April 25, 2015

Albany WordFest - Open Mic, April 17

Our host Mary Panza
This is always the wildest night of the WordFest, & once again was held at the UAG Gallery on Lark St.  Folks had been signing-up online for weeks with the 7:00PM to 10:30PM time slots completely filled by Friday night. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone who signed-up showed up. This year, by my guess, a little over a third of those who signed up were a no-show. But who cares? What matters is those who did show up to read, including a few who weren’t even on the list.

Debby Mayer

Unfortunately I missed the first 2 poets, Judith Prest & Jessica Rae, 2 fine area poets you can sometimes find at open mics, & arrived as Alan Catlin was reading about a party in a backyard, Sylvia Barnard read about aging & the passage of time, while Debby Mayer explained “Why I Let My Dog Hang Her Head out the Car Window.”

Charles Straney entourage

There were some early no-shows on the list & host/MC/Ring Master/Dominatrix Mary Panza, often abetted by MC-in-training, Julia, established the ritual of calling out “They’ll rue the day!” whenever a name was called & no one answered. But Joe Hesch was there to read, as was Howard Kogan (his poem about imagined lives, “Bit Player,” perhaps my favorite of the night); Charles Straney should come more often & read more of his barn poems, while Joe Krausman makes it to lots of open mics & did a rare “accounting poem.”

Thom Francis with Molly & Julia

Cheryl Rice had poems for Groucho & her uncle, A.C. Everson had “new ones!” she proclaimed (later posted a marvelous video montage of the event); Brian Dorn read about all 40 poetry venues he visited this past year, & Jay Renzi’s phone rang while he read.

Brian Dorn reading, Don Levy lurking

L-Majesty mixed pomegranates & playgrounds, then Tim Verhaegen introduced us to his parents, “The Fuck Family,” & Bob Sharkey did a poem from past WordFests, & Don Levy was, well, Don Levy looking at “Hot Dudes Reading.” Steve Minchin had a gay tally sheet, Adam Tedesco got all auto-biographical on us, while Tess Lecuyer was proud of all new poems.

Ian Macks was a new face but read new poems & those from a chapbook, & Poetyc Visionz also had a new poem “The Black Experience,” while Anthony Bernini read of woodchucks, aging, youth & a tornado, then Caroline Curran included a marvelous piece of fiction about a clash with a student in class wearing headphones, & the poet going by the name Mystic breezed in with a cluster of short poems.

L-Majesty & his audience
I used my time to read, not my own poems, but poems of 2 friends who could not be there, the odd, reclusive poet from the West Coast Lee Pursewarden & former Metroland’s Readers’ Poll 2nd place Best Local Poet, Gary Murrow (both with poems in the new edition of Up The River). J.L. Weeks, a stranger, read untitled pieces from many late nights, &, of course, R.M. Engelhardt read dark pieces, new poems from a new manuscript “The Bones of our Existence.”

The no-shows kept piling up & Shannon, who hadn’t signed up, got a chance to read about frogs & phone booths & happy endings. The last poet of the night was also a fill-in, Lizzie, who did 2 poems, the last a funny piece on therapy, ending the evening with a smile — for many reasons.

There was one more event left to the 2015 WordFest, & if I can decipher my pages of notes, I will write about it next.

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