December 31, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 18

This reading included the annual visit from Sanity Clause. The featured poet was Adam Tedesco, but first I invoked the Muse, Enid Dame, read her “Holiday Poem.” Then a bit of the open mic, with each poet getting the rare opportunity to sit on the lap of Sanity Clause, explain how bad they have been & receive a gift of a poetry book or zine.

Alan Catlin was the first poet up (as he often is) with a holiday poem, “Too Drunk to Work, Sober Enough to Drive.” Sylvia Barnard followed with a hopeful little poem, “Spring.” Avery delivered a breathless description of some guitar music, “Masticating the Maggots of the Mind.” Richard Propp said he was just getting re-interested in poetry after many years & read “Desire” by George Bilgere, a funny poem about lusting after a woman in a checkout line. Joe Krausman read a poem praising the light for the longest night (harkening back to Enid’s poem). Mark O’Brien’s poem was about climbing the steep stairs in his house, remembering his father, “Setting Out.”

It was good to be able to hear a big chunk of tonight’s featured poet Adam Tedesco’s work after usually hearing only a poem or 2 at a time at open mics. His work is, as he acknowledges, dark, depressing, beginning with “Post & Kill” painful images of adventures growing up, then a poem loosely based on his 1st landlord “A Real Life Durango” filled with images of violence. “Logic is a Sword We Fuck With” was his philosophical treatise on poetry (he said) & the title pretty much sets the tone, while “At the Mouth of the Cave” was based on a conversation with an ill-tempered fishing partner. He described “The Bit” as “kind of a political poem,” “The Star Reposed” was from a challenge to write about something depressing without being depressing (& not sure he succeeded), while “Human Centipede” was loosely based on one of his favorite movies. “Anaxarchus” was an interesting exploration of speechlessness, reason & kings, based on the the ancient Greek philosopher (c. 380 - c. 320 BCE), none of whose work has survived; ironically, in the context of this reading, he was called “the happiness man.” His final poems were “Blazing” & "Psychogenic Transplant" a poem that was a message to his son after visiting an uncle dying in a hospital. Before he began his reading Adam mentioned that one of his goals was to write a poem that I can’t summarize in one sentence; many of these poems fit that category, but writing this Blog it was enough of a challenge for me to find enough synonyms for “depressing” or “bleak.”

After the break I read a new poem responding to the times, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” (for Tamir Rice). Alan Casline read a 2-part poem on Jack Kerouac, Charlie Parker & Dr. Sax. W.D. Clarke was back after a hiatus, read a poem about his Grandfather in Canada, “Coffee Royale.”

Those of you who are keeping count will note that only 1 woman so far had sat on Sanity Clause’s lap, while there had been 8 men. I was so relieved when Jacky Kirkpatrick was the next reader that I almost asked her to sit there all night, but thought it would be unfair to the rest of the readers. Fortunately the ratio of women to men improved from this point on. She read an untitled memoir about a trip when she was 8 to a Slayer’s concert, written in response to write about Death Metal. Thérèse Broderick’s poem was about struggling “In Yoga Class When I Do Tree Pose.” Frank Robinson, who wore a matching Sanity Clause hat, did not read from his book Love Poems, but read another love poem (to Thérèse, of course) “Possession.”

Samson Dikeman was also challenged to write about Death Metal, but said he found this uncomfortable, so he turned to the Old Testament, & Joshua bringing down the walls of Jericho for inspiration -- seems like the same thing to me. Phil Good showed up to read from a series of poems on the months, read the lyrically playful December entry, “Double Dark.”

Jessica Rae, before sitting on Sanity Clause, said she had brought the wrong copy of her poem “Snow” to read so she edited it along the way. Sally Rhoades ended the night with “I Love the Wander,” then as she sat on the lap of Sanity Clause, her cellphone rang & it was her husband, checking up on her — I guess Sanity Clause is not the only one who is watching!

A complete set of photos of poets sitting on the lap of Sanity Clause is available at my Flickr! site, photos taken by Avery & Jacky Kirkpatrick.

& we’ll return to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY next, & every third Thursday, 7:30PM, to read & to listen to more poetry — for a donation that pays the featured poet & supports the Social Justice Center, & poetry events in the community.

December 21, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #84, December 16

Our MC/host/dominatrix was Albany Poets Vice-President Mary Panza, but the host for the open mic was K.P. (Kevin Peterson). He set the tone by reading one of his own poems, this one about a tree growing outside his window at work.

Tonight was the annual “Dead Poets Slam” in which the Slam participants, contrary to usual Slam rules, must read a poem by a dead poet. The rule didn’t apply to the open mic poets but a number of them did read poems by dead poets, beginning with Amani doing Maya Angelou’s iconic “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Jeff did his own poem, also about a bird, this one in Thailand. Tom read an untitled rhymed piece on love. L-Majesty’s poem “Unfamiliar” was written today.

Quira returned to Maya Angelou with “Phenomenal Woman” (the only dead poet to be read more than once tonight). Nessec read a poem written by her father about her turning “21.” The poet signed up tonight as “Bucket” has read/performed at Caffe Lena as “Jesse Muse” & did a free-style piece he called “Who’s Next?” on death.

There was a huge sign up list (13) for the Slam &, since this was a dead poet slam, one could rightfully be nervous that one might hear one’s own poem read — fortunately, that didn’t happen. But it was an eclectic mix of dead poets, with a couple of disqualifying live poets & even a hoax, or 2, (undetected). Poor Stephen struggled through a reading of a Philip Larkin poem & bottomed out at 9.5 points. Pat Irish eased the score up a bit with Edna St. Vincent Millay’s quatrain on burning a candle. Jimmy scored a 0 for reading his own poem. From there on it was Robert Frost read by Jeff, Bukowski read by K.P. (of course), I read Allen Ginsberg’s “In a Supermarket in California,” Shel Silverstein was read by Ringo (losing points for a time penalty), L-Majesty read a poem by Essex Hemphill (1957 - 1995), Ainsley (a Slam virgin) read Sylvia Plath, Samson Dikeman did Etheridge Knight, Josh an excerpt from Carl Sandburg’s “The People Yes,” & Shannon was disqualified for combining Shakespeare & Eminen. “Bucket” pulled one over on the judges with a piece he said was by “Pat Muse,” but I doubt it.

The much pared down 2nd round found Josh reading Frank O’Hara, Samson doing Gil-Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not be Televised,” Ainsley reading Anne Sexton & K.P. with a song lyric (“Blood of Angels”) he said was by a dead singer, but, again I doubt it, but judges being judges it landed him uncontested in 3rd place.

Ainsley, Samson, K.P.
The final round was a squeaker with Samson & a Lenny Bruce piece edging out Ainsley’s reading of Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet #17. Hey, at least there were some real poems tonight (amidst a couple of fakes).

The Nitty Gritty Slam is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month at The Low Beat 335 Central Ave. in Albany, NY, 7:30 PM, discounted admission with a (valid) student I.D. — & an open mic if you don’t want to Slam.

December 16, 2014

Sunday/Funday, December 14

It was a poetry double-header — after leaving Troy & the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic I made it into Albany to The Low Beat just in time to catch most of the first reader’s set & everyone else. Samson Dikeman served as the afternoon’s relaxed host.

Adam Tedesco was reading when I walked in. I caught 2 poems, “Day of the Dead” & a grim tale with a long title of a dysfunctional family during the holidays.

Joe Hesch talked about growing up in Albany not far from The Low Beat & read a cluster of poems mostly about Albany. But he began with a poem about a late night in the suburbs from his book Penumbra: The Space Between. Then on to a series of true stories/memoirs about Albany, including “Empties,” “Keys,” a bit of prose “The Best Gift Ever,” & “Silent Night in Arbor Hill.”

Sari Botton is from New York City. She read a memoir-sounding short story of mistaken identity at a Thanksgiving dinner with strangers in 1994.

The final 2 readers/performers were what could be characterized as “The Goofy Silly Guy Segment.” Douglas Rothschild, dressed for Albany Winter (on a pleasant, balmy day), complete with scarf, gloves & a snow shovel, did a rambling routine in the raconteur style of Jean Shepherd on that tedious Xmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy” mixing in Greco-Roman mythology with Xtian myths.

Sparrow has built his career on being a Goofy Silly Guy. He began by telling us we shouldn’t clap (but we did anyway) & by playing the tonette. His stand-up routine mixes rambling chatter with very, very short musings on palindromes, things overheard on the subway & a list of new words (without definitions, of course).

This series has been going on this past semester on the 2nd Sunday of the month, but Samson expressed at the end some doubt as to whether they would continue. I suggest you check the poetry calendar at for information about this & many other poetry events in the region.

December 15, 2014

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 14

It was great to be back again together with my co-host Nancy Klepsch here at the Arts Center — I was absent last month & she the month before. Today, we had 12 readers.

Peggy LeGee was the first up with a defiant piece titled “I Am Peggy Love Swimming in a Sea of Hate.” Howard Kogan’s first poem, “They Took the Wife,” was from his new chapbook, General Store Poems (Benevolent Bird Press, 2014), poetry meeting oral history, then to a poem about the funeral of a colleague “Burying Paula.” Nancy Klepsch read 2 new pieces, “the most unfinished poems” she has ever read, on the killing of Michael Brown & Eric Garner, “New” & “And I Can’t Breathe.” A new voice Patrice Malatestinle read a couple of rhyming poems, “Mother Issues” & one about an invasive squirrel “Occupied.” Bob Sharkey continued one of the afternoon’s themes introduced by Nancy with a thoughtful essay on race, flowering up from his experience in the ‘70s working at Albany Medical Center, beginning “I am not color blind…”

Karen Fabiane read a poem from her Bright Hills Press chapbook Dancing Bears involving gang violence in New York City, then on to another poem “Be Gone” about the memory of past loves & the flashes of things we see from the corner of our eyes. William Robert Foltin’s poems “Crows in the Snow” & “Christmas Snow” were both written in December in years past. I read 2 new poems “TV - Fire” & the evolving “Didn’t Shoot” following up on Nancy & Bob's pieces.  Kate Laity read a tantalizing excerpt from her prose fiction “30 Versions of ‘Warm Leatherette’,” an exploration of obsession & seduction; find the complete piece online.

Another new voice, Taylor Parganon, unfolded a sheet of paper from his pocket & read the thoughtful poem “The Man at the Door,” imaging kids on their way to a concert & the life of the ticket-taker afterwards. Sandra Rouse said both of her poems had something to do with color, a political piece linking the invasion of Iraq with Springtime in Atlanta “Yellow Rain,” & another, set in 1968, from a longer, 5-part piece. Sally Rhoades was last with an excerpt from her memoir “Broadened by Laughter,” this emotional section about being raised in foster homes.

2nd Sunday @ 2 is an open mic for writers of poetry & prose, held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM (Duh!) at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free!

December 8, 2014

Frequency North, December 5

This was the last of the semester’s series, a semester of prose, with a reading by visiting professor & novelist Dave King. He was introduced by Frequency North director & coordinator Prof. Daniel Nester. Nester introduced Prof. Barbara Ungar who introduced student Josh Sheridan who introduced the evening’s reader.

Dave King began by talking about how writing poetry helped his novel writing, & read his poem “My Heart Disappears Among the Trees.” It was originally published in Big City Lit, an early webzine I remember fondly. He read 2 sections from the middle of his novel The Ha-Ha (Little, Brown & Co. & Back Bay Books). It is the first-person story of an aphasic Viet Nam veteran, told in the present, with flashbacks to family memories before he went to Viet Nam.

The reading was well attended by faculty, students & community folks in the St. Rose library.

Frequency North is a series of readings held at the College of St. Rose, Albany, NY. Check their website for the schedule of upcoming readings.

December 5, 2014

Nitty Gritty Slam #83, December 2

It turned out to be quite a night of poetry, performance & Slam at The Low Beat. Kevin Peterson (aka K.P.) was the host for the open mic & el presidente Thom Francis was the host for the Slam.

The first reader on the short list of open mic poets was Brian Dorn who read about what inspires his poetry, “Her Attributes.” Jeff S., whom I hadn’t seen before, did 2 short pieces (& later participated in the Slam), “Another Rainy Tuesday in the Trailer Park,” & “Noodling the Noodler.” Amani began her untitled piece on lovemaking versus homemaking with singing a bit of Joni Mitchell’s “Little Yellow Taxi.” Avery, finishing off the open mic, performed “Coming Together” (which wasn’t about sex, I don’t think).

The feature was NYC Slam poet Thomas Fucaloro, who had performed up the block at The Linda in the WordFest Invitational Slam back in April, doing a piece he also did tonight about moving from being a cocaine addict to earning an MFA literary degree (hmm?!). Few of his pieces were introduced with titles, but moved from such topics as being at his sister’s dance recital, to about finding our own ways to god (“No Experience Necessary”), to used books, to having babies, to rape recidivism, to the Dead Poet’s Society. His delivery, while eschewing Slam clichés, was energetic, modeled on stand-up comics, &, yes, Robin Williams. His book It Starts from the Belly and Blooms is available from Three Rooms Press.

el presidente brought us back into the Slam with 7 competitors, ranging from Jimmy on Hobbits, Stephen Roberts’ “The Year the Grinch Struck Back,” K.P. with a tribute to his high school science teacher, Jeff S. “On the Road,” Eliza Ryan reprising (from Poets Speak Loud) “Instagram,” & Algorhythm on experience. I achieved a respectable score of 24 for my commentary on religion “The Lady Bishop,” just enough to beat K.P. & to get me into Round 2.

Eliza Ryan, Me, Algorhythm (Photo by Thom Francis)
From there I squeaked by — barely — into 3rd place behind Algorhythm & Eliza Ryan with an excerpt from “Richard Nixon Must Die” that timed out at 3 minutes, 9.8 seconds, as Jeff S. went over time & lost points despite scoring 3 10s (I had scored 2 10s!) with  a piece titled “Scooping Granola” about working in a diner.

So I was “in the money” & could sit back & watch Algorhythm & Eliza battle it out, with the visiting poet coming out on top, a good position for her to be, shall we say.

So, should I keep at this, become a member of the Slam team, delivering real poems to a bunch of punk poseurs, show them what poetry, not performance, is really about? Heck, I’m an old white straight guy in good health. What are the odds? At least I’m not a Republican.

Nitty Gritty Slam, a production of is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month at The Low Beat on Central Ave., Albany, NY. If you are a student (with an I.D. for other than “Student of Life,” etc.) it’s only $3.00, otherwise us old guys have to pay $5.00 (still cheap).