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.