunday Four Poetry, May 25

Finally recovered from last month’s Poet Laureate Contest at Smith’s Tavern we were back at the Old Songs Community Center for the open mic & reading by featured poet Tim Dwyer. Dennis Sullivan started with a tribute to gone poet Jim Williams by reading his “A Math Kind of Guy.”

Edie Abrams (who has not yet taken off the fine fedora she wore last month) did the intros for the open mic. Bob Sharkey began with “Mother Earth Speaks to Earl” in his continuing series of the stories of Earl.  Then I read a Memorial Day poem written in the early 1990’s, “John Lees.” Joe Krausman declared “But We Are Animals” (a newly written piece), & then read the older consideration of “The Golden Mean.” Mark W. O’Brien, referencing the reggae song “The River of Bablyon,” sang his own “My Song of Exile,” then read the 3-part “The Adventures of O’Brien’s Children,” again with singing at the end, but apparently not sure if he should do it in an Irish accent or a reggae accent from the Islands (but then they’re all islands).

Jonathan Wright, who had competed in last month’s contest, was back with a poem after Wordsworth, “A Couple of Clouds,” then a poem with a long title I didn’t entirely get, “One Strange Didactic Dream about Running Neanderthals …” with a bit of violence. Lloyd Barnhart commemorated the holiday with a tale about the funeral of his grandfather, a World War II vet, then an ironic piece “Smoking Gun.” Howard Kogan’s first poem paid thanks to “Dick & Jane” for teaching him to read (“sorry about Spot”), then a typically philosophical poem, “Canada Geese,” that managed to reference D.B. Cooper & the Voorheesville train. Peter Boudreau reprised one of the poems he read during the Poet Laureate contest, “You,” then read a poem about his cats, “Prayer Not.” Tom Corrado read — surprise! — another of his Screen Dumps, this #78, with quotes from the Beatles.

Edie Abrams, still wearing her pearl-grey fedora, read a mother’s conversation with a psychiatrist “Labyrinth.” Now that the weather is warmer here, Mike Burke is back in town, with a poem about a drunkard’s death, “New Year’s Eve.” Dennis Sullivan read what he called an apology in defense of his life, & pondered the effect of miserable, uncaring people on that life, then a poem looking at death, daffodils (again) & poets, “A Psychological Profile of Someone I Know.” Larry Rapant got characteristically excremental & lewd in his political piece “When the War Comes to Your Town,” then reverted to a series of puns in “Lecture #1: What Makes a Good Poem.” New face/voice Sharon Miller read an intense piece for someone who had just died, “Depraved.”

And if that was not good enough, it was time for the featured poet Tim Dwyer, who began by singing a poem, “Prelude,” by John Millington Synge (not sure he intended the pun). The rest of his reading was from a manuscript in search of a publisher in which he explores his Irish heritage, both here & in Ireland. He began with a poem that linked the history of Ireland with America, via Oliver Cromwell & Henry Hudson, “Lunar Eclipse Winter Solstice.” Then on to a triptych of poems, “Joining” (for his father & Brooklyn), “Train Boat Train, London to Galway” (as a young student), & “Yeats Country.” After reading a poem about ancient stones, he went on to a poem dedicated to the Irish poet Michael Hartnett/Mícheál Ó hAirtnéide (1941 - 1999). “After Watching Philomena” was a tender poem for his mother & for his sister, “Great Blasket” was for the uninhabited islands off the Irish coast, & “What We Dig For” was dedicated “to us Celtic orphans.” He ended with the wistful “Walking By the Farm Field Late Summer.” It was like a visit to the old sod itself.

The poets gather here at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY on the 4th Sunday of most months (they take July & August off) for a reading by a local or regional poet & an congenial open mic starting at 3PM — & join us at Smith’s Tavern afterwards to wet our whistles after all those words.

May 27, 2014

Pine Hollow Arboretum Open Mic, May 23

’tis the season for this series at the Visitors Center, with our host Alan Casline, & featured poet Paulette Swartzfager, originally from New Orleans, now in Rochester. But first the open mic.

I had arrived after most others, but still found the #1 slot open so I was the first reader with some old “Gloucester Notes” & a recent poem playing on “you.” Mark W. O’Brien’s 1st poem was titled “Botany 101” but was on the need to keep scribbling, followed by “How Is It You are Weary Then?” & a piece on colors & death & “you.” Bob Sharkey’s descriptive piece “Boiler Room” was about an exhibit at the Northampton Museum, then he read a cento using lines from Best American Poetry “Lucky to Have Come This Far.” Phillip Good read 2 poems, “Salt is the Spice of Life” & “In May” which combined birds & baseball & Roswell, NM.

Paulette Swartzfager began with a sort of prayer, “Let Us.” She explained that most of her poems are short & sometimes use terms or images from Catholicism, but also that of the protestor & culture jamming, then on to the poem “Distance” & “At the Chopping Block Bar” about drinking with Tennessee Williams in New Orleans in the early 1970s. “Sacrifice” was an anti-war poem, followed by the performance piece “Harmony Street.” A couple of auto-biographical pieces were “I’m Off the Grid” & “Crossing the 17th St. Canal into St. Bernard” (slipping past the guards after Hurricane Katrina.  She ended with "Mississippi," the River not the "Father of Rivers" but “she.”

After the break, Mike Connor came back with “Storm Stranger,” “Spring Canvas” (the colors return), & his response to John Donne “One Man Is an Island.” Brian Dorn had a “you” poem, “Ghost Town,” & a poem with rain, & searching, “Whatever Will Be.” Howard Kogan brought us back to our 1st grade with the 84 year-old “Dick & Jane,” then a tribute to his 28 years of heating with wood — & the snakes in the woodpile — “Love & Wood.” Our host, Alan Casline read a tornado poem “Bear Has the Power of the Whirlwind,” then “Different Signs” (a play on Frost heaves) & the love poem “One Day of Morning Rain.” Joe Krausman brought the night to a close with a trio of short poems, the meditation on being “3 score & 10” “Coming of Age,” then “4 Short Things,” & a poem for the holiday weekend “Decoration Day” about a woman in a nursing home & her memories.

This series continues once a month on Fridays at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, for a donation — a featured poet (or 2) & an open mic for whomever shows up.

May 22, 2014

Chris Funkhouser, Nedd Ludd & Me

Chris Funkhouser at the QE2, August 1992
I read with interest this entry by Chris Funkhouser, “In audio practice VII: Albany O!” about his early years in Albany. I remember Chris as an innovative & engaging performer of poetry at Albany venues such as the QE2 & the Boulevard Bookstore. In this piece he mentions the issue of The Little Magazine put out in 1995 as a CD-ROM, & how now, in 2014, “Unfortunately, the disc does not function on today’s 64 bit Windows systems, which means [it] is unplayable as originally designed.”

I don’t often get to say “I told you so” but …

In response to the publication of the CR-ROM Little Magazine, I wrote an article, an “op-ed piece,” that was published in the Times-Union on December 30, 1995. In my article I wrote about the (early) computers/word-processors that I used at work & my home computer (an Apple II-E), & how I had a book of poetry on my shelf that was published in Albany in 1904, how easy it was to read the book, but how impossible it was for me to “read” the CD-ROM Little Magazine. I wrote:
I even have a book of poems published in 1824. I don’t need any special equipment to read it. I doubt that in 2024 anyone who still owns a copy of the CD-ROM [Little Magazine] will still be able to read or “interact” with it, given the current rate at which such formats are being replaced by “more advanced” versions.
It seems one didn’t have to wait that long for the CD-ROM to become unreadable.

To be fair, at that time only about 3% of Americans had ever used the “World Wide Web” (aka Internet), while now Internet access is ubiquitous. But also, the original T-U article on the CD-ROM quoted one of the editors of the Little Magazine as saying “the days of reading a pocket-sized volume of poetry down by the river side” are coming to an end, & that hasn’t happened either.

I had also sent this article (by real-mail) pseudonymously as “Nedd Ludd” to a variety of literary & arts publications & it was picked up by FYI, the print newsletter of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

When the Times-Union accepted my piece for publication (I used my real name because they require that & I also knew some of the staff there) they asked me for a short poem which they printed in a box with the article. This is notable because the Times-Union has a policy of not printing poems. Still yet another strike for Poetic Terrorism.

May 21, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 15

There was a good group of local poets gathered to read in the open mic & to hear our featured poet, Janet Hamill. Our Muse tonight was the rock’n’roll poet Lou Reed, as I read his piece “Chelsea Girls.”

First up to the mic was Alan Catlin with a reading from “an anti-Mother’s Day” book, Books of the Dead: A Memoir with Poetry (Pure Heart Press, 2014), the poem “From Bubbles to Bag Lady.” [I hope to discuss this book in the near future on this site.] Joe Krausman read a new poem about being an old guy “Coming Of Age.”

Emily Gonzalez read once again her bitter-sweet memoir poem “Moon Goddess” -- I can't hear it too often.  Sylvia Barnard did a 3-part poem, parts of which we’ve heard before, based on tales of Denmark told to her by a friend. Bob Gumson was back after a hiatus & joked about being Homer, then read a funny ditty “Fishing.”

A number of years ago I found Janet Hamill’s little book of NYC prose poems, Lost Ceilings, at the St. Mark’s Bookshop (A Telephone Book, 1999). Part of its charm was that it was produced at The Print Center, formerly of Brooklyn, where my first foray into small press publishing, Naitnecniv: the Anthology of the Albany Vortex, was produced back in the 1970s. Lost Ceilings, I see now, is like a 20th Century NYC great-grand-daughter of Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen. Tonight she read primarily from her new book of short fiction Tales from the Eternal Café (Three Rooms Press, 2014). She began with segments from “Ursula and the Sublime” about a painter (“a female Turner”), then some chunks from the beginning of “Baudelaire at the Prince of Wales.” The section from “Espresso Cinecittá” was a vignette in the famed Italian movie studio, then the final tale in the book “Lake of the Buddhas” read in its entirety. Then from a series of pantoums about places she has travelled to, the Jersey shore, Tangiers (with images of Kerouac & Burroughs), & on the North Atlantic. She ended with one of the “Nocturnes” (#2) from Lost Ceilings. A pleasant mix of wild-flung poetic stories. Buy the books.

After the break during which Janet sold some books I continued the open mic with a piece from Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2012) “Tell me why I can’t sleep in the tulip beds.” Kwesi (whose name is often mis-pronounced) (“Born On Sunday”) read a poem for his parents “Being Kwesi at Mom &” Miss S. has become a regular here (we know she is Jessica) & read about getting through life “Vaporized.” Bob Sharkey read “Goose Rock Beach 1947” for his nephew who was battling the fires near San Diego. Brian Dorn signed up late & ended the night with “No Comment” ("... is no answer").

Another good night at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, as we do each third Thursday of the month — 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for community poets. Please join us & support your local poet.

May 16, 2014

Live from the Living Room, May 14

As I’ve said ad nauseam, “if your family & friends don’t come to your readings who will?” Tonight’s featured poet, Samson Dikeman, did just that, bring his family & friends for a good audience for his reading & for the open mic.

I’ve enjoyed the poetry & performances of Samson Dikeman since he started coming to the open mics & Slams in town. He is a whiz at instant-Haiku & has written a slew of sestinas. But tonight he read a mix of quirky short poems, many with a touch of satiric humor, with telling titles such as “Unplanned Parenthood,” “The First Sucker” (Adam & Eve), “Death of a Centenarian” (old things in the frig), & the self-deprecating humor of “What Hurts More.” Some of the poems were based on pop-culture such as “It’s Me Mario” in which chasing a girl is like a video game, & “I’m Better than My Profile.” There were poems dedicated to his poetry-peeps: “Both Hands on the Wheel” to Jacky Kirkpatrick for her anthology of road poems, to Avery “Never a Wasted Page,” & the political satire for me “To Anyone Who Has Ever Occupied a Park.” A more serious piece was in the persona of a wife of a soldier with PTSD “Shut-up & Kiss Me,” an older poem recently re-written. He ended with a Slam poem he has never done at the slam, on “V” & “P.”

We had quite a list for the open mic, with Adam (“Mr. Sunshine”) Tedesco the first up with a dystopian poem titled “Play Me a Song Like Thunderclap Mountain,” & a tornado poem, “Felled,” mixing fairy tales, nursery rhymes & The Wizard of Oz. I followed with an older poem written for the students killed at Kent State, Ohio & Jackson State, Mississippi in May 1970 “44,000,” then a short poem I’d never read out, addressed to “you.” Kevin Peterson read a moving poem (i.e., about an old apartment) “The Last State St. Poem” then a short flash dedicated to the shot of Tequila he did before the reading. Emily Gonzalez read 2 memoir pieces, “Cool Red Satin” & “Moon Goddess.” Jacky Kirkpatrick’s first poem was on post-Viet Nam trauma “How to Be American,” then a road trip poem for Samson.

Steve Minchin’s first poem was about working through malice in a relationship, then a piece talking about sex in the language of photography “Over Exposure.” Shannon Shoemaker (who will be the featured poet here next month) recited from memory “This is a Poem for the Open Mic” that I believe contained references to other poems about open mics. Kristen Day did 2 of my favorites of hers, “Where’s Why?” & a poem about her grandmother “Four Fucking Dollars.” Our host for this series, Don Levy, always reads last so we know it’s almost time to go home. Both the poems he read, “Kiosks on Lark” & “It Was Only a Kiss” (about about the media flack over Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend) can be found on his FaceBook page.

Live from the Living Room is a featured reading with an open mic held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 322 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY (in the downstairs “Garden Room”) at 7:30PM.

May 13, 2014

2nd Sunday @ 2 — Poetry + Prose Open Mic, May 11

It was a beautiful (Mothers) day outdoors with Tulip Festival in Albany, but just the same the poets showed up for the open mic at the Arts Center in Troy, with your hosts Nancy Klepsch & me.

The reading started off with a virgin, anxious to get it over with, Lann Bell, a soft reader with a poem about beginnings & endings, then started a 2nd poem she couldn’t get through (but came back at the end). I followed with my cynical “Mother’s Day” & a poem for my daughter Madeleine. Peggy LeGee rejoined us & read a poem protesting “they still won’t let me be a woman.” Bob Sharkey had both a poem & a piece of prose, the poem “Cohoes” a memoir about living there & a fiction prose piece “Grand Jury.”

Cathy Abbott returned to the Mother’s Day theme with “Microwave Mother” then on to a poem about keeping the dandelions on your lawn — no pesticides! William Robert Foltin also had poems for his mother, “Someone Called Her Mother” & a poem about trying to be like his mother, introduced with a short lesson on the Slovak language.

Carol Jewell read us one of her many pantoums, “Kidney Stones” & “Cento #1" listing for us the poets she was using lines from. My co-host Nancy Klepsch began with a tornado poem she wrote for a workshop with Bernadette Mayer, then “My Cells” a poem on “big-bad data” that is in the on-line journal Barzakh. Troy poet, Jay Renzi, who scored big on Metroland’s Readers Poll of Best Poets, showed up to read a poem on reverberations & forgiveness “Wasteland” & a poem written yesterday “Edward III.” Lann Bell had calmed down a bit & asked to come back to read 1 more poem, a piece about waitressing at a banquet in Hawaii (which I think explains her tan).

We are at the Arts Center in Troy each 2nd Sunday at 2PM (except July & August) to read poetry &/or prose — join us, it’s free.

May 9, 2014


It seems a strange thing to do
after the dried leaves have been swept away
from the rows of dirt, like the soft places where we lie down together.

It seems a strange thing to do
in the morning air, gray with the steam from our mouths
and cold enough for hats and gloves and thick jackets like quilts
to poke holes in the black soil, stirred and loosened and not yet frozen.

It seems a strange thing to do
to drop these pale hardened shapes like testicle, like ovaries
into the earth to sleep to freeze beneath the snow
hidden in secret graves, in pits like skulls.

It seems a strange thing to do
with Spring on the other side of the world
as many months away as its memory
to just leave them there in the park
and wait.

Nitty Gritty Slam #69, May 6

One shouldn’t rest on one’s laurels, they tend to get all crinkled & crushed, so I came back to the Low Beat for more Slam to refresh them, & celebrate my favorite number — & Kim the Bartender’s birthday. First the open mic, hosted by Kevin Peterson.

First up was a virgin, Jordan Roberts, with a series of short-line rhymes titled “Lazy Summer Days.” Metroland Readers’ Poll Best Poet, Brian Dorn, followed with a political piece “No Comment.” Miss S. read a couple of short pieces “Damned Beggar” & “Chocolate is Legal.” Emily Gonzalez’s poems were built around memories, “Where it All Begins” filled with music & ghosts, & “Moon Goddess.”

Stephen Roberts has been making this a regular stop & read “Roses are Friends” & the short put-down “Satisfaction.” Bless recited from memory one of my favorites, beginning “The sweet sensual sound of the saxophone…” on music & self-destruction. Sarah hasn’t been around in a while, also recited from memory, a plea to “leave me alone.” Kaheim completed the from-memory trio with a conversation with Dr. Strangelove.

Then right into the Slam, with el presidente Thom Francis as our MC & Kevin Peterson as the score-keeper (& one of the judges). Bless, as the sacrificial/calibrating poet, performed his poem where a gun is the persona. There were 5 of us in the 1st round, with me in the unenviable #1 spot, reading my tribute to Bob Kaufman’s poem “Believe, Believe,” scoring a decent 26.4. Then the predictable “score-creep” crept in with Samson, Jordan Roberts, Billy Buchanan & Elizag each scoring successively higher. But — Jordan lost a point for using his beer as a prop, & so I survived the round & he didn't. It was the first time in anyone’s memory at Nitty Gritty Slam that a performer was penalized for using a prop, & it was simply Jordan’s inexperience.

Stephen Roberts filled in for a beer & pee break reading haikus & other short poems, then round 2. Elizag began with her engaging questionnaire, “Are You Working Class?” followed by Billy with a love poem, & Samson with one about laughter. But I was able to score one of my rare 10s (but it got dropped anyway) with a bit of outrageousness, “Homage to Lesbians” & won that round!

Photo by Emily Gonzalez
So it was Elizag & me toe-to-toe in the final round, with me leading off with my parody “Slam Poem.” Elizag countered with “Dear Young People” (on aging), & when the complicated math was completed I had won with a margin of 0.1 point — Samson was our 3rd place poet. Must’ve been the 69 (I was in the class of ’69 at SUNY Albany). It was good thing too, since I had forgotten to get cash before heading to the Slam & needed the beer money.

The Nitty Gritty Slam, with an open mic, is each 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month at The Low Beat on Central Ave.  Check for details.

May 6, 2014

Winners of the First New York State “Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem” Contest Announced

Marie Howe, State Poet of the State of New York and Corinne Evens, a philanthropist, in coordination with the Academy of American Poets, the New York State Writers Institute, and the New York State Office of Cultural Education, are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Poetry Unites contest for the best short essay about a favorite poem. The winners of the contest, which was open to all New York State residents, are in alphabetical order:

Marita Boulos, literacy program coordinator from Rose Points, Clinton County, NY, for her straightforward and eloquent prose that candidly brings John Donne’s “Song” into her village.

Rosanna Oh, from Jericho, Long Island, a student, for her deeply personal response to the humility and precision in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.”

Matthew Powers, a teacher from Syracuse, NY, for the way he realistically invokes the incantatory and communal nature of poetry in Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter.”

Paul White a healthcare provider from Cheektowaga, NY, for recognizing the talismanic power and healing capacity of poetry in David Ignatow’s “Sunday at the State Hospital.”

The winners will each be featured in short film profiles directed by Ewa Zadrzynska, which will be posted on as well as the State Library, and NYS Writers Institute’s websites, and may be broadcast by public television across the United States. They will be awarded a Certificate of Merit and invited to a celebratory film screening on October 18, 2014 in NYC.

The Jury also awarded Certificates of Merit to six additional participants :

Helen Ruggieri, poet, from Olean, NY, for her essay on James Wright’s poem: “A Blessing”. Louis Altman, a lawyer from Albany, NY, for his essay on Wallace Steven’s poem “The Sense of Order.” Philip McCallion, Ph.D. from Albany, NY, for his essay on Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging.” Sharon de Silva from Schenectady, NY, for her essay on Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son.” Martin Mahler retiree from Brooklyn, NY, for his essay on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem: “Lament.” Ben Kroup, editor, writer, from Waterford NY, for his essay on Kristtijonas Donelaitis’ poem “Metai.”

Each of their essays will be published on the Academy of American Poets website.

The New York State Poetry Unites contest is based on a model that has been held successfully in Europe. Developed and produced by Ewa Zadrzynska for the Evens Foundation, the first “Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem” contest was held in Poland in 2008, where it has since become an annual event. In 2012 the Evens Foundation extended the contest to other European countries. So far the contest has been held twice in Germany, five times in Poland, and once in Bulgaria.

Ewa Zadrzynska, who produces the short films of the winners talking about their favorite poem said, “The project, which celebrates the integrating power of poetry, introduces the medium as an instrument of mutual understanding in the world. The goal is to promote poetry and poetry readers in the hope that their enthusiasm will be contagious to thousands, if not millions, of others.”

Out of the 124 essay submission 18 were written about Robert Frost poems, and four on Mary Oliver’s. Edna Vincent St Millay, Langston Hughes, and William Butler Yeats poems were the subject of three essays each. Other poets chosen by the NYS residents were written by Elizabeth Bishop, Shane Koyczan, Wallace Stevens, and John Donne, among others.

Among the 124 favorite poems of the NYS residents, only two were written in other than English language, and were read in translation. The poems were written by Polish Nobel Prize winners: Wislawa Szymborska and Czeslaw Milosz.

Seventy percent of the submissions were from women. The youngest participant was 10, the oldest 95.

The largest number of entries came from the Albany area and NYC.

This is my entry, an essay in the form of a poem:

an Homage to the Poem by Bob Kaufman

Believe in this, the nuns would tell us
then tell us what to believe.
As I read, discovered poetry
the dead poets, the living poets
Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gary Snyder,
the black, Buddhist Bob Kaufman
wandering in a vow of peaceful silence
his Golden Sardines conveniently fit
in the patch pocket of my corduroy jacket
along with a notebook & a ball-point pen
I found what to believe — poetry
radiating young breast, the image of peace
in the mushroom time, beliefs for me
not the sick controllers, not the Drill Sergeants
the Priests or the Bosses infesting 
society’s garments telling me what
to think, what to believe, but me believing.
In New York City, walking to the Tin Palace
the night sidewalk was torn into intricate shreds
with the glitter of broken glass, then put
back together again among the musicians
& poets & artists at the bar.
Sometime between the nuns & now
I found this prayer of a poem to recite
on my walk to work each morning
through the Park trying not to hear
the screechings mouthed in mildewed editorials
when I reached my desk
& over the years I continue to let the voices
of dead poets ring loudly in my ears
& the voices of live poets around me
the young poets in this City of poetry
creating the music of this new century
standing vigils, marching for peace
still rising above the mushroom time.
He says it twice, “Believe,” so that
you are sure to hear it — & believe.

May 1, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, April 28

A gathering of the locals to hear the featured poet, all the way from the other end of Route 20 at the ocean in Oregon, Carla Perry, with Mary Panza our host keeping us in line, & sweet Melissa making sure we got our food, our beer, the attention we crave.

Strangely, I was up first for the open mic & read a poem that Carla had published in her journal of poetry & art, Talus & Scree back in 1998 “Park Fantasy,” then 2 recent additions to my on-going love poem “Counting Moons.” Alan Casline started with an eco-poem about seedlings, then on to a piece dedicated to Dennis Sullivan, the title beginning “Lap Water off the Roof …” Mark W. O’Brien managed to squeeze in 3 poems, 2 on Winter “Shoveling” (about his daughter), & “Priming the Pump” then a Springtime poem about a childhood burying of a pet.

Michael Czarnecki was also visiting the Albany scene, from Western New York, read a poem about being with Alan Casline “Standing on the Route 155 Bridge Over the Normanskill,” then a cluster of haikus, & “Finishing Another Season of Sugaring.” Sylvia Barnard read a couple poems based on stories a friend from Denmark has been telling her about her childhood, the first “Cycling Through Denmark” & a poem about the woman’s father reading to her & her siblings as World War II loomed on the near horizon.

When Carla Perry published my poem in Talus & Scree in 1998 I didn’t know her, it was just a fine journal to send poems to. Later, in 2000, she hosted the 3 Guys from Albany at "Writers on the Edge," a literary series she ran in Newport Beach, Oregon where I met her in person. Now, she is on a 30-day Amtrak tour across country, making stops to visit friends & relatives & to do poetry readings to promote her new book of poems, Wanderlust (FootHills Publishing). Her reading was a selection of poems from the book, beginning with “Oregon Rain,” then on to “Coal Dust” & “You Already Know This.” In many ways the poems are a memoir of her journey through life & to Oregon, including “The Man,” “Why I Became a Regular at the Sandbar Tavern” (a rockin’ good band, among other things), & “I Used to Ride Clyde.” She can also be reflective, as in “I am Contemplating a Shift to a More Devil-May-Care Persona,” “Blueberries Growing Through Snow,” & “The Libra in us All.” I’m glad she made it all the way to this coast, & have added her book to the honor list of poets who have stayed at the Poetry Motel Hotel Convention Center Writing Retreat & Spa.

Don Levy, Kristen Day
The open mic continued with an all-star sampling of Albany poets, including Shannon Shoemaker who read for us her 1st Haiku, & a love poem “Listening to Frogs.” Don Levy followed with 2 poems that can be read on his FaceBook page, “Everyone Was FaceBook Fighting” & a sweet poem “Beginnings.” Emily Gonzalez’s 1st poem was a portrait of someone now grown up “Belle Canto,” followed by “Breaking English,” a skillful mix of Spanish & English, for her mother. Sally Rhoades’s poem “A Silence” mixed water & memories, then a meditation on finding her inner-Mohawk while listening to a Chief at “The Last Day of Scissortail” (the creative writing festival held each year in Ada, Oklahoma). Julie Lomoe ended the evening with a poem just written yesterday about reading poetry (at Caffè Lena?) “Blinded by the Spotlights.”

I was thrilled to be able to introduce this bunch of local poets to the wandering Carla Perry, & her to them, at this monthly open mic (last Monday of the month), at McGeary’s on Clinton Square. Check out for a calendar & more information about this regular event.