March 31, 2015
The Hudson River Coffee House, 227 Quail St., Albany, NY has a regular open mic on Thursday evenings, but I’ve never been to it; it is mostly musicians, with poets occasionally showing up. Many years ago here in Albany before there were so many poetry open mics there were many open mics for musicians (there still are) where they tolerated poets (barely). 2 poems is not nearly the mic time as 2 songs, particularly when you factor in the time it takes to tune a guitar (badly). So we poets began having our own open mics, & we have flourished.
Tonight’s reading was held prior to the start of the (music) open mic & was organized by writer Harvey Havel to promote his new novel, The Orphan of Mecca (America Star Books, 2014). He invited his friend & Orange County/mid-Hudson poetry impresario Robert Milby to host it for him. The flyer had advertised 5 readers, 2 of whom didn’t make it, but were substituted by 3 other mid-Hudson poets — nothing like excess.
After 2 hours of this I had no patience left for the folkies/singer-songwriters, or whatever they are today, tuned or out-of-tune, so I left. But apparently there is an regular open mic, even if you don’t have a guitar, here at The Hudson River Coffee House; give them a call at 518-449-2174 for details.
March 30, 2015
I was back once again for this new open mic in Albany, beer & wings at the bar, poet Sarah Sherman the bartender, & Samson Dikeman the host. There were a few readers who I’d seen here the last time (& elsewhere), but lots of new voices & faces — & nary a guitar in sight.
Jimmy was first up with one of his short-line rhymes, “Lucy.” Steven Roberts read a poem by Leah Umansky, “Elementary My Dear.” Lauren read a love poem so short it was almost not there.
Many of the other readers were from the College of St. Rose MFA program in creative writing, here with friends who were often much too loud at the bar, ignoring the readers. Lee G. read his poem “Serenity” then a longer piece, “Four Truths,” explaining who/what he is/is not.
This open mic (for music, comedy, as well as poetry) takes place on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays, or as one would have it “The Other Tuesdays,” of the month at Justin’s on Lark St., about 8PM — by the way the wings were great, & I hope Sarah's friends tipped her well.
There were 3 — count ‘em — 3! poetry readings in the area this day at the same time! As the Lovin’ Spoonful once sang, “Sometimes you gotta make up your mind…” — so I picked this one, because my friend Bob Sharkey was the featured poet, & we were all going to go to Smith’s Tavern afterwards. It was a good choice all around.
Edie Abrams was the host for the open mic, which at this venue they always do before the featured poet & introduced the first open mic poet P.M. (aka Peter, aka Pierre) Boudreaux who read a poem, “Infinity,” about his day. Paul Amidon strung some Winter haiku together, then read a Spring-time poem about gathering rocks as a kid, “Stone Boats.” Our pastor, Dennis Sullivan, had 2 poems on mortality/the Dead, “A Lifeline Thrown to Someone I Know” & a poem for his granddaughter about talking to the Dead, “Only Moments Ago.” Kathy O’Brien was back with a poem about baby sitting for her grand daughter,“Up Close & Personal” & then “Girl Scout Cookies.” Joan Gran’s poems were about reading poetry during her lunch break at the Library, from a series, Billy Collins & Charles Bukowski. A.C. Everson likes rhyming poems, today read a couple by one of her favorites, Ogden Nash. Lloyd Barnhart’s first poem, “Little Mittens,” brought back memories of that struggle, & his next poem, “Trout Fishing,” was about passing it on to the next generation.
Mark W. O’Brien read a new poem, “Effusions of a Melancholy Heart” that he had written on the back of a copy of his single-poem chapbook Cowboy Planet (Benevolent Bird Press, 2015), then read the poem, all 6 pages of it. Ron Pavoldi read a couple of poems remembering his father, “My Father Looks In” & “Full Moon March 18.” Thérèse Broderick brought the open mic to a close with 2 poems from a series based on the text of a course catalog “Metal Arts 1” (bring your own door-handle) & “Metal Arts 2” (need durable shoes).
Sunday Four Poetry is at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville at 3PM on the 4th Sunday of most months (not July & August), with an open mic & a featured reader, for a modest donation.
March 29, 2015
With Leah Umansky, Barbara Ungar & Nancy White, at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on a Friday afternoon. Part II was on the following Sunday at the Rensselaerville Library, but I had another reading I wanted to get to then (there will be a Blog about that eventually, too) so I made the drive North with my daughter Madeleine to Saratoga. Barbara has new book out she is promoting, Immortal Medusa (The Word Works, 2015) & Leah’s latest is a Mad Men–inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream (Kattywompus Press 2014) as well as a full-length collection, Domestic Uncertainties (Blazevox 2013).
Barbara introduced the reading by saying it was a celebration of Women’s History Month (March) & a pre-Poetry Month (April) event. I was pleased, as I guess the rest of the audience was, with the performers alternating poems, rather than each reading straight through, playing off against each other’s themes & images. As Nancy White explained they were reading on the theme of myths, both old ones & the making of new mythologies.
It was a wonderfully entertaining, literate way to spend an afternoon, with 3 relaxed, intelligent & attractive readers. I was surprised, though, when I talked to both Barbara & Nancy afterwards that with their forays into the midrashic that they hadn’t heard of the poet Enid Dame (1943 - 2003), who wrote many poems imaging Lilith in the modern world (see Lilith & Her Demons, Cross-Cultural Communications, 1989), as well as other poems based on stories in the Hebrew Bible, particularly her book Stone Shekhina (Three Mile Harbor, 2002). There is also a rare chapbook published by the Jewish Women’s Resource Center, The Lilith Question, published for the March, 1991 Lilith Festival. Such stories continue to be a rich source for poetry.
March 27, 2015
A good gathering of poets & listeners for this month’s open mic with featured poet Andy Fogle. Since we were in the penumbra of St. Paddy’s Day, I invoked the muse of Irish poet Anthony Raftery (1784 - 1835) & read his poem “The Lass from Bally-na-Lee,” translated by Desmond O’Grady. Then our first open mic poet, Alan Catlin, obliged us with an St. Paddy’s Day poem from his years as a bartender in an Irish bar in Albany.
New voice Kathy Sephas read a piece titled “The Lost Sheep.” Brian Dorn was next with “Reality Check,” a poem about hopelessness. Frank Robinson did not read from his book Love Poems, but read about Death instead. Thérèse Broderick (being Irish) followed with yet another Death poem, “The Grass” a childhood memory about her father. Karen Fabiane read “Oceans Everywhere” from her first book Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press).
After the break I came back with a poem from my new chapbook, Coyote: poems of Suburban Living, “Coyote 6.” Joe Krausman read a poem about gambling, “Born Loser” — & Alan Casline announced that Benevolent Bird Press will soon publish a chapbook of Joe’s poetry. & speaking of Alan Casline, he was the next reader with a meditative poem “Candelabra Lost Candelabra Found,” actually the 3rd poem he has written about this particular fixture in his house. Adam Tedesco was the inadvertent last poet (since the last poet on the list had left) with a poem titled “Electric Blossoms.”
The Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place each month on, well, you get it, at 7:30PM, with a featured poet, an open mic, all for a $3.00 donation.
March 23, 2015
The “St. Paddy’s Day Edition” of this ongoing Slam/open mic event, tonight hosted by Kevin Peterson, who began with a St. Patrick’s Day “prayer,” based on the Our Father, of course on drinking.
|Judging the Slam|
The Slam pieces were varied, starting with Ainsley’s “Open Letter from a Female Geek,” to Eliza Ryan talking about her tattoo, Elizag’s strident “Dear Young People,” L-Majesty on childhood, to “The Writer of Darkness” (Stephen) poem “Fighting Irish,” Illiptical on doing Slams, & Jimmy’s “St. Patrick’s Day” in rhyme.
|Eliza, K.P., L-Majesty, Elizag|
The Nitty Gritty Slam happens on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, with an open mic first at 7:30PM — $5.00, less with a student ID (not one from your 1980s undergraduate days). A production of AlbanyPoets.com.
March 17, 2015
Down in the Garden Room of the Pride Center Don Levy was upset that his featured poet had cancelled at the last minute, so it ended up being a small intimate group, just Don, Jessica Rae who had walked over, & me. Don suggested we do a “round robin” & we even traded comments between poems.
|Don Levy's hat & poems|
Back to Jessica with more therapy, “Disbelief.” Don’s poem was from May 2014, “Drunk College Kid on Quail.” & I read from my new chapbook, Coyote, the poems “Coyote 2.”
For the final round, Jessica couldn’t decide what she should read so handed me her folder of poems & I picked one for her, “From My Window,” a nice urban piece. Don’s last poem was based on pictures on Instagram, a wonderful bit of urban fantasizing on the bus, “Hot Dudes Reading.” I ended with my poem “Prophylactic” from the chapbook Poeming the Prompt.
It doesn’t matter how many, or who shows up, Live from the Living Room is about sharing poetry, & a pleasant time together, each 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, at the Pride Center, 332 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY. Join us for an open mic with, usually, a featured poet.
March 15, 2015
This is a new series started about a month ago by Sarah Sherman & Samson Dikeman at Justin’s on Lark St., but it was only the first one I’ve been able to get to. It is billed as an open mic for anything — music, comedy as well as poetry — but tonight there were only poets in the house (& some rowdy, obnoxious guys at the bar). The poets who read were a combination of folks who read regularly at the Nitty Gritty Slam & some others who have read at my Third Thursday series at the Social Justice Center.
Our kindly host, Samson, was next with a poem by Charles Bukowski, then one of his own, “In Austin,” about a rule in an Austin bar (“no cocks on the bar”) & dueling pianos. Avery followed with one of his “commercials” about “Heaven in a Sandwich.” Adam Tedesco read 3 poems, his own “Sister” (cool as ice) & “Amen” (that he described as “a poem brought to a boil…”) & in between read “The Lilac Field” by poet Dorothea Lasky.
Samson proposed a break to replenish our beers & keep Sarah busy, then another round of poems for anyone who wanted to stick around. But it was getting late for this old guy so I cut out. What I saw & heard was fun, particularly sitting next to Jacky. Check it out on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays of the month at Justin’s on Lark St. — bring poems, a kazoo, harmonica, guitar, & if you bring jokes make sure they are funny.
March 14, 2015
My co-host Nancy Klepsch & were pleased with the turnout of writers today, both regulars & some new faces.
I read first to promote my new chapbook Coyote: poems of suburban living (A.P.D.) & even sold one later. Tim Verhaegen read another of his wonderful cranky pieces, this on the noticing of differences among people & not being able to talk about them. Peggy LeGee’s piece “A Convenient Life” was about all the poisons & addictions (e.g., cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets) available a convenient stores.
Michael Avella was the first of the afternoon’s new faces/voices, read Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” then a piece of his own about doing the laundry & about loss. Bob Sharkey read “a prosy piece” he said, about a shooting in Troy, “The Incident.” then the recently-gone Philip Levine’s poem “Snow.”
Karen Fabiane’s poem “Seeing You Again” is the title poem of her second chapbook, then on to a morning poem of sorts, stringing together rich, detailed images as she is wont to do. Joe Krausman read a poem on death titled “Spring Cleaning” (it’s all the same, right?), then a take on Andrew Marvel’s famous poem “This Coy Mistress Spins a Web.” William Robert Foltin followed with 2 poems each with long rambling introductions, the first poem to his mother “A Very Capable Woman” then another on dreams. The last reader of the afternoon slipped in late, another new voice, Opal Ingraham, with a poem on pride & being homeless “Where I Slept” & a piece like heading out “Towards the East.”
We are at the Arts Center in Troy each 2nd Sunday at 2PM for an open mic for writers of either poetry or prose, it’s free.
March 12, 2015
I was pleased & honored to be one of the featured poets at this ongoing poetry event down in Beacon. The series had previously been at the Howland Center, now has moved across Main Street to the community storefront/performance space at the Center for Creative Education. I read with Matthew J. Spireng & Judith Kerman who was “streamed.” I had previously read at the Howland Center a few years back & have been a streamed poet (which has special meaning for an old poet with a huge prostate).
January’s Poets Speak Loud “Sixty-Nine.” I returned with a political piece on the shooting of Tamir Rice “Hands Up Don’t Shoot.” Just this week I had published a small (cheap) chapbook Coyote: poems of suburban living (A.P.D.) & read the title poem, then “Looking for Cougars” from Poeming the Prompt as a way to hype the books. My ex-wife & mother of my oldest son, Blake, Babs Brindisi Wilcox was in the audience with her partner, Ellen Youssef, so I read for Babs a poem I’d written in 1970, “Making the Cottage Ready for You.” When I read my poem “Kadinsky’s Red Spot” & its variations I asked if anyone could read Russian (Inna Erlich had translated this poem into Russian) & Valeria Likora volunteered to give the audience a sense of what the Russian sounded like (she read later in the open mic). Then on to the more recent “The Sestina Sestina,” “McDonalds with Love,” &, for the up-coming season, I ended with “What Passover Has Taught Me.”
After Robert Milby recapped some of the up-coming poetry events, they went on to the open mic. Jim Eve noted that this was the 16th year of the CAPs reading series & read a cluster of haiku. Christopher P. Gazeent read 2 poems from his phone, “Energy” & a love poem “Crossing Astoria Blvd.” Glenn Werner is another of the stalwarts of the mid-Hudson area poetry scene, tonight he invoked Spring with his poem “What the Cherry Tree Said,” then a poem titled “Wings.”
Neon (a street opera), which is described online as fiction, but you could almost hear the lines centered on the page.
Marina Mati read a city poem from 1984 “Survival” then “Teachings” about her mother, father & her brother. Maseo Whitaker read 2 playfully titled poems “Shakespeare Doing the Hump” & “The Robert Frost Kickball Club.” Mona Toscano read a bragging poem for Women’s History month titled “The Phoenix.”
Calling All Poets happens on the 1st Friday of the month, now at the Center for Creative Education, 464 Main St., Beacon, NY, doors open at 7:30 PM, reading begins at 8:00, $5.00 — featured poets & an open mic, supported by Poets&Writers.
March 10, 2015
The sun was on the other side of the Earth when I was last here — it’s been a rough Winter. Still Winter, and in spite of the traffic on the Northway I was able to get here tonight, for the open mic & the featured poet, Marilyn McCabe.
Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with a poem by Claudia Rankine from her book Citizen: an American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014), then on to the open mic. Walt started us off with “Dominance & Submission” a rant in short line rhymes, then “Mr. Frank” in the same form but more humorous, about paying his town taxes in change. Rodney Parrott read 2 pieces from the "Looking" section of his forthcoming chapbook Looking & Flying, “Things You See With Your Eyes When You Are Looking” & “Please Relax.” Jesse Mews performed a piece in a faux black hip-hop accent about running out of anger, & dirt.
Cornell University Press soon). Tom said he was here for the first time & read a rhymed ballad in the style of Robert Service “A Card Game with the Devil.”
Pina Bausch. The title of the poem “I Awake the Night with Dread” says it all. Then some poems set firmly in place, “Stone Church Road” with images of Nature & Time & a deer set in Middle Grove, “Hadley” about a spot on a trail that is her spot, & the more abstract, philosophical “On Hearing the Call to Prayer over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning.” The poem “Bell” was ironically about silence, “At Dusk” described a swallow, & she ended with a quiet poem about sitting on a café’s veranda “New Years Menu.”
After a break, Carol read one of her own poems, this about her chickens & a stalking fox “Alarm at Dawn.” Marcella read a narrative piece (she described is as “a sestina meets a prose poem”) “What We Learn to Make” about a pre-teen girl on a family trip to Florida. Jodi Johnson said it was her first time (!), her poem “A Ponderence” was a conversation with a kite, & more. Carl Shipstar read a Winter poem “Moon Silhouette.” Brian Dorn read his Winter revision of his poem “Whatever Will Be.” Stuart Bartow, who has featured here in the past, read 2 new poems, “Marooned” which was perhaps a combination of childhood memory & imagination, then a piece constructed from an entry in the Audubon bird book “Caroline, A Wren.” I followed with my 2 most recent poems “McDonald’s With Love” & “Birthday Poem 2015.”
I don’t often enough see Charles Straney reading his poems, tonight he read the descriptive “Winter Woods” then his “Poetics” in which writing is patience. Speaking of patience, W.D. Clarke had been waiting to be the last poet to read, another of his ballad style poems, this about being the keeper of “The Family Tree.”
This monthly open mic (1st Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, $5.00) is your best shot if you are a poet in Saratoga county, also featuring fine local & regional writers — Caffè Lena, Phila St., Saratoga Spring.
March 8, 2015
[Full Disclosure: I organized this event & I am the President of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.]
This program was part of an on-going series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. There were 3 local writers on the program this afternoon in the main auditorium of the Albany Public Library’s Washington Ave. Branch, Keith W. Willis, Mark W. O’Brien & K. A. Laity. Each writer read a selection of their work, then answered questions from the audience.
www.kalaity.com, including the forthcoming anthology Drag Noir. She read a short story “30 Versions of Warm Leatherette,” about teenage obsession, sex & murder, built around the rock song “Warm Leatherette,” originally by The Normal, which in turn is based on J.G. Ballard’s classic novel Crash. A punk-noir tour-de-force.
For more information about the Hudson Valley Writers Guild check out the website www.hvwg.org.
March 6, 2015
Back at McGeary’s, the scheduled featured poet snowed in in Brooklyn, but Albany poets were here, with el presidenté Thom Francis filling in as the feature (when was the last time he was a featured poet?). Vice President Mary Panza served as host & dominatrix of what turned out to be an all-male poetry revue.
So, under strict orders from Mary, I was the 1st poet up, with a couple of birthday poems, the perennial “This Birthday is Not Divisible by 10” & the new “Birthday Poem 2015.” My friend Joe Krausman followed with a piece based on the Book of Proverbs, then a draft of a new piece “Grandma’s Meatloaf.”
Pat Irish, who has been reading out at open mics & performing on the rock scene here announced he was moving to NYC, tonight did lyrics from the Moody Blues (to groans from some old punk rockers), then the 241st Chorus from Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues. Adam Tedesco is still here, read a couple poems about his personal, dark philosopy, “Post Void” & one written today “Debaser.”
& that was it, back out into the cold & snow. But we’ll be back again on the last Monday of any month (& hopefully so will some women poets) at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, 7:30PM, for more open mic & another featured poet (also, hopefully). Check AlbanyPoets.com for details.
March 5, 2015
Mark W. O’Brien read a long, flowing-like-a-river poem that indeed had a river in it, about those who have influenced him, particularly “Ma.” Kathleen O’Brien (no relation to Mark) read “A Nursery Rhyme Revisited" her version of “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater,” then a poem about watching her grandson play in the snow “Tracks.” Dennis (“O’”) Sullivan read a self-portrait of sorts “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” then a poem from 2012 “For a Boy About to Board the Train for January” for his grandson. Paul Amidon was the first of the rest of us non-O poets; he began with 2 season poems, “Snow Plow” & “Ice Storm,” then a clever poem using musical images “Notes.” Joan Gran’s first poem, “The Empty Chair,” was a tender piece about seeing the ghost of her mother at her daughter’s wedding, then on to an amusing piece about dinner on the River, entertained by an Elvis impersonator, “Cruise.”
Next it was my turn & I read 2 recent poems from January “McDonald’s Love” & “Birthday Poem 2015.” Howard Kogan read only 1 poem, that’s all he needed because that was his humorous, kindly take on aging, about shopping in a hardware store “Words Fail Me.” Joe Krausman can be humorous & thoughtful too, & shared a couple of musical pieces, “Why Play the Tuba” & a poem about composers who have died young, then ended with a seasonal haiku. Brian Dorn was also seasonal, reading his revision (to snow) of his poem “Whatever Will Be.”
I’ve been following the work of A.C. Everson ever since she has been coming out to open mics in Albany in the late 1990s; my refrigerator is decorated with her colorful handmade magnets, the ceiling of my “sun-room” with mermaids & angels, my Xmas tree with ornaments, all that originated as favors from her piñatas. I even have the (unbroken) piñata image of me, complete with a removable beret that she made for my Roast at McGeary’s some years back. Her list today ran the gamut, starting with “Brrr!” (she noted that all the items in the piñata today related to the poems), “Break One” (an ankle), a poem about good Karma visiting the Post Office, a poem for her son “Doing Time,” & “Another Dead Flower” a rant about the abuse of power. Then to an interlude of poems about the beach & Summer: “Sunrise Scene,” “Waking,” “Surfer,” & a poem of love & skinny dipping “Summer Dream.” A Valentines Day favorite is “Cupid is a Bastard.” She also read about looking but not seeing what is in front of us, then “Break 2” & an apology for being distracted during the Walt Whitman Birthday reading in Washington Park “Sorry Walt.” “Polly Potts” was about a grave stone she found, then a poem about a series of disasters for fellow poet Tim Verhaegen “Close to Home.” Her last cluster of poems included the tender “In the Garden of Mom,” “Snowball,” & “Come Again.”
Things aren’t always broken here at Sunday Four Poetry, but words are twisted & ideas stretched on the 4th Sunday of most months, 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center, 37 Main St. Voorheesville, NY; a donation supports the featured poet & Old Songs.