April 23, 2017

Albany WordFest, Wednesday, April 19

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.

Rob, in signature black, & a long dress, began his reading with a characteristic piece combing words, booze & coffee, “Interview with a Poet Isolationist,” & into a series of pieces that turned out to be one poem about being a romantic outsider, a favorite theme, as he in the next piece romanticized about being “old.” Then back to using titles (which I appreciate for note-taking), “Into the Great Unknown,” “Winter Smoke” (clove-flavored I’m sure), the long “Saint Poem,” one to his wife (who was not here) “Murmur,” another characteristic divine encounter “God Says,” a preachy “Coffee Ass Blues” about changing the world, an attempt at humor “Ah Poetic,” more preaching in “In the Kingdom of Night, or Be Thankful” & ending on another fantasy as an old man “Forget the Dust.”

"Robert Engelhardt," QE2, 4/22/91
The unique feature of this event is the Q&A with the writer after the reading, that always begins with Thom Francis asking “what got you into writing?” Rob’s answer was simple, “Comic books.” Then on to questions about going to the QE2 where not there was not only an ongoing punk music scene but regular poetry events. Other questions related to Rob’s early involvement with a poetry series at the suburban pastry & coffee shop, Stephanucci’s, & his other poetry venues. Rob explained that he wanted to do “something different,” thus his attempts at themed readings, such as the Edgar Allen Poe events around Halloween.

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.

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