December 30, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 17

& the annual return of Sanity Clause, with gifts of poetry for all the bad poets. Tonight’s featured poet was Kate McNairy. I invoked the Muse of the gone poet Enid Dame & once-again this year read her moving “Holiday Poem” with it’s right-on conclusion, “We don’t need the solace of bought objects/ We Need each other’s light.”

It was a good night for Sanity Clause, with the major portion of the readers being women, to sit on his lap & recite the tales of their naughtiness during the year. The first was Sylvia Barnard with a work-in-progress about a village outside Cambridge, England, “Grandchester, to Rupert Brooke & Sylvia Plath.”

At her first appearance here at the Social Justice Center, Cindy Blair read her one holiday poem, “Forget Santa,” a memoir poem of childhood. A poet known in the past by other names showed up tonight as Ricki DeSeers & had a stack of books he recommended & a ramble on the times,  then recited by heart “50 Cents,” a Depression era piece. Sally Rhoades was another welcome female for Sanity Clause’s lap, but first read she a poem on h(om)e coming in a canoe. Avery read/chanted “What Is that Subtle Background Buzz” a piece based on the Heart Sutra.

Kate McNairy’s book June Bug was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press & tonight she read the whole thing. The poems include many nature titled pieces, “Strawberries,” “Crows,” the title piece “June Bug,” “Rainbow Trout,” etc., with even references to herself in a couple poems as a skittish rabbit. Some are quirky philosophical ponderings, for example “Gambler,” & “Architect” sometimes with a dash of the sexy. Then she read a sample of some newer work, ranging from pieces on loneliness (“Homeless,” “A Cup of Coffee”), to a love poem “Love All Swept Up,” a piece set in a bar “Pool at 3 AM,” & a poem on “Smells,” among others. Her poems are characteristically short, imagistic, which she read with nary an introduction. You can often catch Kate at the Caffè Lena open mic in Saratoga Springs.

After a break I read my traditional holiday poem “Christmas Eve, 1945.”

I was followed by Donna Williams, who didn't read a poem of her own but brought one by Galway Kinnell just so she could sit on Sanity Clause’s lap. Karen Fabiane was back to read a new poem, “Andalusian Girls” filled with swirling, urban images of heroines. Eric Randall made a rare appearance with a poem titled “Writing Lesson” describing a poem & love. Down to the final 3, Julie Lomoe plugged her mystery novels then sang the parody “The Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year.” Carole Rossi wasn’t sure which last name to use, ending up with a palimpsest on the sign-up sheet, & read a poem from a series “120 Nights of Dreaming,” last night’s dream “The Dreamland Parable” from her inner-child to ours. The last poet of the night, Adam Graydon Brown, read a brief self-help poem to close out the night.

Sanity Clause was most grateful for all the women poets who showed up tonight to read — & more importantly, to sit on his lap. Sanity Clause only shows up once each year, but this series with a featured reader & an open mic happens each third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, at 7:30 PM, all for a modest donation to support the featured poet, the SJC & other poetry events in the area.

December 29, 2015

Albany Poets Presents!, December 16

This was the first in a planned series hosted by Thom Francis, el presidente of, to be held at the Midtown Tap & Tea Room on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY. Thom said it has been his dream to have such a series where each night is focused on a single local poet, with a reading & then an interview & Q&A to discuss the poet’s work in depth.

It was most appropriate that the first poet to undergo this regime would be Schenectady poet Alan Catlin, one of the most published poets in America & a regular, loyal supporter/participant of the local poetry scene. Even before I moved back to this area in 1986 I knew the name Alan Catlin from numerous small press zines & from Factsheet Five, a periodical directory of zines published by Mike Gunderloy out of Rensselaer. It contained reviews & contact information for the zines that was important for connecting us like-minded poets & artists, & for finding places to publish our work. I recall one issue where they published the results of a survey they had done of the zines & listed "the most published poets in America."  The list included at the top Lyn Lifshin (who was living in Niskayuna at the time), Paul Weinman (Albany) & Alan Catlin of Schenectady. I won’t say that’s what made me decide to move back to Albany, but it certainly made my move from the NYC metropolitan area sweeter.  After I moved here I was pleased to actually meet Alan, then, over the years, become his friend, trading poetry books, sharing stories on car rides between poetry readings & Schenectady.

Alan's reading tonight mixed poems from his newest book Last Man Standing (Lummox Press, 2015), from a new series based on movie titles “Hollyweird,” & some from a forthcoming book of ekphrastic poems based on photos. Last Man Standing features a cover painting by Gene McCormick which could be Alan (although not with a bowtie) in his job as a bartender for many years, notably at Albany’s Washington Tavern. So many poems from this collection (& others) come out of that cornucopia of experience. Alan’s interest in the visual arts has also fueled many poems & his new collection will include poems on work by Mapplethrope, Groz, Sandor, even Ralph Stedman.

Following the reading Thom Francis sat down with Alan to discuss his work. The topics of that & the audience Q&A ranged from Alan’s own writing, to Last Man Standing, to his editing the online journal Misfit Magazine, to his relationships with poets Paul Weinman & Lyn Lifshin.

As is AlbanyPoets technical wont, the program was audio-taped & hopefully will be available to the world sometime soon so you don’t have to take my word for what happened tonight. & speaking of AlbanyPoets, check out their website for future Albany Poets Presents! programs, as well as other poetry events in the Capital region.

December 14, 2015

2nd Sunday @ 2, December 13

Nancy Klepsch & I were pleased to see so many smiling, poetic faces in the black box theater at the Arts Center this Sunday afternoon.

First up to read was Peggy LeGee with the first of the afternoon's seasonal poems “I Give the Gift” in many forms, for many reasons. Carol Jewell had an afternoon out for poetry & began with “The Snowman” by Wallace Stevens, then her own touching poem about meeting her dead brother “Chance Encounter.”

Maureen McCauley was here for the first time with an excerpt from a prose memoir, this section “In the May Queen’s Court” set in 2nd grand in Catholic school. Bob Sharkey gave us a brief update on The Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, a poetry contest he is coordinating, now gone international, then read “The Red Chair,” a series of poetic vignettes, watching DVDs with children, listening to Hummel’s music, & being in Union Square. Cathy Abbott, as always, read a very brief piece that, like Haiku, are best heard a 2nd time. I had signed up too & read my poem about my mother’s Xmas, “Christmas 1945” then a brief, new piece “Dream Poem.” Jay Renzi read what he described as the last part of a 9-part long poem titled “The White Goddess” this part was “Runes & Mountains,” a Dark Ages fantasy, then the short “Sexy Trouble.”

Sandra Rouse read a not-so-nice seasonal piece “Bile at Christmas” then “Gold Finch” from a series of poems about birds, confronting her fears. Joe Krausman’s seasonal poem was “Season’s Greetings” to all the faiths, then read a poem from his brand-new chapbook from Benevolent Bird Press, Monkeyshines, the poem “Out of the Running” which, he said, was printed without the final quatrain, which he did read for us. Mike Conner began with “Love Feast” then his version of that famous poem first published in Troy, NY, his titled “The Night Before Christmas at My House.”

My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, began with an old poem, “Non-Repo Blues” then a newer piece “Sister.” Karen Fabiane read 2 poems from her first chapbook, Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011), the psychedelically titled “Dripping Syndetic Tripiness” the a relationship piece “Fawn.” Kate Laity read a timely, seasonal piece “Then Little Joe the Krampus Met (A Cautionary Tale)” & beats the Xmas evil spirit.

Then Nancy & I read the excerpt from Enid Dame’s “Holiday Poem” that we have used as a flyer this time a year at the monthly peace vigil in front of the State Capitol in Albany.

We’ll be back next year on the 2nd Sunday @ 2PM at the Arts Center in Troy, bring poetry or prose to read. Enjoy the Holidays (& avoid the Krampus — & cramps).

December 13, 2015

Raw Poetry, December 11

 This is a brand-new series that I literally stumbled across the other day doing some Xmas shopping  at Elissa Halloran’s on Lark St. There was one of those sidewalk signs that announced “Raw Poetry, 6PM, Dec. 11 & 18” outside The Brakes Restaurant. So I came back the next night to check it out. In the meantime I looked on & it was listed in the calendar at 7PM, so I went at the earlier time. The Brakes is a coffeehouse & vegan restaurant on the 2nd floor of 227 Lark St., Albany, NY.

It was a good sign when I walked in & got my cappuccino (with almond milk) that they were playing a recording of The Last Poets album. The organizer, Hyacinth Miles, who is also a cook at the restaurant, told me that this was actually the first such reading & that they are planning to hold it every Friday night, except on the 1st Friday of the month when there is the art walk along Lark St. & in Albany. She said that indeed there had been confusion over the start time & some folks would be there later, but in deference to a few of us who were here early they would start soon after 6:00.

First of the first was “King Charles,” with 3 pieces (Hyacinth said we could do 8 minutes), a piece addressed to a “you” who it seems was a building as old as he is, then some musings on love, & a spiritual piece about learning to be compassionate addressed to another “you” who was apparently a god of sorts. He later said he was new in town, had done Slam back in Michigan where he was from. Hyacinth Miles did a love poem titled “We Were Violence.” I was up next, talked briefly about the Albany poetry scene & read, by way of history, “Where Were the Professors?”, then “The Cold Clean Sea” from my new book Gloucester Notes, & from Poeming the Prompt the poem “What Really Happened.” Hyacinth was back with a hip-hop piece from memory that was performed at high speed, then a notebook poem about the end of love, & another from memory cursing the rain.

At this point we took a little break as more folk filed into the small room, including a few poets, then back to the open mic. I was surprised to see Druis Beasley arrive, a poet who had read earlier this year in May at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic at the Arts Center in Troy, & who had been active in the early Albany poetry scene when she was a student at the University at Albany. It turns out that she is Hyacinth’s mother. She began with political rant “Against the War” on black history, racism, & the need for the light of the ancestors, then another piece on racism “Double Consciousness,” & on to a praise poem for the African mother goddess & what she called “women of the calabash.”

Lana Harvey read a piece titled “New York New York” from her phone, a political poem that sounded like it was based on Allen Ginsberg’s “America.” Isaiah Tinsley performed a dialogue piece from memory “Over the Moon” that he got us to sing along with at the end. King Charles was back again, since there were more people here & took advantage of the stage to do 2 pieces he hadn’t done before, the repeated 2 from his first set.

Hyacinth ended the night with a couple pieces, one titled “Unmarked Grave” & a repeat of her high-speed hip hop piece (for which she wears her dark glasses).

The Brakes is a funky coffeehouse setting with floor-to-ceiling windows facing out over Lark St. that serves vegan & gluten-free & local foods, & now poetry as well, at least on most Friday nights. I was told they would be starting at 7:00 PM from now on. Check it out for poetry, or any other time for the food, coffee, tea.

December 10, 2015

Live from the Living Room, December 9

Although Don Levy has announced that this poetry/open mic series at the Pride Center, that has been going on since February 2003, will be ending, it’s not quite yet! Tonight a number of poets & friends gathered to hear Sylvia Barnard read her poetry.

 Sylvia is a regular here, & at a number of other venues in the area. Tonight she read from a crumpled sheaf of poems representing poems written in the last few years, beginning with poems about her neighborhood. “Neighborhood 2015” (about looking at the windows & buildings along Willett St., imagining the people who lived there in the past), & the “Siobhan in Washington Park Age 46” was a recent piece about her daughter. Staying in Washington Park for a while, she read “Playground” & the wonderful meditation on aging “Poets in the Park.” Then on to some poems about friends, “Schubert in Assisted Living” & 3 poems inspired by tales told by a Danish friend, “Cycling thru Denmark,” “Dickens in Denmark,” & “Occupation,” all set around World War II. She read a series of poems set in England & Ireland, “Liverpool,” “The Book of Kells,” & ”The Giants’ Causeway,” then ended with one about a trip to Sicily, “Wind.” Sylvia began her reading by tentatively apologizing for reading poems that many of us had heard before, but that, for me, is never a problem if the poems are good — until I can go to the Library & take out the Collected Poems of Sylvia Barnard, I’m happy to hear again poems I have enjoyed in the past.

A brief open mic followed, & I was first on the list with a new, tribute poem “Joe the Bartender” then an somewhat older love poem “The Noon Train.”

Meredith was not going to read, then remembered she had written an Haiku this morning & read that, & glad she did. Sally Rhoades had forgotten her printed poems but read 2 from her phone, “This One Night I Awaken” (to Moon light) & “I Am a Dreamer.” Ford McLain had been the featured poet here last month (which I missed), but he was back tonight with a Haiku, then an anaphoric poem on writing “Moleskin.” Our pleased host, Don Levy, read 2 poems inspired by recent events, “The Faces of Paris” in which he recalled the French people he had seen on his visit there in August, & a poem about a recent front page of the Daily News “Thoughts & Prayers.”

For the time-being there is a poetry reading with a featured poet & an open mic at the Pride Center on Hudson Ave., Albany, NY on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7:30PM, with a modest donation.  Catch it before it is gone.

December 7, 2015

Book Launch: My Moon Self, December 6

This was a reading/gathering to present to the community Philomena Moriarty’s book My Moon Self: A Spiritual Memoir Through Poetry (Bodhicitta Press, 2015), held at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. She was introduced by her husband, Sam Trumbore, the pastor at the U.U. (& full disclosure: I had read Philomena’s manuscript & provided comments & suggestions, & I am mentioned in the Acknowledgments.)

Many of us in the poetry scene have heard Philomena read these poems, & others, at open mics throughout the area. Today she read a selection from the book, touching on the Buddhist text The Way of the Bodhisattvas (the title poem, “My Moon Self”) & it’s American pop culture version, the TV show Kung Fu (“Walking on Rice Paper”), also “Walking Meditation” & the last poem “Benefaction.” But along the way she also visited her Irish Catholic upbringing with the poem “Act of Contrition,” & a poem about her mother grieving the death of Philomena’s brother, “Romance.”

So nice to have this lovely, illustrated book of Philomena’s poems.

December 4, 2015

Poets Speak Loud!, November 30

But nobody is louder than our host, Mary Panza, even with a mouthful of Pop Rocks tonight — which also was a night of virgins, or a few anyways.

First up in the open mic was Ian Macks with a poem titled “Tightropes” based on the free-flow of ideas listening to music, then a relationship poem with thoughts of friends who had been mugged. Joe Krausman’s first poem was titled “Too Old” which of course engendered some gentle heckling from the crowd, then a poem about a true encounter “At the Dollar Bargain Store.” Julie Lomoe read 2 seasonal poems about skiing, the descriptive “First Skiing of the Season,” then what happened on a “Frozen Chair Lift.”

First of the night’s virgins was Rose with a good-ole break-up poem titled “29 Years.” She was followed by Adam Tedesco, who read from what he called “a shit-load of poems about my heart,” a cluster of short pieces, images, similes of the heart. Tim Livingston read a love song titled “Tracks” that will be on the new CD, Hold That Thought Forever, from the band The Last Conspirators, coming out in January.

Even tonight’s featured poet, J.L. Weeks, was a virgin of sorts: this was her first featured reading. She began with an urban piece about the “hard city,” then on to another, “Tuesday” sitting at a bar in NYC. “Walter” was a sad portrait of a man at the VA hospital, while “Welcome to Bullshit Industries” was structured like an automated phone service menu, but got a little lost in its politics. “Elements” was all about breathing them in. She said that “Ballad of a Hollow Girl” was her “opera,” about a girl taking guys home & the end of relationships, in uneven rhymes, as were many of her pieces. Her final, long piece was a self-portrait, using writing as healing, “It Comes in Lines.” Jamie hasn’t read out in the open mics very often & I hope she does so we can watch her work mature through her exposure to the varied work of other poets.

Back to the open mic, Nykky was another virgin, but said she was reading from her 2nd book, a grim piece about being stalked, “Shadows.” Jacky read in 2 parts, the first about her father, the second about her mother, both in every poem she writes she said.

The most charming reading of the night was by an interview of Samson Dikeman by Magnolia,  tossing the pages of their script to the floor as they finished each line. I read 2 new poems, the tribute poem “Joe the Bartender” & the shorter “Metaphor.” Carrie Czwakiel began with a poem written when she was 17 years old, “Smoke,” then what she called her “forgiveness poem” to her ex, “Husband, Father & the Drunkard.” Karen Fabiane began with “The Rain Came” from her first book Seeing You Again (Grey Book Press, 2014), then a new piece “Andalusian Girls.” Avery was the last poet of the night, first with a new piece written today, the characteristically effusive “Extreme Ideological Expulsion,” then to the extended sex metaphor of “You Are Art” — hey, aren’t we all?

Poets Speak Loud! is a production of (where you can find a calendar of the region’s poetry events) & takes place on the last Monday of each month at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, 7:30 or 8:00, donations accepted to pay the feature & support the cause — good food, cold drinks, hot wait staff — poifect!

December 1, 2015


(for all the great bartenders I know & have known)

Joe the bartender
is not always named Joe.
This one tonight is, but even
when their names are
Lynn or Alan or Elaine or Nick
they are Joe.

We always remember the first.
Back then the only bartender I knew
wore a long white apron, white shirt
a wide tie with a gold tie clasp
grey hair slicked back
from an Italian granite face.
He served me my first orange soda
on fight night in the back room
with my father before we had a TV
later my first legal draft.
In between, my father
who spent as much time with Joe
as he did at home, once sent me
to the Tavern for a quart of Budweiser.
Joe looked at me, asked
“Are you 18?” as I reached for
my new draft card. “I guess you are,
your father would never have sent
you here if you weren’t.”

At a bar in a chain motel in suburban Baltimore
where I stayed the second time in 6 weeks
the Bartender looked at me, “Bourbon & soda?”
she said. A nameless Joe in the top 10, always.

On week nights I wandered 2 blocks
to the Tin Palace for piano jazz & beer
& Lynn who always knew if my latest honie
had left or stayed, shared stories of falling
asleep on the phone. She could handle
a sudden crowd as if she were leaning
on the bar talking just to me.

Other Joes were poets: Melanie writing
behind the bar. Mary saving the poems
to read later in other bars. Alan with more
bar poems than we have poems on anything.

The Joes know how to not make you wait
while you wait, slide a draft to you
between a 17-ingredient martini
find the wine you like while
changing channels & bad plastic
hand you a menu, describe 3
specials, muddling mint, rosemary
asking about your day, your picks
for the Super Bowl, if you want water.
The Joes aren’t flustered, don’t apologize
they keep the wait staff happy
& you & everyone else.
They are there after you leave
& there when you come back again.

Goodnight Joe

whatever your name is.

November 29, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 19

I’ve been known to say, “If your friends & family don’t come to your readings, who will?” Our featured poet Carol H. Jewell did her job & packed the house. & since many of her friends are poets, we had a whopping 18 folks signed-up for the open mic. Before we got to that I had to invoke the night’s Muse, & since it was the 100th anniversary of the execution/assassination of the American labor organizer, poet & artist Joe Hill, I read the lyrics to one of his songs.

Ben (I thought he had written “Ber”) read a short poem that was over before I could snap his picture; later I bought his hand-made chapbook, ash from pallet town, which contained the poem he had read, & found out his name is Ben Atwood.

I had trouble also deciphering Samuel Maurice’s name from the sign-up sheet; he read a couple pages from a long poem “Shaving” which was more about trying to sleep. Kate McNairy (next month’s featured poet) read us a sample, “A Cup of Coffee,” on loneliness. Joe Krausman followed with a poem about “The Game of Life: Snake House” (about his mother & mice). It was good to see Sue Oringel out to read & she entertained us with a seasonal piece “November.” John Thomas Allen first asked me not to take his picture, then gave a long introduction to a love poem, “Shaded,” from his collection of his surrealist pieces.

Amber O’Sullivan read a poem to her from her cigarettes, which she was trying to quit during finals week. Allison Paster-Torres read “Hush” about returning to her childhood home, trying to sleep amidst fear. Alyssa Cohorn read “Me from Texas” about a good Southern girl buying ice cream. Lee Geiselmann read an erasure poem titled “Cut Flower” from the prologue to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Carol H. Jewell, tonight’s featured poet, is not one of those MFA students who just writes for her assignments & reads for her class, but a poet whom I had first heard reading out in the community open mics. She began her reading with formal poems, a winter pantoum, another pantoum titled “Attachment”, then a cento using lines from a variety of 20th century poets, then mixing forms into “Cento/Pantoum #1” again from a mix of poets. Then she switched forms to read an elegy for her brother “Sestina for Mark,” & a love poem to her partner “Villanelle for Becky” which concluded her “formal” poems as she moved on to free verse. Most of these poems were read without introduction. “Furtive” was about reading old poems, yearning for a past love, while “Untouchable” was prompted by reading about personality types in a psychology text. She read a series of poems with a literary theme: “Fantasy Realized” was set in at an open mic, “Literary Devices” talked about enjambment & other devices, ending with literary a joke, while “Writer” was about watching a spider, & “Cadence” was a series of 5 short Nature poems. “Hospital Poem #2,” from a recent stay, found humor in her hospital bed, & in related in some way “The Cure for Everything” was about salt-water, in some of its forms. The autobiographical “I Cannot Can’t Remember List” was written for a class this semester. She ended with a series of short, descriptive nostalgic poems about her dead brother, “Late December 2014,” “The Boxes of Your Stuff,” “Blue Sky Eyes” & “Chance Encounter.”

After a short break, I continued the open mic with a reading of my poem, inspired by Carol’s pantoums (& some of her poems about cats). I was followed by K(evin) P(eterson) who read a pop-culture piece “On Confusing Bo Derek with Bo Jackson.” Phil Good read a work-in-progress for Bernadette, recollections & a limited edition, & listing some famous poets.

Bernadette signed up simply as “B. Mayer” & read the playfully perplexing “Francois Villon Follows the Thin-Line.” Jacky K(irkpatrick) read “On Being Gregory’s Lover,” an imaginary Corso, of course. Billy (Stanley) made a rare appearance here to read “Heroes,” set on a richly described starry road in Kansas. Karen Fabiane who will read in this series later in the year, read the labyrinthine “Now Morning” (or “mourning”?). Bob Sharkey brought the night to a close with a brief, untitled piece.

Join us at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY for an open mic with a featured local/regional/national poet, for a modest (or immodest, if you are so inclined) donation, each third Thursday of each month.

& may the Muse be with you.

November 23, 2015

Drunk in a Midnight Choir Reading, November 14

This was a book-launch/reading/party held at the home of one of the editors, Albany poet Adam Tedesco. The full title of the 250+ pages collection is Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Volume 1: Welcome to the New Hallelujah & in case you haven’t picked up on the Leonard Cohen quotes already, there was another quote on the title page, “We have tried in our way to be free.” There are over 40 writers of poetry & prose whose work is included in the book. Adam is one of the editors, along with Eirean Bradley, William James, Chillbear Latrique & the apparent editor-in-chief Todd Gleason.

Tonight’s reading included co-editors Eirean Bradley & William James, as well as local, Albany poets Ian Mack, Samson Dikeman & Jacky Kirkpatrick. Bradley had read here in Albany back in November, 2013 at Nitty Gritty Slam #57.

Ian Macks started off the night with mostly short pieces, ranging in topics from relationships (“Ascent Descent Dissent,” “Endless”), to his favorite Batman villain, “The Riddler.” The one slightly longer piece, “Rehydration Dehydration,” played on words & meaning.

Samson Dikeman began with a poem written today, “Focus,” then on to a funny rant “Music.” Another funny, untitled, piece imagined Adam (the “1st man,” not our host) getting a job at a fruit stand. He read about being a mail-carrier in a piece titled, “Don’t Blame the Messenger,” &, for Ted Berrigan, “Things to Do with a Sonnet.” After a couple others, he finished with another new poem, a sad one about a new widow.

Jacky Kirkpatrick’s first poem, “Modern,” was a morning-after love poem. She went on from there to poems about her family & death, her father, a couple about her mother, & “My Brother Calls My Mother Collect in Heaven."  She also read a poem for poet Bernadette Mayer, “Of Age,” & ended with a piece from from her thesis collection, the working-class anthem “We Were Poor.”

Eirean Bradley

The visiting poets, Eirean Bradley & William James, read as one set, alternating pieces 4 or 5 pieces each. They were both LOUD (especially in the small space of Adam & Lisa’s dining area) Slam performers, usually reciting rather than reading, often with material, style & manner that is more likely found in what are euphemistically called “Comedy Clubs.”
William James
William James read one piece from the book, about his favorite locomotive (I kid you not), “Screaming Thunderbox (Obsolete Engine Blues),” & Eirean Bradley did one performance piece that was “an annotated list of why I moved to Massachusetts,” in which he tossed each page/reason to the floor as he read it. (I retrieved one page, which gives you a good idea of the emotional developmental level of this piece: “Every time you mention Des Moines God punches a fucking puppy.”) They both did a poem on suicide; WJ’s was titled “Letter Addressed to Myself after my 2nd Failed Suicide Attempt” while EB’s was a stand-up routine where he listed clever & “funny” ways of committing suicide. Like I said, they alternated pieces, which is a favorite technique when doing a group reading, but with my eyes closed it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to tell which one was reading, their work & their performances were so similar.

There was no indication in the book, nor from any of the performers, or our host, Adam Tedesco, whether they are planning future collections, but the subtitle “Volume 1” would certainly suggest that they are. Check out their website for more information.

November 20, 2015

Poets of the Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, November 13

This was the last of the season for this series, back again when the (not yet) snow is gone. In honor of our (fool-ish & married) featured readers, Philomena Moriarty & Sam Trumbore, Alan Casline, our host & M/C, announced the theme as “Married Fool,” with a quote from Shakespeare.

Glad that is all behind me, I began the open mic with a brand-new poem, “Joe the Bartender,” & one from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt, “The Birds’ Poem of Thanks.” A.C. Everson had 2 new poems for us, one about “This Guy” using his cellphone at a concert at The Egg, the other about the trees “Autumn 2015.” Joe Krausman entertained us with “Reflections at the End of Summer in the Garden of Good & Evil,” a short piece titled “Call in Love,” & “A Cleric Tends His Flock” for the co-feature Sam Trumbore (who hadn’t yet arrived); then was called back to read the poem again when Sam arrived later.

Mike Conner paid tribute to friends who had passed on in “A Bell Rings Gently” & in “Green Team,” then about himself “Still Floating.” Mark W. O’Brien said his first poem, “Enurning,” was about missing his “other half,” then read about a conversation with a cousin (“Hero Sandwich”), then from his 2014 chapbook Lenticular Memories “… how is it you are weary then?”

Mimi Moriarty (no relation to half of the featured poets) had the coolest bag of the night; she began with a haibun, “The Underside of Leaves,” then touched on the theme of the night with a piece about Noah (who of course had his wife along on the Ark) “Rainbow, a Reminder.” Brian Dorn read a couple of love poems, both from his book, From My Poems to Yours (The Live Versions), “Suspended in Time” & “Can’t Escape.” I hadn’t see Ann Lapinski here in a while & she read “Practical & Spiritual Advice for Picking Strawberries” (just what the title said). Our Host, Alan Casline, read from the spurious collection The Annals of Perious Frink, the anonymous piece titled “Tales from the Fox Creek Cottage Days” about a thief.

Philomena & Sam began (& ended) their reading with “Savage Chicken Poetry” based on the Savage comic strips, then on to a fast-moving set of alternating pieces, playing off each other’s themes. Sam led off with what he called “Sci-fi Haiku,” then a wonderful relationship poem “Delayed I Love You.” Philomena followed with a couple of her own, “I Only Know Exceptional People…” & “Love’s Compass.” Sam read a piece about an old relationship, “Getting Real,” an excerpt from a sermon. Philomena found inspiration from their son Andrew’s computer games in her poems “Kill Them & Take Their Stuff,” & “They Said There Would be Cake.” Speaking of computers, Sam read “De-Bugging” (what he called “a programmer’s sonnet”), then another sonnet “Music Words Epiphany.” Philomena pondered “On Being Irish” & on great minds (“Starships”). Sam returned to his sermons for a piece in rhyme about the Wheel of Life, then his words to Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah.” Philomena read 2 poems, “If Poems Were Wishes” & “Benefaction” from her new book My Moon Self: A Spiritual Memoir Through Poetry, ending with more “Savage Chicken Poetry.” The silly pointed fool’s hats seemed to add just the right touch of whimsy to this most delightful reading.

With the help of the gods & seasonal warming we hope to be back in the Spring here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY for Poets of the Earth, Water, Tree & Sky. See you then — if not before.

November 17, 2015

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 8

Unfortunately, my co-host/co-conspirator, Nancy Klepsch, could not be with us today. But many writers & listeners did show up, for a great variety of poetry & prose.

First up for her second time here was Sylvia Barnard, with 2 poems about her neighborhood, the first from her 2012 book of poetry, Trees, “Neighborhood,” the 2nd an untitled work-in-progress in which she invokes the past in the buildings around her. Peggy LeGee read a thank-you to veterans, a piece that talked out breaking the cycles of anger & of other root causes of war. Mike Conner had not been here in about a year, but said he was glad to be back & brought 2 seasonal poems, one about looking ahead to Winter back to Summer “Seasonal Morphing,” & one from late Winter “Fog & Chicken Soup.” Tim Verhaegen read a prose piece on sudden deaths, including that of his much-written-about mother.

Bob Sharkey began with his own descriptive piece, “Tate St.,” about where his grand-parents lived in Maine 100 years ago, then a poem by Elaine Feeney from Galway, Ireland, from a book he picked up at an Irish poetry festival in NYC. Joe Krausman found another of his poems that he had forgotten he had written, “How It Goes,” then one about “Jane the Psychologist” who sees meaning in everything. I read just one poem, a new one, “Naming the Parakeets."  Cathy Abbot read a tribute piece for Veterans’ Day, then a haiku. Howard Kogan’s poem was about what poets need, words (& balls, it seems). Brian Dorn read from his book, From My Poems to Yours (The Live Versions) as he has been doing, on death, “Pain & Poetry,” & “My Impropriety.”

Jamey Stevenson arrived tired from an all-night project & started off with some haiku, then a piece starting with horses, “The Meek.” R.M. Engelhardt made a rare open mic appearance to read from a new book coming out in 2016, 2 poems, “Not My Time” & “The Waiting.” Karen Fabiane read a poem from each of her chapbooks, from Dancing Bears “Oceans Everywhere” & from Seeing Your Again “Begone.” Robert had slipped in late & I added him to the end of the list; he read from his phone “He Walks” & a piece about hiding the past “There Is Something Drab About Fridays,” both filled with rich, descriptive language.

2nd Sunday @ 2 is just what it says, an open mic for poetry & prose held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM @ the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy — & it’s free. Join us.

November 10, 2015

Yes! Poetry & Performance Series, November 7

Yes, we were back again at the Albany Center Gallery for an eclectic evening of the sounds of words & a guitar. & an activist-oriented reading at that. Matthew Klane & James Belflower were our hosts & MCs.

Lee Gould gave a quiet, undramatic reading of often difficult poems. But the work engaged some of the world-wide issues. Her first piece dealt with “invasive species” — what, who, why are they — as much a matter of how we define things as an ecological issue. “Rationale” was read from a hand-made book (she is also a print-maker & crafter of books) with references not only to the Wa-Wa convenience stores, but also to native Ojibway culture. Her last piece, “Man Made” was a meditation on the manufacturing of our clothes, beginning with an image bag of her daughter’s cast-away clothes leading to thinking about a fire in a Bangladesh factory where many of those clothes could have been sewn.

Victorio Reyes, a long-time social justice activist, & performer in this area, gave a much different reading, beginning with his first piece, the anaphoric “I am this poem…” & as another piece was titled “This is a Rant Not a Poem.” While he did separate poems for Travon Martin, for Sandra Bland & for Oscar Grant, on racism & violence in American society, they were each individual pieces, with different approaches to the topic & in different styles, including a hip-hop sonnet sequence & self-consciously “anti-literary” rant. He also read a much quieter love poem, “Orange Love Seat,” & a touching elegy for his father “Lefty Morning Breeze.”

The final performer was musician Nathan Pape who was literally all over his guitar. His single, extended piece ranged from simple, melodic interludes, to volcanic strumming, thumping & massaging the guitar body, to ripping at & un-tuning the strings, getting sounds from almost every part of the instrument.

Yes! is a poetry & performance series so one is never sure what one will see or hear. Look for notices of future events on their FaceBook page.

November 8, 2015

Nitty Gritty Slam #104, November 3

I hadn’t been to the Nitty Gritty Slam here at The Low Beat since #100 & in the meantime there had been a regime change with Amani & Poetyc Visionz apparently taking over the management, bringing their own style to the event. Amani served as host & started us off with a couple of her pieces, including a sexy piece about her mystery man.

The open mic started with Olivia who read a long, rambling, stream-of-conciousness piece that she said was written yesterday, about the Skidmore College students were hit by a car over the weekend (Olivia is a student there). She was the first of many women poets in the open mic, greatly out-numbering the guys. Rashanda (I’m guessing at the spelling) said that she too was a Skidmore student & began a long, long set, like about 20 minutes, as if she were a featured poet, mostly personal therapy rants that all sounded pretty much alike. Tim Verhaegen was more judicious with his time, just 2 modest pieces about, of course, his family.

Jazz introduced herself as a homeless youth activist & did 2 pieces about her own experiences being homeless in New York City. Amanda did the first real poems of the night, the descriptive narrative of “Possession” & “Him.” Poetyc Visionz followed with his piece on dark & light with the message to be yourself. Jacky’s first piece was the “lighter” of the 2, “Swipe Right” about an encounter in a bar in Austin, then a moving memoir of growing up in Colombia County “We Were Poor.” K.P. said he had a couple of seasonal poems, a haiku by a friend, then “On the Weather, or Winter is Coming” which was actually about complaining. Salina ended the open mic with more real poems, on tenderness, love, sex & about the power of women in the “Game” of sex.

Rare shot (by Amani) of me doing Slam
There were just 4 poets signed up for the Slam, Amani, P.V., Tim Verhaegen & me, but first Jazz served as calibrating/sacrificial poet with the “Game of Love” for a score of 26. Since there were only 4 of us we went “head-to-head,” first Amani (her signature piece “Amandita…”) then me with “The Pussy Pantoum.” Amani gracefully conceded her spot, in spite of all her 10s, since she was the host, giving me the round. Then P.V. with his technology poem & Tim Verhaegen with “Pussy” (!), somehow technology beat “Pussy” — never so with me. That left me & P.V. This time he went with an audience participation piece (rare in Slam) & I got a respectable 24.5 for “Going Postal.” But it was P.V. in 1st place, me in 2nd, & Tim somewhere in 3rd, & after giving Tim a chance to do “Letters.”

The Nitty Gritty Slam is held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month at The Low Beat on Central Ave. in Albany, NY, about 7:30PM, $5.00 (cheaper with student I.D.), with an open mic for the non-competitive sort.

November 5, 2015

Poets Speak Loud!, October 26

This is always a high-powered event with a heavy dose of outrageousness, due in no small part to the host, Mary Panza, but tonight promised to be over the top with the featured reader Tim Verhaegen. But first a bit of the open mic.

Strangely enough I was first on the sign-up sheet & began with a poem about my first colonoscopy back in 1999, “Thru the Circle,” then a piece assigned by Shaun Baxter when he ran the open mic at the Night Sky Cafe in Schenectady “Zombie Gourd.” Joe Krausman’s 2 poems were about sex, the first about being “Too Old,” then the funny rhymes of “Pandering to Pandas at the National Zoo.”

Carrie Czwakiel was back again with 2 poems about an ex-boyfriend “Pain Lingers On” & the somewhat preachy “Complacency is Stagnant.” Don Levy read 2 new poems that I’ve had the pleasure to have heard previously (& would like to hear them again), “My Guy Friend” & “The Family Business” a letter to his niece about writing. J.L. Weeks was introduced as next month’s featured poet (& had popped up at the open mic during this year’s WordFest) & started with a rhymed Halloween themed piece on Jack-the-Ripper “The Leather Apron, then, from memory, the self-assertive “I Found My Way Around.”

Then on to the main event, featured poet/writer Tim Verhaegen, who is known for writing about his largely dysfunctional family. He began back in childhood with “Things Mom Used to Say When I Was 7,” then on to a piece about his older brother & his mother, "The Middle Child."  He already had us laughing & he would return to stories of his Mom soon. His poem “Letters” was about reading through a box of them from high school & college, & shifting tone to considering the labels we attach to others “Across a Crowded Ballroom."  Then on to poems reflecting different aspects of gay life, “It’s Down to You” (on cruising), “Cynthia the Stereotypical Angry Lesbian,” “The Pool Boy,” & the surprising “Swans” describing their dancing & fighting (& it applies to all of us I dare say). One piece was a hilarious take on writing workshops, on being praised & the price of fame. Tim returned to his mother (& father) in his final, bring-down-the-house piece, one I’ve heard before & one that always cracks me up, “The Fuck Family” — if it was a movie you couldn’t show it on TV.

Once the house quieted down again, Mary brought us back to the open mic. Cheryl A. Rice read 2 Halloween poems, the 1st so old she no longer remembers what guy it was about “Jack O’Lantern,” then to a poem about her niece on Halloween. Thom Francis’ poem “He Looks Around the Room” was short, poignant. Julie Lomoe read from a series a short poems that are observations from walking her dog to poop (no shit). Karen Fabiane’s 1st poem “Someone Laughed” spun out & around from the first cruel line that becomes a refrain, followed by a conversational poem of longing “I Woke Earlier.” Kevin Peterson read an anaphoric piece (“Your 4:00 called…”) about the job, “Working List of Lies I Told to the Therapist.” Avery, whom I hadn't seen out in a while, closed out the night with a song lyric pondering “What Do You Choose?”

If you want to join in the fun, come to McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany, NY on the last Monday of the month for Poets Speak Loud!, 7:30PM.  Come early & have dinner — good drinks, good food, good service — & good (mostly) poetry.

Sunday Four Poetry, October 25

I missed the season opener of this series last month but had to be here for today’s featured poet Karen Skolfield. I had met Karen at the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Festival when when she read as a winner of the poetry contest & invited her to read at the Third Thursday Poetry Night. But first today we had an impressive line of open mic poets, introduced by Edie Abrams.

Mark O’Brien began with a plaintive “missing you” poem, then to a childhood memoir about shooting squirrels “Gun Control,” & another “You Can Always Burn that Bridge When You Come To It.” Dan Lawlor said he was reading of couple of early, “old-fashioned” (i.e., rhyming), poems, “A Young Boy’s Literary Friends” (a tribute to the books he read as a youth), & an exploration of “What Is Music?”  Dennis Sullivan’s poem on the scourge of power started like Horace’s Epode 2 “Beatus Ille Qui” (happy is he who), then he read a poem for me, “All’s Well that Never Was” from when the hosts of Sunday Four honored me with the Arthur Dare Willis Award in 2011. Then I followed with a poem about my 2009 colonoscopy “Thru the Circle,” & a related piece “At the Center.”

Kathleen O’Brien’s first poem “Waste” was about food going bad, & her next poem “Thank You” was also a descriptive piece but this about the Home Front Cafe in Altamont. Joe Krausman injected some humor into the afternoon’s reading with a funny piece “Independence Day” about a picnic gone bad & the lawsuits that followed, then a poem on the dilemma of making choices, this or that. Lloyd Barnhart’s poem “Aromatherapy” was a rare piece that described smells, in this poem, of Autumn, then a square dance/death poem “Mockingbird.” Howard Kogan gave us “A Brief History of Fun” over the changing years. Sally Rhoades stuck close to her family, beginning with the auto-biographical “When I Was a Poet,” the “The Sky is My Witness” on her father as a poet, & ending with a poem for her daughters “A Summer Serenade.”

Philomena Moriarty began with a new piece about the violence of boys playing punch-ball, “New Orleans” (a “flash-back”), & a poem from her new book My Moon Self “If Poems Were Wishes.” Alan Casline returned from a visit to Montana with “Mountain Song” about clouds & birds, then read 2 poems from his recent book 64 Changes (FootHills Publishing, 2015), “The Army” (#7 in the I Ching) & “Deliverance on the Day For It” (#40), both read for the passing of a cousin. Bob Sharkey’s poems were of Maine, first displaying a shell carefully unwrapped for “The Shark’s Eye” with references to Longfellow & E.A. Robinson, then another about a storm in the off season.

Edie Abram’s poem was a timely piece about changes “The First Frost.” Joan Gran read a couple of companion pieces from a series of poems on the death of her mother, but both poems were about her father, “The Funeral” & “The Day After the Funeral.” Paul Amidon finished out the open mic with a couple of memoir poems, “Dinner for Two” & “Legacy” (a box of old photos & a garden gone to weeds).

Dennis Sullivan introduced the afternoon's featured poet, Karen Skolfield. She began with poems from her wonderful book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013), the book’s opening poem “Where Babies Come From,” then “Lost Mountain,” “Rumors of her Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” &, by special request from Dennis, “Ode to the Fan” a touching memoir of her youth & her father. Then Karen read some new poems, “I Asked My Son To Send Me a Word for a Poem & He Sent ‘Nothing’” with Biblical references, “Raven versus Crow” a made-up conversation with her son, “Death’s Head Necklace,” & a poem based on the curious fact (?) that there are only 2 escalators in Wyoming “Upward Mobility.” She ended with a couple poems from a new manuscript on military themes, “Double Arm Transplant” & another poem with Biblical references “Combined Plow & Gun Patent, 1862.” I admit to being a big fan of Karen’s intricate & engaged poetry, but I know from the reactions of the other members of the entranced audience that she garnered a number of other new fans this afternoon as well.

Sunday Four Poetry continues each 4th Sunday of the month at 3:00PM at the Old Songs Community Center, Main St., Voorheesville, NY, for a modest donation supporting the featured poet & Old Songs.

October 29, 2015

St. Rose Poetry Reading, October 23

In the absence of the Frequency North series due, I guess, to budget cuts at the College of St. Rose, it was refreshing to have this reading by poets Barbara Ungar & Bernadette Mayer & both teaching at the College of St. Rose.

Student Amber O’Sullivan introduced Bernadette Mayer with one of the best introductions in an academic setting I have heard in a long time, telling us “I’m not going to talk about…” but of course talking about what she didn’t want to talk about by not talking about it (or something like that).

Bernadette is teaching a course in the MFA program in creative writing at the College of St. Rose, & many of us in the larger poetry community have benefitted from informal poetry workshops at her home here in upstate New York (without paying exhorbetant tuition fees). Tonight she began with a long litany, at Barbara Ungar’s request, of all the “phil” words, a long compilation of ancient Greek words for the things we love, such as philalogia, philanecria, etc. Bernadette loves (“phila-“) wordplay, often for its own sake & read some of her earliest poems that wallowed in it, such as “Moon in 3 Sentences,” “Laura Cashdollars” (a high school classmate), “3 Men Resting,” & “Yellow Orange.” She ended with her “absolute most favorite poem to read,” available in Scarlet Tananger, an early work of hip-hop, “Words That Rhyme with Disease.”

Alyssa Cohorn did a more conventional introduction for Barbara Ungar, who read her own “Phil poem” from Immortal Medusa (The Word Works, 2015) “Dead Letters,” about mail being delivered to her house addressed to a former occupant. Continuing on with more from Immortal Medusa she read “For the Weather,” “Things Do Not Look As Dismal As They Did” (a found poem listing endangered species), the title poem “Immortal Medusa,” & “A Young Person’s Guide to Philosophy.” Then on to a couple new poems with dead poets connections, “Emily Dickinson’s Estate Sale” & one she said was based on Frank O’Hara’s poem “Ave Maria” “Maria Lactans” (the Nursing Madonna).

A great pairing of 2 local poetic treasures.

October 26, 2015

An Evening of Poetry and Prose, October 22

I’ve been to many poetry readings where the audience didn’t show up, but few at where half the readers were a no-show. Harvey Havel had organized this reading at the Hudson River Coffee House on Quail St. in Albany, NY with 4 readers, mixing poetry & prose. But, in addition to Havel, our host, the scheduled readers who did show up were Allen Parmenter & myself, Dan Wilcox.

Harvey Havel began the program with a reading from the anthology Coming of Age of a short story by Mary F. Chen Johnson about her experience with food in an immigrant Chinese family.

I followed with a selection of poems from various published chapbooks, beginning with “Where Were the Professors?” from boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press, 2010). The book is available in a Kindle edition.  Then on to poems from Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011), 2 from my latest chapbook, Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing, 2015), & a couple from Coyote: Poems of Suburban Living (A.P.D., 2015). I ended with a rare reading of “Baghdad/Albany” from Baghdad/Albany & Other Peace Poems (A.P.D., 2007).

Allen Parmenter read what he described as 7 brief sketches or poems form his spiral notebook, impressionistic image-based pieces that he ripped through without introductions, including images of dead birds, a dead god, night with plants & coyotes, & a voice as a hole. The last, & longest piece, I found the most beguiling, a list poem on mercy. I would like to see him read out more at some of the local open mics.

The Hudson River Coffee House is the scene of a weekly open mic that seems to cater mostly to musicians on Thursdays, starting at 8:30PM. For more information contact the Coffee House.