January 31, 2016
The last Monday in January is always a special — & busy — night. It is the night that we celebrate the memory of Tom Nattell, Albany poet & peace/environmental/social justice activist. Tom died on the morning of January 31, 2005 & had been scheduled to read that night at the very first Poets Speak Loud! at the Lark Tavern, & the open mic turned into a poetic wake. Since then we remember him on the last Monday in January with a ceremonial beret toss at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park & then I host Poets Speak Loud!, now held at McGeary’s.
Tonight’s gathering in the Park included Thom Francis & Molly, Tess Lecuryer, Mary Panza & Nick Bisanz, & Sally Rhoades. Tess’ very first toss landed the beret by Robert Burns’ arm, which held his sculpted tam as well. Someone pointed out it was also Robert Burns’ birthday. We left the flowers & some candles & proceeded down to McGeary’s.
Mary Panza is the usual host on the last Monday, but I was the guest host tonight & had invited my friend & publisher Dayl Wise to read & to promote Poems for Peace Poems for Justice (Post Traumatic Press, Woodstock, NY 2015), an anthology of poems by military veterans Jay Wenk, Larry Winters, Dayl & me. I began the readings invoking Tom Nattell with my poem “Theology 101” & a Tibetan bell.
Dayl Wise & I read together, alternating poems. Dayl began with section 6 (on eating lima beans) from a series of childhood memoir poems “My Mother’s Pantry” then section 7 about lusting after the Morton salt girl. I had noticed Sally Rhoades in the audience so I read a poem in the collection dedicated to her & Ken Hada “Didn’t We Do This In Saratoga?” Dayl read a dream poem, then the innocently titled “Woman Gardener” (with grim images of death in Vietnam).
I read one of Jay Wenk’s poems from the collection, “Wounded Knee” (because Tom Nattell had also written a piece with the same title). Dayl read one of Larry Winter’s poems, “Vietnam” (cemetery worker at Viet Cong memorial), then a series of short pieces that he called “unfinished poems.” I read my poem from the collection dedicated to Ed Bloch “A.J. Muste.” Dayl’s last pieces were 2 Vietnam-themed poems, “I Was A Dancer Once” & “Ho Che Minh Requests My Friendship on Facebook.” I ended the set with a poem I like to read each year here, “Chasing Tom.”
We bookended the night with a recording of Tom (from the 3 Guys from Albany CD) performing “Save It” twirling his whistling plastic tubes. Then we ate cake (thanks Mary — & AlbanyPoets for helping to help celebrate the legacy of Tom Nattell).
Tonight’s donations, & the proceeds from the sale of Poems for Peace Poems for Justice, were donated to the Homeless Action Committee, $81.00 worth — thank you poets of Albany!
Come back on the last Monday of the month to McGeary’s for more Poets Speak Loud!, 7:30, a featured poet (usually) & an open mic for everyone else. Check out the calendar at AlbanyPoets.com.
[An interesting note: I stopped by the Robert Burns statue the next morning & the flowers & candles were still there & the beret had fallen off the statue, so I was able to save it to recycle it for next January. Tom would have liked that.]
January 28, 2016
I’d missed these readings in the last few months of 2015 so was glad to be back in the early days of the new year. As always we began with the open mic, with the esteemed & venerable Dennis Sullivan as our pastoral host.
Although signed up as #2 I read as the 1st reader my bar poem “Joe the Bartender,” then a poem from 10 years ago, allegedly written by me & found by Pierre Joris on the way to my birthday celebration, so they say. Our host, Dennis Sullivan followed me with 3 poems, a poem for the poet Thomas Merton “The Visitation,” then one based on a poem by the Latin poet Horace “Beatus Ille,” & one dedicated to local poet Howard Kogan “The Exegesis of Emptiness.” Appropriately enough, Howard Kogan was the next reader with a childhood memoir about hanging out at the the local “pigeon store.” Joe Krausman gave us “The Key to Life” which was based on Freud’s description of love & work, then read “Legitimate Theater” on dreams, & another poem on secrets.
Mark W. O’Brien read poems from his various books he said, the first on hearing voices on the banks of the street in his backyard (too much Irish?), then “And Is It You Are Weary Then?” & “The Sound of Moonlight in Your Hair” (a love poem). Philomena Moriarty said she was reading “old ones,” a poem on transformation “Turning the Corner,” “Adaptation,” & the true-story “Fuck-Me Pumps.”
Linda Sonia Miller’s 3 poems were of a quieter nature, beginning with “Delivery” a meditation in images, then a description of watching a child in a puddle, & “Full Circle” prompted by a painting. Tom Corrado is continuing his random mash-ups he calls “Screen Dumps,” today he read #260 mixing images from movies with Lord Byron, then #259 which, I think, was about Art. Peter Bourdreaux’s untitled piece was a conversation with a woman while doing Xmas cards.
Nicholas's poems were mostly short, & easily accessible on first-hearing, based on vivid images from life, touched with humor & with that poetic “leaping” that turns stories into poetry. You can find out more about Perry Nicholas on his website.
This series continues each 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY (there’s only one), with a featured poet & an open mic.
January 23, 2016
The first third Thursday for the new year here at the Social Justice Center. But the year has started off with the loss of a number of music artists & poets, particularly the deaths of Amiri Baraka & C.D Wright, so tonight I invoked the Muse of Amiri Baraka (once known as Leroi Jones) & read his jazz poem “The Rare Birds.”
First up for the open mic as he often is was Alan Casline to read a poem about one of 2015’s gone poets, Paul Weinman on his softball prowess, “Hall of Famer,” from Alan’s latest collection, Last Man Standing (Lummox Press). Sylvia Barnard read a poem she had read at Don Levy’s open mic about seeing Picasso’s “Guernica” in Spain on a visit there recently with her daughter. Brian Dorn will be the featured poet here next month & tonight read “23 Reasons Why this Poem Doesn’t Rhyme” along with his editorial comments/verbal footnotes. Carole Rossi had come here last month to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap but came back again to read a poem from an ongoing series, “120 Days of Dreaming” & the rhyming poem “Dreaming Day 16: The Captain of Evermore.”
After a short break to pass the hat, I followed with a new memoir poem “Joe the Bartender.” Don Levy read his new hilarious & pointed poem “Ammosexuals at the Bird Sanctuary.” It was great that Anthony Bernini was here again tonight to read, with a poem titled “Pause at Day Break” about being up early with nothing going on (or is it?). Karen Fabiane was our last poet for the night with a piece she said she had not read before, a version of an earlier poem, “Brain Storming,” twisting & turning.
Join us each third Thursday here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30 for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us, for a modest (or extravagant) donation.
January 22, 2016
This was not a literary event per se, but a party at the home of Jennifer Pearce & Alan Casline that so many local poets & writers were invited to that naturally there had to be round-robin open mic. There was a table full of hors d’oeuvres when we arrived, beer, wine & a wonderful spread of roast turkey, root-veggies, various salads — & an over-flowing dessert table.
|Charlie the dog reading from Alan's book|
Donna Williams read a poem, “Pantum” by her late husband, Jim Williams, that I had found in my files because he had dedicated the poem to me; later she recited a poem by Emily Dickinson. Joyce hadn’t expected to read but found some poems on her laptop, an anti-war piece, & another about hunting, “Male Rituals.” Someone read from a longer prose piece titled “Happy Hour,” set in Florida, while Mimi Moriarty’s poems were both about birds, “Pigeons on Cornice” & “Crows.”
Adam Tedesco read the seasonal “The Weatherman Gut Checks” & a section from his “Heart Sutra,” Paul Amidon read of a more pleasant season “Summer at Lake Abenaki,” Obeeduid wore his Irish hat for a funeral piece (I did say “Irish,” right?), & another about an old house in Voorheesville & its animals, & our host, Alan Casline read a couple poems from the end of his book 64 Changes (FootHills Publishing), “On a Cold Morning Walk” (#64) & “The Spaces of the World” (#63).
The sharing of food, drink, warmth, & words is an ancient tradition, they say — & this was a most enjoyable evening in that tradition, with thanks to Alan & Jennifer.
January 17, 2016
This was the ante-penultimate reading in this long-running series at the Pride Center (& that hasn’t been in the living room of the Pride Center for a long time). Characteristically it is an intimate gathering of friends & poets & friends of poetry. Tonight there were 6 of us gathered including the featured poet, Noah Kucij, who had traveled by bus to Albany from Schenectady.
a few years ago & responded recently to Don’s call for poets. He read a pleasant mix of carefully crafted poems, beginning with the philosophical “Another Essay on Man,” then on to a couple poems from his experience working with refugees, “English” & “The Substitutes.” Then a couple of more personal poems, the longing poem “Assignment” & “Prescribed Burn” a relationship poem titled from a sign he'd seen in the woods. “Radio Pantoum” & “Ode to Cassettes” were what could be best described as “technology nostalgia.” Speaking of nostalgia, but of a more conventional type, the poem “To the Girls who Pour Coffee” was about growing up in Schenectady, & he ended with a gentle poem to his infant daughter, “The Philologist’s Daughter.”
Then on to an open mic. This being January I read a couple of my “Birthday Poems,” 2013 & 2015. Sally Rhoades responded to Noah’s waitress poem with her own “My Mother was a Waitress,” then a poem she said she had forgotten she had written (isn’t that gift?) on the night “It Quakes at Midnight.” Sylvia Barnard read a revised “Grandchester” combining her own experience being a student at Cambridge with references to Sylvia Plath & Rupert Brooke, then read a new poem for the first time, “Guernica,” about seeing the great Picasso mural in Spain (but remembering it as in colors, from when she saw it in NYC). Sue Oringel will be the featured poet here in March & tonight read a Winter poem “Solstice” then a grieving poem “New York City Without You.” Our host, Don Levy, finished off the night with a very new poem, a tribute to the recently-gone David Bowie, “Starman,” then a funny piece about the stand-off in Oregon, “Ammosexuals at the Bird Sanctuary.”
Live from the Living Room is held each 2nd Wednesday (for the next 2 months only!) at 7:30PM in the downstairs Garden Room of the Pride Center of the Capital Region on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY — a featured poet followed by an open mic, with our straight-friendly host, Don Levy.
January 13, 2016
First reading/open mic I have been able to get to, & a good thing too since I am a co-host here with Troy poet Nancy Klepsch. There were 14 writers on the sign-up sheet.
First up was Bob Sharkey, with a descriptive piece set in New York City “Walking to Golda Meir Square,” then a memoir, “1957,” from his continuing series of pieces on the Libby Town section of Portland, Maine where he grew up. Peggy LeGee read an essay she said was written under the influence of a fever, a personal piece on gender identity “An American Herstory.”
Anne Rokeach was equally bold as this was her first time ever reading, & she said she had just started writing poetry this Summer, so she read a poem, “You”, that she said was a love poem to everyone she knows, then a piece on the death of her father-in-law. Mike Conner read, “Waves of Life,” a piece from his early Blog, then what he called “a visual snap shot” from this kitchen window “Day is Done.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a funny political piece “If in Iowa…” then “Before You Know Gratitude” based on a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Cathy Abbott does short pieces, one to her daughter & another on the elections.
Sandra Rouse has confronted her fear of birds by writing from their point-of-view, & today she read “Robin” & “Red-Tailed Hawk.” Tim Verhaegen read a poem about reading a poem at an open mic & getting no response from the audience, then read the poem he had read, “Just Friends with my Buddy James.” I followed with a new piece about my years in bars, “Joe the Bartender.” Karen Fabiane read a couple of her stream-of-consciousness poems, “Origami” on poems, words & music, then “Most of the World” from her book Dancing Bear.
This series continues each 2nd Sunday at 2:00PM at the Arts Center in Troy, NY, an open mic for poets & prose writers — free.
January 5, 2016
A mid-Holidays bitch & moan session, as always at McGeary’s back room, with our cranky host Mary Panza, & no feature, & just whatever poets wandered in.
Women were definitely in the minority this night & Tess Lecuyer was the first with “Elvis Among the Forsythia,” then a piece about donuts & dancing “Work Day Burlesque.” Last month’s featured poet, Jamie Weeks, was back for the open mic to with “Something She Learned in 2015” (you’ll have to ask her), & a piece in rhyme she had just written “Words to Ophelia.”
Another new poet, Wally, read from his notebooks a piece titled “Language” then an untitled one on religion & money; later he gave me a copy of one of those one-sheet folded broadsides, this titled “Sub Verse: The Universe of What Could Be…” Karen Fabiane read “Never Does” for the first time, & another older poem “If at Dawn.” Julie Lomoe said her piece, titled “The Xmas Goat & the T'aint” was inspired by an article by Red Smith in the Times-Union, & it had us in hysterics.
Robb Smith included his harmonica in a rambling political piece on the Republican candidates. Ian Macks read from a new notebook 2 poems on relationships, “Islands” & “Reflected.” Nick Bisanz announced that his new CD with his band The Last Conspirators “Hold That Thought Forever” was now out & available for sale, then closed out the night a tribute to the just-dead Motorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister, “Dancing on your Grave.”
So that was it for 2015 but Poets Speak Loud! will be back in 2016 on the last Monday, as always, at McGeary’s at Sheridan Square in Albany, about 7:30, certainly not before.
January 3, 2016
Michael read first & his first poem, “Reality’s Well,” was perhaps a Catholic poem, then on to an old piece about smoking crack on the A train, & a sad piece on a recent death in Woodstock due to heroin. Roberta Gould began with a recent poem “Ready to Fall Off,” then “Haunted & Humming” (at the piano), & a poem to her dog “Best Friends,” followed by Lord Byron’s poem to his dog. Cheryl Rice’s first poem was titled simply “Dawn,” but her second poem was a bit more gross, “Inchworms at Opus 40.” Victoria Sullivan’s poem was seasonal & funny “To My Jewish Boyfriend at Xmas.”
The grand poetic elder, Donald Lev, who reads here every week & always goes before the featured poet, tonight read a string of poems, beginning with “December 21” full of peace & growls, then a piece about falling off a ladder, followed by “Riding the D Train” written by his late wife, poet Enid Dame; back to his own poems, “The Nature of His Crime” was about baseball gambler Pete Rose, a poem on Hemingway “Spanish Wine," a bird Haiku, & ended with “Poem” on poetry & Time.
|photo by Dayl Wise|
Continuing on with the open mic Leslie Gerber, who runs a poetry series at the New World Restaurant down the road, read 5 poems, ranging from one about taking down an old building, to his dog, to revising a poem, as well as a couple others. Alison Koffler’s poem “The Museum of Isinglass” was a descriptive piece that felt like being right there in the museum shop, then she read a seasonal poem “February.”
Shiv Mirabito, who is the proprietor of the Shivastan Poetry Ashram of Woodstock & who was on his way soon to India, ended the night with a poem just written at the bar, a memory of Italian Xmases past, “All I Ever Really Wanted for Xmas.”
If nights in Woodstock ever come to an end, this one did as I drove back to Albany, but I thank my Woodstock poet/friends for being there, & Michael Platsky for asking me back to read — they even paid me, which will go to my A.P.D. fund to publish poets.