December 29, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 15

It was a cold & blustery night. In past years when Sanity Clause visits the Social Justice Center at the December third Thursday, there are often more men than women to sit on his lap to say how bad they have been throughout the year before receiving a gift of poetry. But ah, this year, the women braved the cold & only 1 guy signed up on the open mic list. In addition the featured poet was Philomena Moriarty. It was a good night for Sanity Clause — & for all those who showed up to listen & to read. Continuing a tradition from the last few years, the Muse I invoked was the gone poet Enid Dame (1943 - 2003) & I read her moving “Holiday Poem.”

A bonus gift for Sanity Clause was the arrival from Florida of poet & novelist Jan Tramontano, back in the area with her husband Ron for a family visit. & eager to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap she signed up 2nd (which became 1st). Since there was only of hand-full of poets on the list, each were permitted to read 2 (!) poems if they desired. Jan read a piece about her father titled “Atlantic City,” & “My Mother’s Silk Scarf” combining her mother & her mother-in-law.

Dineen Carta returned to the open mic to read from her book Loving the Ache: a Woman’s Journey an effusive, hopeful poem “Letter to the Universe,” then a sensuous poem, “The Real You.”

Our next reader, Dawn Marar, also brought her husband, Hanni, along & it was a good thing because between the 2 of them they took all the photos of the readers on the lap of Sanity Clause. She began with a poem she just happened to have with her “Bartender” a story of a violent attack at a piano in a bar, then a poem re-written after the election, about meeting & marrying her husband & the conflicts in the Middle East, “Endgame.”

That was the last of the women poets, & Alan Casline was the next open mic poet, who read just one poem, a descriptive piece about a statue at a cabin in the woods “Contemplation of a Buddha Looking Out.” I ended the open mic with 2 poems, beginning with a new poem “Lew Welch in Albany” (for Jordan Smith), then an older, more seasonal piece “Christmas Eve, 1945.” Of course I made no attempt to verify veracity of the Zen koan, “The joy of Xmas is the sitting upon one’s own lap.”

Tonight’s featured reader, Philomena Moriarty, is the author of My Moon Self: a spiritual memoir through poetry & I had been honored to have been asked by Philomena to look over an early stage of the manuscript. Her reading tonight began with some words from the Irish poet, Michael Longley, on the “uselessness” of poetry, but that it can us “tune-up,” then on to one of her own Irish poems, a childhood memoir, “Shape Shifting” & an older poem, “Deep Down,” that ponders what is real. She read a couple poems about suffering, “Corpses,” inspired by Hurricane Katrina, & “Calculations” on war & surviving. The next poems were more light, including the Buddhist inspired poems “The Thief Could Not Steal the Moon” & “Still Here” mixing in a Gospel story. On to her book & the section on feminism & the poem titled “St. Philomena.” Other poems included “Starships” & a poem inspired by a trip to Florida “Fish,” & she ended with “If Poems Were Wishes…” from her book. On this December third Thursday Philomena, in the spirit of the season, blessed us with the gift of her poetry.

We read poetry here, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday of the month, starting about 7:30PM, with an open mic for community poets, & a local or regional featured poet. Your donation supports poetry events in the area & the work of the SJC.

December 14, 2016

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

After a couple months subbing for each other, Nancy Klepsch, my co-host, & I were back together again doing our tag-team hosting act. It was a word-filled afternoon with 15 signed up on the open mic list — new voices & the stalwart regulars.

We started off with a reader new to this venue, Diane Sefcik, with a poem inspired by browsing in a bookstore “Grabbing a Line,” then one delving into her native roots “Quest (for Crazy Horse). Dan Curley, a classicist by trade, read a poem parsing the Latin expression “Carpe Diem,” then “Our Father” on his father’s passing.

Howard Kogan read the dream poem “Imagination” from his brand new poetry collection A Chill in the Air (Square Circle Press), a book that contains many of Howard’s fine poems I’ve been hearing him read at open mics in recent months. Dave DeVries read a poem inspired by a visit to a Canadian basilica, “The Oratory.” Mike Conner began with a poem by Rod McEwan on football, then to his own poem “Street Politics” inspired by the the street names in Troy.

Jil Hanifan read 2 poems she said were actually not from her own experiences but from that of Nancy, inspired by phone conversations, “Cat Attack,” & “Write #3 Girl Friend #2” a poem that begins & ends with actual text messages. I had to follow that & read 2 new poems “Lew Welch in Albany” & the brief “What Makes America Great.” Kate Laity read a piece of flash fiction, the sexy & violent “Repetition.” Karen Fabiane began with a love poem from the 1980s “Poet to a Sleeper,” then another relationship piece “Stealing from You.” Nancy Klepsch said she has been trying to not make sense (unsuccessfully it seems) & read a political piece perhaps titled “Grot Groat Great,” & another that dipped into politics with images of mushrooms “Schroom.” Bob Sharkey unfolded his poems from his pocket & read first a narrative about finding a place to pee “Between the Blue Lands” & a descriptive birthday poem “69.”

This was Charlie Rossiter’s first time here since returning to the Northeast from many years in Chicago & he read a Haibun “Picking Up the Pieces” (earrings & the leftovers of a champagne party in a Saratoga park), then from his collection of poems with Albert DeGenova Back Beat (Cross Roads Press, 2001) a poem from the 1960s “Campus Politics.” Peggy LeGee read a funny & political seasonal piece “The Trannie Claus.” Samuel Weinstein read for the first time anywhere, a true poetry virgin, the theatrical “Beautiful Madness the Super Sane,” then “The World is my Self-Reflection” mixing in Nietzsche & Abby Hoffman. & we ended the afternoon with still another new voice, Lana Harvey who read a family story addressed to the city “New York New York,” & a narrative of a break-up “Goodbyes.”

Lots of good poetry & prose again on this 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY. Join us the next time.

December 8, 2016

Thin Matter Book Launch & Signing, December 3

A packed house in The Cheese Traveler to celebrate Alifair Skebe’s new book & to hear her read a selection of her poems. If one is to have a poetry reading, better to have it in a small space as opposed to some huge stadium, better to say “the place was packed” than “there were a lot of empty seats.”

I had already been enjoying the book, having ordered my copy directly from Foothills Publishing. She began with poems from 2 other chapbooks, “Poppies” from Love Letters: Les Cartes Portales/Post Card: Les Lettres d’Armour (Basilisk Press, 2004), a maddeningly laid-out flip book, & “Kiva” from El Agua Es la Sangre de la Tierra (Finishing Line Press, 2008).

She then read from Thin Matter what she called “a labyrinth of poems,” suggesting we let her reading wash over us, mixing her metaphors, & beginning with the poem “Halo.” The poem “Desire” was originally a broadside & she said the poem could be read differently each time, which gave sense to the page-layout in the book. Others read included a dream-like “Spinning Paper,” another that was a piece of a multi-part poem, & the almost obligatory “Hudson.” I’m continuing to read through these intriguing, sensuous poems, enjoying the wash of images & ideas.

The advantage of having this reading at The Cheese Traveler, 540 Delaware Ave., Albany, NY is the fine selection of refreshments served before & after the poems, the cheese, olives & wine that were as poetic as Alifair's words.

December 2, 2016

Harmony Cafe, November 28

Monday night has become a busy poetry night, but I opted to drive down to Woodstock to the Harmony Cafe at Wok ’n’ Roll, mainly to hear again the intriguing poetry of Adam Tedesco. This weekly event is run by host Michael Platsky.

Of course, it being Woodstock, there were 6 or 8 poets already signed up, but the #1 slot was still open — so I took it. I read the oh-so-current poems “The Elect Shun Mourning & Celebrate” & “When Donald Trump Farts.” Pamela Twining followed with a rant “High Holy Days,” then a piece titled “Proof Positive” (that freedom is possible). Teresa Costa didn’t read one of her own poems, instead one by poet Bob Kaufman “Benediction.”

There is a tradition here that the grand ole mensch, Donald Lev, reads 4th, just before the featured poet; he began appropriately enough with “The Beginning of History,” then a tribute poem for Roberta Gould “The Dogs’ Story,” “The New Great Communicator,” “Upper West Side Scene,” “The Works,” “Inauguration Day,” & “Lunch” like manna.

I usually see Adam Tedesco at poetry venues in Albany, where we both perhaps should have been tonight. But he enthralled his Woodstock audience with the twists, turns & leaps of his poem. He began with a couple poems, “Lingam” & “Apologia,” printed like broadsides on large sheets of paper. Sometimes he read titles, sometimes not, & all with a minimum of introductions, letting the poems speak for themselves — or not. There was a piece based on a Guns’n’Roses song, a couple of mushroom poems, including one about the 4th of July with his wife, Lisa, a couple of poems with his daughter as a character, one on the children’s book series by Roger Hargreaves (e.g., Mr. Messy, Mr. Silly, etc.), & a couple of aquatic eco-poems “Manatee Habitat” & “In Our Aquatic Phase.” I was picking up on Buddhist images in a number of his poems & was pleased when he read a selection from his recent Reality Beach chapbook, Heart Sutra. An eclectic, wide-raging reading.

Leslie Gerber seemed to do a “mini-feature” beginning with a poem written after Denise Levertov, others, including some from his new book The Edge of Sleep. Lenny Brown began with a song “The Racial Glacial Memory,” a poem titled “Cosmic Intelligence” on the election, a drug-induced philosophy “What’s the Matter,” & another piece on the election. Ron Whiteurs is always a hoot, poems with sex & funny rhymes, & title cards like a Vaudeville act, “My Credo” & “The Gism Jerk Gang.”

Christian began with a piece of obsessive, single word rhyming from memory, & then a cluster of short pieces from small pieces of paper. Richard Comerford did a rare reading, a piece titled “Opportunity” from his notebook, then the famous Longfellow poem “The Children’s Hour.” Philip Gurrieri did his sham shaman act with a free-form ramble & a big stick. Andy Clausen capped off the night with his rant “I’m A Bluesman” accompanying himself on harmonica, filled with his favorite phrases, & references to Bangkok, Prague & The Wailers — pure Woodstock.

This weekly reading & open mic takes place on Mondays at 8:00PM at the Harmony Cafe of the Wok’n’Roll restaurant & bar in Woodstock, NY.

November 29, 2016

Community of Writers, November 20

This is an annual event held at the Schenectady County Public Library, sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & the Friends of the Library, & is coordinated by Catherine Norr & Alan Catlin. I was the MC for the event this year. There were 6 writers in a variety of genres, poetry & prose, a reflection of the great variety of literary talent we have in this area.

Appropriately enough, first up was poet Brian Dorn who not only attends most, if not every, poetry open mic in the area, but is also one of the organizers of the annual Day of the Poet contest held at the Colonie Library the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He read a sample of his rhyming poems from his collection From My Poems to Yours (The Live Versions).

Next we turned to prose & Susan Morse who began with an essay/memoir from childhood about the death of her dog, “Escaping Limbo.” Then she had us in hysterics over a mis-understood plan for a tree for the annual Festival of Trees at the Albany Institute of History & Art with a piece titled “Merry Cat-mas.”

Back to poetry from Sarah Provost, whose collection of poems is titled Inland, Thinking of Waves (Cleveland State University Press). She read poems of childhood & hurricanes, as well poems of love & sex just to spice up the afternoon.

Carl Filbrich is the author of a mystery novel set in Las Vagas, The Heavenly Casino from which he read the first chapter effectively teasing us. The story centers around a Las Vegas reporter, John Holiday, & the murder of preacher who had planned on opening a Christian-themed casino.

Jordan Smith has published 7 collections of his poetry, including the 2011 The Light in the Film (University of Tampa Press) & the digital Clare’s Empire (the Hydroelectric Press). His poetry covered a wide range of figures & topics, from John Brown to coffee, Mozart, the election & the death of Garcia Lorca, even some references to his own fiddle-playing.

We ended with more poetry from Judith Prest. She read mainly from her new collection of poems & photographs, Elemental Connections, generally short poems, & managed to squeeze in some political poems as well. As a nature photographer she has also published an attractive calendar for 2017, from Spirit Wind Press.

This Community of Writers reading in Schenectady is a welcome start to the holiday season (it is held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year), particularly if you want to start your Xmas shopping early with books from local authors.

November 25, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 17

If it weren’t for our featured poet, Karen Schoemer, it would’ve been guys-only in the house. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I do like a little diversity in the audience. But first I had to invoke the Muse, another gone poet, this the recently gone Dan Lawlor, who would on occasion attend the Sunday Four Poets series (itself now gone as well) in Voorheesville, & I read his poem “The Waterfall,” happily provided to me by Alan Casline.

Speaking of whom, Alan Casline was our first reader in the open mic with a rhyming “Song of the Game of Shadow.” Mark O’Brien’s poem “Tell Me You Remember” was like a letter to a loved one. Richard Jerin has become a regular here & read a dream poem titled “I Write to the Wind.” Bob Sharkey read about a drive through farm land looking for a place to pee “Between the Blue Lands.” Joe Krausman has been finding poems he didn’t remember writing, such as “She Just Stepped Out” inspired by a woman who stepped off a mountain in Kashmir.

This was Todd Johnson’s first time here & he read a lush poem of loss “Murmur.” It’s been quite a while since W.D. Clarke joined us here at the Social Justice Center but we were pleased to hear one of his rhyming narrative ballads, this based on a true, Western story, about the burial of “Tommy.” My poem was also a true tale, set at the Old Songs Festival“Who Lost A Bra at the Folk Festival?”

Tonight’s featured poet, Karen Schoemer, was the lone woman in the room tonight, & the first thing she did was to take control & ask the guys to fill up the front of the room rather than sitting in the back. She began with the poem “Solstice” talking about feelings in a relationship & filled with the everyday details of the world around her, which set the pattern for the rest of her poems, such as “Diane Arbus” which began describing a photo exhibit, but then about herself. A couple of the poems used the setting of a bar as a jumping off place, as in “Sycamore Bar” in which the smell of whiskey reminded her of her father, & “Hotel La Pinta” written to go with music. She is ever the observer in her poems, like “A Room with a Prayer” about a woman but then spinning out to a grim urban setting. & she is always the center of her poems, hard to tell if she is talking about others or herself, or just some poetic persona, like in “What’s Inside What I Already Know” or the aptly titled “Narcissus.” She ended with the dream-like “November Sun” which was the winner of the 2015 HVWG Poetry Contest.

The Third Thursday Poetry Night happens at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30PM with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us each month on the, not to be redundant, third Thursday. Bring a poem.

November 18, 2016

Writing War & Peace, November 12

Bertha Rogers, the impresario of the Bright Hill Literary Center of the Catskills, organized this event as the “First Annual Day for Veterans & Communities.”  All the readers were veterans who had served in the US military.

I had met Marc Levy through our mutual friend & Vietnam veteran Dayl Wise, who with World War II veteran Jay Wenk had also been scheduled to read but were unable to be here. Marc has a detailed website, Medic in the Green Time, that not only includes his own work — writing & photography — but that of other veterans.  He read a number of pieces from his experience in Vietnam -- about being on patrol, portraits of young Vietnamese boys & girls, on making GI coffee & eventually "Heading Home."  He also described his project of recording his dreams, both of Vietnam & post-war, including one with Donald Trump in it. His poems are descriptive, deeply personal, event secret, & always moving.

Suzanne Rancourt is a veteran of both the Marine Corps & the Army. She read from a large manuscript of loose, un-paginated sheets, bedizened with multi-colored tabs & stickies. The poems were interwoven with her commentary on her life & musings about art, writing & healing, including on her experience of being raped & her own murderous rage in reaction to a break-in at her home. She said that a lot of these poems hadn’t been read out before. She also discussed her experiences as a practitioner & scholar of Express Arts. At one point she had members of the audience randomly choose poems from her unbound manuscript & her poem “On My Way Home” ended up being read twice, a message perhaps from the poetry gods.

Like Marc, Richard Levine is also a Vietnam combat veteran & began his reading with some poems from that experience, including the grimly descriptive “Field Bandage” & “Triage.” He also read from his 2012 Bright Hill Press chapbook A Tide of a Hundred Mountains the poems “A Mother Welcomes a Son Home from War” & “Disturbing the Peace” about 2 veterans in a bar in Brooklyn. He also read some new pieces, “Fire a Village,” “Graceland” a chilling piece about seeing someone who looked like a comrade who had been killed in Vietnam (with references to Michael Herr’s Dispatches & “the rock’n’roll war”), & “Reaching to the Horizon” about the war 30 years after.  Richard divides his time now between Brooklyn & upstate New York.

I read a variety of pieces that addressed war, both that of Vietnam & our more recent invasions, & peace, beginning with an old rant “Richard Nixon Must Die” & ending with the painfully current “When Donald Trump Farts” — perhaps the two poems could be mashed up into one mega-political, anti-fascist epic, “When Donald Trump Farts Richard Nixon Dies” (or any combination thereof).

I was proud to be a part of such a program of poets & artists whose work I admire, especially that of the indomitable pink-haired Bertha Rogers.

The Bright Hill Press & Literary Center is a whirling literary & artistic vortex located at 94 Church St., Treadwell, NY — check it out when you can.

November 14, 2016

Arthur’s Market Poetry Open Mic, November 9

We all agreed that it was a good thing to gather for a night of poetry on the evening of the morning after the night before, away from talking heads & charts & numbers & maps. Our host Catherine Norr broke out in song to get us into the open mic. Richard Jerrin began with a poem written in the cold (with his gloves on?) one of love & longing, then a longer fragmented piece titled “He’s New.”

One of the group of young writers who frequently gather at the long table to workshop & socialize, Brittany Moesbe read a piece of short prose fiction “Envelope” about reluctance to open a letter from a past love. Carol Jewell is the master of the pantoum & read 2, “The Ox Herder,” & “Cento Pantoum #2” an impressive tour-de-force of repeating lines from a variety of poets (& a variation on the form she has staked out as her own). Ginny Folger addressed what many of wanted to do this morning “Sleeping in Late of a Morning.”

Another of the young students, Shayla Clark, read 2 pieces having to do with identity & defining herself as an artist, “Artist’s Rivalry” & “Ethnic.” Rocko read a short piece on misunderstanding “Whatever Was Meant.” Brian Dorn responded with a poem (in rhyme, of course) about uncertainties “Whatever Will Be.”

Melody Davis was the night’s featured poet. She began with a series of haiku from her collaboration with visual artist Harold Lohner, “One Ground Beetle,” currently at The Word & Image Gallery” in Treadwell, NY, then on to poems from her 2 books. From The Center of Distance (Nightshade Press) she read a poem of New Orleans, “The Camellia Grill, & from Brooklyn “Persistance.” From Holding the Curve (Broadstone) she read another Brooklyn poem, the grim “Casualty,” then the much more hopeful “Why I Teach Children Poetry,” a poem about watching CSI with her daughter, and a poem filled with math images “The Trigonometry of Children.” “Sugar” is a self-portrait “crown of sonnets” filled with the images of sweets, taking her through the ages 9 to 13, then she ended appropriately enough for this night-after with the last poem in the book, “Blessing.”

Catherine Norr returned us to the open mic after a break with poems from her book from Finishing Line Press Return to Ground, one of my favorites, “Mississippi Riverside Chat” then the title poem, drawn from a dream. Carol Graser read from her book The Wild Twist of Their Stems (FootHills Publishing) the chant-like “I Give You Birth.” Don Levy is quick on the draw & already has a poem about the elections “The Thing from The Poseidon Adventure is Called the Morning After.” I also read a post-election poem, but one written many elections back, “The Elect Shun Mourning & Celebrate.”

Jackie Craven read a piece of short prose, a poetic bread recipe from “Mrs. Knickerbokcer” from her new book of short fiction from Omnidawn Publishing Our Lives Became Unmanageable.  Susan Kress read “on the theme of hopeless dread”, the ghostly “Open House.” Bill Notro said he usually writes songs, then read a dark murder story in rhyme that hadn’t been set to music, then another rhyme, just written now, another “morning after piece” of a more aggressive orientation. Oh well.

This series is in the Stockade Section of Schenectady at Arthur’s Market each 2nd Wednesday at 7:30PM, an open mic & usually a featured poet. Free.

October 31, 2016

Troy Poetry Mission, October 26

This was the 2nd gathering (I’d missed the first) of a new poetry series at O’Brien’s Public House in Troy, run by former Albany poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt. The reading took place in a ballroom-sized space off the main bar area. There was no stage, or sound equipment for that matter, so it was hard to decide where to sit, & where the readers would would perform. But we figured it out.

Rob began in the spirit of Halloween (he had brought a talismanic copy of the poetry of E.A. Poe but no one read from it) by reading a poem by Tim Burton about Vincent Price. As often happens, I ended up as 1st on the open mic list, also with a Halloween poem “Zombie Gourd” & one on the election day horrorshow “When Donald Trump Farts.” Brian Dorn approached Halloween with his poem titled “Dark in Me,” then the love poem “Her Attributes.” In the Halloween mode, Tim Lake read a poem about the deceased William Robert Foltin “Killing Frost Descending” then a memoir written in France in 2011 “Flexible Flyers.”

Speaking of France, Mary de la Torre was back in town in the guise of the gentleman assassin, Pierre Francois Lacenaire (1803 - 1836) complete with blood stains on her white, lace-trimmed blouse on her breasts with a poem read first in French, then in English “Blood Karma,” then an erotic poem “I Want.”

Tonight’s featured reader, the first in this new series, was long-time area performer Jason Martin. He began with a piece about growing up in the Adirondacks, as he said, “one of those stories that rhyme” with guitar. Not all of his pieces were with guitar, such as the anti-government eco-poem, “Effects Not Proven,” or the manic “Last Night at the Office” based on Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile…” & speaking of Dylan Jason ended back on guitar with Dylan-style lyrics, accent & mumble. If there had been a stage, Jason would have commanded it as he did the wide-open space of this dance hall — & I wish I had video of his footwork as he played his guitar, the still shot just doesn’t do it justice.

R.M. Engelhardt brought us back to the open mic with a couple of his poems, “Insurrection in Bohemia” & the political preaching of “Dear Candidate.” Karen Fabiane actually descended even further into the far corner of the room to read her poems, first one written today “At Best” with cooking for a pot luck & a drum circle, & another, “Sometimes People.” Devon Simms recited & performed “Nativity,” a Xmas nightmare poem that included the smashing of a creche.

Ed Rinaldi showed up (he only lives a couple blocks away) to read “Hone In” inspired by a photo, & an eco-poem from his Blog “a recycling wishing bird is bones and buttons.”  Perhaps Matthew Sekellick missed Rob’s note on the sign-up sheet, “2 poems,” as he tacked on a few more after his first 2, which were just fine, the first a list of titles of plays he hasn’t written, & the political piece “Where Are the State Funerals For…” (the workers).

It was a fine night of poetry, but no Poe. This series is slated to continue on the last Wednesday of each month at O’Brien’s Public House, 43 3rd St., Troy — 7:30PM sign-up, 8:00PM (or thereabouts) start.

October 30, 2016

Poets Speak Loud!, October 24

This reading is usually on the last Monday of the month, but since that would put us here on Halloween, our folks moved us up to tonight. As usual, our host Mary Panza kept order — or fomented chaos, depending upon your point of view.

Sylvia Barnard had gotten here early for dinner & signed up first for the open mic; she read a recent poem with subtle rhyme about an old map of her home town in Massachusetts “Circa 1895”, then a new piece, “probably not finished,” musings from her trip to Portugal on “Lisbon.” Signed up as “Louise the Red,” Carolee Bennett was next with a poem inspired by clouds, “Billow,” then a poem about her father’s heart surgery “To Mend is to Scar.”

Julie Lomoe was a week early for Halloween in a punk-rocker fright-wig, all dressed up to read a memoir of her time on the Lower East Side “Ballad of the Rats” (2-legged as well as 4-legged varieties). Joe Krausman read poem titled “Larcrimae Rerum” (on Spring cleaning & “the attic of the brain”), then a poem pondering his origin “I Came From Where?” Don Levy read a couple poems exploring gay culture, “Bear Facts” & “The Origin of Brunch.” Shannon Shoemaker made a rare & welcome appearance to read an untitled break-up poem, then one titled “October” (with horses).

I’ve heard Annie Christain read her poems even before her recent book Tall As You Are Tall Between Them (C&R Press) came out. Her poems are compelling & complex so it is nice to have the texts to go back to after the poems fly by at a reading, & having heard her read from the book a few times now I’m beginning to know which of the poems seem to be her own personal favorites. Such as “The Sect Which Pulls the Sinews…” that opens the book. In spite of its title, I’m beginning to think “I Took to Walking Down the Middle of Highways to Avoid Getting Shot” is a love poem. Others she read included “Pretending to Go and Come from Heaven by Fire,” “Villagers Chop Them In Half Thinking They Are Snakes,” “Inside a Handbasket…” “M-K Ultra 2,” & “A Maple Gets Red.” Her poems are peopled by strange characters speaking of strange things — much like a poetry open mic, come to think of it.

Dineen Carta showed up once again to read the ironically titled “Love Story” & “Choices,” both from her book Loving the Ache: A Woman’s Journey. I followed with my pastiche of “The Waste Land” the baseball-themed “Octoberland,” & a true story from this year’s Old Songs Festival “Who Lost a Bra at the Folk Festival?” After Mark, our attentive server adjusted the light for her, Karen Fabiane was able to read 2 recent poems “Sometimes People” & “She’s Not a Kid Anymore.”

Robb Smith (who will be the featured reader here in November) read an excerpt from a novel-in-progress, from a woman’s point of view about a guy who is a pig (like any Presidential candidate we know?). Bob Sharkey read his poem in the “prong-horn” form “Holy Mother of God” then one titled “I, Man” on the innocence of Americans. Brian Dorn, the last reader for the night, read from his book seasonal poems “Changing Ways” &, what he said was the closest he had to a Halloweeen poem, “Dark in Me.”

This series will return to its usual last Monday of the month, here at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Clinton Square, Albany, NY, 7:30PM — bring a poem or 2 for the open mic.

October 28, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 20

I was pleased to be able to offer to Charlie Rossiter his first reading since returning to the great Northeast from Chicago. In addition to traveling the Albanys of the USA with Charlie (& Tom Nattell) Charlie had fixed me up with readings in Chicago when he was living there. Before the open mic, as always, I invoked the Muse, tonight the sadly gone local poet April Selley, by reading her poignantly humorous poem “For Once, the Dwarf Gets the Girl.”

Richard Jerin started off the open mic with a poem from the 1970s “The Children of Thomas Station.” Joe Krausman read a true story “On Being Unemployed in my 40th Year.” Dineen Carta was here for the 1st time, read “The Dream” from her self-published book Loving the Ache: A Woman’s Journey.

Thérèse Broderick didn’t read a poem but announced her upcoming reading with the Breathing Lights Art Project coming up on November 4th & 5th when you can hear her poem about it which she didn't read tonight. Frank Robinson did read a poem, “Chicken,” instructions on how to play the game, so be it. Philomena Moriarty will be the featured poet here in December & tonight gave us a sample, with a new poem written today about Autumn “When the Trees Speak.”

Charlie Rossiter began his reading with “Up Early Reading Yang Wan-li” as an introduction to himself & his esthetic, then on to a poem from an early Albany workshop, “Yin,” imagining begin a woman (the title suggested by Tess Lecuyer). “My Billy Collins Poem” was just that, then a couple poems from his 2009 All Over America: Road Poems, including one of my favorites “It Was A Damn Fine Alabama River Wedding.” “Ceremony at the 42nd St. Library” was about reading Kerouac’s pocket notebooks in the archives, “Deep Understanding” about poetry, while “Who We Are & What We Want” was written to read at the Oklahoma Labor Fest in 2010. On to some poems inspired by Chinese poetry, from Cold Mountain 2000: Han Shan in the City (2014), from Winter Poems (2015), & from the recent Lakeside Poems (all from Foothills Publishing). As he says, “writing poems is a no collar job.”

After our customary break, I returned us to the open mic with one of my most recent poems, “The Poet’s Coat” (which I was wearing tonight). Sally Rhoades, who had complemented me on my new jacket, read the memoir/tribute “Sitting with Joy Harjo” (one of my favorites). I like the way Bob Sharkey pulls a folded up poem out of the back pocket of his jeans, tonight a descriptive poem about his hometown Portland, Maine, “Getaway.” Karen Fabiane read her latest poem titled “She’s Not a Kid Anymore” (none of us are, I guess).

Ed Yetto has also returned to the area & read a wondering & sometimes humorous poem “I Don’t Know.” Anthony Bernini could’ve been playing golf tonight but came to read instead, an eco-poem titled “Desert Rivers.” Tom Corrado brought the night to an end, predictably with one of his “Screen Dumps” this number 312 “After Apple Picking.”

We gather here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday at 7:30PM with a featured poet & an open mic before & after, & your donation pays the feature, supports poetry events & the work of the Social Justice Center.

October 26, 2016

Albany Poets Presents! - Rebecca Schumejda, October 19

This bi-monthly series reconvened this night at Restaurant Navona on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY with our host President Thom Francis presenting poet Rebecca Schumejda

While some of us dined & drank, Rebecca gave a reading from a variety of her chapbooks & book-length collections, beginning with “Rice” (from The Map of Our Garden, Verve Bath Press, 2009), another garden poem “From Seed to Seed.” From Falling Forward (Sunny Outside Press, 2008) a poem for her father “Workman’s Prayer.” Her book Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012) was inspired by running a pool hall, with characters she read about with names like Micky Meatballs & Bobby Balls-In-Hand. Her 2014 collection from Bottom Dog Press Waiting at the Dead End Diner resonates with anyone who has ever worked or eaten in a diner; she read “The Accountant” & “No One Cares.” She is working on a new collection & shared a couple poems from it with us, “The Weed Wacker” & a piece about neighborhood characters “Our One Way Street.”

During the discussion & Q&A Rebecca talked about her early, pre-internet, publishing of a zine on Long Island where she grew up, & discovering the work of such local zine luminaries Paul Weinman, Alan Catlin & Lyn Lifshin. She was also asked about her early days of working at Friendlies; later, she said, when she was writing Waiting at the Dead End Diner she returned to waitressing part-time. In response to a question about the changes in her writing she said she is writing more personal poems now — “always me, always from my point of view” — rather than in the voice of a persona. She also talked about her working with students, the rewards & challenges & the potential for more poems in the future.

If you don’t know Rebecca’s work her books are available from her website. & with her now living in the Capital District I suspect you will be able to hear her read her work at local venues. Stayed tuned to for the next Albany Poets Presents!

October 25, 2016

Poetry, Painting & Discussion, October 15

Armando Soto & "The Three Drummers"
Maria Diotte invited me in the past to her eclectic art & performance salons but, up to now, I haven’t been able to commit due to other events I was attending. She invited me to be one of the poets reading tonight & I was available. This was held out in Latham (!) at Music To My Hair Salon on Troy-Schenectady Road, a spacious, bright place with a small performance space with an elevated stage. It was perfect!

Along 2 walls & the stage were the bold, colorful paintings of Armando Soto, who gave us a brief tour. Many of his subjects were musicians: Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, & “The Three Drummers.” There was also a tribute painting to the poet Pedro Pietri (1944 - 2004), & Armando read a couple of Pietri’s poems, including the classic “Telephone Booth (number 905 1/2)” & poetry by Pablo Neruda.

Music by Christophe Ragliacci (know as the clown “Rags”) with an array of shakers, tambourines, cowbells, other percussion instruments for the audience to accompany him.

The first poet to read was “Sauce,” Christopher Caulfield, who gave up part of his time for Devon who read a poem by Sappho. Sauce performed most of his pieces with a guitar. I was next & read 3 poems from 3 of my chapbooks, then ended with “When Donald Trump Farts.”

Jay Renzi, formerly of Troy, now ensconced in Boston (where his accent has become even more pronounced), read mostly short, epigramic poems, ending with an excerpt from a longer piece title “The Crown of the White Goddess.” Jay's best quote was “my favorite person to quote is myself.”

The next act was “Poetry & Percussion by Diotte Sorelle,” who were Maria Diotte reading poem/chants from her notebook while her sister Kristin played congas.

Following the break there was an open mic. The readers included Patrick Harris (who read twice), Devon again with a memoir piece of her own on gender issues, Paula, John who read a love poem which he said was the only poem he’s written, Ed whose children’s short story was longer than any of the featured poets, Michelle with a piece for her late grandmother written just today, & Kristin with a touching poem of sister-love for Maria.

A pleasant night of the arts in an unusual setting that worked well with the art. I hope to see more of these in the future.

October 17, 2016

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, October 14

The open mic series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, with "the Bird," Alan Casline, as our host.

The first reader was Linda Miller with a poem about her grandmother “Disappearance,” then a poem, “Once,” in an invented form that she didn’t explain but seemed to be based on repetition. Bob Sharkey read Bob Dylan lyrics in a nod to the announcement of Dylan’s receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, then his own poem “Holy Mother of God” on the proliferation of “Marys” in an Irish family, & his annual cento based on poems in the Best American Poetry 2016 “Plunder.” Mark O’Brien began with a poem based on a prompt for an appropriation, then one with a nod to the end of the baseball season, & another influenced by the poem Ed Hirsch. Alifair Skebe read a piece titled “A White Cast Iron Bathtub” something you’ve seen on TV advertising.

Diane Sefcik read “Hoodoos,” a poem responding to a prompt with a list of unusual words. A.C. Everson read 2 poems she had not read out before, “Plans” & “Symbiotic Summer” about her relationship with mosquitos.

Tonight’s featured poet was Dawn Marar who does not read out much so it was a treat to get a big chunk of her work. She began provocatively enough with a poem on sex & love, writing in the heat & bugs of Summer “Late Summer Missive,” then to a haibun, “Sparkles,” about early romance.
Dawn Marar & Alifair Skebe
With Alifair Skebe joining her, they read a piece built on 2 interlaced texts, 2 voices. Then a couple poems referencing the Middle East, first Jordan (& the UAlbany campus) & then one set in Istanbul, Medusa spooking the Christians. Speaking of which “Mystical Experience of a Modern American Woman” is poem in 11 parts, filled with Christian images, & “Ode to a Paper Clip” was about the writer’s dilemma. She ended, appropriately enough, with a poem titled “Endgame”, a ghazal on marriage & honeymoon & an escape from politics. We really need to hear her read her poems more often.

After a break (during which we lost a noticeable chunk of the audience, a characteristic of the Woodstock readers, but rare here), the next open mic reader, Marian DeGennaro read a simple, moving piece titled “Life” remembering a child leaving & the losses of a long life. Julie Lomoe’s piece, “The Angry Author,” was a screed against those who haven’t/won’t buy her books (but like I say, if you’re in the writing business to make money you’re in the wrong business). Joe Krausman began with a poem about the heart that is a drum & the spin & dance of the Earth, then pondered “What Kind of Death Will You Have?” in what season, & onto a piece about Spring cleaning & throwing things out.

Speaking of seasons, I followed with 2 seasonal poems, so-to-speak, “Baseball in Palestine” & “When Donald Trump Farts.” Our host, Alan Casline talked about his recent vacationing in Yosemite & Sequoia National Parks, & read some impressions inspired by Chinese poets, then a poem titled “Fig Trees” based on the Gospel story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, & a romantic poem for his wife, “One Day of Morning Rain.”

There is only one more session next month to this season’s reading series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, but we hope & expect that it will return when the snow is gone in the Spring.

October 16, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, October 12

Back in Schenectady’s Stockade Section with our host, Catherine Norr, for another open mic & a reading by featured poet Stuart Bartow.

First up on the open mic list was Richard Jaren who read a couple poems, “Song Bird” & “Ode to James" from his 1979(!) collection of poems Chronicles & Ice Cream. Alan Catlin read from his new collection of poems in-progress the poems “Home of the Brave” about misfit anarchist patriots, & “Finding Mr. Goodbar” (in all the wrong bars). I read seasonal piece, my baseball version of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” “Octoberland” & the Schenectady based-&-inspired “Zombie Gourd.”

Ginny Folger read “90” a poem that had just been accepted for publication & is in the voice of a woman in a nursing home. Similarly, Jackie Craven read a poem that is in the latest issue of Nimrod, “The Temperature Reaches 102.” This was the first time here for Sarah Provost who read an old poem, “Obie,” in the voice of a country singer, & “No Accident” about bad things done on purpose.

Tonight’s featured poet, Stuart Bartow, read from his recent books. He began with a poem titled “Bill’s Houses,” an elegy for a friend who made blue-bird houses, then one about a finicky radio “Aeolian Harp,” about sparrow’s in the Home Depot “To Ghost a Human Shape,” the wonderfully playful “Fishing with Cows,” & another about the magic colors in an attic window. From his latest book, Einstein’s Lawn (Dos Madres Press, 2015), he read “St. Francis in the Suburbs,” another fishing tale “Satyr,” “Moon Lust” (William Blake & Li Po), “Einstein’s Homework,” “Einstein’s Desk,” & “Ode to Buster Keaton.” A fascinating book that I just had to bring home with me.

Catherine Norr returned us to the open mic with a couple of her poems, a piece about a place in the Adirondacks “New World,” & a story of a confrontation with a spider in her garden, “Territories.” Susan Kress ended the night with a memoir of her family dying off “Using Things Up.”

This friendly, warm open mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month at Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry St., Schenectady, NY, 7:30PM with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

October 13, 2016

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, October 9

Troy’s Chowder Fest was only a bait-&-switch to this monthly open mic for all writers, but we had to move upstairs, not in our usual spot in the Black Box Theater — didn’t matter, we had 14 readers signed up.

Brian Dorn was first, reading from his collection of poems, From My Poems to Yours (The Live Version), “Changing Ways” (rhymes on love) & “Lessons.” I followed with 2 poems of the season, “Baseball in Palestine” & the political rant “When Donald Trump Farts.”

Dan Curly, who brought us a bottle of wine to share, read a romantic piece about making the bed “6 over 1” then “Be Prepared.” Kate Laity, the “prose interloper,” read the introduction from How to be Dull: Standing Out Next to Genius (by “Mr. Basil Morley, Esq.”) in which she cites Geoffrey Chaucer (& inspired a suggestion for an epigraph for my poem about Donald Trump’s farts). Mike Conner likes to stick to the seasons & read 2 Autumn poems, “That One Perfect Day” from the past, & “This Fall I Regret Nothing” written yesterday. Don Levy’s poem “Hate Crime” was about a gay-bashing incident in Brooklyn & was written as if a letter to one of the attackers, while “Adventures at Port Authority,” was bizarre, & all true.

Peggy Legee mashed together the tasks of picking political leaders & football players in her piece “Game” — & prompted discussion on a variation on football where the players were also cheer-leaders. Dave DeVries also read a piece about games “The Draw” then one about a dream of a day in which there was nothing to report in the news. Joe Krausman talked about the myriad topics he has used in poems, then read 2 poems on fences & walls, including notes left at the Temple Wall in Jerusalem.

Karen Fabiane has been busy, read 2 new poems (but said the 2nd one she is “not sure of…”), “Good Boy” on religion in the modern world, & “Sometimes People” a complicated piece of recollection. Howard Kogan read a poem in rhyme “The Warden” a theological piece about Adam & Eve. Sally Rhoades read about her reaction to the Republican National Convention, then an excerpt from her ongoing memoir, this about moving out in high school & going to Albany to study journalism.

Jil Hanifan read an old poem, a funny & exquisite pastiche of Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” her piece titled “A Botanica on Lark St.” R.M. Englehardt made a rare appearance here being the “serious poet” read “A Poem for Ben Lerner” responding to the article, “Why Do People Hate Poetry?” then in uncertain rhyme read about a Troy ghost, “The Legend of Johnny the Pumpkin Fucker” (& Jil suggested a title change to “Donald the …”). An uproarious note to end on.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose takes place on, well, you get it, at the Arts Center in Troy, usually in the black box theater, but not always.