September 28, 2016
It was really no choice at all — the TV debate between Trump & Clinton, or poetry at McGeary’s — duh! But it seems some other poets made the other choice (‘though at least 1 was reportedly sighted in Portugal). But there were some poets on the sign-up sheet & even some spectator souls who wandered in & stayed. Our host, Mary Panza, said we could read up to 3 poems if we wanted.
I was up first to read “Ordering Lunch” (from boundless abodes of Albany), “I’m Doing my Best to Preserve the Adirondacks” &, for the night, “When Donald Trump Farts.”
There were just 2 open mic poets left, both former features here. J.L. Weeks did her poems, untitled, from memory, the first a portrait of one trapped in a room while the birds are free, the 2nd, a hate rant about the “umbrella man” — her use of rhyme relaxed, unforced. Karen Fabiane did 3 of her breathless, mumbled poems, the 1st “kind of new” with an undercurrent of sex “Unsing,” then one inspired & titled from an Alison Bechdel cartoon “Andalusian Girls,” then visited by the dead in “Makes a Great Shake.”
The millions of people who watched the debate tonight would have done better to have heard these poets. But then there are more last Mondays coming up for Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY. Check AlbanyPoets.com for details.
Faculty & Area Poets
Once again SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, NY hosted a reading by community poets & a featured reading by equally community poet Joseph Bruchac. Kathleen McCoy served as our coordinator & host. This is an inter-national event initiated by West Coast poet Michael Rothenberg, intended to engage poets in the larger world of social justice issues promoting peace & sustainability. A number of us had read here last year, & this was the 4th year that Kathleen had organized the event.
I was first on the list & read yet again “When Donald Trump Farts.” Carol Graser was less confrontational with a tender tribute to her recently deceased mother. Tina Garvin Curtis read 3 short poems, “Apotheosis of a Carthusian Monk,” “Grasshopper” (to her son?), & “Bush Meat 2016.”
Joseph Bruchac Reading
Joe Bruchac is well-know in the area as a poet, activist for the environment & native peoples, & a prolific author. In addition, his readings are a model for young performers about connecting to an audience, with warmth, & information & feeling; one can learn a lot about native history, culture & language from a Bruchac reading. He began with a melody from his cedar flute, then read poems from recent anthologies that had included his poems, offering (i.e., tossing) the books to members of the audience.
Joe’ newest book of poems is Four Directions from Mongrel Empire Press in Norman, OK & he read 4 poems from that. Then on to some new, unpublished poems, “Black Hills,” “Wind Thanks,” “Old Caller” (at a square dance), “Carolina Walking Bird,” & a compelling eco-poem with audience participation (“water is life”) about the pipeline opposition in Standing Rock. Then he returned to the new book for 2 more, “Deer Pond” & “South Branch.”
He left some time for questions, even a request for another poem, from the audience, then ended as he began with the rich, resonant tones of the cedar flute.
September 27, 2016
I had planned to spend a long weekend on Cape Ann, then saw that Don Byrd, former UAlbany professor, Olson scholar & poet, would be doing a reading on Wednesday night so I extended my stay (not a hard decision to make) so I would be here for his reading. The room in Vincent Ferrini’s old place was filled as usual, Gloucester being a very literate town.
Don said he had prepared a 3-hour lecture on the topic of the books on mathematics in Olson’s library, but there seemed to be little interest in the audience, but plenty of chuckles. Instead he read a poem he had written this week, “Poem to Be Read In Place of a Lecture on Olson & Mathematics.”
From there he talked about reading Olson’s papers in the archives in the University of Connecticut in Storrs, particularly the chaotic stack of paper that George Butterick published after Olson’s death as Maximus III. This led to his own stack of papers, what he has been writing recently, & reach what he called “a terrible poem” from “a sequence neither beautiful or good,” then to a descriptive, ruminative poem about a large, brown book held together with tape (Maximus III?) & his morning, & the “The First Message” which he said was an old poem to his father on “befuddlement,” originally published as a broadside that he had to take take from his wall to type because he had no typed copy.
During the following questions & answers, he talked about Olson as “community,” & about the Ralph Maud library of books cited & referenced by Charles Olson, recently installed just down the road at 108 Main St. He also talked about the writing of his study Charles Olson’s Maximus (University of Illinois Press, 1980), his research & help from George Butterick who at that time had not yet published his authoritative A Guide to the Maximus Poems of Charle Olson.
It was a classic “Gloucester evening” which happens a lot now with the Gloucester Writers Center’s regular schedule of events. See their website & stop by sometime. Maybe I’ll be in town.
September 25, 2016
The calendar can be an odd duck, but not so strange once you have observed it’s peculiarities over time — this week the 2nd Wednesday of the month (yesterday) was followed by the third Thursday (today) & that meant the monthly open mic at the Social Justice Center in Albany. But first, I invoked the Muse, another gone poet, one I only recently found out had gone back in December, Wendy Battin (1953 - 2015), & read her poem about what I call “Oil War 1” the 3-part “Mondrian’s Forest” published in Sam Hamill’s anthology Poets Against the War.
First up on the open mic sign-up sheet was Richard Jerin, “happy to be here” he said, reading from his notebook a piece titled “01” a remembrance of 9/11. As it happened, Richard, & the next 3 readers had read last night at the open mic at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady. Alan Catlin, many years a bartender, read “Friday Happy Hour at the College Bar” about the first Gulf War on TV. J.J. Johnson also read a political piece, this from recent news, the rhyming “Deaf, Dumb & Deplorable.” Don Levy was the last of the readers from Arthur’s Market last night with a heavily researched bit of Gay History “The Origins of Brunch.”
Another series of similarities this night was 3 of us folks with some variation of the name “Daniel.” The first of that unique group was Daniella Toosie-Watson who recited her moving childhood memoir “Linguistics of Broken English.”
After the break I started off the 2nd half of the open mic with a poem from this Summer “Finding Pokémon.” Then I was followed by the return of Jan Farrell who read “Nightlights” (about stars) to “help everyone sleep well.”
So join us at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Avenue, Albany, NY each third Thursday of any month at 7:30 for a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, your modest or immodestly generous, donation supports poetry events & the work of the SJC. Bring a poem, too.
September 22, 2016
Back up to Schenectady on the 2nd Wednesday for this series with our host Catherine Norr & tonight’s featured poet Leslie Neustadt but there were a bunch of eager folks signed up for the open mic.
First up was Richard Jaren with a 2-part poem “Promises” that can’t be kept. Carolee Bennett was back out again to an open mic to reprise the sad & tender poem she read Sunday at the Arts Center in Troy “Let It Be.”
Catherine Norr returned us after a break to the open mic with one of her own poems, paying tribute to Leslie, “Matzoh” about asking the questions at Passover.
The open mic at Arthur’s Market in the Stockade Section of Schenectady takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month, starting at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, with our host the affable & sometimes musical Catherine Norr.
September 20, 2016
Alison Koffler, one of the fine Woodstock poets, tonight read a poem based on the seasonal tale of Persephone “Koré Yet Again.” Cheryl Rice’s moving poem about 9/11 & what we can do to make the world better, “Morning Prayers,” can be found on her FaceBook page. Donald Lev is the patriarch of the poetry scene, former editor & publisher (with the late Enid Dame) of Home Planet News, & has a regular spot here on the open mic list as #4, but tonight no one signed up to be #1. His poems were characteristically wry, short & quotidian, “What It Is” (a nose), “Listening to Old Music,” “Conundrum” (what day is it?), “Accessibility” about the NY Daily News,” “On the Destruction of the World Trade Center,” & “Wheels.”
So that is what I had to follow as the featured poet. I began & ended with political poems (respectively “When Donald Trump Farts” & “If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow”) with “Another Tuesday” about the coup against Salvatore Allende & the aftermath of the destruction of the WTC thrown in, & lighter poems in between, such as the recent “Finding Pokémon” & poems from Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing, 2015).
Leslie Gerber followed with a piece about elks in heat (“Definitive”) then a series in some sort of a Korean form on “freestate love” & a poem by the dead Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. Lenny Brown read some historical poems, “Stephan the Dissenter,” “Tsunami Fukushima” & one on Robin Hood. Quintessentially Woodstock Pamela Twining invoked football for a poem on death (“Touchdown”) then a childhood memoir poem titled “Tom Boy” about learning about sex.
I don’t know how Michael Platsky does this Monday after Monday at the Harmony Cafe (at the Wok’n’Roll on Mill Hill Rd.) in Woodstock at 8PM — a featured poet & a spirited Woodstock-style open mic — please be generous to support the featured reader.
September 19, 2016
Back for our 7th season (!) at the Arts Center in Troy, your hosts, Nancy Klepsch & I, were pleased to see so many of our regulars, even some who had not been here in quite sometime.
First on the sign-up sheet was Peggy LeGee with “My Letter to Werner Herzog,” a piece about her struggles with gender, & the “Tranie Christ.” Dan Curley read a story told to him by his father about that old staple of the medicine cabinet “Iodine.”
Friday night’s puppet show & read the same, sad memoir of his grandfather, back in the Summer when Tim turned 6 & “everyone was still alive.” Howard Kogan read 3 memories of working in New York City on September 11, 2001.
Jil Hanifan’s first poem was in the persona of a bus driver in post-apocalypse Albany, then another urban piece “4 Rabbits.” Karen Fabiane read new poems based on email & phone conversations, “Lark St. & Madison” a memoir of gay bars & of 2001, & a poem about the the sequelae of a foot massage. Elizabeth Gordon was back from a poetry tour & also read a memoir of gay bars, including finding the Pulse nightclub “A Hiding Place for the Orlando 49.”
A fine start to our 7th season at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, where we gather to read poetry & prose each 2nd Sunday at 2 — & it’s free.
September 14, 2016
This month at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, in addition to the usual open mic, the “featured poet” was a puppet show titled “Perious Frink & the Great Barrel Race” presented by The Birdbrain Players, with audience participation.
But first, a little of the open mic with Alan Casline, the brain behind the Birdbrains, as host. I was the first to read (again), 2 related piece, “When Donald Trump Farts” & “The Anals of Perious Frink.”
Bob Sharkey is a fan of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems & read “From Ephemera in My Copy of Lunch Poems” like a time-capsule that even contained a flyer for the Third Thursday open mic when it was at the Lark St. Bookshop, then a piece that recalled the uprising at Attica prison 45 years ago this month “At the Fair.” Peter Boudreaux was standing straight to read “The Party” & the random lines of “Infinity.” Mark O’Brien read “September Prompt” which was from a poetry workshop, one of those long, complicated set of instructions that make me think the workshop leader was putting everyone on, sort of an anti-prompt.
When the open mic resumed, puppetter Tom Corrado had barely recovered enough to read, but he did, a couple of his latest “Screen Dumps,” #306 (beer & contrition & poetry) & #308. Tim Verhaegen read a touching personal essay, a memoir from his childhood about visiting his grandfather in the trailer in which he lived behind Tim’s aunt’s house — he knows how to tell a good story. Tim Lake read two pieces from 2007, “Chinese Junk” 3-parts based on paintings of a Chinese boat, & from the 2007 collection The Annals of Perious Frink he read his entry “Finding Linden.”
Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky continues into the Fall before the Winter break at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, featured poets, an open mic, all for a modest donation.
September 12, 2016
Host Carol Graser was back in the temporary spot in the Children’s section of the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs as the Caffè Lena site on Phila St. undergoes rennovations. She started us off right with a poem by Czeslaw Milosz (1911 - 2004).
I led off the open mic with 2 recent poems, “Finding Pokémon” & the driving directions “How to Find Clit Court” (a real street in Colonie, NY). Barbara Garro read a piece about using the computer at the local public library, “This Writer,” then a poem on “The Hollow Life.” Eric Krantz managed to squeeze in 3 short pieces, the rhyming humor of “Enigma,” a more serious “There is No Closure,” more rhymed humor about being wakened by the Muse, “The Downside of Poetry.”
Tonight’s “featured poet” was actually a poetry group that started out in 2012 in the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT, with 4 writers making the trip tonight to read. Some read from their 2015 collection Border Lines.
Back to the open mic, Jesse did a brief break-up pantoum, then a free-style in hip-hop rhymes that was mostly about itself. Effy Redman has returned to Saratoga Springs, & recently had a piece published in the New York Times, & tonight read “The Wall” about a place in New York City where she would sit when she was lost & homeless, then a happier piece about being back here, “Solitude Lyric.” Rachel Cullen was visiting here & said she had just started writing again (she had been a feature at the Caffè Lena open mic a few years ago) & read 2 post-break-up poems “When the Silence Settles” & “Past Tense Comes Naturally.”
Drew read from his phone “Lost” about missing a good friend. Hannah also read from her phone, a rambling, unedited piece written on the 1st day of Spring, tracking her free-flowing emotions. Our host Carol Graser took a turn with a descriptive poem “Beach on the Great Sacandaga Lake.”
As of now, it appears that the renovations at the Caffè Lena site on Phila Street will be completed in the middle of November, & because Northshire Bookstore, starting in the Fall, closes at 7PM, the fate & location of this 1st Wednesday open mic for the next couple of months remains uncertain. One will just have to wait & see.
September 8, 2016
The new season of 1st Saturday readings at, for the time being, the Albany Center Gallery, began with 3 young, experimental writers, Annie Christain, Kenyatta JP Garcia, & Susan Landers.
As I alluded to above, the fate & location of the Albany Center Gallery, & thus of the Yes! reading series is uncertain & to be decided probably in the next few months. However, until you hear otherwise the readings are scheduled through December for the 1st Saturday of each month at the Albany Center Gallery, 39 Columbia St., Albany, NY. Check out their FaceBook page to stay up to date.
September 4, 2016
Another every-Monday-night event that I’ve read at few times & try to get to when a favorite poet reads there. Tonight it was Paul Pines, reading with Frank Murphy. The host is poet Mike Platsky. With an already huge open mic list, I decided to sit this one out, to just listen & take pictures.
Leslie Gerber read about a visit to Machu Picchu, then a dead dog poem & a poem that invoked Donald Lev. Sparrow played his flute first, then read about what he’s not eating while “Fasting” & basically did his usual thing of telling stoner jokes. Andy Clausen had us paying attention again with “Testicles” but lost me with a long, long piece on the devil. David Compton did 3 poems he’s written in Sparrow’s workshop.
You don’t have to wait long for this one to come around again, Harmony Cafe Open Mic is every Monday, at 8PM at the Wok & Roll in Woodstock — featured poets & an open mic — drugs not provided, but might be needed.