May 31, 2014
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, www.cddbooks.com, 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 Amazon.com & from the author at readings.
May 29, 2014
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).
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
’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.
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 at the QE2, August 1992|
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
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.”
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 & Dad.com.” 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
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|
The Nitty Gritty Slam, with an open mic, is each 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month at The Low Beat on Central Ave. Check AlbanyPoets.com for details.
May 6, 2014
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 Poets.org 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
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.
|Don Levy, Kristen Day|
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 AlbanyPoets.com for a calendar & more information about this regular event.