June 26, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 19

To begin this third Thursday night I, as I am wont to do, invoked the Muse, tonight the gone bohemian character & poet Maxwell Bodenheim (1892 - 1954) by reading from his 1930 collection of poems Bringing Jazz. Then on to the open mic.

First up, as often, Alan Catlin, with a dramatic monologue about a farm family dying out, the widowed mother living alone. Sylvia Barnard reprised her 3-part poem based on a friend’s stories of growing up in Denmark on the eve of World War II, “Anna Poems.” Emily Gonzalez followed with a poem on aging “The Phenomenology of My Body.” Joe Krausman’s poem “The Greying” was also on that topic.

The much younger poet Anna Kreienberg’s poem was a satiric family portrait in 2-parts, “Aunt Sharon & Uncle Scott Still Live in New Jersey.”

Matthew Klane is the co-host of the Yes! a Reading series (with James Belflower) & is publisher of Flim Forum press. He writes quirky, playful “experimental” poems that he reads carefully enunciated to bring out the puns & word-play. He began his reading from his flash-card poems series “Of the Day,” hilarious word-poems, he said -- & they are. Then on to something else entirely, an experimental “question-mark” he described as “a ghost story,” with the lights off appropriately enough, title “Druid Craft.” The story, if that’s what it is, was hypnotic, filled with images as if from a cut-up of Poe, or Lovecraft. Then on to something titled (I think) “Three Early Related Beginnings & a Fragment” & “Two Early Beginnings & a Torn Fragment Related” & “Passages from the Notebook” all punctuated by sounds from the street & colored by the unintentional atmospheric echoes of the amplifier.

We took a short break & turned the lights back on, & I read my new poem “The Sestina Sestina,” a sort of history of poetic forms in 20th Century American poetry, sort of. Don Levy read a poem inspired by a comment I wrote on Carolee Bennett’s Blog, his poem titled “Kiosks on Lark,” with it’s references to another Albany poet, R.M. Engelhardt. Sally Rhoades' poem cried out “I Want to be Swathed in Beauty” among the simple elegance of April. Amazingly there were 3 “Bobs” signed up tonight & the first of the them was Bob Sharkey who celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems by mixing O’Hara’s “Yesterday Down at the Canal” with Bob's own poem “Yesterday Down at the Piano in Front of McGeary’s” about the public piano project in downtown Albany (loved how he punned “Shit” with “Shiite”). Jessica was tentative about reading a new poem she was still working on (but it’s only an open mic where we try things out), maybe a song, maybe spoken word, on the the railroad tankers bringing oil through Albany, “Bomb Trains.”

Then on to the rest of the “Bob’s.” Bob Gumson’s piece “Nowhere With a Token” was a humorous excursion into 50-Cent style rap. The final poet, the final Bob was Bob W., reading from his notebook a consideration of what is in the water a “Barracuda.”

& so ended another night of poetry on the third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., 7:30 PM, with a featured poet & always an interesting open mic for community poets.

June 18, 2014

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, June 13

Wandering poet Michael Czarnecki was the featured reader here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, with a slide-show presentation, a haibun of sorts, about his recent 14 week poetry tour of the 48 states. He began, of course, with a brief reading from the 17th century Japanese poet Bashō, then read his own poem written at the end of his journey “Where Home.” He showed some beautiful photos, of places from Maine to Oregon, & told fascinating anecdotes of the people, poets & poetry-lovers, he met along the way. Of course some of his images reminded him of poems, such as Kenneth Patchen’s “The Orange Bears.” & with a tip of his hat to another touring poet, he recited a poem by Charlie Rossiter from the 2012 FootHills Publishing anthology In the Spirit of T’ao Ch’ien. He likes the Asian poets & his poems often sound like them. Of course, it is easy to make a poem sound Chinese: just don’t use “the” or “a”, try it: “The horse runs across the road” versus “Horse runs across road” — which sounds more “Chinese” to you?

Now I swear I did not sign up first for the open mic, but when Alan Casline called the roll I was the first open mic poet & read 2 new poems, “The Sestina Sestina” & the poetry-joke “A Poet & a Cardinal Walk into a Bar.” John Abbuhl had signed up first & as the proprietor here invoked the droit de seigneur to not read first; he said he writes for himself & read from one of his little pocket notebooks, this one from 2011. If anyone doesn’t know that Mark W. O’Brien is going to Ireland, you haven’t been at any open mics lately where he has read; tonight, he previewed his book that will be launched when he finally gets there, reading 3 poems from the mss. Edie Abrams read an eco-poem written recently at the William Christman preserve, for John Abbuhl.

Howard Kogan read a touching memoir of a summer-time friend from his youth, the son of a migrant worker, roasting potatoes over a fire, “Mickies.” Alan Casline also had a poem from this year’s Christman gathering, “The Annual Event that Almost Wasn’t,” then read a self-portrait of sorts “Mixed-Up Kid.” Mimi Moriarty had a couple of poems about her father, a new one “In Defense of Pencils” about discovering her father’s mechanical pencils, & one from her 2013 FootHills book Crows Calling, “Track Photo.” Paul Amidon began with a poem in the voice of a “Stock Car Racer,” then a childhood memoir “Tree House,” & the very short “Old Man Planting Trees.” Mike Conner’s trio of poems began with a relationship poem “4th Act,” then “Auto Moment” (about driving in the rain), & love to poem to “My Friends Lilly & Iris.”

Ron Pavoldi’s poem “Down East Light” was a nostalgic return to Maine, followed by “A Brief History of Design,” & a poem about whales wondering at the activities of humans. Joe Krausman also had a poem on a similar theme, “We Are Animals” (as insults, as names, as gods), & a poem on the wonder of his birth “Gratitude.” Jessica took the bus to get here & read an eco-poem inspired by a Native woman at a public hearing “The Prophecy,” then read a poem by Shel Silverstein.

This series continues on Fridays once a month at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands NY, with a featured poet & plenty of open mic poets too.

June 15, 2014

Pride Poetry Reading, June 12

This was a special reading to celebrate Pride month held at the Fulton Street Gallery in Troy, NY, organized by Nancy Klepsch, our host & one of the readers. A great setting for a reading with a work by Harold Lohner as a backdrop for the reading & the gallery filled with work by other regional & national artists on display for Pride Month.

Elizabeth Gordon began, appropriately enough, reciting one of her Slam poems, “To the Guy Holding the Jesus Hates Fags Sign,” (which is included in her recently published book Love Cohoes) then another Slam piece, the nostalgic love poem “I Do.”

Jil Hanifan also did 2 extended pieces, “Sappho Dreams She was Reborn in the 21st Century,” a 4-part piece that integrates lines from Sappho with her own lines, then she read a ghazal love poem beginning “She changes everything she touches…” based on an old Wiccan prayer & styled like a medieval organum.

Carol H. Jewell noted that her brother had died 6 years ago this date, read “This is Not the Story” then on to a poem written after a reading at Don Levy’s open mic at the Pride Center in Albany, & an elegy considering the after-life “Late December 2013.” She continued with a short piece in response to the death of Pete Seeger, another titled “The Sound of Her Voice,” then a poem based on an ad at the University by someone looking for a mentor, & she ended with the tender love poem, “Villanelle for Becky.”

Nancy Klepsch is my co-host at the 2nd Sunday at 2 open mic at the Arts Center of the Capital Region so I hear each month the new poems she has written, & until I can get her collected works from the public library it’s always good to hear them again. She began with an old poem that uses found language from Patti Smith “Invocation,” then a poem reacting to a Robert Frost poem, “The Queer Horse.” “The LGBTQ, LMNOP in Me” was a statement fitting the spirit of the reading, then to a tribute to the Blues, “B.B.’s in the House.” She included a poem about the AIDS epidemic, “I Wish You Had Lost Your Boarding Pass,” a more tender piece written in P-town “Beach Head,” & ended with the anthem “We Need an Army of Harvey’s” (i.e., Harvey Milk), but as Jil piped up “& Nancys!”

Don Levy had is own (surprise!) bouquet of gay poems, the memoir of becoming gay “Me & Anita,” then a couple of social/news commentaries that are his signature “Bait House & Switch” (about a restaurant in Texas that refused to serve gay folks), & “It Was Only a Kiss.” He ended with a tribute to an Albany friend who died tragically being struck by a car on Central Ave. “Frank.”

& if all that was not fabulous enough, on to a brief open mic. Avery pleaded that “It is Time” to remove identities, to be one people. Bob Sharkey read the famous Lana Turner poem from Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, then a poem on 40+ years of marriage “40 Years In.” Miss S. read an eco-poem on fracking “The Rape of Our Mother.” Emily Gonzalez’s poem “Exile” reacted both to the word “exile” & a poem about the ocean by Bob Sharkey. Maria Diotte ended the open mic noting that today would have been Anne Frank’s 85th birthday, then read a relationship poem “Reflections.”

A good evening of poems celebrating who we all are, no matter what labels we attach to ourselves. Tonight we were all poets, no adjectives needed.

June 11, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #71, June 3

1st Tuesday in June, so I headed over to The Low Beat in the Central Ave. entertainment grid for the Slam & open mic; they were operating with a skeleton crew of sorts. Kevin Peterson was the host for both segments tonight.

The 1st open mic poet was the night’s time-keeper/score-meister Avery who read, breathlessly, a “Thank-You” (to himself?) for all the wonderful things he has done. I hadn’t seen the next reader, Jimmy, before, & he would be on stage more later, he read “Yellow & Blue Poem.” He was followed by Steve who used his time to do an announcement for a benefit for folks with Juvenile Diabetes (but also was back later). Shannon Grant read from a well-worn loose-leaf notebook a creepy doll poem, “Dolls.”

A new face/voice, Kalea, read a poetic piece, “The Cage,” trapped in a living heart. Anton read a brief poem about travel. Aaron B. said his piece “The Color of Pink” was his 1st ever Blog post. Emily read a poetic account of being at the Walt Whitman birthday celebration & her thoughts while being there, & said that since others had written similar poems, titled hers “Dan’s Poem” (ahh). Samson Dikemen read Ted Berrigan’s “Thoughts to do on Speed” which shows why Berrigan died young. The last open mic poet was another new face Deidre who read “Laughing Loves Good Company.”

Beginning the Slam was the “sacrificial lamb,” the calibration poet, Algorhythm, which meant I didn’t have to compete with him (not that I did any better for that). There were 6 poets in the Slam with Amanda setting a high standard out of the starting gate with a political rant, a score that wasn’t met until L-Majesty & Samson at the end of the round. Others in the first round were Anton, Jimmy, Steve appearing as “The Writer of Darkness” & me. I read “The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas” & scored the 5th spot, but the most amazing thing about it was that this poem which ends with the phrase “... to become 1,” timed out at 1:11.1 (!) — that was as good as winning the Slam!

The Winners: Amanda, Samson, L-Majesty
For the 2nd round it was Samson, L-Majesty (for “Miss Angelou”), Anton (with a love poem), & Amanda with another political piece. L-Majesty ended up in 3rd place & Samson & Amanda duked it out & Amanda won with a love-sex poem with kisses in a McDonald’s parking lot. Normally that would be it, so why Kevin would permit Jimmy & “The Writer of Darkness” to come back up on stage one more time is beyond me. They did an anti-Yankee poem & no one listened.

AlbanyPoets has formed its 2014 Slam Team which will be traveling about the region competing at other Slam venues, but you can still enjoy the tension & competition of Slam, as well as the unpredictability of open mic poetry every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at The Low Beat on Central Ave. in Albany, NY. Check out albanypoets.com for details.

June 5, 2014

Harmony Cafe Open Mic, June 2

I drove down to Woodstock to catch this weekly open mic hosted by Michael Platsky & to hear the featured poet, my friend Anthony Bernini. I arrived just as Jay Wenk was finishing his reading & didn’t get to hear his poems.

As I got a drink at the bar, Donald Lev read some dream poems (e.g., “Aesthetics”), & some some bird poems, such as “Birds & Crows;” the tradition here is for Donald to read right before the featured poet.

Anthony Bernini, who has been a part of the Albany poetry scene since the early days of the QE2 open mic, gave one of his representative readings, with new poems & older poems from his books. He even threw in a poems by e.e. cummings & Mary Oliver. In the broadest sense he writes “Nature poems,” but more precisely he fits into the more contemporary category of "eco-poems," such as the recent poems “The Intrusion,” “Fukashima Prefecture,” & “Collision on North Lake Ave.” (deer in the suburbs hit by a car).  A “very recent” poem “Sundown” was about friends dying, while “Remember the Alamo” (from his 2011 book Immediate Worlds) was an anti-war statement. Other poems from that book included “The Warmth” & “Twister.” Poems from his earlier collection Distant Kinships (A.P.D., 2002) included “Stone Church” & “The Providence Atheneum.” A reading worth the trip.

The open mic continued with Victoria Sullivan who read the salacious poem “Who Goes There?” (about “the tool box not the tool”), then “The Mystery” (of being born) & went over time with “The Weird Light of November.” Teresa Costa read a sexy piece from Allen Ginsberg’s journals. Ron Whiteurs continued the Allen Ginsberg reference with his outrageous jerk-off poem “Nutting Party,” then a sing-a-long “Home of the Strange” (“where the queers in the cantelopes play”). Michael Pecot continued the song parodies with one based on “Penny Lane” about surveillence but went too long & was cut off by our host (to his great credit Michael Platsky uses a kitchen timer with a clearly audible alarm sound to keep track of the open mic poets’ readings). Chris Wood began well enough reciting an eco-piece “Paper or Plastic” & a piece on Christian churches “To the Fear Mongers;” he should have stopped there, but went on to read an extensive section from the Book of Ezekiel.

Things kept going down from there with the oh-so Woodstock boutique shamanism of Richard Treitner’s tedious, breathless, over-blown rhymes. Iris Litt was a breeze of fresh poetry air with a poem about Hurricane Sandy “The River Remembers” (in the voice of the River), the funny consumerism of “Gypsy Gap” & another funny piece about a cemetery. David Stein read a long, rambling narrative “Here’s What I Did Yesterday” (dedicated to fathers who only see their kids once a week).  David Hecht read his song lyrics “Brooklyn Cowboy,” “No Pink Cadillac,” & “I Bought My Baby the Brooklyn Bridge.” Gary Siegel read about the aftermath of the long Winter “Equilibrium” then a piece on clowns “Kind of Grey.”

It was inspiring to see Michael Heinrich take the stage & battle a tremor & fatigue (he had to sit for his 2nd poem) to read a real poem “Remember to Remember,” then a piece about a silver chain, for a cross or a Star of David? Leif brought us back to Woodstock self-indulgent tedium with an aptly titled “Welcome to My 20-Year-Late One Person Show,” & another in the same vein as if he were writing a Broadway show. Our host Michael Platsky returned to the Ginsberg theme with a childhood memoir of pissing with Allen on the streets of NYC — now that’s more like it.

& Michael Platsky does the near impossible with organizing a reading & an open mic every Monday here at the Harmony Cafe in Wok'n'Roll in the still-beating heart of Woodstock, NY, for a donation.

June 4, 2014

Reading & Book-Signing, Northshire Books, May 30

Took a drive North to Saratoga Springs to Northshire Books, an independent bookstore, part of a mini-chain of 2 stores, the other in Manchester Center, Vermont.  Poets Paul Pines & Sherry Kearns did a reading, & were introduced by owner Barbara Morrow.

In one of my previous incarnations in NYC, I knew Paul Pines as the owner of The Tin Palace, jazz joint on the corner of Bowery & 2nd St., a couple blocks from my apartment on the corner of 1st Avenue & 2nd St.; it was my favorite neighborhood bar. There were also the occasional Saturday afternoon poetry readings there. I recall seeing Kenneth Koch, Susan Sherman & Kathy Acker read, among others I can’t recall. & I do believe that Eileen Myles waitressed there at one time. Paul sold the place, but the new owner continued it as a jazz joint. Paul went on to write a mystery thriller The Tin Angel about The Tin Palace & has since settled in the North Country where he churns out remarkable books of poems & runs the annual Lake George Jazz Festival.

Tonight, the poets read in 3 short, alternating sets, grouped by themes, or, in Paul’s case, by books. He began with a selection from Divine Madness (Marsh Hawk Press, 2012), with poems focused on persons real or mythical, such as Hephaestus, Tom Paine, Leonard Bernstein, Van Gogh. In his 2nd set he read from The New Orleans Variations & Paris Ouroboros (Dos Madres Press, 2013), including some favorites of mine, “Hello from NOLA,” & “Whistler’s Blue/A Nocturne.” For his 3rd set he read from a mss. of “Charlotte’s Poems” for his daughter, one poem about her at 16 as a funny “evil Communist dictator,” the other about her heading off to college. Paul has new book out this month, also from Dos Madres Press, Fishing on the Pole Star, so watch for future readings from this book of poems about fishing in the Caribbean.

Sherry Kearns read from her book, Deep Kiss (Dos Madres Press, 2013).  Her first set’s theme was “artist as representative” with poems on Bogart, Jack Gilbert, Robert Bly, Philip Roth & William Bronk. Her 2nd theme was about being “a representative of the impulse to create,” with most the poems as short, aphoristic meditations. The theme of her final set was about “the extraordinary in the ordinary,” including some poems on aging, such as “The Old Thrill Seekers,” & “The Bust Up,” but also “Party Clothes” (which, she explained, since it was about the 1960s, meant “no bra”).

The alternating short sets made for variety, breaking up the pattern of the poems & voices. But the work of each poet was interesting & engaging in itself, the poems accessible, often seasoned with humor, keeping the audience attentive.

Check the Northshire website for other upcoming programs & visit the store when you are in Saratoga Springs — the big chain bookstores are closing, but the independent bookstores are our neighbors.

June 1, 2014

Poets Speak Loud!, May 26

The last Monday of the month is when Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s in Albany, NY, & since it was the last Monday of May, it was also Memorial Day in America, the parade long over & the bar quite quiet. Mary Panza served as house-mother to the poets who gathered around the tables, no mic, no music stand. el presidente Thom il papa Francis was there with his daughter Molly who charmed us all.

Sylvia Barnard read first, just one poem, “Dusky Sally,” written about a trip down South to Thomas Jefferson’s home. I read a couple poems for Memorial Day, “John Lees,” then to lighten it up the salacious “Partriotism.” Joe Krausman read a cluster of serio-comic poems, including one about a young woman marrying a much-older man “Pre-Shrunk Love” & the more more political/apocalyptic “Panacea.” Bob Sharkey celebrated the “real Memorial Day,” his 44th wedding anniversary, with a poem about where they lived in the early years of their marriage, “Cohoes,” followed with a collaborative poem written with his wife many years ago “Wednesday,” then a reprise of “Boiler Room” that he read the other night.  Emily Gonzalez began with a love story of a hot summer years ago “Once,” then a couple poems of color, “Indigo Blue” (saxophone jazz), & the memoir piece “Cool Red Satin.”

Sam reading, Bob on right
While we were reading a group of young poets came in & Mary graciously added them to the list. The first was Sam with a poem like a letter to her Dad. She was followed by Bob with a poem titled “Nebula” that was a string or list of words.

Mary then proposed a second, 1-poem go around & some of us jumped in. Sylvia read an untyped piece about being trapped in the snow. I followed with “A Pain in the Neck” from my chapbook of political pieces. Joe recited from memory “Things Passing.” Sharkey read an unread poem for his daughter “Fed Up.” & Emily another favorite “Moon Goddess.”

So, once again, the last Monday of the month, Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany, NY (near where Herman Melville lived when he was young), always an open mic, often with a featured poet — check AlbanyPoets.com for information & a full calendar of poetry events.