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.

October 25, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 15

Back in the ever-evolving space that is the storefront of the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY. with featured poet John Amen & a cluster of faithful community poets for the open mic.

After invoking the Muse, tonight the recently gone C.K. Williams, the open mic began, as it often does, with Alan Catlin, who read from his 2015 collection Beautiful Mutants (NightBallet Press) the poem “Hell In a Very Small Place,” that interestingly enough included an epigraph from C.K. Williams. Joe Krausman read a poem about lists & a book about lists, & numbers, all un-accountable. Sylvia Barnard reprised her poem from last night at “Live from the Living Room” about visiting a friend in assisted living & listening to Schubert.

John Amen, editor of the online Pedestal Magazine was on a book tour of the Northeast, & he was here tonight as our featured reader. He read a selection of poems from 4 of his books, starting with a poem, as he said, with a “hopeful direction,” from his latest book, Strange Theater (NYQ Books), “Self-Portrait in Spring.” From his book Christening the Dancer he read “Hiding,” contemplating a picture of his dead sister, then from More of Me Disappears the surrealistic “Last Words.” From the 2009 At the Threshold of Alchemy (Presa Press) he read from the multi-section “Portraits of Mary” exploring the aspects of a relationship #1, with its references to Clifton Park, of all places, & part #12, then a poem on his mother-in-law in a nursing home inspired by imagining the space where she is “In A Room.” Then back to Strange Theater, “Everyman” examining what is father, both as personal experience & as archetype, “Self-portrait twilight on a Thursday” & closed with last poem in the book “Curtain Speech” (for a theater in Charlotte NC, where he’s from). We are glad John Amen was able to include Albany & the Social Justice Center in his tour for this fine reading.

After the break I returned with the open mic, among announcements, reading my poem “Octoberland” a pastiche of the first stanza of the first section of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” for the end-of-season baseball. Don Levy talked of his teen-age niece taking a creative writing class & gave her advice in his poem “The Family Business.” Karen Fabiane was the final poet for the night with a poem written a long time ago she said, a grim view of humanity, “Fall.”

The poets of Albany gather each third Thursday at the Social Justice Center in Albany, 33 Central Ave., at 7:30PM for a reading by a regional (or national) poet & an open mic for our community poets

October 21, 2015

Live from the Living Room, October 14

Don Levy is the host of this cozy poetry series at the Pride Center in Albany, NY.

The featured poet tonight, Kenneth Salzmann, did a unique & wonderful thing: he created an attractive chapbook for tonight’s reading, ten-fourteen-fifteen: Love From The Living Room, which he gave out free to members of the audience. It was easy to keep track of what he was reading. He began with poem with a political slant “By Any Standard,” then on to 2 referencing poets, “In the Poet’s Garden (for Marge Piercy)” & “Walt Whitman’s Butterfly.” On to “On the Day of the Dead,” “Marginal Lives” (annotations in a used book), & the elegiaic “The Persistence of Ashes.” The poem “What But the Music” pondered the soundtracks of our lives. He ended with a poem from a workshop with Marge Piercy “Why Not Every Poem is a Sex Poem.” A pleasantly relaxed, good-natured reading & there were even a few poems leftover in his chapbook that he did not read for us to take home with us.

After a short break the open mic began with me & I read a poem from Gloucester Notes “Shaken, Stirred” then a poem from the Summer for my granddaughter “Girls & Boys at the Altamont Fair.” A.C. Everson sang us her lullaby “The Mute Mind.” Sylvia Barnard read a new poem about visiting a friend, “Schubert in Assisted Living.” Joe Krausman read about lost things: one a poem on lost languages, the other, “Ephemera.” Sally Rhoades began with an old poem “Broken Lives,” then a new poem written after seeing Joy Harjo read “So Many Maybes.” Don Levy finished the night with a political piece “Citizen Huckabee” & “My Guy Friend” about the dilemma of what words we use to describe our relationships.

Another fine night of poetry at the Pride Center of the Capital Region on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, starts at 7:30PM, for a modest donation.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, October 11

This series, that I co-host with Nancy Klepsch, restarted after a Summer break for the season last month, but I had another event to attend to & missed it. I was happy to be back with my partner & the interesting writers who show up to read.

First up was Bob Sharkey with comments & a poem about the anthology Best American Poetry 2015, his comments titled “The Cream Rises” while his annual cento composed of lines he liked was titled “Little Survivals.” Bob also announced a poetry contest that he is coordinating & would be open to all.

He was followed by Peggy LeGee who read an account of work-place harassment eventually leading to her being fired, a sad, tragic tale. Sandra Rouse’s first poem, “Sanctity,” was filled with vivid images of critters in the snow, while “Bridge to Richard” was about a cousin with whom she has lost contact. I read a poem from August, “Girls & Boys at the Altamont Fair” (for my granddaughter), then “Birthday 2014” from my new chapbook Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing).

Howard Kogan read a wonderful, humorous take on “Heaven,” then a related piece, in its 21st draft, “Over.” Karen Fabiane read a surreal poem on clumsiness & vigilantes “Atmosphere” then a new poem “Listening to Satie.” Sally Rhoades read chapter 2 of her work-in-progress memoir “Writing My Mother.”

Nancy Klepsch read a draft of her poem “The Basis of Advertising,” then a curse poem/rant “The Equal Opportunity Insult Poem.” Sylvia Barnard took the bus over from Albany & got here in time to read 2 poems from her trip to Ireland, “The Book of Kells” & “The Giants’ Causeway.”

So, in spite of the streets of Troy being blocked off for the Chowder Fest, the streets filled with people, we gathered for poetry & prose as we do each 2nd Sunday at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in the midst of it on River St., Troy, NY. Each month until June.

October 17, 2015

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, October 7

I haven’t made it to this open mic in some months, but was glad to be here tonight for 2 wonderful featured readers, Susan Fantl Spivack & James Schlett, &, of course, for the poets who show up to read in the open mic. Our host, Carol Graser, who had been one of the readers at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event at the end of September began with a poem by Joy Harjo, “Once the World was Perfect,” from Harjo's new book Conflict Resolutions for Holy Beings.

A perennial figure here, Rodney Parrott, read from his series of seriously playful poems on flying. Jesse Mews performed with stylized Slam gestures an intense piece about the weirdness of his college days.

While Mary Beth Kikel was telling us her personal history in Lake Placid & Saratoga she set up her tambourine on a stool draped with a colorful shawl, then performed 2 rhyming pieces, “The Cottage in the Wood” (filled with fairies) &, for Halloween, “Witch Trouble.” M.C. Rush said his poem, “Bone Song,” in spite of its title, was not a Halloween piece, then read a long chant-like anaphoric poem “As I Do Stand.”

Susan Fantl Spivack is a poet (& peace activist) whose work I’ve enjoyed for years & I was pleased to hear her read again. She began with a selection from her 2013 Bright Hill Press chapbook, In the Garden, beginning with the title poem, then a poem inspired by Rumi “What We Wake Knowing,” a couple of dead animal poems, “First Spring Work” (a doe) & “Skunk,” then “Proper Greetings,” “What They Carry” (a deer eating flowers), & “At the Garden Center.” Then on to other poems, the descriptive “Cindy’s Diner” & “Giving Blood.” Her final group of poems were “Psalm Like a Salt Grain,” “Humming the Names of the Tortured” (fasting to close the prison in Guantanamo), “Prayer to the Mother of All Beings” (about the murders in South Carolina), & the last poem “Make It Visible” — good advice for us all from an activist poet.

James Schlett has been a busy man since the publication earlier this year of his historical study A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks (Cornell University Press). He as been doing readings & book-signings throughout the region & the book has sold very well, as it should. Tonight he read from the ending of the book, then other sections, describing the camp & the funny tale of Ralph Waldo Emerson buying a gun. I’d first met James when he was a younger poet making his way on the open mic scene. He ended his presentation with a series of Haiku, on the Autumn woods, on driving, on seeing shooting stars, on reading to his daughter, showing he is a master of both long work & the very short.

After a break, Carol Graser returned us to the open mic, reading what she described as “a cute Halloween poem,” a descriptive piece about children in costumes. A group of poets had driven over from Utica for the open mic, the first was Rosie, who said this was her first time ever reading at an open mic, first a poem about traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas “Desert Light” & another titled “Death Took Too Many,” a very good début. Another Utica poet Garret Ingraham read a poem by Utica poet Roger Smith, then his own piece of social commentary, “The Inevitable Progress of Commerce.” Mike Cecconi had come over from Utica to read at Don Levy’s open mic at the Pride Center in Albany back in April; he is essentially a one-trick pony bellowing his poems like his ironically titled piece “This Is My Inside Voice,” & a stand-up routine turned into a “poem,” “Lemons.”

Still another Utica poet, Erica, read a dreamy, introspective piece about being alone at a waterfall, trying to just relax, enjoy the scene. Jonah Moburn began with a piece about a friend, then an angst poem “Body Without Organs.” Wyler Graham’s poems were written in short line rhymes, the first a funny piece about a baby “There’s No Sleep For the Wicked,” the second an anti-war statement on gender rules “Life of Reduction.” Tim Sneider is a regular here, he read a poem by his mother, then a Halloween poem about raiding the kids’ bag of trick or treat candy. Barbara Garro made an attempt at humor in the piece titled “The Unwanted Request,” then another piece “A Poem’s Plea.” The night’s last reader was Taylor with 2 unique poems, “My Pumpkin Mumpkin” & a biographical poem addressed to the year she was born “1995.”

This open mic for poetry held at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, starts about 7:30PM on the 1st Wednesday of the month, is sponsored by Northshire Bookstore & hosted by Carol Graser — always worth the trip.

October 13, 2015

Gloucester Writers Center Open Mic, October 5

I was pleased to be in Gloucester on the 1st Monday to be able to finally get to this open mic. Tonight it was held not at Vincent’s old place in East Gloucester but down on the end of Main St. at the Eastern Point Lit House, a bookstore/writing space/hangout (poet Michael McClure was staying at the Writers Center making it unavailable). The open mic was hosted by Amanda Cook.

Like any other open mic in Albany (NY), or Woodstock, or East Byjesus MT, there were at least a half a dozen readers signed up for the reading when I arrived, but the #1 slot was still blank, so guess what? I signed up #1. Trying to sell books I read from recent chapbooks the poems “Coyote 2” then “Looking for Olson’s Grave.”

 Next up was Virginia, who told me later that she was 86 years old & a life-long resident of Gloucester; she read a childhood memoir about Halloween, inspired by her husband’s 90the birthday. Don Kipp began with a poem about an open mic, “Emptiness, Thanks Emily,” then a cluster of short poems, including one about an Irish mythical creature, “A Silkie to her Sister.” Barbara Scott Nelson said she was a journalist writing stories about real people who use their hands to express their ideas, read about a maker of fine furniture who is also a blues musician. Jim Dinsmore’s strange cosmic piece was titled “The Death of a Wino.” Randy Ross first did a piece from memory, “One Day in Thailand,” then read the minute-by-minute account of “The Top Secret Work Habits of a Novelist.” Susan Emerson’s descriptive piece of watching a spider web in a Victorian bedroom was either a short story or an excerpt from a novel.  Bill Jackson began with a memoir of killing mosquitos with a “flip-gun,” then a piece on real guns, & a piece titled “Sink Holes.”

Our host Amanda Cook read a series of fragments dealing with football, confessions, food, news, etc. then a series of Face Book entries, with more people reading them than her (or mine or yours) other work. Dan Duffy explained that he is writing a story about his brother, imaging his trip across country in 1970, the segment he read about eating peyote & flashbacks of Viet Nam. Steve Waldron pulled one, folded sheet of paper from his pocket that contained 3 poems, “The Gate, The Flame,” “Leaning Tower of Babylon,” & the political satire “Paradisum.” Flinda Nix read a trio of prose pieces from writing assignments, “The Cowgirl,” another about a nurse resuscitating a patient, & “The Uptight Librarian.”

Willie Alexander (whose CD of songs base on poems of Vincent Ferrini is one of my most-played) recited a series of short lyrics, “Just Around the Corner,” “Format is Criteria,” “Stigmata non-Grata,” & “Wave Your Water Wave Your Sky” (imaging the music behind it). James Cook read a fascinating poem responding to last Saturday’s lecture at the Cape Ann Museum by poet Michael McClure, Cook’s piece entitled “The Biologic Politics of Mammalian Patriotism” (drawing on phrases from McClure’s lecture).

Chris Anderson, who is the proprietor of the Eastern Point Lit House, read an excerpt from a manuscript titled “Rock’n’Roll Ghosts,” a family memoir of his father, a farm & the Korean War. Sue Ellen also read from a book she is working on (seems like everyone here tonight is working on one), another childhood memoir, this of a fire.

The night ended with a pair of the youngest writers. First Abby Cook with the first few paragraphs of a story of a family in a car driving to a new home, then Sam Cook reading from Michael McClure’s book of poems written in part in made-up language & sound patterns, Ghost Tantra — & he did better with that than I think I could’ve.

It was quite a night of words among the (living) writers of Gloucester, & I’m glad I finally made it to one of these 1st Mondays. I will have to keep that in mind when planning my next trip here. But check out the other programming at the Gloucester Writers Center on their website.

October 8, 2015

100 Thousand Poets for Change, September 27

100 Thousand Poets for Change is an international event that was started in 2011 by Michael Rothenberg & Terri Carrion consisting of individual events, each planned locally, poetry & music promoting peace & sustainability. In the past few years an event has been planned by the staff & faculty of SUNY Adirondack (formally known as Adirondack Community College) in Queensbury, NY. This year they actually planned 3 events: a student poetry reading on September 24, a Faculty and Area Poets Reading and Book-Signing & a reading by Joy Harjo, both on Sunday, September 27. I was pleased to be invited to read, & to be listed on the flyer along with Paul Pines, Barbara Ungar, Carol Graser & Elaine Handley.

Faculty & Area Poets

The first part of the Sunday program was held in the Visual Arts Gallery in Dearlove Hall. There were 14 on the program & 1 last-minute addition, each of us limited to a (theoretical & sometimes actual) 5 minutes. Some of these performers are familiar names to those who attend poetry events in the region extending up into the North Country, some were familiar to those at SUNY Adirondack.

Marty Wasserman
It was a variety of work, starting off with Neal Herr with his guitar & humorous songs, one on “Climate Change” the other on suicide, then on to the personal, introspective poems of Nate (the last-minute add on). Some poets read from the work of others, such as Marty Wasserman with poems by Jewish immigrant poets & Miguel de Unamuno, & Lucyna Prostko who included a poem by a Polish poet as well as reading a couple of her own fine poems.

Kathie McCoy
Others read from recent books, such as Stu Bartow from his new book Einstein’s Demon, Barbara Ungar from Immortal Medusa, & Paul Pines from Charlotte Song & from Message from the Memoirist. Nancy White’s poems were from a project where she interviewed area farmers, young & old. Peter Fernbach read poems about students & teaching. Derek Java’s poems were based on an exchange of letters with a friend this Summer. I read an Oklahoma poem to acknowledge the presence of Joy Harjo & then a peace poem. Elaine Handley had a poem about war, another as a prayer.  The organizer of the event Kathie McCoy also had a poem about war but as one of series of palindromes.

Lee Gooden
The 2 highlights for me in a constellation of other stellar poems were Lee Gooden’s powerful political poem “Prefaces” written for the occasion & based on quotes from Hannah Arendt, & Carol Graser, the last reader, who ended the reading with the tender & cosmic “I Give You Birth…”

I also would be remiss to not mention Courtney Reid who handled the logistics, which anyone who knows about group poetry readings is like herding cats. Also, the students in the culinary school for the exquisite cookies (& who perhaps had something to do with the variety of small sandwiches & other refreshments available between the 2 halves of the afternoon).

Joy Harjo

Most poets familiar with late 20th/early 21st Century poetry in America will recognize the name of Joy Harjo. She is a member of the Mvskoke Nation, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma & was recently named the winner of the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award. She read today in Scoville Auditorium from her new book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015). But first she played a native flute (she is also a saxophonist performing with her band the Arrow Dynamics) to honor the “keepers of the land” then, like a blessing, her poem “For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet.” In the book, between each poem there is a short prose poem, sometimes only a sentence, sometimes a sentence or 2 which sometimes serves as a gloss, sometimes just adding to the mix. Some of the poems she did from memory, holding the book as a talisman. In between she talked of her upbringing, of finding herself as a poet, of the Indian schools (see “Indian School Night Song Blues”), & of early Indian poets such as Alexander Posey (another Harjo). Among the poems, she read about the trickster, “Rabbit Is Up to Tricks,” “Once the World Was Perfect,” & “In Mystic” (Connecticut). The title poem, “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings,” plays on instructions in a conflict resolution manual, taking it off into a another plane about the oppression & exploitation of native people in confrontation with the white world. She ended with a moving performance, singing her poem “Equinox,” a song for letting go.

Following her reading she gave generous space to questions & answers from the audience which led her back & around to discussions of poetry & native culture. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is just out & so only available in a hardbound edition, but I wanted these poems now, & the cover art is worth it — & Joy Harjo signed it.

As I remarked during my time slot, we poets are used to asking for change, passing the hat at every open mic.

For a full set of photos from this afternoon of poetry check out my flickr site here.

October 6, 2015

Reading at Hudson River Coffee House, September 24

This event was organized by novelist Harvey Havel at the Hudson River Coffee House on Quail St. in Albany, NY. The evening was hosted, for the most part, by the whirling dervish of the mid-Hudson Valley poetry scene, Robert Milby. A similar event was held back in March & 3 of tonight’s readers (Havel, Milby & Dorn) read then too.

Harvey Havel was the first up reading a chapter from his latest novel The Thruway Killers (America Star Books, 2015). This chapter, set in Connecticut, dealt with the planning & botched killing of the main character’s father, a sort of pawn-shop version of the Oedipus story. Harvey has published 8 novels, as well as a memoir about his mother, a collection of stories & one of essays. You’ve got to buy at least one — they’re available on Kindle & on Amazon.com.

John Douglas is a poet from the mid-Hudson region, the only one of tonight’s readers who didn’t read at the March event, & an apparent last-minute substitute for the advertised Christopher Wheeling. His poems ranged from those about writing poetry (“Mongrel Language”), to his son’s cancer (“His Biopsy”), to a house fire, to shoveling snow, to a couple pieces about West Point where he works, to more cancer, violence & death (“His Wife”), to a piece about the 1977 plane crash that killed 3 members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He tended to simply drone on, his poems generally narrative in simple, prosaic language — good thing we were in a coffee house.

Brian Dorn (left) & Don Levy

Brian Dorn is one of those poets who supports other poets by showing up at open mics all over the region, & has been a featured reader at most of them. Of late he has been promoting (which in the poetry world means “trying to sell”) his book From My Poems to Yours (The Live Versions) (Shires Press, 2015). He read a healthy selection, including “Hidden in Night,” “Pitfalls,” “I Need a Sign,” the seasonal “Changing Ways,” “Her Attributes,” “In God We Trust,” “Writing Poetry” (it ain’t easy), the political “Standard of Living,” &, the highlight of the night, “Poetry is Sexy” with Don Levy standing in (!) for Brian’s wife as the echo in the poem — pretty sexy.

Since the final reader had been the night’s host, Harvey Havel did the introduction of Robert Milby, who began by reading poems by Eavan Boland & the recently gone C.K. Williams. He included poems from his chapbooks Crow Weather (Fierce Grace Press, 2009), Ophelia’s Offspring (FootHills Publishing, 2007), & Dickens’ Pet Raven (Fierce Grace Press, 2014). His work tends to the Gothic, as in “Autumn Nymphs,” filled with references to the dead, (“Commons”), & ghosts as in “The Harris Estate,” & to 19th literature (Poe again, & Dickens). His reading stood in stark contrast to that of John Douglas, with Milby reading in his usual overly dramatic, "poetic" style, his poems filled with colorful, albeit archaic, language, opposite ends of the poetic spectrum.

As in March, this reading was followed by an “open mic,” but it was clearly a music open mic with the early arrivals pointedly indifferent to poetry. So I went home.  Besides, after 2 hours even I am tired of poetry & went home to a baseball game.

Poets of the Earth, Air, Tree & Sky, October 2

The featured poet for tonight, Brenda Coultas, was delayed in getting to Slingerlands from NYC, so our host Alan Casline had the open mic poets read first. Alan introduced each poet by reading brief comments on the (various) nature(s) of poetry by Carl Sandburg from his book Good Morning America. I won’t repeat each poet’s chosen intro.

I was first up with a new poem “Naming the Parakeets” then my satiric pastiche of Charles Olson’s “The Kingfisher” from my still-new book Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing).  Howard Kogan picked up the bird theme with a childhood memoir “At the Pigeon Store.”

Tim Verhaegen is upset by crowd-funding requests & wrote his own outrageous request for money for an antique lamp. Joan Gran’s poem “Unnatural Habitat” described a deer on her lawn eating her plants. Paul Amidon read about a great aunt, then imagined the ghosts in an “Abandoned House.” Our host in the Aboretum’s visitor center, John Abbhul read an essay on the big abstractions “What Part Does Truth Play in our Lives?”

Our poetry host, Alan Casline, read 2 poems connected to Bernadette (who wasn’t in the room at the time), “I Imagine a Poem by Bernadette Mayer” (on her poem “Why I Live in the Country”) & a “purposely bad” poem “The Black Caldron from Delmar.” Joe Krausman began with something new, “3 Scraps” on women, art, & Life, & something old “My Son the Meshugganah.” Malcolm Willison announced his first poem as “political” titled “Occupied” then read about cows grazing on poisoned grass in a poem titled “The Weeds of Fukushima,” realizing they were both political.

Phil Good described his short, drive-by poem as “a meta-poem” (which sounds like one of those faux theoretical terms to make the mundane sound profound). Adam Tedesco read 2 poems that I told him later I’d heard before, but, particularly with his work, improve with multiple hearings, the self-critical “I Got So Good at Compartmentalization that I Fucked Myself” & the series of metaphors “About the Heart.”

Poor Brenda Coultas, our featured reader, had left Brooklyn in a heavy downpour & missed the open mic. But she relaxed & did a good reading, from a variety of her books. She began with “Blackie,” a fantasy beginning with her dog, on to her son & snakes too. Next was an extended automatic writing piece written in an art colony titled “To the Song Bird Fallen on the 4th Floor” flowing from images of Poe, the Bronx, the view of Mount Greylock, that got interrupted in the middle by applause (or, was it really 2 pieces?). "Edna’s Cabin" was another art colony piece, then on to pieces titled “English Professor’s Lament,” & “Dragon’s Head.” She read 2 poems based on Italian masks in Venice, a local history sonnet, & then chunks from this Summer’s journal mixing the self-conscious & the mundane. She ended with the series of journal entries & note-book jottings about bums & trash gathered as her book The Bowery Project. Glad she made it through the rain & wind from Brooklyn to Slingerlands.

Poets of the Earth, Air, Tree & Sky is a series held, until Winter sets in, at the Pine Hollow Arboretum on Maple Ave. in Slingerlands, NY, once a month, at 6:30PM.

October 4, 2015

Olson Lecture: Michael McClure, October 3

This reading was part of an annual series held at the Cape Ann Museum, a series that started with the Charles Olson celebration in 2010. Poet & performer Michael McClure was today’s guest lecturer to a full house of Gloucesterites, visitors & a poetic luminaries.

James Cook, Gloucester poet & teacher introduced Michael McClure with a tale of his discovery of McClure’s work, & a litany of other San Francisco Renaissance writers.

Backed by projected slides of black & white images of Song dynasty landscape paintings, McClure titled his lecture “Greatness of Olson,” ranging from his personal connections to Charles Olson, to his own poems, from his earliest work, to new work. He talked about heading West in his youth with the intent to study with the abstract painters Mark Rothko & Clyfford Still, but missed them & ended up connecting with the poet Robert Duncan & his partner the painter Jess Collins, & from them into the 1950s poetry/art scene in San Francisco. He read his early work (“my first projective poem”) “For the Death of 100 Whales,” that he read at the (in)famous 6 Gallery reading in San Francisco in 1955, his first reading. It is an early example of what is now being called "eco-poetry."  He continues to write in this vein & read a poem from Ghost Tantras which he once read to a lion in a zoo; at one point he said, “biology is politics”. He included a number of poems from this book, written in a mix of English & sounds/syllables in made up languages, which had some heads in the audience shaking. He didn’t give titles for of his poems that he read throughout his hour lecture, which is fine, except for an archivist/note-taker like myself.

As for Olson, McClure read his own early poem “For Charles,” talked of his correspondence with Olson, publishing Olson’s “The Librarian” in 1956 in an early zine, & walking thru Dogtown with him, described by Olson in Maximus II, 37.

At the end he looked for some haiku in his new volume, couldn’t find them & ended with a marvelous poem, what he called “a plum song,” a descriptive piece beginning with fog, to the colors of plums, a mudra, circling back through the images again to fog.

Michael McClure has a new book out of new & selected poems, City Lights has reprinted his early book Dark Brown; also currently available are the above-mentioned Ghost Tantras, & one of my favorites, Scratching the Beat Surface.