April 30, 2017
WordFest 2017 may be over but poetry continues in Albany, Poetry Month or not. Our host, Mary Panza, was still recovering from co-hosting the 24-hour Reading Against the End of the World, but that didn’t diminish her usual verve. & it was a good list for the open mic. 3B was here, as usual, & provided me afterwards with some of his notes which are included below, verbatim.
Number 1 slot on the list was blank, so I signed up there & began with my Haibun “Last Train to Clarksville” & a brand new poem you can find on my Facebook page, “The Day God Invented Wine.” [3B: Wilcox talking about “Hi Buns” set the tone of sophisticated wordsmithing with pilfered Boyce & Hartly lyrics. Mocking Meet Me at the Station. Philistine.]
Sylvia Barnard was back here after a hard Winter & reprised her poem from last week “2 Blind Mice,” then thoughts on aging, considering a tortoise in the London Zoo. [3B: My beloved childhood dog was named Sylvia.] Joe Krausman successfully linked President Obama, the Pope & the Temple Wall in “Life is a Gamble So Talk to the Wall,” then read “Metamorphosis” about a skin disease. [3B: Joe Krausman — the knish of Poetry is big on foreplay.]
Poets Speak Loud! happens most last Mondays of the month (not in May!) at McGeary's down on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us. Get there early & have dinner!
April 26, 2017
The original version of Readings Against the End of the World happened annually from 1984 to 1993, pre-dated internet, cellphone photography, Blogs — for the back-story see my full write-up here & photos at my Flickr! site. There has been talk for years to bring this series back, but now the time (i.e., the abject political situation, like that of the Reagan era for the original Readings) & the access to space & support was right.
& the timing was perfect. For a number of years Albany WordFest, coordinated by AlbanyPoets.com, has been held the 3rd week of April, which sometimes coincides with Earth Day on April 22. It was as if Tom Nattell's stardust was dust sprinkled on us all to make this happen again, with the Science March on Saturday (Tom was a trained research scientist) & with the down-to-earth logistics arranged by Jil Hanifan of the UAlbany Writing Center. & student volunteers pulling all-nighters.
|Photo by Sally Rhoades|
The schedule of 15 minute slots was filled up to 2:00AM, which is not to say there weren’t some no-shows along the way, but don’t expect to read here about every poet on the list — I like poetry, but, as Groucho Marx once said “I like my cigar but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.”
There was Sally Rhoades reading her poem about Joy Harjo (online here), & in her pink pussy hat reading about “Flamingos in Cyprus.” Mark O’Brien (also online) read a variety of old & new poems. R.M. Englehardt, among his usual poems, read a long environmental-themed poem about stupid monkeys. Tess Lecuyer took us on “a trip around the Sun” with poems written in each month.
Nancy Dunlop read her “Sentence Snatcher” piece, as well as other poems on writing, ending with “a prayer for poets.” Thom Francis filled in, after Don Levy sent a text to host Mary Panza that he was having allergies & wouldn’t be there, then Avery, on the schedule later, also filled in & included a rhyming poem he was going to do if he followed Brian Dorn. At this point it was about 10:00PM & me & my guests (Charlie & Mary Ellen) needed a break, so home we went, some bourbon & to bed.
Charlie & came back the next morning, around 10:00AM, having missed a few regulars on the open mic scene, such as Howard Kogan, Joe Krausman & Julie Lomoe, & at the tale-end of a break for yet another gap. This is not at all unusual for the RAEW; it was common during the original series, particularly during the wee hours of the early AM, the schedule expanding & contracting (even wheezing sometimes) like an old accordion.
Tom Riley, after being teased by host Mary Panza about his poems for the AlbanyPoets journal Up The River, Tom read poems from “59 years of accumulating people & things” & living in the house where he grew up. Cheryl A. Rice came up from Kingston to read “a couple of random poems,” including a project about the Ziegfield Follies of 1919, & her obsession with The Wizard of Oz, as well as a memoir of early years in Kingston.
We were ahead of schedule so Mary Panza read from a series of text messages & Facebook posts from Don Levy to stall, then, as the saying goes, “Speak of the Devil,” in strolled Don (with such magic power, I’m relieved Mary didn’t mention Donald Trump or Marine LePen), just in time to fill in for another no-show (“they’ll rue the day”). Don’s poems were classic Don including a reaction to a homophobic woman’s Facebook post about gay Disney characters “This Modest Mom,” & a poem about riding on the bus (subject of many of his Facebook posts).
The next hour, & more, was filled with readings by the Writing Center tutors. Unfortunately, they did not always clearly introduce each other, I guess assuming others knew who they were, but the rest of us did not — some of the names I “caught,” others I may have got wrong, feel free to post corrections in the comments section — & most read the works of others. The notable exception was the youngest reader who read wonderfully, albeit shyly, onomatopoeic pieces about rain, colors & “The Faucet” (when was the last time you thought to write a poem about a piece of plumbing?). Then her Mom read Ernesto Cardenal’s “The Word.” Joe Wozlonis read odes by Pablo Neruda. Kat (?) also read some Neruda (in both Spanish & English), as well as Tom Robbins, & poems by a friend & her friend’s Mom. Stacie Klinowski (who said she had been here since 5AM) read poems from a huge, fat anthology, poems by Carl Sandburg, Joy Harjo, Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich. Brenna read poems by the British poet Stevie Smith, while Amy Vincent read from a friend’s manuscript, a series of short poems titled “Plainspeak, Wyoming.”
Following that, Samuel Weinstein, who has read a couple times in Troy & at the Social Justice Center, introduced his friend Jacqueline, who read; one of Samuel’s poems was written when he was 10 years old, titled “Cheese.”
Speaking of the Science March, I had planned to take time off to be there, so headed out, got some lunch then joined thousands of other citizens in West Capitol Park, science-protectors of all ages. Plenty of students, parents, folks with imaginative signs, all of whom could have felt comfortable at the Readings Against the End of the World. The best sign I saw was one that bridged that gap: “Science is the Poetry of Reality.”
Later, I returned to the Readings as Siobahn Hotaling was reading some tender, anxious New York City-based love poems. Victorio Reyes shared some erasure poems based on hip-hop tracks, other poems for Sandra Bland, Jessica Hernandez, others, Rant 1 & 2, & a take on a Billy Collins poem “Emily D. & Some Dude.” Victorio introduced the next reader, Laurin DeChae, who began with Audre Lorde’s “Black Unicorn,” then other poems.
Tim Stowell, who was actually signed up, said this was his 2nd reading ever, & read the only poem he had read in public, about the death of a son, then took us on a tour of the favorite childrens’ books of his sons; in an interesting connection to the earlier schedule Tim included a poem written by Avery Stempl for the mother of his deceased son, Ben. Kareem the Dream was also on the schedule, & had to be coaxed into doing a second piece, both were hip-hop social justice commentary — the schedule was in a dead zone of multiple cancellation on the way to the final hour of the organizers’ readings. We took a break, then —
The final hour, or so, began with me. I bookended my reading with poems by Tom Nattell, one of his “Christopher Columbus Fantasies” & the Spring-time “Aviary Baptism;” in between I included a poem about one of Tom’s earliest planned readings at the QE2, “Where Were the Professors?” which is, sadly, still so relevant. In some ways it even applies to some of the folks involved in this project who read earlier but then never bothered to return to support other readers, to show solidarity with poets, students, & other poetry lovers who hung out, clapped for the readers, & celebrated the power of the creative act, theirs & those of others.
It was only (or mostly, or absolutely) appropriate that the reader to bring us on home to 7:00PM was the sleep-deprived Mary Panza, with a selection of 3 of her “House Wife Tuesdays” blogs to be found on AlbanyPoets.com. As it should be, it was Mary Against the World, or at least against the school mates & Moms who bullied her daughter (who, I must point out, handled herself very well — olives don’t fall far from the tree, etc., etc.).
& then it was done — after 24 years, another Readings Against the End of the World — for now, the world has not ended, “the creative act” has prevailed, & Tom Nattell’s stardust was sprinkled on us all.
So, as Uncle Wiggly once said, “if the rising seas don’t wipe out Los Angeles & New York City, & if the crazy-hair guys, Donald Trump & Kim Jong-un, don’t drop The Big One on us all, we will see you next year for Readings Against the End of the World, 2.2.
[Note: More photos can be found here in the Readings Against the End of the World album on my flick site.]
April 24, 2017
Back when the Albany WordFest was a weekend event, the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, which I run, was designated the “Unofficial Official Start of WordFest.” But now that WordFest is a week-long event, we are folded into the fold (so to speak). & it was great evening with new names/faces, the valiant regulars & an inspiring featured poet, Kathleen McCoy. But first we invoked the Muse, tonight, sadly, one of our own, the recently gone Moses A. Kash III; I read from one of his self-published zines & a manuscript page, as well as talked about his presence in the community.
First up for the open mic was a regular, Richard Jerin, to read a tribute poem to his “Friends.”
After a short break to buy books, I read my Haibun recently published on Mark W. O’Brien’s Blog, 36 Views of Ononta’kahrhon “Last Train to Clarksville.” Brian Dorn read “Tears of Lake George” about the tragic sinking of the tourist boat Ethan Allen & the death of 20 passengers. Sue Oringel chose from 3 Spring poems to read “An Exorcism of Sorts” about Spring cleaning making room for her life. Sylvia Barnard read a new piece “2 Blind Mice” curled up in the drain cup of her sink, continuing what Sue said was “elegy night.”
More WordFest to come & more third Thursdays, here at the Social Justice Center, 7:30, a donation supports poetry & the work of the SJC. A featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.
April 23, 2017
The 3rd night of the WordFest was the bi-monthly Albany Poets Presents! at Restaurant Navona on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY. It is a showcase for a writer who has had an impact upon the life & work of AlbanyPoets’ el presidente Thom Francis, who serves as host for the event. Tonight that poet was R.M. Engelhardt. Indeed, Rob was one of the founders of AlbanyPoets, & the host & coordinator of a number of series of open mics in the region, including Vox, School of Night, Saint Poem &, currently, Troy Poetry Mission.
|"Robert Engelhardt," QE2, 4/22/91|
Rob has been active on the poetry scene off & on since 1991. He was perennially listed on the defunct Metroland’s list of Best Poet’s list somewhere in the top 3 year after most year. His latest venue is Troy Poetry Mission at O’Briens Public House on 3rd St. in Troy on the last Wednesday of each month — it says “7:30PM” but there’s no point in showing up too early, it’s on Rob time.
The 2nd night of WordFest was the annual Haiku Competition at Nitty Gritty Slam held at The Low Beat on Central Ave. Amani was our host here, as she is each month, setting us up with “poetry is revolutionary.” She did a did an up-beat, strangely new-age-y piece that she said was “from y’all to y’all” titled “Remember Who You Are.” [Guest commentator, 3B at the bar, had these notes: "Spitting over some John Denver ambient. Lot of words."]
There was, in addition to the Haiku Slam, an open mic, but I did as I usually do, just signed up for the Slam.
Mariah Barber was the first of the 3 open mic poets, started with a love-fantasy for a rap star, then a happy poem for the happy couples, & a poem for Michael Brown, from her book, Of Mics & Pens & Gods & Other College Courses (self-published thru Create Space, 2017). [as 3B said, "I feel old; she won't be on Breitbart anytime soon."]
Liv McKee tried out an unedited piece about her family in New Jersey, “Heading South,” written today.
& last was Amanda Boyd with a couple of short pieces inspired by a word-of-the-day app, a poem on “Camber,” & one on “Gumption.”
[3B summed up the the open mic: "A short & powerful open mic -- Wilcox's favorite words to explain himself."]
The Nitty Gritty Slam continues each 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at The Low Beat, always an open mic & sometimes a Slam as well. Check the schedule at AlbanyPoets.com. More WordFest each night this week.
Back again to the Hudson River Coffee House for the start of Albany WordFest 2017, another reading put together by Havey Havel. There were 5 poets scheduled to read.
here is a good place to start). Given the time when the band was active (& Freddy Mercury was still alive), & the writer’s age, the poems were filled with juvenile fantasies, masturbation, & drinking.
A broad, eclectic mix of poets for the start of Albany WordFest 2017.
April 19, 2017
This event at the Hudson River Coffee House was under the umbrella of The American Initiative for Jewish-Muslim Love & Peace, a reading of Muslim & Jewish poets. It was coordinated by Havey Havel who was also the MC.
The first reader, Jarrar Hussain, said this was his first reading, read “I Miss You” a lament in memory of his loved ones, then one about his father, another in a funny, teasing mood to his wife.
Ejaz Hussain is a published poet writing in Urdu & Punjabi. He read a poem beginning “my eyes reflect the beauty of my love…” a sad poem, the a poem for the Spring season.
Jay Deitcher began with a prose piece in the form of a letter from “a very Jewish character” to an administrator on his job, very cranky & rambling. The a poem in rhyme “Shiva.” He said this was his first public reading.
Ejaz Hussain came back to read a few more poems, including a ghazal on love, one titled “I Had Time Living in the World,” & one about vicious people.
These Evenings of Poetry & Prose are coordinated by Havey Havel on a irregular basis — stay in touch at AlbanyPoets.com.
April 18, 2017
In addition to the great roster of readers throughout the last few days, the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival includes the Darryl Fisher High School Creative Writing Contest, this the 13th year of the event. Prizes were presented tonight to the winners in both categories, Poetry (by Joshua Grasso) & Fiction (by Mark Walling). There were prizes presented for 1st, 2nd & 3rd place & 8 honorable mentions in each category to high school writers from all over the state. The complete list of winners can be found at the Scissortail Blog.
Today, she brought the festival to a close with a reading of “Snake Season,” using personal memory & stories of her family to ponder the effects of climate change, & using the image of a rare ice-storm to wonder about how we all inch slowly, but inevitably, towards death. A story-teller & a philosopher.
& so the festival also came to an end. But the friendships continue, the writers continue to write & the scissortails continue to flit across the highways & fields of Oklahoma.
Thank you Ken Hada & the faculty, staff & students of East Central University for another festival of sharing words.
The final (half) day of Scissortail & like the opening morning, no conflicts, everything in Estep Auditorium. Sunny Smith did the introductions.
Only one more event, the Grand Finale, yet to come.
April 16, 2017
The evening’s featured reading was back in the Estep Auditorium, which was quite full, many students as well as the writers & readers attending the festival. Jonathan Isaacs played classical guitar to settle us down. Before Lefi Enger read, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish presented awards to the winning authors of the Collegiate Writing Contest. Ron Wallace had served as the judge.
He read selections from his 2 published novels, Peace Like a River (Grove Atlantic 2001) & the historical novel So Brave Young and Handsome (Grove Atlantic 2008), as well as from his new book The Projectionist. All were engaging stories that could easily serve as the barricades he talked about earlier. I'm going to check them out from my local library.
One way to get around the conflict of competing sessions of readers is to split the difference — go to part of one, then part of another. This is made easier by the printed program of the readings that lists the authors in the order that they are reading. So, after the lunch break that is exactly what Sally & I did. We started out in the Estep Auditorium.
At this point I had to stay in the North Lounge for the next session since I led it off as the other poet from Albany, New York. My program was titled “Where is the nearest ocean?” with most of the poems from my FootHills Publishing chapbook Gloucester Notes. The nearest ocean is about 500 miles South of Ada, the Gulf of Mexico. I ended by reading #14 in my series titled “What Makes America Great” this one about a couple who bought my lunch after seeing me at a peace vigil outside the Mall.
April 15, 2017
Friday morning (& afternoon) there were once again competing sessions. Since I had traveled from Albany, NY with Sally Rhoades that made my choice easier -- she was in the first session. Besides, when I hear her read in Albany it is usually at an open mic where the poets are limited to 2 or 3 poems (sometimes only 1!), so this was a opportunity to hear her read an extended set.
April 13, 2017
The Scissortail Festival always includes featured readers. Patricia Hampl, tonight’s reader, had been in the audience all day, fully engaged with the Festival, listening to the other writers, making new friends as well. She was introduced tonight by Sarah Peters of the ECU faculty.
At the end she was awarded the Scissortail commemorative plate given to each of the featured readers, something to fill with cookies, as it is already filled with memories. &, as expected, there was a long line afterwards of book-lovers eager to get their copies of her books signed.
April 12, 2017
The afternoon readings were characterized by 2 sessions, each with 2 competing programs, one in the Estep Auditorium, the other across the way in the North Lounge — choices, choices. I opted for the North Lounge for both sessions.
More to come.