December 29, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 21

Photo by Mary Panza
This was the 20th Anniversary of this monthly event that began on December 18, 1997 at Cafe Web on Madison Ave., continued through Changing Spaces Gallery on Hudson Ave., then the Lark St. Bookstore, & to the Social Justice Center where we have been since July 2006. Tonight also included the annual holiday tradition of the visit from “Sanity Clause” with a gift of poetry for all the readers — of which there were 19! Another tradition is the invoking of the Muse, & tonight, as each December third Thursday, with the reading of “Holiday Poem” by Enid Dame (1943 - 2003).

Unfortunately, our scheduled reader for tonight, Nancy Dunlop, was unable to make it so it was just one grand open mic.

& it began with Sylvia Barnard, who had just celebrated her 80th birthday, & who read a nostalgic Thanksgiving poem, “Family.” Alan Catlin read a New Years Eve poem “Too Drunk to Walk Sober Enough to Drive” from his bartending days. Then after sitting on Sanity Clause’s lap he turned the tables & gave Sanity Clause a printed broadside signed by Salman Rushdie.

Kristen Day
There were lots of readers tonight who haven’t been here in a while, the first of whom was Kristen Day who read a poem about her grandmother “4 Fucking Dollars.” Tim Verhaegen returned to also read a family piece, this about his family’s commentary on the appearance of others. Sometimes someone just wanders in from the street, as was the case with Walter Letsinger, who performed an untitled piece from memory about Death.

Howard Kogan finally made it here on a third Thursday with his poem “Heaven” (“which is like casino security…”). Mary Panza’s poem was a memory piece, a portrait like an old black & white photo from our younger days. Charlie Rossiter read his satirical take on the holiday letters we frequently get this time of year.

Another poet returning, perhaps just to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap, was "Screamer" (Amy Fortin), to read a 10-year old poem/letter, on the disappearance & death of her friend Josh.  Don Levy has sat on Sanity Clause’s lap previously, & tonight, before sitting again, read his wistful poem about his neighbors, “The Bro Dudes Across the Street.” Joe Krausman read a timely piece, “Molesters Beware.” The next poet, BK, will be a featured poet here in February, & read about an auto accident from the Summer, & our concerns as a parent to protect our children. Another poet making a rare appearance here to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap, Kim Henry, was able to dig out an older poem for her mother, about her plants. I read a new poem for my granddaughter Jane about her name for me, “Call Me P.”

Howard Kogan & Sanity Clause (photo by Sally Rhoades)
Julie Lomoe was up next, with books for sale for last-minute Xmas shopping, to sing “It’s the Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year” available on her website.   Karen Fabiane didn’t read an Xmas poem but another piece about a visit with a friend “Night She Drink.” Sally Rhoades is a regular on Sanity Clause’s lap & tonight brought the cookies, & she read a political poem “What Children’s Voices are Hearing” about a friend’s conversation with her son. Barbara Kaiser was another returnee to this open mic, tonight to read a poem about a mouse “House Guest” & going to sleep. Dick Melita was here for the first time for his first open mic, doesn’t write poetry but remembered a short poem he wrote in the manner of Ogden Nash “69” — then told us later that “the first hands to ever touch me were those of William Carlos Williams,” to the great delight of all the fans of that great American poet. Bob Sharkey was the night’s ultimate (last) poet to read Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “To Jesus on His Birthday,” appropriately enough.

You will have to wait a year for the next visit from Sanity Clause, but we are always at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, on the third Thursday of each month, 7:30PM, for an open mic & featured reader. Your donations support the SJC, other poetry events in the city & helps pay the featured poet.

December 18, 2017

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, December 16

The latest incarnation of this movable-feast was held at the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany & featured 3 women writers, Misha Pam Dick, Anna Moschovakis, & Bernadette Mayer. The announcements & hosting of the event was shared by Kenyatta J.P. Garcia, Douglas Rothschild & Aimee Harrison, from the St. Rocco’s Poetry Collective.

Misha Pam Dick read from each of her 3 books. The first, Deliquent (Futurepoem Books, 2009), I believe I heard her read from at the 3rd Annual Welcome to Boog City Festival in Brooklyn in September, 2009. They are short, prosy descriptions of urban encounters. For that book she was identified as Mina Pam Dick. Her second book, Metaphysical Licks (Book Thug, 2014) is a hybrid prose/poem novella, with the author identified as Gregoire Pam Dick, referencing the lives & work of Georg Trakl, the Austrian poet, & his sister Grete. Her third book,  this is the fugitive (Essay Press, 2016), focuses on the work of another Georg, Georg Buchner, particularly on Woyzeck. It is similar in style to the earlier works, but the writing much more compulsive, driven.

Anna Moschovakis wrote a blurb for this is the fugitive, & apparently drove up with … Pam Dick from NYC. She read, as she said, “a prose,” a manuscript titled “The Capacity to Be Alone,” a meditative narrative about writing a novel (including a long list of alternate titles), a terminated pregnancy, with a digression on viewing a book as one’s “child,” with references apparently to the British pediatrician & psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott.

The final reader is more well-known to local poets for her readings & for her challenging workshops in her home in East Nassau, Bernadette Mayer. She began with a few pieces from A Bernadette Mayer Reader (New Directions, 1992), “Marie Makes Fun of Me at the Shore,” “Tapestry,” & “Thick.” The next piece seemed to be a manuscript, that sounded like a recipe “Shadow Biosphere.” She even read an apocalyptic Trump poem. She & Philip Good ended the night with a collaborative piece, “Alternating Lunes,” appropriately enough read alternating. While the first 2 readers were serious & read quite deadpan; Bernadette Mayer, among other things, eschews unrelenting seriousness, with her readings punctuated with a smirk, a smile, & her characteristic chuckle.

The St. Rocco Series takes place on, mostly, a monthly basis, at various & sundry venues around town. The next one will be on Saturday, January 20, at 7:00PM at Urban Aftermath Books, 295 Hamilton St., Albany, with readings by Michael Leong, & Amanda Huynh.

[In case you’re wondering, Saint Rocco, whose Feast Day is August 16, is the patron saint of bachelors, & dogs, among other things.]

December 13, 2017

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, December 6

The joint was jumpin’ for the featured poets, Marilyn Day & Leslie Neustadt, but also for the open mic poets. Of all the poetry open mics I go to each month, this event consistently has the longest list of readers. The great crowd was sheppared by our host Carol Graser, who got us off on the right step by a short poem by the poet Ruth Stone (1915 - 2011).

Barbara Ungar made a rare appearance in the open mic with 2 topical pieces, “Your Mother Serves Tongue” (on the abuse of women), & “Après Moi” (with the repeating refrain “Let them eat …”).

Susan Kress read a memoir of her parents, of her stealing from her father, “Thief.” Kate McNairy’s first poem was about stars & lust “Zodiac” then a related (perhaps) poem “Upon Turning 63.” Debbie Bogosian, a volunteer here at Caffè Lena, read a couple of rhyming Xmas poems -- ’tis the Season you know. Rad Wilson was new to me, read a poem on fishing (& death), & one on physics titled “God the Spooky Quantum Ghost.” Suzanne Rancourt read a piece mixing images from a dream & from a gallery in Canada “Swimming Bear,” then a more edgy one in an urban setting “Walking In Winnipeg.”

Speaking of “edge,” Naomi Bindman’s first poem was titled “The Lunar Edge,” then one about thinking about a breakup & looking at a budding tree “May Surprise.”

The first of the night’s 2 featured poets was Marilyn Zembo Day. I hadn’t seen Marilyn out reading in quite some time & the poems she read tonight were longer, with more of a topical/political edge, than I remember of her readings in the past, such as her first poem that she said was a sestina, “Paint Boxes & Whorls,” about a rape, a much-needed rant, then on to another titled “We Were Never Meant to Survive,” inspired by a poem by Audre Lorde. Another poem was inspired by a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Priestess Shines with Gratitude & Stature. Not surprisingly there were poems from workshops, such as one on the elections of last year, “Wake Up Call” & an emotional piece on the current opiod addiction crises “Vulnerability Study.” & on the lighter side, an older piece on her passion for cook books.

Leslie Neustadt began with the title poem from her collection Bearing Fruit (Spirit Wind Books, 2014). A number of her poems were also on political topics, such as “Unholy Commerce” (on Khmer Rouge sex-trafficking), one on Kurdish women fighting ISIS, another about a North Korean who was a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima, one read because of the President’s announcement today about moving the US Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, “Trembling at the Threshold of Jerusalem,” & a found poem taken from an Alt-Right publication. “Exodus” was a poem from a dream, “Health Alert” was on Trump (again), “Incurable” was a cancer poem, while “Healing History at Schuyler Flats” was about uncovering a slave burial ground. Others a bit lighter included “Tabula Rasa,” “Salt Wars” on her son’s cooking, & “Baptism” for her grandchildren.

After such powerful poems from both features, we needed a break to catch our breaths, then back for the open mic, with Carol reading her poem “The Appendix,” another in her series of objects-as-persona. Terry Bat-Sonja began with a poem to her late husband, then a humorous “Oh this Poor Poem.” I was pleased to hear Alyssa Benaro read again, tonight a touching, musical narrative, “Steps,” about a young boy, whose twin had died. Marilyn McCabe read 2 pieces based on a friend’s research of single-cell organisms, “Adaptation to Extremes” & “The Santa Barbara Basin Dead Zone.” It was good to see Mary Kathryn Jablonski here tonight & to hear her read a new poem, “Monsters.”

Rodney J. Parrott read a piece about Trump, what he described as “a wake-up call to our better halves.” Leslie Sittner likes to write rhyming humorous pieces, tonight she read “The End of Fall” & “Ranting for the Health of It” (about the annual Medicare enrollment). Once upon a time Jodi Frank read at lots of open mics in Albany, but I haven’t seen her out in a while, so it was fun to hear her tonight; she read “I Want to Let Her Down Gently” (to her sister re: Santa — & refugees), then a poem she said was the first poem she ever read out at one of my open mics “Smooth Socks.” Amejo Amyot is one of the founders of Women Writers & Artists Matrix, she read a tribute poem “To Leslie” then a poem from a workshop (seems to be a theme tonight) “Birkenstocks” & I was surprised when she announced that this was her first open mic reading(!).

Another surprising first-timer was Linda Murphy who read a celebratory rant on the January women’s march “We March.” Judith Prest’s first poem connected with two of the night’s threads, “Steel” was written at a poetry class & it was based on an Audre Lorde poem; she also read a piece titled “What I Want.” I read just one poem, a new piece “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock.” Sally Rhoades read a couple of poems about her family, “Riding Shotgun” about her Aunt, then “Chapter 2” with family stories — & with her sister in the audience hearing for the first time Sally read her poetry.

Another first-timer here tonight was Harper Brace with 2 Autumn poems, “Sunday School” & “Jessica’s Letters.” Don Levy was his bold self with a poem about poets at the old QE2 in Albany “I’m a Fucking Poet” & “Just Say No to Nazis.” Kristen Day, Marilyn’s daughter & a good poet herself, sang a song for her mother (& father) the Kenny Loggins’ classic “Danny’s Song.” W.D. Clarke read one of his Robert Service style ballads, “This Christmas Tale.” Dineen Carta read from her book Loving the Ache (2015), the topical & powerful poem “Please” with its opening line “These are not my tits…” & the post-Christmas “Her.” Gloria returned to read “Prayer,” a poem from 2014 about her 2nd rape, asking to be reborn as a tree.

It was a bright shining night of self-assertive poetry, with the 2 featured poets, Marilyn Day & Leslie Neustadt, setting the tone — & the open mic poets stepping up.

The Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic takes place each first Wednesday of the month, starting at 7:30PM, at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs — put a poem in your pocket.

December 7, 2017

The REV presents, November 30

"Blackout Poetry," an April 2016 project by the Sage Community
in the Carol Ann Donahue Poetry Room in the Shea Learning Center at Russell Sage College, for the last REV event of the semester featuring a reading and Q&A with visiting poets Erica Mena and Levi Bentley. This is the new series coordinated & hosted by Albany poet Matthew Klane.

Erica Mena used her book Featherbone (Ricochet Editions, 2015) as the "meat" in the sandwich between new work. Featherbone is a book-length poem playing off the ancient story of Icarus, but as a female Icarus, drawing “on cyborg feminism, ornithology, anatomy” as well as the Greek myth. The brief passages she read also seemed also to be about the metaphysical transformation in blood & bone, as well as the play of silence & sound. Of the newer pieces was one written after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, mixing in Spanish words in a work on the meaning of citizens & colonizers. The ending piece was from a longer work entitled “Or the Dark Fillamenting,” a work about darkness, more abstract, but also a progression in images & themes from her earlier work.

Levi Bentley read from just a couple pieces, beginning with an extension from an earlier work called, I think, “Bucolic Eclogue.” What was read tonight focused on Claudia & Hen, an “I” in a struggle of language & imagery, mixing in personal history & memory, while being a part of a missionary family in Nepal. Then from another “project,” “Fish Moves” (or, perhaps, “Fish Songs”) which was described as moving toward animality, imaging what it would be like being a fish, an exploration of identity (a central theme with both poets), then on to a snippet from a project called “Fence Lines” that may become a work with photos & words.

Erica Mena & Levi Bentley
The reading was followed by a Q&A session, the audience mostly students, with some faculty, from Russell Sage (& an odd outsider). The questions focused on the role of political issues in both poets’ work, & about the imagery of identity in their work. The poets were collectively, white, queer, trans, Puerto Rican, & they pointed to the problem of picking one identity, against being more complex. A similar issue confronted their “experimental” poetry, that it too can’t be multi-faceted, can’t have a complex identity. Both poets’ work talked around, through, & in this issue, both for the work & for the person.

This series began in the Fall & indications are it will pick up again in the Spring semester. The Fall semester was run in conjunction with English and Modern Languages courses (in Creative Writing and Protest Literature) and explored the theme of “truth to power.” The events are co-sponsored by The Russell Sage Review (The REV), the department of Arts & Letters, and The Sage Colleges Libraries, and supported by the Carol Ann Donahue Poetry Fund.

Stay tuned for what the new year will bring.

December 5, 2017

Troy Poetry Mission, November 29

Back at O’Brien’s Public House, I did not want to miss the rare appearance of the incredible poet Rebecca Schumejda. There was a scant handful for the open mic, but, again, some making a rare appearance. Our host was R.M. Engelhardt with a preachy piece on poetry & social media, “Tips on Becoming Incredible.”

Making a rare appearance in Troy, Alan Catlin read a collage-style poem on drugs & movie stars “Hollyweird,” the title poem of a new collection, then a more recent & gentler “The Good Life.” Picking up the Hollywood theme Rob jumped back in with a haiku on the death of Charles Manson. I followed with 2 poems published this past year in Hobo Camp Review, “Lew Welch in Albany” & “Traveling America.” Also making a rare Trojan appearance BK Tuon read “Sunday at the Beach” about his young daughter’s encounter with an aggressive little boy.

Betty Zerbst read the 2 poems she read in the recent “Day of the Poet” competition at the Colonie Library, a couple of rhyming pieces, “The Trees of My Childhood,” & a bio-in-verse of her father “He Was a Boy.” Editor of Hobo Camp Review, James Duncan, read from his latest book We Are All Terminal But This Exit is Mine a childhood narrative “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Rebecca Schumejda is one of my favorite poets writing today, locally or nationally. She read tonight from her brand-new book of poems from NYQ Books Our One-Way Street that continues & expands the working-class tales from her previous books, Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012) & Waiting at the Dead End Diner (Bottom Dog Press, 2014). She began by way of introducing some recurring characters with some poems from the 2 earlier books, “Where the Game Takes You” & “The Table Swallows Wally the Whale” (from the pool hall poems), & from the diner book the poems “No One Cares” & “After Shift Drinks.” From the new book she read “The Past is a Gold Cross Necklace,” “357 Prospect St.,” “Hurricanes” (a bar) & “When Someone Wins.”  Looking forward to the continuing saga in her new book.

Thom Francis was a last-minute add to the list, read a breakup poem from 20 years ago, “Still.” Rob ended with his latest version of yet another encounter with God, this on the bus, “How the Cosmic Entity Deals with Assholes.”

Check out this monthly reading & open mic at O’Brien’s Public House on 3rd St. in Troy, each last Wednesday of the month, sign-up at 7:30PM, reading starts about 8:00PM.

December 1, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, November 27

This was an open mic with all the right elements: a great feature, an open mic with regular community poets we all enjoy, new voices, & a host that keeps (dis)order, Mary Panza — not to mention the food, drinks & attentive service from Mark. The feature(s) tonight was a poetry/sound-scape duo of poet Mike Jurkovic & guitar maven Nick Bisanz. But first a segment of the open mic.

First up was Sally Rhoades with a couple of older poems, “I Will Be Your Poet Tonight” & a poem remembering her mother “Glazed Donuts.” I read a Thanksgiving poem of sorts from my 2011 chapbook Poeming the Prompt “The Birds’ Poem of Thanks” then an old sex/love poem “Gods.” Joe Krauseman read a poem about a banana stickup “Highway Robbery,” followed by a poem considering Shakespeare’s quote “What’s In a Name.” Brooke Kolcow returned again to read 2 energetic pieces, “Cheery Love Poem While Meeting His Family,” & “What Will You Do with an MFA?” (she can check out my 27 suggestions here on YouTube).

A new voice tonight was Pam Ahlen  who was just passing through with her husband & found us online; before reading her poems (Mary let her do 3!) she told us about the annual Bookstock Literary Festival in Woodstock, VT at the end of July, click on this link for info. She began with a poem titled “Finding Superman,” then one about birds in her yard “Stopover,” & a political piece “The First 100 Days.”

It was time for the featured duo of Mike Jurkovic & Nick Bisanz. Poetry & music, like the old Beat’s poetry & jazz, has the advantage of if you don’t like poetry, or understand it, or even hear it, it can be fun just to listen to the music. Nick’s guitar licks were especially respectful of the words in not over-whelming them, although there were points where Mike’s words were not intelligible, due to not enough volume on his mic. Mike has done his time as a reviewer of rock music so this was a logical match. His poems are a mix of the grim, dirty, dystopic world, alcohol, & cynical social commentary, well-matched by Nick’s guitar licks quoting rock classics, & his own warped improvisations. The poems included bar encounters, such as “8 Stools Down,” “Topeka,” & a meeting with a girl he knew 50 years ago “Putnam Valley Serenade.” I thought I picked up on a piece imitating The Nails’ “88 Lines About 44 Women.” A great variety of poems with ringing guitar work, no mosh pit, no light show, no tickets I can’t (& don’t want to) afford. Good show.

There were a few open mic poets left, also worth the price of admission. Bob Sharkey read a piece about a fight in a laundromat “Waiting for the Load to Dry,” then a funny piece on what a white nationalist world would look like, “After Doing on Peanut M&Ms in Game 6.” Brett Axel made a rare appearance with a poem riffing on his sister’s favorite stuffed animal “Ranilla,” & the instructions on “How to Write Pastoral Poetry.” Karen Fabiane read new poems “Laughter in Cakes” & “After the Meadow,” mixing reality & myth, saying she was “gonna read them until they make sense.”

Poets Speak Loud! happens each (most) month on the last Monday — no reading in December — but come back in January, 7:30PM at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, follow them on

November 28, 2017

Nitty Gritty Slam, November 21

This was NG Slam #119 or #122, no one was quite sure; my notes from a NG Slam in May indicate that was #127. A cadre of the hard-core Slammers have been meeting lately in an effort to re-vitalize Albany’s competitive Slam with plans to go to the Nationals.  Tonight there was a short open mic list & an equally short Slam list here at The Low Beat on Central Ave.

Amani started us off with a long poem from 3 years ago about suicide awareness, & how to make our Heaven on Earth. I followed with an old poem set in the old Justin’s “Jim Morrison,” then a new poem to my daughter Anna “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Elizag read from her 2014 collection of poems Love Cohoes “What I Hate About Cats.” Liv read one of her social commentaries about the contradictions among the hip that she is so good at, one beginning “Dear Hipster Eatery…” Sean J. got the audience clapping with a short piece that he stumbled through.

There were 4 signed up for the Slam & some confusion, it seemed, as to how to run that through to the end (more on that later). Amani was the “sacrificial poet” to calibrate the judges & did a piece on urban gardening. Elizag scored a 10 with “First Date,” then D. Colin got 2 10s with a piece about her first period. Liv did “prodigal” from her chapbook, & Sean J.’s machine-gun delivery was appropriate for “Death by War.”

The scores weren’t announced but Round 2 consisted of all 4 back to read from the highest to the lowest — D. Colin, Elizag, Sean & Liv, who this time got 3 10s.

The Final Round began with Sean, then Liv, both with self-assertive pieces that seemed to be the theme du jour, with Liv getting 1 10, then D. Colin blew them away with a perfect score (there were 3 judges) with a political/personal piece “On the Pulse of Ancestors.”

Then just to extend the evening, D. Colin did a “Victory Lap” with 2 pieces, one on her name & the popular piece “Little Black Girls” jumping rope.

I’m glad that some folks are working to bring more organization & direction to the Slam scene here. As with all arts groups I think it is important that it not result in being perceived as a closed group, & that the flow of the night & scoring be spelled out for the audience, since hopefully there will be new people unfamiliar with Slam rules & practices showing up. I think that each round be an elimination round. Taking tonight’s rounds as example, after the first round of 4, the second round should consist of 3 performers, ending up with 2 going head to determine the winner. If there are more than 4 in the first round, the second round could go to 4 & the third (final) to 2. That’s enough poetry for anybody for one night.

Watch for notices about upcoming Slams on social media & the local poetry calendars, such as on Anyway, I hope to get out to more of the Slam events in the coming year & help cheer on a local poet to the National Slam Championships.

November 27, 2017

Community of Writers, November 19

This is perhaps the longest running annual event sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, featuring a number of local writers in various genres, coordinated & hosted by Alan Catlin, & held at the Schenectady County Public Library on Clinton St. This year there were 7 writers.

The first reader was novelist Tom Swyers. He centered his talk around his latest best-selling novel, The Killdeer Connection, a legal thriller set in the Capital Region (Schenectady = “Mohawk City,” Niskayuna = “Indigo Valley”), & talked abut the power of fiction, & our pre-conceptions of reality, & how he, as an author, uses these preconceptions as he writes about reality.

Joan Kruger writes poetry & is working on a novel. She began with a couple poems, “She Grew Lean” & “Matryoshka” (a love poem with Russian nesting dolls as the main image). She also read from her novel, The Great Cat Caper, a Pickwickian farce about a con-artist couple.

Paul O’Brien has written & published 2 memoirs from his days of teaching high school English & he read from both. From Voices from Room 6 “The Wire Walker” about how he got Philippe Pettit to come to his his high school & speak to the students, & from Keys on the Road a piece about growing up, & his later years.

Poet Dawn Marar read partly from her forthcoming chapbook from Finishing Line Press Efflorescence. She began with “Grandma’s Purse,” then from the chapbook a couple poems “Dispatches from Beit Jala Near Bethlehem” & “On the Road to Damascus,” about traveling in the Middle East with her family, then an emotional personal remembrance of family member veterans “You Citizen.”

T.G. (Todd) Monahan’s first novel, published earlier this year, is titled The Vexing Heirloom. He began by talking about his fascination with how facts become myth, become fiction in the hands of the writer. He described his novel as a classic hero’s journey & origin story; it is set in 1896 during the Cuban War of Independence, & read brief excerpts, including the ending.

Poet Carolee Bennett began with a couple of works-in-progress, “The Constraints of Celestial Mechanics” a “mash-up” of science literature & carnival images, then a poem in response to a writing prompt “My Grief is the Soup.” “Thermodynamics” is a poem about a campfire set in the shadow of Clarksville’s Bennett Hill (no relation). She ended with a couple of poems related by theme, one old “The Tear Drop Lounge” & the newer “Palaise Royale New Year’s Eve 2016."

Once again a wonderfully diverse reading from the great well-spring of local literary talent in the Capital Region. For more information about the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, visit their website at

November 26, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 16

One of my axioms, perhaps the main one, for poetry readings is “If your friends & relatives don’t come to your reading, who will?” Tonight’s featured poet at the Social Justice Center, Tom Riley, did just that — filled the house with his friends & relatives, providing an audience for his reading as well as for the open mic poets. But first, to invoke the Muse, the late Derek Walcott (1930 - 2017), who had read here in Albany at the NYS Writers Institute in 1989, before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; I read his wonderfully rich — in images & language — poem “Gauguin I” from his 1984 book Midsummer. Then on to the open mic, tonight a special treat to read 2 (!) poems.

Brian Dorn was first up reading 2 love poems “Luck” & “Clear Into Space” in his signature rhymes. Richard Jerin read 2 poems from his 1970s era book Chronicles & Ice Cream, the anti-war “Column” & one about the change of seasons & evening. Another regular poet here, Joe Krausman was next with a poem about lies & lovers’ imagining “Legitimate Theater.”

A first time visitor here, Joanne Auerbach from Chatham, read a dark piece from a conversation “Husband’s Chemo Week 14” & one based on a prompt “Write a Poem She Said About New York City” about trying to write a poem. Betty Zerbst was also once a first time reader here, but now a regular who, like Brian, also writes in rhyme, read about dancing to old records “Back in Time” then wondered “What Would I Do With Extra Money.” I finished off the open mic with a new poem “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock.”

This was Tom Riley’s first featured reading.  I asked him to be a feature here after hearing him read in the past year at Poets Speak Loud! & at Readings Against the End of the World.   He has lived on the same road for 60 years, which he mines for his poems, & so is very much a poet of place, in the grand tradition of American poets E.A. Robinson, William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson & others.  He began with “Awake Before the World,” then a poem from the forth-coming Up the River #5 “The Still.” On to a few Winter poems, “There is Always Something Coming” (about his sister as a child), next a poem based on a story his cousin told “All is Right with the World,” & an untitled piece about walking the tracks. “Out the Kitchen Window” was a poem about just that, then 3 short poems about making maple syrup, “Gathering Sap by Moonlight,” an untitled piece, then “Separate.” Another untitled piece was written & read in the rhythm of a train. He finds poems in the cemetery too, such as “Named,” then read some inscriptions from tombstones, & his own meditation on mortality as he mows the lawn & tends the graves. He ended with a poem remembering his father “My Father’s Hands…” & “Still Life,” a fitting poem about the ending of the day. Nicely done for his 1st featured reading.

Come to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30PM for a poetry open mic, & a reading by a local or regional poet, donations support poetry events in the area & the work of the SJC.

November 19, 2017

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 12

Here we were again with a wonderfully full sign-up sheet, at the Arts Center in Troy, back in the Black Box Theater.

I was up first, read an old Halloween poem “Zombie Gourd,” then the brand-new poem for my daughter Anna, “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Joe Krausman was topical with a couple poems on lies (i.e., fake news/alternative facts), one a conversation in bed, the other about teeth titled “Falsies.”

Harvey Havel read an excerpt from his latest novel, one about football, “Mr. Big.” Dianne Sefcik, in the spirit of the weekend, read 2 poems about her father who was a combat veteran in World War II “The Road Back” & “22 a Day” (on the larger issue of PTSD). Mike Conner read a piece written years ago on October 17 “The End of 17,” then another piece “Evening Ramble,” thinking of a possible future. Dave DeVries read a poem about stacks of books in a small bookstore on the theme of the “sacredness of space,” then one on the contradictions in a person’s life on the “sacredness of person.” Bob Sharkey’s first poem had a long title, “For the 30 Children Who Died in an Oxygen-Deprived Hospital While We Argue About Policy,” then a poem pondering white nationalism, “After OD’ing on Peanut M&Ms During Game 6.”

Michael Lopez began with a poem for his nephew in the military “I Deserve a Made Bed,” then a poem, “Abundance,” written during the Breathing Lights project about the history of 3209-3211 7th Ave., Troy. Howard Kogan’s poem about an imagined art gallery opening is one I’ve heard before & could listen to again, while “I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is the latest title for a revised poem on love & hate. Elizabeth Gordon read a poem inspired by looking out her front window “Droplets on My Roof,” then one inspired by her Uncle Jackie, a military veteran. Karen Fabiane read 2 new poems, “After the Meadow,” & “Laughter in the Cakes.”

My long-time co-host here, Nancy Klepsch, read a couple of love poems, “We Can Be Each Other's Silly Love Poems” (from her forthcoming book), then one based on Tarot cards, “Happy Ritual #3, for Prietesses & Goddesses.” Peggy LeGee, with her cat’s ears head band, read “Shopping Bag Lady” (with cats). Sally Rhoades brought us home with 2 poems, “As Darkness Comes” on healing, then one written September 13 the self-assertive “The Long Trip Home.”

You can come read poetry or prose at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, River St., Troy, NY each 2nd Sunday of the month at — you guessed it — 2:00PM — Free!

November 17, 2017

W*O*M*P*S, November 9

I was one of the featured poets, along with Sharon Israel & her husband Robert Cucinotta (on sound-scape) at the Word Of Mouth Poetry Series at the Art Bar Gallery in Kingston, NY. Teresa Costa is the host of this series & she started off the night with a poem by 1960s poet Lynne Savitt (whose work became a running theme throughout the night).

Sharon Israel’s publisher, Dayl Wise of Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, arrived just before the reading started with a box of her new book of poems, Voice Lessons, & that’s what she read (mostly) from. She began with the opening poem from the book “Type Triple A,” the on to the title poem, & a poem of family lore “Red Coat.” Others from the book were “Melodrama at the Biograph,” & a tender piece about her father, a butcher on the Lower Ea
st Side & a painter, “Butcher Shop.” Her husband, Robert Cucinotta, joined her with his “sound scapes,” mixes of music samples, sounds from nature & chain saws, etc., for “Tango Triolet,” “Souvenir Shop at Manitou Springs,” “Rare Sightings” (Northern Hawk Owl), & “Pie Bird.” In between she included some new poems, “Brachial Plexus” (another poem about her painter father), & the eco-poem “Zoom Floom Water Park.” A new favorite poet to follow.

My reading was more straight forward, less sound more images.  I planned my reading around being

in an art gallery, which I think is perhaps the best place, next to Washington Park, for poetry. Most of what I read could be described as “ekphrastic poetry,” poems based on works of art, either visual art or poems. It included “The Hopper Painting,” “Arts Festival Del Ray Beach,” “My Matisse” (on a painting by Thomasa Nielsen), “Last Train to Clarksville,” “After Cavafy,” & “Reading Memoir in the Laundromat” (Patricia Hampl). I ended with “At the Silarian Cafe,” “When Donald Trump Farts” (the obligatory political poem) & “The Day God Invented Wine.” I had fun.

After a break we dove into the open mic, a great anthology of mid-Hudson poets, beginning with the venerable Roberta Gould, who read about “Stink Bugs 2017,” “Intervention,” & the funny ironic “Longevity, A Scientific Perspective.” Gary Siegel read introspective poems, including an eco-poem of surrender “In the Night of Winds & Sand.” Richard read more poems of Lynne Savitt.

The venerable poet Elder Donald Lev read from his 2012 (NYQ Books) A Very Funny Fellow, then some new ones, wry, humorous as always, thinking of his roots. Elizabeth Gordon’s poem “Grilled Salmon” was about a blind cat, & “In Detour Sheer Joe” was an erasure Haibun. Ron Whiteurs is always a trip, read 2 “topical poems” Nickel-Plate Revolver” (this a harmless cap-gun, with a version of Blake’s “Sunflower”) & “Turkey Shuffle & Shotgun Dance.”

Fred Poole’s poems are generally short, philosophical, about looking at the sky, a descriptive “The Morning,” a foray into art, sex, book & hopelessness, & one titled “Politics,” another mid-Hudson poetic Elder. Suze Bottigliero reminded us to turn our clocks back, read from her notebooks, thoughts, fragments, dreams. David Anderson was topical, too, rhymes & questions on Puerto Rico & Harvey Weinstein. Our host, Teresa returned us to the ’60s poetry of Lynne Savitt, raunchy & sexy. Alison Koffler is always one of my favorite poets & tonight wowed me with a new work in progress, a nostalgic memoir “On the Road with Thomas Cole.”

Dayl Wise is a poet, activist (with Veterans For Peace) & publisher of regional poets of note under the imprint Post Traumatic Press; his poems tonight were memoirs of his service in Viet Nam, the first his longest title (which I didn’t get all of), “What Ken Burns … Missed,” then the boy soldier dream-fantasy “Backwash.”

I was not only pleased to read here among poetry friends (both those who read & those who listened) but to hear the rich variety of the voices of the Hudson Valley. W*O*M*P*S is at the bohemian Art Bar Gallery on Broadway in Kingston, NY, each 2nd Thursday of the month, sign-up at 6:30PM, the poets read at 7:00.

November 15, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, November 8

Up to Schenectady for this monthly open mic, with tonight’s featured poet, “the queen of pantoums,” Carol H. Jewell.  Our host, Catherine Norr, was back, & started us off with a verse from the venerable “Shaker Hymn.”  The sign-up sheet was already filling up when we got there.

Alan Catlin began the open mic with poems from a series of poems with titles of paintings, some that could be real, “The Graveyard of the Beach Chairs” & “Dark Tree in Front of Dark House.”  Richard Jerin read a couple poems about remembering the past, the first untitled, the second titled “Prayers & Diaries” (about the Holidays).  Judith Prest was back with a political piece “What I Want” & a poem about rape after 50 years “After.”  Ginny Folger read from a series of “postcard poems” “Childhood,” “Summer,” “After Sundown.”  

A new voice tonight was Tazjouna Pannell, an open mic “virgin” who read an alliterative, inspirational piece “It’s Interesting.”  Last month’s guest host, Jackie Craven, read a couple poems from a series in the persona of an angry/disappointed wife (she said that she is not either), “Autopsy” & “Shadows at 4PM.”  Bill Poppino made a most rare appearance here to read a family narrative about “man trappings.”

The featured poet, Carol H. Jewell, had with her for sale her attractive, new 36-page book of poems from Clare Songbirds Publishing House of Auburn, NY Hits and Missives, from which she read.  Of course, there were the pantoums, “The Embrace,” “The Dream,” “Crestfallen,” & the tour-de-force “Cento Pantoum #1” & “#2” both composed of lines from other, more famous poets.  Also from the book, “Attachment,” “Carolina ’81,” “Chestnuts 1967” (with her father, on the subway in NYC), “Brother Memory” & “The Cure for Everything” (with the great quote from Isak Dinesen about salt water).  & she threw in the new pantoum “Appetite.”  Support your local poet — buy her book.

When we returned after the break Catherine Norr sang a brief song praising the harvest.  Dawn Marar, who also has a new book a-birthing, began with a poem inspired by Edward Durrell Stone’s fountain at the UAlbany campus, & the city of Jordan “Gathering Rush” & a poem inspired by Istanbul “The Basilica Cistern.”  The perennial rhymer Betty Zerbst read a poem about her children growing up, away “Left Behind” then a tender poem for her mother “When You Were Here.”  Susan Jewell (no relation to our featured poet) read a couple poems about the Great Depression, one her mother’s story “A Child’s Story” the other from her mother’s father “A Father’s Tale.”  Malcolm Willison was saying goodbye as he escaped for the Winter to Key West with his poem “Envoi.”  Mary Panza made a welcome, rare appearance here to begin with a poem about memories in black & white photos, then a funny, metaphoric piece about using a Maxi-pad to soak up spilled coffee in her car’s cup holder.

Rick Frieberg breezed in off-list as he usually does with short, recited street pieces, rhymes & lines like fuzzy memories of songs.  I followed, much more formally on-the-page with, not a pantoum, but “The Sestina Sestina.”  Don Levy read a disappointed-in-love break-up poem titled “This is Not a Break-up Poem.”  Scott Morehouse read an evocative, cutting portrait of a society widow picking up guy in the blue light of The Blue Room.  Carol Graser brought us all home with a feminist manifesto “Discourse on Myself Addressed to the Patriarch.”

This open mic is the highlight of the Schenectady poetry scene, & it happens each 2nd Wednesday of the month at Arthur’s Market at the monument in the Stockade section of Schenectady, NY — 7:30PM — worth the drive from anywhere, even Schenectady.

November 13, 2017

Gloucester Writers Center Open Mic, November 6

Cape Ann is my favorite place for a retreat, & if I time my visit right, I can catch the monthly open mic, as I did for this recent trip to the sea. Amanda Cook, a member of the GWC Board, is the host. There’s always a mix of poetry & prose, both fiction & memoir, & tonight was no exception; some were writers I’d heard read here on previous visits.

When I signed up, it looked like someone had signed up first, then changed his mind & crossed his name off, so I took the empty spot; I read my poem to my daughter Anna, “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson,” my wine-stained copy of “The Day God Invented Wine,” & the short “Amithaba.” Chuck Francis read a sad & chilling story, “Herbie,” about a foster child. Phil Storey’s poem, “Midnight Mass 1975” was about a man dropping dead in church.

Rufus Collinson read from a published book of her poems, the pieces titled “Talking to Strangers,” the enchanted vision of “Sea Smoke,” “The Beginning of a Difference,” & “Delivery.” Elizabeth Endfield read her laptop a narrative poem, re-written today she said, titled “The Seagull & the Crab.” Don Kipp read a cluster of poems, “Amazing Machines” (about our bodies), “Only Their Tears Moved,” “Recipe” (about an encounter on a bus), “Moon,” & “The Waking Eyes.”

Joe Rukeyser read a quirky fantasy titled “The Good Life of Avram & Havah,” about a health-fanatic, over-the-top environmentalist couple who die in an accident & are offered a way back to life eternal on Earth. I’ve heard Virginia McKinnin read here before from her memoirs, tonight she read a letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, & a poem “Freedom is Not Free.” (Note: the current exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum of photo portraits by Jason Grow of local World War II vets includes one of her husband Robert McKinnin.) Ian McColl began with a statement about his writing as rain, then read/performed his piece “Insomnia,” including fighting, drinking, song lyrics & a brief summary of his life. Roger Davis began with talking about his process of writing, a quote from Mary Oliver, & talked about his grandmother reciting the poems of Robert Service, then read a poem of his own using Service’s rhythm & rhymes.

Our host, Amanda, read an amusing poem on memory, “I Am Forgetting the Names of Plants.” Bob Gutman’s long, rambling piece “You Gotta Love It” had something to do with horses, & began with a long dedication. The night’s final reader, Jorgelina Zeoli, read from part 2 of her 3-volume memoir about growing up in Argentina & her ongoing therapeutic conversations with God, The Way Out, this segment about her mother’s psychosis.

So if you happen to be on Cape Ann on the 1st Monday of the month, stop by the Gloucester Writers Center at 7:30PM for the open mic. It is located in Vincent Ferrini’s old house, at 126 East Main St. — Gloucester, it’s not just lobsters.

November 10, 2017

Poets Speak Loud!, October 30

It was an extra-special night at this monthly open mic with my fellow 3 Guys from Albany poet, Charlie Rossiter as the featured poet, with host Mary Panza stirring disorder to create order. There were even some new names on the sign-up sheet. First, some open mic poets.

The first was me (Charlie & I had gotten there early for dinner), with 2 brand-new poems, “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock,” & “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson” dedicated to my daughter Anna. Joe Krausman followed with a tale of a lost car & a lost job “Holyoke 1973,” & the more humorous “Pandering to the Pandas in the National Zoo.”

Next up was a new voice, Carol Durant, who read 2 poems from her brand-new collection Whole Phat and Gluten Free Poetry (Troy Book Makers, 2017), “Lobed Out” & the defiant “PJ Promenade.” Samuel Weinstein read a poem about insanity “Big Pink Fluffy Hats” & an untitled piece written on the way here. Kareem did his poems from memory, both love/attraction pieces, the 2nd titled “A Dilemma Called Time.” Sylvia Barnard’s poems were both childhood memories, both scary encounters with animals, “Dogs” (which is a re-write from when she read it last), & “The Bull.” Carol H. Jewell announced that she has a book of poems coming out “next month;” tonight she read the anaphoric “I need a poem…” then a pantoum with cats (surprise!) “Appetite.”

Charlie Rossiter had been in Chicago for almost 20 years, is now back in the Northeast; he began his reading with 2 poems from the Windy City, a Carl Sandburg-style piece “Chicago” (but the city as a dog, not a cat), & a jazz poem “Night Life.” Then on to “The Tie that Binds,” the iconic “Of All the Cheap Motels I Best Remember,” & “The Giggling Teenage Girls of Wallace Lake, MO.” His poem titled “Grateful & Full of Affection” is an imitation of many Billy Collins poems,” then in his own voice “Listening to Ce’Cile, Thinking Sexy Thoughts,” & “How to Be an Atheist.” He ended with selections from Cold Mountain 2000: Han Shan in the City (FootHills Publishing, 2014).

Alan Casline continued on the open mic with “This Is How to Love Me,” & the associative, “post-modern” (as he said), “After the Predicted Storm.” Thom Francis & Carissa had a night out & he read an inventory of what he found in his pocket, then a poem about his daughter Molly being courageous in a crowd of strangers. Julie Lomoe, in a costume of sorts, read a Halloween piece written today, with some other poets in the audience correcting her pronunciation of “Samhain” (to Julie’s credit, since it is a Gaelic word, the pronunciation is nothing like it looks from the spelling).

Sally Rhoades read “an opinion piece” harkening back to her days as a young journalist “The President Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Brooke Kolcow read a couple pieces about an accident where she cut her thumb, “Reduce, Recycle & Shred,” & “Angel #9” counting the stitches on her thumb — then curtsies at the end.

Evelyn Augusto read poems on gun violence, “Belize” from her period of love poems, & one about how she doesn’t like guns, but her husband does; she wanted to read a 3rd poem, but Mary stuck to her guns, so to speak, with the 2-poem limit. Alifair Skebe read poems in honor of Samhain, “Painting a Meal” about the death of her grandfather before she was born & her grandmother’s cooking, & another about her grandmother some years later, dying. Rob Smith also had a poem for Halloween, a horror story about how our minds have all been grabbed by the Government — hmm, could be.

Poets Speak Loud! is a gathering of poets for a featured reader & an open mic on the last Monday of the month, at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM — come to read & eat & drink.

November 9, 2017

Poetry Thursdays at Russell Sage College, October 26

This is a new series at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY, coordinated & hosted by Matthew Klane, that started in September. This night the readers were Travis Macdonald & Iris Cushing, with a post-reading discussion, in the Carol Ann Donahue Poetry Room of the Shea Learning Center.

Travis Macdonald is the author of 2 books of procedural poetry, The O Mission Repo (Fact-Simile, 2008), an erasure of The 9/11 Commission Report & N7ostrdamus (BlazeVOX, 2010), a N+7 treatment of Nostradamus’ quatrains. He is also an editor at the journal Fact-Simile, where you can find the work of Matthew Klane (& James Belflower in the current issue). He read from The O Mission Repo from a treatment of the preface. Then on to a piece titled “How to Zing the Government.” While his reading was rather flat in tone, as is appropriate to the nature of the text I suppose, some of the phrases were surprising in their random (supposedly) meaning.

Iris Cushing had a high-tech glitch in the middle of her reading, the equivalent of leaving home with the wrong folder of poems. But she recovered & performed a couple of her karaoke poems, playing the tunes that inspired them on her smart phone, a political “That Man I Can’t Stand” (to “I Can’t Stand the Thought”) & another to the tune “All She Ever Wants to Do is Dance.” I would have liked to have heard her “2 Truths & a Lie” but, she said, she had sent herself a student essay instead. It was fun just the same.

The discussion after the reading was tedious, as these often are, burdened by some audience members making long statements (i.e., showing off) about what they think/believe rather than asking questions or engaging in discussion with the guest readers. I usually leave at this point but was trapped there. But there were some probing questions on music (for Iris), & enlightening responses from Travis about the why & how of using The 9/11 Commission Report (an old copy he picked up in a used-book store).

There is one more of these at the end of November &, hopefully, more in the coming semester, part of a poetry renaissance in Troy.

November 1, 2017

Troy Poetry Mission, October 25

If this was a grandchild, we would say it was "13 months old."  The hosts are long-time poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt, & editor of Hobo Camp Review James Duncan. The featured readers tonight had originally been scheduled to read at the Hudson River Coffee House in an event organized by Harvey Havel & Brian Dorn titled “A Night of Features.” However, the coffee house closed down just before the reading was was held & the organizers sought out other venues. Tonight there were 3 of the original 4 readers, but first a brief open mic.

Rob read a piece titled “In an Air of Smoke & Cinders,” what he described as his entry to a recent project to present poems about Troy as broadsides. I followed with my seasonal “Baseball in Palestine.” James Duncan read a piece about children in a hospital, “There is This Dream I Have.” Faith Green, the president of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, made a rare appearance at an open mic to read a couple poems on a related theme, “Blind Love” & the amusing “Terms of Endearment” a litany of the clichés of love. Betty Zerbst read her self-advice “A Letter Back in Time to Myself Back in Time.” The last reader, Meg Marchin, even beat Betty to the bottom of the list, & read a piece titled “Letter from Rook Rd.," a memoir of a boyfriend with references to Bruce Springsteen songs.

Harvey Havel took over the duties to introduce the featured poets & first up was Avery Stempel who did a series of his New Age self-help-lectures-as-poems, some read, some performed from memory, with titles like “What No Longer Suits You,” “What Do You Choose,” “ & “Listen to the Trees Whisper.” He also performed from memory a piece based on the chakras “While the Wheels Turn” which was also available as an 16-page, full-color chapbook.

Shannon Shoemaker did all her poems from memory, pieces she has performed in the past, beginning with the self-assertive confrontation with mothers at school “Tongue in Cheek,” & “Poem for the Open Mic.” Then a series of sad love/sad or angry break-up poems, such as “Grown Cold,” “Night in Michigan,” “Worth Keeping,” “Columbus Day,” “Phone Booth” (imaging herself as Superman), & “Out of the Shadows,” ending with another self-assertive piece, her Slam anthem “My Name is Shannon Shoemaker.”

D. Colin is the host of the weekly poetry series in Troy, Poetic Vibe, & likes to sing as well as recite her poems. She started with poems from her 2015 collection Dreaming in Kreyol, including “Rainy Season,” “Artibonite River,” & “Unapologetic.” Then on to poems from a new collection, including a history & litany of black women heroes, “For Every Black Woman Who Has Been Called Angry,” another piece of black history, the ironically titled “When America Was Great,” then ending with an older piece, singing in Haitian, nostalgically “… dreaming in a language that sounds like home…”

This series takes place on the last Wednesday of each month, starting sometime after 7:30PM, at O’Brien’s Public House, 43 3rd St., Troy, NY.

October 28, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 19

Back at the Social Justice Center, tonight featuring the North Country poet Stuart Bartow. Still catching up on 2017 Dead Poets, tonight’s Muse was Tom Raworth (1938 - 2017), I read his funny poem, appropriately enough “Envoi.” Then on to a bit of the open mic.

First up was Alan Catlin a semi-Halloween poem from his new book of poems, Blue Velvet (Slipstream 2017) loosely based on movies, “The Thing.” Joe Krausman didn’t read his own poem, instead read a humorous poem by the recently-gone Richard Wilbur “Museum Piece.” Richard Jerin is a regular here & tonight read a long poem which he said was in the spirit of Halloween with moonlight & allusions to death “Time Is But Once.” Carol H. Jewell returned here to read a pantoum (of course) “Appetite” complete with cats. Barbara Kaiser was glad to back in front of the mic & read a poem of loss & moving on “Michael’s New Wife.”

Stuart Bartow was tonight’s featured poet & he began with a poem written this Summer, inspired by a coffee shop door, & channeling William Blake & Ossian, then on to a “sort of political poem,” the metaphorical “Fable.” He said that most of his poems were in a “loose sonnet form” & they clearly were inspired by the mundane & everyday, such as “Midnight at the 24-Hour Laundromat Corinth, NY” & “On the Porch Roof after a Snow Storm” (thinking of the Chinese). The natural world is often his inspiration as well, as in “Green Bottle” which he said was one of its many versions, one of many true stories he made up, such as “Lust” or love, or is it only words?  “Calling the Muse” contrasted poetry v. the real world & incidentally gave out her phone number. “Clouds” made him think of invading Vikings, “Often” considered Shakespeare’s sonnets & birds fucking. The poem “Sonnet” had him pondering the pattern of mathematical formulas on the blackboard, then “fixed” it in another poem titled “Blackboard.” He concluded with “Green Midnight” starting with the idea that the ancient Greeks had no word for “blue.” A most relaxed, conversational reading.

After the break & book sales I read a poem for the season, “Baseball in Palestine,” combining anti-war sentiments with baseball.

A new face & voice tonight was Janiece Spence who found us by a Google search, read a long, introspective piece “Transforming/Womanhood 1.0.” Bob Sharkey’s poem “Taken” starts with a quote from poet Ocean Vuong & a ride on the subway & a might-have-been. Sally Rhoades read a painful poem about the recent shooting in Las Vegas, “Innocence Lost.” In a recent Blog I commented upon the next reader, Betty Zerbst’s, habit of signing up at the bottom of the list, & tonight she cleared that up by explaining that when she was a very young girl she wanted to be 10 years old & 10 is her favorite number; her poem was about the passage of time “Marching By.”

There is a featured reader & an open mic each third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM — your generous donation helps support poetry, pays the featured reader & supports the work of the SJC.

October 17, 2017

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, October 11

I was glad I could get to this night’s reading & open mic, after missing the last couple, to hear one of my favorite poets, Annie Christain, & gave a ride to my poetry buddy, Don Levy. We had heard that the historic building had been sold, but we found out tonight that the owner of the business, long-time supporter of the music & spoken word arts, Richard Genest had a lease with lime left, so this 2nd Wednesday series will continue, for now. Tonight’s host was local poet Jackie Craven, who didn't spell out any rules, but most poets read only 1 poem, & those who did more were brief anyway.

First up was Phil Williamson with what he called a “poem for our time” & the man of the time, Trump, a good political rant. Brian Dorn was timely with baseball history of the area in rhyme, “Dog Days of Summer.” Alan Catlin read one of the movie poems from his new book, Blue Velvet, the Slipstream 30th Annual Poetry Chapbook Competition winner, “The Mind Parasites.” Ginny Folger’s poem “Traveling with Friends” was about the familiar mutual problems we/they endure when traveling with others. Carol Graser read a poem of made up words (I’m guessing from a Bernadette Mayer workshop) “I Have No Words.”

I admit to being fascinated by the poetry of Annie Christain & have been to many of her readings, including having her as a feature at my Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany. Tonight she read exclusively from her 2016 collection Tall As You Are Tall Between Them (C&R Press), most of the poems I have heard her read previously. But that is a good thing, increasing my understanding of what she is doing in her poems, & tonight she went a long way getting the audience into the poems by explaining that what she read were persona poems (i.e., not the poet speaking), & explaining the genesis & background of the poems, a number growing out of her experience living in China. What she read were “The Sect Which Pulls the Sinews: I’ve seen You Handle Cocoons,” “We Must Kill All Rats Before We Can Kill Your Rats,” “I Took to Walking Down the Middle of Highways to Avoid Getting Shot,” “Pretending to Go and Come from Heaven by Fire” (from a workshop exercise), “MK-Ultra 2 (Montauk): Return Me to Houyhnhnms,” “A Maple Gets Red.” I’ll go to her next reading if I can.

After a break Susan Carol Jewell read a linked haiku & sonnet, each titled separately. I read my take on the Great American Eclipse “Spathe is the Plathe.”   Don Levy read his meditation on the history of “coming out,” a conversation between a young & an old gay man “Louis & Percy.” Scott Morehouse reacted to Don’s poem by saying, “I came out in 1976 but there was no place to go;” he read, or rather performed, “You’ve Got Mail” & “A Brief History of Telecommunication …” Of course Betty Zerbst was way down the sign-up sheet, & she read 2 short rhyming poems, “Everyday People” & “Hard to Let Go.” Malcolm Willison was more ethereal with “Moon Lost.” Jackie Craven read a poem similar to Carol’s & acknowledged that it was written for Bernadette’s workshop, “In Which I Try to Leave My Husband but Cannot Find the Words.”

So the good news is that this open mic will continue on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry, Schenectady, NY, 7:30PM, for the next year of so — the bad news we got last November.