November 29, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

& may the Muse be with you.

November 23, 2015

Drunk in a Midnight Choir Reading, November 14

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

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

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

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

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

Eirean Bradley

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

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

November 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2015

Yes! Poetry & Performance Series, November 7

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

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

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

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

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

November 8, 2015

Nitty Gritty Slam #104, November 3

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

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2015

Poets Speak Loud!, October 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Four Poetry, October 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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