March 31, 2015

An Evening of Poetry and Prose, March 26

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.

 Harvey Havel started the evening by reading the first chapter of The Orphan of Mecca, which tells the tale of a young girl in Pakistan, which, as the summary states, develops into “a stormy & passionate romance” during the troubled time of the birth of the nation of Bangladesh. It is the first volume of a projected trilogy.

He was followed by the first of the “fill-ins,” Brett Peterson who read from his laptop what he described as selections from a chapbook of poetry, mostly short, depressive poems with titles such as “Dreamer in a Fog of Knowing,” “Wasted,” “Failure,” “Darling Death,” “Autumn Echoes in my Mouth,” “Relapse.” One descriptive piece, “A Room in February” was filled with images of flu symptoms & shit, overall sounding like an undergraduate Baudelaire.

Marina Mati, another fill-in, has read a lot as a feature & in the open mics in the mid-Hudson valley, but this was her first time reading in Albany. She started with an interesting piece, “Dark Message,” that was cento built from lines from César Vallejo’s Trilce. “Mustard Seed 2” was a compelling, pensive, descriptive poem set in a restaurant in New York City, “Body Puzzle” was her reaction to the movie Her, “After Blake” was a morning poem, as was an untitled piece also set in a NYC restaurant like “Mustard Seed 2.” Among others, she had a couple of poems about painters & paintings, “Franz Kline: Painting #2” & “To Jackson Pollock.” Her ending poem was about Dick Cheney’s smile/smirk, “Blot.”

Brian Dorn’s reading was marred by loud talking at the other end of the cafe as folks with guitars impatiently gathered. Brian reads at many open mics in the Capital Region & beyond, but it always good to hear him. Tonight his reading was like a collection of poems I had heard before, like familiar friends. He included the love poem “Chemical Smile,” then “Sublimely Connected,” & a poem on religion & violence “Stop & Think.” To show his dark side he read “Dark in Me.” “Another Step Forward” was an environmental piece. He ended with a poem on thoughts before falling asleep that he has not read out before, “Hidden at Night.” In between poems he announced the individual events during Albany WordFest, April 12 to 18, paying to tribute to the poetry scene he is so involved in.

Haigen Smith, the 3rd fill-in, is a mid-Hudson poet I have not seen in a couple years. He included poems on shopping, such as one equating food with sex, & “When They Depose You.” “Seeing Clearly” was from a series of “construction poems,” this on laying black floor tiles. “The State of the Union” was a powerful rant on war & politics using the rhythm & rhymes of hip-hop, & “Conundrum” was another political piece on drug money financing terrorists. We need to see more of Haigen Smith reading his poetry.

The time was closing in on the 2-hour mark when Harvey Havel introduced Robert Milby as the final reader. I have seen Robert at many readings in the past, but a young poet in the audience, who had never seen Robert before tonight, later remarked to me that he thought it strange for a host at a reading to have himself introduced as one of the readers. Robert's poems tend to be long, ponderous pieces with a heavy bend towards narrative, using quaint, archaic language, as in “Omen on a January Morning” (has any poet used “garret” since 1910?), or “Slamming Doors Around Mozart,” or the self-serving “Baudelaire’s Beneficiary.” Meanwhile the guitar players were getting louder & Robert was getting more bombastic, ending with a couple of celebrity poems, “For Robin Williams” & “66 Days, for Bobby Sands.”

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

Open Mic at Justin’s, March 24

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.

Alyssa Cohorn, another MFA student, read “In Spite of, or, Steve Madden Saved My Life,” the kind of poem about shoes only a women could write, then a poem I could easily understand “My Father’s Ode to Bourbon.” Our host, Samson, read a poem by NYC poet Kenneth Koch, “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams” & then Samson’s own poem “Drop Dead.” Ford McLane, who is now known more as a painter, read a poem “For Painting,” then 3 urban Haiku, & a piece titled “God Walks Out.” Jacky Kirkpatrick is a Beat poet MFA student, which I have to admit is a contradiction in terms, but here she is, with a poem about chess master Bobby Fisher “Game of the Century,” then an untitled “hate poem” written at the bar about nobody paying attention -- & they weren't. I continued to promote my new chapbook by reading “Coyote 5” from it, then a poem written here at the bar at Justin’s a few years ago, about being at the bar, “Jim Morrison.”

Amber was another student reading here a poem about picking strawberries, then a short love poem (“Salt Hill 2012”), & a poem about a man in a Hawaiian shirt “At My Father’s Funeral.” Brian Dorn battled the persistent chatter from the St. Rose folks at the bar, but he’s been at more open mics than they have so he was able to project a Haiku, then an apology poem “My Impropriety,” then one for the Mayor of Troy “No Comment.” The last reader, Dan Prokop said he was in a band (Tony & the Pancakes, if I got it right), & finished the night with a (welcome) Summer poem.

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.

Sunday Four Poetry, March 22

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.

Although Bob Harlow is a 2-time winner of the Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate Contest, this was his first time reading in the open mic here (or in any other open mic I’ve ever been to); he read 3 poems, “Let Me” about the blue-dot of our planet, “Harvard Education,” & “Bonsai Christmas.” I followed with the timely (& recently revised), “What I Found at the Bus Stop when the Snowbank Melted” & from the recently published chapbook Coyote: poems of Suburban Living, “Coyote 6.” Tom Corrado has been accumulating his “Screen Dumps,” today read #197 (!). Howard Kogan’s poem “Send Us Your Best Work” was composed of the real titles of zines looking for submissions, & his poem “Heaven” wondered if that "place" was like working security in a casino.

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).

I had the pleasant task of introducing Bob Sharkey which all gave me a chance to acknowledge his past & ongoing work for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. He broke the ice with a recent piece from a trip to New York City, “After St. Patrick’s Day,” about a snow-globe with the work “Fuck” in it. The he read an untitled sequence of 9 pieces, apparently a mix of prose & poetry, which he has been working on, reading & revising, for some time. The mostly-unnamed characters include the bartender & patrons of the fictional bar The Iron Ear, set in the un-named but obvious City of Troy, NY. The stories include a poets’ night at the bar, a mystery story, a body exhumed, & a suicide, linked in some way with Chukee Cheese entertainment tokens, much like the bar of soap in the pocket of Leopold Bloom that recurs in James Joyce’s Ulysses. It was a fascinating tour-de-force that not only cries out to be a chapbook, but also confirmed for me that I had made the best choice of the 3 poetry events that day — then on to Smith’s Tavern to wash away in beer any lingering doubts.

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

Women, Myth, & Media I, March 20

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.

Barbara Ungar read exclusively from Immortal Medusa, with an emphasis on her midrashic poems  referencing stories from the Hebrew Bible, such as “Not Joan” (in the voice of Noah’s wife, who is unnamed in the Bible), “Sarah,” & “Kabbalah Barbie.” A couple of humorous poems, “Athena’s Blow Job” & “On a Student Paper Comparing Emily Dickinson to Lady Gaga,” came out of her experience teaching, others came out of the same waters of her title (it’s Medusa the jellyfish, not the Greek figure), like “Why I’d Rather be a Seahorse,” & the title poem (although another poem, “Call Me Medusa,” is a wink towards the Greek myth).

Nancy White, who is the President & Editor at The Word Works that published Barbara's book, also leaned heavily on versions of Bible stories, such as “Betty Friedan Reads Aloud to Eve who is Sick in Bed,” “Ruth to her Daughters,” a couple of poems on Lilith, & one from the New Testament, “Martha Admits She was Angry.” Her teaching-story poem, “When Susan B. Anthony was President,” actually came from an anecdote from poet Denise Duhamel, an amusing poem about what we can imagine. & speaking of new myths she read one for girls, “Ceremony for Coming of Age.”

Leah Umansky’s poems leaned more towards the “new-myth” end of the program, although she did read a poem referencing the story of Leah (“A True Story”), & another, “Messing with the Ashed,” using the language associated with Ash Wednesday. On the new-myth end she read a poem based on The Game of Thrones, another appropriating phrases from a review of an HBO re-make of the movie “Mildred Pierce,” & one on internet dating. But her main contribution to the new-myths were “The Times” & “Simple Enough for a Woman” from Don Dreams and I Dream.

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

Third Thursday Poetry Night, March 19

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).

Andy Fogle was tonight’s featured poet, & started with a poem by one of his teachers, Carolyn Forché, “Prayer.” His “Lake Tiles” is a linked series of poems, prose, about being out with his young son, collecting stones on a lake in Virginia. His poem “July 1978” worked in stories about his mother, an apparition. From a poetry boot-camp in college he read the poem “The Grower,” then talked about translating Egyptian poets with Walid Abdallah & read their translation of poems by contemporary Egyptian poet Farouk Gouida “Our Martyrs,” then into “Who Said Oil is Worth More than Blood?” His own tiny poem“Riot” was about fishing, then to another “cover,” a narrative/memoir piece by Kenny Carroll “Gambler’s Falacy.” Next one of his own about his father “My Father Calls While My Daughter is in the Bath,” followed by a wedding poem for some friends, & ended with another wedding piece “Rising to a Wedding Across from Mt. Hood, Oregon.”

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

Nitty Gritty Slam #90, March 17

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.

First up for the open mic was a new voice/face, practicing her public-speaking skills, Diana Dana who read a poem, fittingly enough, by William Butler Yeats. Brian Dorn read a love/sex poem, in his signature rhymes, “Inside of You.” Elizag read from her book Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostle, & Douglass Books, 2014) the poem “The Spinner’s Prayer” spoken by an Irish immigrant. Steven Roberts continued the Irish theme with a poem from his trip to Dublin, “Finding Gold.” I’m not interested in St. Paddy’s Day, more interested in promoting (i.e., selling) my new chapbook from A.P.D. Coyote: poems of Suburban Living, so I read “Coyote 4.” Tom followed with 3 limericks, which I guess qualify as “Irish” poems. L-Majesty got us down to basics with a poem titled “For Sloppy Erotic Poets” a sex-word stew.

Judging the Slam
Then on to the Slam, tonight with 7 1st round contenders. But first there was the need to “calibrate” the judges scoring (& I was one of them tonight), so our host Kevin did a drinking song with audience participation (of course during the Slam the use of a prop, like a pint glass of beer, is strictly forbidden).

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 survivors who went on to the 2nd round were, not surprisingly, Slammers Eliza, Elizag, L-Majesty & Illiptical. When the dust settled from that hot round it was L-Majesty & Elizag going head-to-head for #1, with L-Majesty taking it with his piece about losing his imaginary friends to rely on himself, over Elizag’s “The Poetry of Profanity.” Visiting Slammer Eliza Ryan took home 3rd place money.

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

March 17, 2015

Live from the Living Room, March 11

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
Jessica was first with what she called “a therapy rant” titled “It’s Permanent” & the repeating lines “you’re fucked up…” Don recounted the horrors of high school gym class in his poem “Climbing the Rope.” I followed with the up-to-date “What I Found at the Bust Stop When the Snowbank Melted.”

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

Open Mic at Justin’s, March 10

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.

Samson Dikeman served as host & brought up first Steven Roberts, one of the regulars at the Nitty Gritty Slam, with a couple of his signature rhyming pieces, these on the theme of St. Patrick’s Day, “Irish Gold” & “Fighting Irish.” Lori Snay read with the support of Jimmy a tribute piece to Elvis’s movies & the Beatles. Then Jimmy Snay followed on his own with a new piece that bordered on the porn (not that I care) a graphic description of a “Perfect Date,” then a piece for St. Patrick’s Day.

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.

Jacky K. started with a poem written on a plane from San Francisco “Flight #77” then an untitled piece with her daughter in the backseat of her car — but she was really incensed by the obnoxious assholes at the end of bar who were totally clueless that anything else was going on outside their own small world, so she said. I followed (& got right on the mic to be LOUD) with “What I Found At the Bus Stop When the Snowbanks Melted” then, to hype my new chapbook, “Coyote 2.” Danielle, who had been at the last Third Thursday Poetry Night, ended this round with a descriptive note-book piece about someone she knows (Lawrence) & his accident at work.

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

Second Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, March 8

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.”

This was Jessica Rae’s first time here, although she has frequented open mics in Albany & Voorheesville; she read an amusing prose memoir about competing in a talent show at age 14 lip-syncing to Cyndi Lauper’s pop tune “She Bop” then finding out years later that the song was about masturbation. Cathy Abbott was back here again with a poem to Winter in which she wished “will you please die…,” then a piece to “Ireland,” ending by talking about some books she has read. Kate Laity read a couple pieces by international women poets, such as Chloe Yates & her piece “The Moon Would Sing a Sad Song,” both connected it seems to Kate’s new anthology Drag Noir, etc. Howard Kogan said he was reading poems on “neglected topics,” the first on littering & our common ability to bio-degrade, then a poem on the various words for “poop,” for lack of a better word. Nancy Klepsch read the latest version of her poem “The Complication of Biggy” about the rapper Biggy Small, which I thought I saw on her FB page a while back.

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

Calling All Poets, March 6

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).

Matthew Spireng read first & began with a the title poem of his book What Focus Is, then read “The Crows” dedicated to his partner. These were like the poems I remember hearing Matt do, where the poet confronts the natural world of hares & birds. The next few were different, “The Pen” was set at a car dealership, “Water Based Lubricant” at the pharmacy (with his fly open), & “What Follows” about dinner after work. He returned to his Nature poems with “Winter Morning Walk,” a bit longer than his typical poems & a take on Little Red Riding Hood. Then on to “For the Girl Waiting for the School Bus” & a poem about the computer “Take Over.” Matt then told us the sweet story of finding his extended biological family, that he is writing a non-fiction account of it, as well as poems. “Annabelle Birdcall Croft” was about learning his birth mother’s name, while “For Those Who Dwell in the Mountains” was to his new-found siblings, after being brought up an only child by his adoptive parents, & “Family History” about interviewing others about it. “The Last Poem of the Century” was not quite the last poem he read, as he finished with one about a cat he “never met,” “Truffault’s Porn.”

I read next, pleased to have such an attentive & numerous audience. I began with a couple birthday poems, “This Birthday is Not Divisible by 10” & “Birthday Poem 2015,” then invited Brian Dorn up to read the poem he had written for 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 the break we were treated to a live streaming of poet Judith Kerman reading her poems. As often happens with this technology, her reading unfortunately got interrupted part way through, but they were able to get her back. Her reading included some haiku early on, a poem about New York City “Pop Culture,” an interesting Dadaist exquisite corpse done with Will Nixon “Instructions for the War Room” then what she described as some old prose poems that actually sounded like parts of a novel.

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.”

Raphael Kozek was a new name/face to me, read a poem titled “Wild West Dirge” & another referencing the photographer Dorothea Lange “Prophet.” Steven Coyle was another new voice to me; he read about cats in his basement, then a tribute to tonight’s sound man (who read later in the open mic) “There is a Man Here Larry Sansone.” Hayden Wayne read a long, dramatic piece from 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.”

Valeria Likora, who had helped me out with the Russian read an untitled piece written today, beginning “Hello Grace…” Christopher Wheeling (who is the resident photographer here) read a couple of untitled pieces from his notebook. Larry Sansone’s first poem “The Great Fly Over” sounded like a commercial for an airline, then read “Banana Split” from a series of poems he’s been writing about the city of Beacon. Robert Milby cited some dead poets & read Edmund Walker’s “Go Lovely Rose,” then his own “Slamming Doors Around Mozart.” Mike Jurkovic brought us all back home with a couple of his poems & that was it.

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

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, March 4

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.

I was surprised & pleased when I arrived to see James Schlett, who had been a regular in area open mics a few years back, then disappeared; tonight he re-surfaced to read several haiku (James told me that he has written a book of non-fiction, A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks, to be published by 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.”

Then on to our featured poet, Marilyn McCabe, whom I was pleased to have featured at the Social Justice Center in 2012. She has 2 books out, Rugged Means of Grace (Finishing Line Press, 2011) & Perpetual Motion (The Word Works, 2012). Tonight she read new work, beginning with the image of a skull of a bird in the ground “Incarnate,” then on to “The Dark is Shifting Imperceptibly,” & “Home Away” to her 90+ year old mother. “Blizzard” was for the Season & “Remember Me” was for the German choreographer & modern dance performer 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

Community of Writers, March 1

[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.

Keith W. Willis is a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, the Mythopoeic Society, and the Latham/Albany/Schenectady/Troy Science Fiction Association, and his debut fantasy novel Traitor Knight will be released in July 2015 by Champagne Book Group’s Burst SFF imprint. He described his work as a fantasy novel that is not afraid to use humor. He read the first 2 chapters of Traitor Knight, filled with an antique, hiccuping dragon, a maiden in distress & a hero with a sword. Look for announcements in July when it is published.

Mark W. O’Brien (Marcas W. O’ Briain) is well-known around the open-mic poetry scene & in 2014 launched his book of poems Lenticular Memories: (Benevolent Bird Press) at the Fermoy International Poetry Festival in Ireland. Today he read a selection of poems from Lenticular Memories: as well as other poems, often dealing with his parents & siblings, including the just-published (Benevolent Bird Press) poem to his brothers Cowboy Planet. He also paid tribute to the recently gone Voorheesville village character Roger Spencer with a poem intertwined with a the folk tune “Tom Dooley” performed by Gail Allen on guitar.

K.A. Laity teaches at the College of St. Rose & has a raft of publications you can find out about at her website, 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

March 6, 2015

Poets Speak Loud!, February 23

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.”

There had been a featured poet scheduled, Richard Levine, but this being Winter & the Northeast & Richard living in Brooklyn, weather intervened & he’ll be rescheduled when the snow mountains melt. Instead, Thom Francis did a rare feature reading, beginning with a grim poem about his mother & father, then to his classic “Third Can” (he said the title was suggested by someone in the audience when he read it at the Lark St. Bookstore one third Thursday many years ago). A couple poems about characters on the edge, “Watching You Crumble” & “Al” (a customer in the beer store in Clifton Park where Thom once worked). “Stuck” was about that familiar feeling of watching the clock at work, but then on to a poem about a happier moment sitting on his porch. The poem “Easter Visit” was about his grandfather in the hospital, & he ended with another classic, “Machine,” a love poem to his insulin pump. Sometimes this brutal Winter can have an up-side to the storms, & this was one of them.

Back to the last of the open mic readers, the first up was a new face & voice (whose family must’ve been from Texas) Austin Houston, with 2 untitled poems, the first set in a hospital waiting for the Angel of Death, the second a personal statement about following no gods, but both with images from religion. Steve Minchin began by saying “some crap about words,” as he put it, then a poem for his boss “Remembrance of Muzzles Past” & the equally contrary “I See You Are About to Say.” Last poet (with the last poem) was rocker Nick Bisanz with an obsessively rhymed piece written at work based on a quote “Sometimes I Wonder Why I’m Not Going Under.”

& 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 for details.

March 5, 2015

Sunday Four Poetry, February 22

 Up to Voorheesville for the open mic, with today’s feature, the piñata queen herself, A.C. (Breaking My Art) Everson. Dennis Sullivan welcomed us with a reading of the late Jim Williams’ poem “Tercet Four: In My Head.” Then Edie Abrams served as M/C for the open mic. It turned out to be an afternoon of poetry, puppets & piñatas.

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.”

Alan Casline performed “Tour of Jonathan Swift’s Puppet Show” with his own hand puppet. Philomena Moriarty said she was reading some “very old poems,” beginning with one about birds & dandelions in Crossgates Mall “Life’s Invasion,” then “Horses” referencing images from Hurricane Katrina & watching her Dad die, then a simple piece inspired by Norman’s Kill “Place.” Megan McKinney Gillespie’s poem “Keep Your Guard Up” was a product of being in Bernadette Mayer’s poetry workshop, the assignment to write about tornados.

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.”
Then, as her sobriquet, would have it, she smashed the snowman & scattered his little snowman treats into the audience — a classic, classy performance by Albany’s Piñata Queen.

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.