June 26, 2014
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.”
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
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.”
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
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.”
& 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
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.”
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|
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
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.
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.”
& 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
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.
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
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|
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.