January 31, 2016

Poets Speak Loud! & etc., January 25

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.

 But first the open mic, & despite how many times I practiced it, I still mis-pronounced Carrie Czawkiel’s last name; she read a poem from saved text messages whose message was to be herself, then one titled “Coffee is the Devil.” K.P. (Kevin Peterson) read a poem he found on the internet, not one of his own (too bad). Joe Krausman read a poem about “experts” then one he called “an old man’s poem” (he should know); something he didn’t say was that he has a new chapbook of poems out from Benevolent Bird Press, Monkeyshines; ask him about it when you see him. Julie Lomoe read a new poem just written this afternoon, referencing Sylvia Plath, “Sylvia & the Squirrel.”

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.”

Mary Panza doesn’t read when she hosts the open mic, so tonight she felt she could & began with a bit of characteristic social commentary on “she,” then to the wonderfully titled “Free Balling in Work Pants” (& you can guess the tone of both poems); she also brought a birthday cake for me, with the inappropriately appropriate inscription “69 + 1”. In Tom’s honor Sally Rhoades read the poem she had read the first time she read at the open mic Tom ran at the QE2 in March 1990, “On that Moonlit Night,” then a memoir of her mother’s 2nd wedding “My Mother Used to Pray.” Karen Fabiane read a poem she had recently revised, “Ellipses,” then a party poem written in Seattle, WA in 1978.

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.]

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