July 10, 2018

Book Talk Series: Therese L. Broderick, July 3

This is a regular series of book reviews & other literary discussions at the Albany Public Library Main Branch, sponsored by the Friends of the Albany Public Library. This day, local poet Therese Broderick, gave a talk about her poetic technique & a reading from her new book of poems Breath Debt (Page Publishing, 2018).

Therese Broderick has been an active member of the local literary scene for many years, serving on the board of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild in the past, & a frequent reader at area open mic & other poetry events. She recently served as judge of the Tom Nattell Peace Poetry Prize contest. It is with joy & anticipation that we greet her book Breath Debt. She began with a talk about her inspirations & her techniques, & began that with advice for new writers to “engage & persist” — engage with the community & persist in writing — as she paid tribute to the community here & to institutions such as the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & Albany Poets. She is also meets regularly with other local poets to go over each other’s work, to provide & receive comments & feedback.

She described how she studied the book of poems Mayweed by Frannie Lindsay, analyzing the poems & even memorizing some of them. In addition, the poet April Ossman has edited Therese’s poems. She demonstrated some Tai Chi moves & talked of “words dancing with numbers,” all to add to the rhythm & sense & play of words in her poems. She even passed around copies of her poetry workbooks that showed the dynamic energy of her notes, or, more accurately, sketches.  Talking about her book, she praised her publisher Page Publishing for giving her the “certitudes” she needed to produce it as she envisioned it.
One of Therese Broderick's notebooks

Then on to a reading of the poems from Breath Debt, some of which I recognized from past open mics, although in different versions, beginning with the first poem in the book, “Reverdie.” The poems she read dealt with the perils of aging, “Consulting the Shovel,” “Bringing Up the Rear,” “With Ease” (about her personal coach), & “Routine Mammogram.” She also read poems about her parents, “OT & PT” & “At Mother’s Cremation” about her mother, & “His Funeral Mass” & “Heeding the Call to the Colors” about her father. She concluded with the multi-voice “Motet Set to War Poetry” in which she was joined in reading by her husband Frank Robinson & myself.

The usual Q&A extended the exploration of her themes & talk of her technique of exploring the etymology of key words in poems even in other languages such as Spanish & German, which led her to read still one more poem, the tender “Errand with Stranger.”  I look forward to reading the rest of the book & to hearing Therese's new work at area poetry open mics.

The Book Talk Series takes place every Tuesday at 12:15 in the auditorium of the Washington Ave. branch of the Albany Public Library, often a review of a book by a member of the Albany community, sometimes an author discussing her or his book. Come a little early for coffee & home baked sweets & conversations.

July 7, 2018

Ed Sanders, July 1

Beyond creating The Fugs with Tuli Kupferberg & Ken Weaver, the quintessential 1960s satirical/political/avant-garde rock band, beyond being a founding member of the Yippies, & taking part in actions at the 1967 March on the Pentagon & the 1968 confrontation of the Democratic Party’s Convention in Chicago, or even his books, Tales of Beatnik Glory, or The Family, or multiple volumes of his poems, Ed Sanders' best contribution to world culture & to others in the “po-biz” is perhaps the concept & practice of Investigative Poetry or “history-poesy,” from in such works as 1968 (Black Sparrow Press, 1997), & Chekhov (Black Sparrow Press, 1995), & the biography The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg: A Narrative Poem (The Overlook Press, 2000), & the multi-volume/genre America a History in Verse the 20th Century.

Now he has come out with Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy, A Graphic History (Arcade Publishing, 2018) with illustrations by Rick Veitch. Since the time he was writing 1968, perhaps before, he has been obsessed with the mysteries, confabulations, flim-flams, obfuscations, lies, etc. surrounding the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968. I mean, just who is this Sirhan Sirhan & where did he come from? Over the years Sanders has accumulated 23 banker boxes of material — interviews with people who were there, eye-witnesses, cops, other researchers, government records, whatever. But he acknowledges that Broken Glory is not the final story, as he & others follow leads & evidence as the “true story” slips into the dark closets of history.

This day he was at the Kingston Artists Collective & Cafe, on Broadway in Kingston down by the Rondout before a packed house.  Sanders talked about his decades of research, which is still ongoing & read from the final section of the book, about the assassination in the Ambassador Hotel & the confusion as RFK is led away from his handlers & body-guards, & murdered by agents not yet identified. Then he turned to his lute to sing the dirge, “Robert Kennedy fell down by the ice machine with rosary in his hand.”

Sanders clearly admires what RFK was trying to do to end the war in Viet Nam, to correct inequalities in American society, to establish equal justice for all, the same struggles we are faced with today. He called RFK an amazing American, & continues to have faith in the American democratic process, acknowledging that while we may be only in the first 2 years of the Trump administration, at some point he too will be gone & the American people will carry on.

July 6, 2018

Poets Tribute to Jay Wenk, June 25

Jay Wenk was a poet, writer, peace activist, an engaged community member. He was a World War II veteran & an active member of Veterans For Peace, & the current Poet Laureate of Veterans For Peace; he said he went to Germany to fight fascism & “I’m still fighting fascism here at home.” I may have first encountered Jay at the February 2003 massive demonstration against the impending invasion of Iraq, when I first met Dayl Wise. My earliest photo of Jay is from an October 2006 reading at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock. In 2017 I was pleased to pair him up with a more recent veteran, Karen Skolfield, as readers at Poets in the Park. It was always an honor to be in his presence. He died at the end of May at the age of 91.

Jay Wenk at the Colony Cafe, September 17, 2007

This poetic tribute was organized & hosted by Dayl Wise & Pamela Twining & there was long line of veterans & poets tonight to pay tribute; Dayl reported later there were 25 readers.

Leslie Gerber read the obituary that Jay had written for himself, then his own poem “Memorial Day” (Jay had organized in the past his own Memorial Day remembrance when the Town of Woodstock would not let the Veterans For Peace march in the parade).
Tarak Kauf, is the Managing Editor of Peace In Our Times, a quarterly newspaper put out by Veterans For Peace; he read a poem for Jay written by Doug Rawlings, who is a founding member of Veterans For Peace, & former Poet Laureate of VFP; then “A Poem for Jay Wenk a Dragonfly” written by Jill Anderson who is working on a film title 48 Stars, in which Jay is interviewed; the trailer, including Jay's voice & a snippet from his interview, is available at the 48 Stars Facebook page.
Barry Samuels, a former owner of the Golden Notebook recalled his conversations with Jay at the bookstore.
I read Jay’s poem “Cost of War” from the anthology Poems for Peace Poems for Justice (Post Traumatic Press, 2015), & my own tribute poem to my Elders (Jay among them) “A.J. Muste.”
Chris Collins, a member of the Town Board, read “To Jay.”
Larry Winters, another VFP writer, read a poem for Jay.
Everett Cox, a member of the Warrior Writers collective read “Open Letter to the Commander in Chief on Veterans Day.”
Donald Lev read “Remembering Jay Wenk.”
Fred Nagler, also with Veterans For Peace, read a tribute & remembrances of Jay.
Dave Kime, another veteran, read, or rather proclaimed, the anti-war poems “America is a War Machine” & “Feast.”
Lenny Brown read a remembrance poem he had just written.
Pamela Twining’s poem was titled “Hit & Run.” Then she took over as the host from Dayl.
Judith Kerman read from her chair in the audience a couple of her poetic “definitions” for the nouns “Home” & “Resistance.”
Andy Clausen read “Soldiers of Christ” & “Start the Sun” from his book.
Susan Hoover read a poem that she said Jay loved, “First Morning After Last Night.”
Lisa Mullenneaux read 2 poems “2 Hot 2 Hot” & “Deep Inside.”
Sue Willens read her ironic plea “Let There Be Democracy.”
Ron Whiteurs (who is also a veteran) read “Testament 2018 (to Jay Wenk)”, then a performance piece with recorded music inspired by visual artists, "Dawn in D Major Silent Poem #2."
Phillip Levine read a piece titled “Rivers & Gardens.”
Teresa Costa’s poem was “Jay’s Wounded Knee.”

At this point I had to leave for the drive back to Albany, regrettably missing the last few readers. It was a fitting tribute to a man, a poet, who has left his mark on his Town of Woodstock & the people there & elsewhere.

Jay’s writings are scattered in a myriad of publication, some already mentioned. Post Traumatic Press published in 2017 a collection of Jay’s poems Thank You For Your Service. His World War II memoir Study War No More: A Jewish Kid from Brooklyn Fights the Nazis was published in 2010, with a new edition to be released in the Winter of 2018. I think it would be fair to say that if you want to thank Jay for his service, then work for peace.

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 21

It was an exhilarating night of new voices, the beloved regulars & the return of poets of long ago, & a generous audience. My muse for the night was, sadly, local writer & activist Anne K. Marfey who passed away on June 2; I read from her book of mini-essays Shake Hands Touch Hearts (Author House, 2009) her piece on William Kennedy. But before the featured poet, Nancy Klepsch, took over the mic, we started our way through the open mic list.

First up to the mic, signed up as “Douglas,” which could stand for either D. Alexander Holiday or G. Douglas Davis IV, who gave an introduction about the publishing history of the poem he read, “Take Off Your Skin,” on racism & hatred. I can thank my friend Charlie Rossiter for sending the next poet our way from Bennington, VT, Laura Ellzey who read about a bi-lingual cat, “The Blue Shapiro,” in both English & Spanish. Dan Vollweiler, who reads at the open mic at Caffe Lena, was also here for the first time; he read a bit of satiric humor “The North American Unemployed Teacher,” happily, he said, not his current condition.

Paul Austin was here from Norman OK (by way of Boston, New York City & Woodstock) & read the powerful political rant “God Damn the Preachers of Destruction.” Sally Rhoades, who is no stranger to Oklahoma, followed with a poem about her mother & the stories others told vis-a-vis what Sally saw.

Our featured poet Nancy Klepsch & I co-host the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic at the Arts Center in Troy. She began with some new work, rants, then moved on to poems from her book, god must be a boogie man. “Children Too” invoked children all over the world, while “Learning Targets,” a Haibun, brought it back home to a shooter drill at her school, while another Haibun was about a visit from a friend “Driving in Cars While Black.” Then on to a couple of poems using food as images of death, including the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain, & “29 Questions” on climate change & death, again. She finished up with a basket full of poems from god must be a boogie man (Recto y Verso Editions, 2017), the title poem, then a series of poems on food, & death, “The Topography of a Meal,” “’shroom,” “Kvetch” (Howl & the farmers market, & mushrooms again), then ended with “We All Pray for Different Reasons.”

After a break I read a new piece about an imagined bedroom “Lily White.” Joe Krausman read a poem, what he called perhaps "a work in regress,” “Musing,” philosophical, but not abstract about people, things. Brian Dorn talked about his new arts & entertainment center in Gloversville, NY, then gave me the option of choosing between 2 poems & I chose the 2nd prize winner in the Dolgeville Poetry Festival “Still Blooming” because it was in Brian's characteristic meter & rhyme.

Another surprise tonight was the return of Mary Ann Murray, who had been around in the early days of the Albany poetry scene & gone for many years, & tonight was here to read the unabashedly political “State of the Union.” Jil Hanifan showed up tonight to read what she called “a really stupid poem” another political poem on the Constitutional phrase “Free Exercise Clause” playing on the words & concept, with humor, not so stupid after all. Betty Zerbst, always number 10 on the list, read a poem for her high school reunion “50 Years Already.” Bob Sharkey was tonight’s “ultimate” (i.e., last) poet & read a deeply personal musing about suicide, mental illness & the violence in our country, again referencing Anthony Bourdain, & richly descriptive segment about his visit to Ireland.

What a night of friends, poets & moving writing, such as it frequently is here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, on the Third Thursday of each month, 7:30, with a featured poet & an open mic — your donation helps support poetry programing & the work of the Social Justice Center.

June 26, 2018

”What is Poetry?”, June 20

Less than a question, this is the title of a monthly open mic at the Psychedelicatessan in Troy. Tonight there was a gathering of 7 poets/singers & we did a round-robin in 2 rounds, with Avery, our host, reading a poem by musician David Gilmore.

Clarese was in her usual spot in the corner & read from her laptop a piece on chasing love “Emotional Silence.” Brian Dorn read a poem he had entered — & won 2nd prize — in the Dolgeville poetry contest (who would’ve thought that the little town of 2200 had a poetry contest!) “Still Blooming” in his characteristic rhyme. Joe Krausman read a poem he’d written today while at Whole Foods on a topic about which he knows a lot, “Old.” Avery read “Setting the Scene” written after ingesting a gel tab of LSD.

Since we were doing 2 poems I decided that my first would be “Garrison Keilor” from the 2016 2: An Anthology of Poets & Writers from The 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic for Poetry & Prose. Dale sang & recited the Irish song “Will You Go Lassie Go?” Tim read a piece composed mostly of a list of single words, titled “Empathy.”

For the second round Clarese read an essay from her laptop titled “Online Behavior.” Brian Dorn read a prose piece “Why I Write Poetry” in which he worked in his experience lifting weights competitively. Joe Krausman’s poem “You Can’t Take It With You” began with a Yiddish proverb which was translated as “shrouds don’t have pockets.” Avery’s piece “Dance” is not usually read sitting down. I completed the 2-poem connection from 2 with “Trailer Park.”

Dale read “Laughing on the Way Home” inspired by a place overlooking a waterfall, then slipped in a poem & a song sung almost too softly to be heard. Anthony, who had been sitting listening while his cellphone charged, said he was from West Africa & was talked in to recite a poem, by someone else not him, abut inspiration. Tim also read a poem written by someone else, this by a friend, a portrait in rhyme of a brother.

The comfy chairs & sofas, the tables & chairs, with a defined performance area, lend themselves to a casual, informal sharing of poems. Find out “What Is Poetry?” at the Psychedelicatessan on River St. on the 3rd Wednesday of a each month.

June 23, 2018

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, June 13

It was the Poetry Taxi to Schenectady tonight with Joe Krausman & Don Levy keeping the ride to Arthur’s Market lively. Our host, Catherine Norr, began the night with an Blues she wrote, just the first verse & chorus, then an open mic for a while, the featured reader Alan Casline, then the rest of the open mic.

Alan Catlin, just to clarify things, read “I Am Not Alan Casline.” Paul Amidon read a poem for our patriotic holidays “2 Day Heroes” (Memorial Day & July 4th), then a family memoir of the couple “Ida & Len.” BK Tuon claimed that his portrait of a successful, academic poet titled “The Great Poet” was “the worst poem” he had written — maybe, but still better than lots of other poems out there. Ginny Folger’s poem “Night Fall” was descriptive & meditative. Scott Morehouse had us in stitches from laughing at his “Aunt Helen’s Letter from Home” full of small obituaries & hypochondriacal advice. Judith Prest began with “Lust Language” from a new series she is writing, then “Crow Stories” composed of found language.

A new voice was Amber who read a poem titled “Sparks” about inspiration. Jackie Craven’s poem “Sailors Take Warning” was set in the Florida sun but that didn’t help at all the despairing mood of the piece.

Alan Casline — now that it has been made clear that he is not Alan Catlin — was the featured poet, & was once was described as a “persistent poet.” He began by talking about his latest project, his attempt to have his neologism “summergreen” entered in the Oxford English Dictionary, & to that end about his forth-coming publication of a collection of his summergreen poems from Foot Hills Publishing. He began with some poems from 64 Changes (Foot Hills Publishing, 2015), poems based on the hexagrams in the I Ching, “The Power of the Great” (#34), & “Full of It & Happy to Be Here” (#55, Abundance).

Then on to a selection of pieces from the Summergreen manuscript, a variety of moods & settings, including inserting a poem into a conversation, findings squatters in the woods, ghost photos, the broadside “By Summergreen’s Dispersion” (which also appears in64 Changes for #43 Break-through), & “Summergreen Variations About What is Summergreen.” Then he ended with excerpts from a long poem “Michigan Moon” starting at (the now-defunct) Smitty’s Tavern. (I need to correct a remark I made at the reading that my counter to “summergreen” is “Wintergrey” — let’s see who will get in the OED first.

After the break Catherine Norr was back by request to finish the other verses to her Blues, then read a memoir in-progress “Grandma’s Writing Desk.” Betty Zerbst did a rhyming celebration “June is the Month…” then a non-rhyming memoir/family list “Cemetery.” Glenn Witecki read the very short piece, some words left behind for his son. Susan Jewell said she has been writing to the Rattle magazine ekphrastic challenge, read “The Open Shutter” responding to a photograph. Don Levy read 2 recent pieces, “Do Not Feed the Trolls!” a Facebook commentary, & “Freestylein’ It.” I followed with my latest political rant, not without a touch of humor,” Buttons Not Bombs.”

Joe Krausman’s “My Son the Mechanic” was a bit of poetic fiction, but “Pandering to Pandas at the National Zoo” was straight out of the news. Edie Abrams made it here for the first time & reprised her poem she read at the Arts Center, about getting rid of stuff, or not, & giving thanks.

This wonderful, casual open mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday at Arthur’s Market at the monument in the Stockade Section of Schenectady, starting at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & time for the rest of us. Free!

June 19, 2018

Poetic Vibe, June 11

I hadn’t been to this weekly open mic in some time, have missed the great mix of poets, & made a concentrated effort to get there tonight — & glad I did. The host is poet D. Colin & how she gets the energy to do this each week — must be youth — I don’t know. She got us started with “Artibonite Woman” from her book Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015), which I never get tired of hearing, & an untitled work-in-progress on wanting to be loved.

I was first on the sign-up sheet & read my “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock.” Sydney Clifford followed with a poem about losing her dream job “Enough.”

This was V.’s first time here, read a couple pieces on love & hurt & rivals, effectively using hip-hop rhyme to carry the story along. Julie Fresenius began with a poem about a medical procedure “Florescence,” then one titled “Conversations with My Father.” Alijah Pompey’s poem “The Pain I Can Feel” was autobiographical, about drugs & violence in his past (but doing better now), then a poem about personal loss from violence “Lost One.”

Kevin Francis Xavier Callahan started with a rambling introduction to his 5-year mission plan “Easy in My Own Skin.” Star’s pieces were on the theme of Black Lives Matter, the first “Colors” contrasting the colors of social justice with police shootings, the second on black as the new super-power. This was the first time for Ivy D. who began with “Music,” then the sexy “Coconut Colored,” & “Brothers.” I enjoy Liv’s work, writing real poems in a Slam style, tonight a new poem honoring the ancient women in her family “A Poem to the Grandmothers…”.

Elena Fiya Love began with what she described as the 1st Slam poem she wrote “My Vocabulary Stands from a Blooming Flower” then another in similar rhymes “Dark Knight” (not about Batman she said).  Ray had been sitting at the bar, unprepared to read, so free-styled about going to the gym in the early hours & somehow working jerk chicken into the piece. Michael Chambers’ piece was prepared, a long letter he had written as tribute to a woman after they had broken up. Kay L was a performer promoting his music business & did a couple of songs to prepared back-up tapes. Poetik read a new poem on horror movies “Sub-genres,” then read from her new book Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being by asking the audience to call out page numbers, picked page 23, a poem on video games (she will be reading on July 28 in Poets in the Park.

While we had been reading & listening D. Colin was listening & writing, picking out lines, & created a Cento, what she called “take-aways,” lines from what folks had read.

The feature was drummer, rapper, poet Jordan Taylor Hill with drummer Kojo Kofi. It was a musical performance with the words as music & rhythm, some free-style, some philosophical rap, some prison chants that Leadbelly had performed too, & lots of drumming. At one point Kojo tried to teach the audience a song from Ghana about Janey, call & response & enough repetition to learn the sounds/words. Did I mention lots of drumming? A good way to get us boppin’ out the door. But before we did, D. Colin read the group poem (otherwise known as an “exquisite corpse”) from the clip-board passed around all night — I won’t say which was my line. A great night of poetry & drumming, glad I finally got back there.

Poetic Vibe happens every (most) Mondays at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St. in Troy, NY, 7:30, contribution to pay the feature. There is a full bar & a food kitchen & lots of comfy seats. Pick a Monday & go.

June 14, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, June 10

This was an odd day at the Arts Center, starting off in the Black Box theater where we are most 2nd Sundays, but then in the middle they moved us upstairs to the Dance Studio. In the past we have occasionally been re-located to a studio on the 2nd floor, but this was the first time we were moved in the middle of our event. Whatever.

There was a long (16 writers) sign-up sheet, with a number of poets who have not been here in a while, to pay tribute to Howard Kogan who will be moving with his wife Libby to Worcester, MA. Howard has been an integral part of our community of poets & his poetry is much admired & enjoyed.  First up was Tom Bonville with a memoir of what many of us experienced “Hide & Seek.”

Edie Abrams hasn’t been here in quite some time & we’ve missed her; she read a piece that I’m sure Howard could appreciate, about acquiring too much stuff, "except…” Dianne Sefcik began with a descriptive piece titled “Thunder,” then a poem for Howard about the gifts from his garden. Tim Verhaegen read a long, lush, Whitmanesque memoir prose poem “I Am the Sea.”

One of the day’s new voices to show up today  was Kendall Hoeft who is new to the area, but jumped right in seeking out the poetry open mic, her first poem was a portrait of a street guy on a bench “God Who Bloodies Knuckles,” then “Poem I Didn’t Write” in response to her mother’s “don’t write a poem about me.” Joe Krausman read a poem by his uncle, originally written in Yiddish, on hating, & paid tribute to help with his translation by Barnett Zumoff, MD, endocrinologist & poet. I followed Joe with 2 new poems, a description of an imagined room from a photograph “Lily White,” & a political rant “Buttons Not Bombs.” Tom Corrado’s poem “Becoming Ocean” mentioning the suicides of Virgina Woolf & Anthony Bourdain was inspired by the music of the American composer John Luther Adams.

Our honoree, Howard Kogan, began with a poem celebrating unions “Blue Collar,” then one written for a workshop with Bernadette Mayer the assignment to write on Syria, it began “Seriously…”. Bob Sharkey read a childhood memoir “Cave” then another of his humorous, quirky re-writes of Chinese fortune cookies that he knows Howard likes, this one titled “Feckless Fortunes.” Alan Casline writes poems about being in the woods & read such a piece with birds, then a poem for Howard “Road Salt from a Previous Journey.”

Sometimes I can’t always understand Karen Fabiane so I think the title of her stream-of-conciousness piece that began with dogs & ended up in Brooklyn was “Me Fingers,” then a piece read previously but now re-written “Ain’t Like That.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a just-written poem “Cook” composed of the language of food & cooking ending with the name “Bourdain,” then the untitled poem “Untitled” from her 2017 book god must be a boogie man that begins “I am shaped by dreams…”

Sally Rhoades rushed in for Howard, read a poem about the night sky in Oklahoma “Missing the Starlight,” then one about a World War II memorial in Europe for American soldiers “White Crosses.” The last poet was also a new voice & face, John Teevan who read a short prose story titled “A Melancholy Euphoria” set in 1917, lovers parting, with a consideration of the possibilities, from a book titled Afternoons and Evenings in Vienna.

From there, many of us, Howard & Libby’s friends, adjourned to Brown’s for food, libations, conversations & a toast to one of the poets who added so much to our local poetry scene, so much to our community, a good poet & a fine gentleman. It ain’t over until it’s over, as another Brooklynite once said, we’ll see Howard again.

But you won’t see 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose again until September, we’re off for July & August, just like school. Otherwise, we’ll be at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY the rest of the year on, you know, 2nd Sunday @ 2. It’s free & open to all writers.

June 12, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 17

I like to say, “if your friends & relatives don’t come to your readings, who will?” & tonight’s featured poet, Katrinka Moore, certainly followed that axiom packing the house with acquaintances, including one whom signed up to read for the first time here, in addition to some of the regular open mic-ers. But first I invoked our Muse, the gone poet Joanne Kyger (1934 - 2017), & read her poem “It’s Been a Long Time.” Then on to the open mic.

First up was Alan Catlin with a grim litany of war wounds, “Walt Whitman’s Bitter Angel,” culled from his Civil War poems. Tom Bonville was here for the 1st time with a descriptive poem titled “Mother’s Day,” his mother at 74. Self-styled "country-girl" Dianne Sefcik read from her recent book Red Ochre, “Pipe,” also her first time here, a poem of social justice.

Joshua RA Dundas said his mission was “to bring light to people’s minds” & did his poem “Dark Glimpses,” as dark as its title. Don Levy is certainly not here for the first time, read a new poem, a FaceBook warning, “Do Not Feed the Trolls!” Carol H. Jewell’s pantoum is titled “Pre-Occupied or, How the Princess of Pantoums Passes Her Time.” I messed up the next poet’s name while announcing him, then G. Douglas Davis IV struggled with an Arabic word in his new poem for Palestine, delving into history.

Katrinka Moore had many fans in the audience & perhaps made more. She read from her new book Wayfarers (Pelekinesis, 2018). She explained that each of the poems in the book is a different tale by a different speaker. She began, appropriately enough, with the Big Bang, “Cosmogony,” then on to “Remnants,” “The Rolling World,” & a poem apparently not in the book “Visiting the Hermit Finding No One Home.” The poem titled “Parting” is actually the first poem in the book, & “Luna Lura,” a short poem, she described as a postcard from a butterfly visiting the Moon (& perhaps my favorite in the book).  The second section of her book, “A Crossing,” is about her grandparents migration in a model T from Texas to California, from which she read “Crow,” "The isle is full of noises” (which comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”), the lushly descriptive “Sea Road,” & “Wind Road.” She ended with 2 poems about her mother’s death, “Falling Sometimes” & “Scatter.” Wayfarers not only contains these & other fine poems, but also a number of nearly abstract black & white photos.

After a break we returned to the open mic, with me reading my new poem, “Buttons Not Bombs.”

A special treat was a reading of a poem for 2 voices, “Fusion Approach to Gathering,” by Dawn & Hani Marar from Dawn’s new book Efflorescence (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Howard Kogan announced that he had sold his house & would be moving to Massachusetts, but said the poem he read was not about him, titled “Over.” Betty Zerbst’s poem is titled “Looking Back” memories about her family in rhyme. Tom Corrado moved out of his comfort zone to read the grim “Notes from the Belly of the Beast” — he has published his “Screen Dumps” in a collection of 365 A Dump a Day. Philomena Moriarty read the first in a series of poems, written from notes of what comes up from sitting in a present moment, “Snapshot.”

Joe Krausman read a humorous, social commentary “The Magic of the Answering Machine,” a message that someone left behind before he died. Clarese Portofino read a poem, like a series of notes, describing a shameless party & its aftermath “The Last Brazier.” Brianna Kehrer’s poem, “Peter Paul & Amy,” describes a sad cook in a restaurant in Schenectady & finding a moment of compassion.

The final reader was also a first timer here, Jeannette Rice, has read other people’s poetry, read her own poem from 1956, from elementary school bomb drills, imaging the bombs had exploded & the Earth is dead.

But with any luck the Earth will not be dead on future Third Thursdays so we can gather at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us to read a poem too.

June 5, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 13

This week we got bounced upstairs but it doesn’t matter, the words still flow up. Nancy Klepsch & I play tag-team hosts here at the Arts Center each month.

& I ended up first on the open mic sign-up, & read 2 new pieces, “Buttons Not Bombs,” & a poem-joke dedicated to Peggy LeGee “A Traney Story.” Rena Ehrlich adds an international flavor, like vodka, to the readings here with her translations of Russian poets, today it was Evgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Here is What’s Happening” (translated by Andrey Kneller), & her own translation of “April” by Bulat Okudzhava. Mike Conner likes to read his seasonal poems, & appropriately enough his first was “May First,” then the descriptive “Summer Calls.”

Harvey Havel is often in the audience at open mics, but rarely reads; today he read the first 4 pages of a new novel of a love story for a crack addict told by an upper-class hockey player. Karen Fabiane’s first piece was titled “Navigating the Space Bar” then another portrait of a woman at a bar “Corner Spot.” Peggy LeGee read her newest chapbook Enter the Shopping Kart Man (Transgirl Press 2018) in the continuing graphics art saga of Moochie the Dumpster Kat (art & lettering by Raymond Lowell).

Co-host Nancy Klepsch wrote a poem this morning celebrating the color “Green” & tried it out.  Jil Hanifan started with the short “Poem in the Overcast” then a piece on urban sounds “Presences.” Bob Sharkey read 2 poems inspired by entries in the recent Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, “Siege” about the Battle of Malawi in the Philippines in May 2017, then a Cento titled “We Are Delivered by Wonder” composed of lines of poems from entries in the contest. Christian Ortega has just moved to Troy from the mid-Hudson area & read from his book Red Poems (Hispanic Paradox Press, 2014) the poems “My Name & Yours” & “Miami.”

Each 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region we gather for a wide-open literary open mic of poetry & prose — bring your pages to read, free & open to the public.

June 1, 2018

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, May 11

This was the beginning of what will be a truncated season at the Pine Hollow Arboretum which is going through some changes affecting the visitors center after the death of its founder John Abbuhl. For tonight the featured performer was poet & musician Mộng-Lan. Alan Casline was our host.

First on the open mic sign-up was Mark O’Brien who read “The Vocabulary Kiln” from The Rootdrinker Anthology, then a memoir poem about his mother. Paul Amidon’s poems are richly descriptive, he read “Old Dog” & “Roadside Memorial.” Mike Conner read the post-breakup “It May,” & a piece about a thunder storm “Storm Stranger.”

Tom Bonville’s poem “Why Jake Went” was about a school valedictorian who was killed in Viet Nam. Tim Verhaegen’s piece was humorous & nostalgic, about the first time in 1986 he heard the name of the-love-of-his-life. Mimi Moriarty read 2 political pieces, “Where is the Portrait of Peace Hanging, Which Wall?” & one written last year before he re-surfaced, “I Love You John Bolton.” Frank Robinson read what he said was the 1st poem he ever wrote, “We,” about the ocean & our brains & the start of civilization. Therese Broderick said they were just back from Ireland & read a persona poem “The Daughter on Sunday Display.” Joan Gran has not read out in a while so it was good to hear her again with a nostalgic poem about the Albany bar Mike’s Log Cabin, & a piece titled “Independence at 70.”

Mộng-Lan began her reading with a poem “Field” from her first book about seeing her ancestor’s graveyard in Viet Nam, then from her 2014 book One Thousand Minds Brimming: Poems & Art (Valiant Press) a poem titled “Saigon,” & “Love” in fish sauce. Then a section from Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art (Valiant Press, 2008), & on to poems from her latest book, Dusk Aflame: Poems & Art (Valiant Press, 2018), excerpts from the long title poem, then “Love Poem to Curry,” & excerpts from a long poem “Tone of Water in a Half-Filled Glass,” & “New Orleans Pillow Book.” She concluded with the playing on the guitar 2 Tangos, for a lush & varied performance.

After a break, Bob Sharkey led off the open mic poets with a cento composed of lines from entries to the Stephen A. DiBiase contest, titled “We Are Delivered of Wonders.”

Caroline Bardwell has been playing with forms & started off with a rondo, “Death of a Dream” including a quote from Ezekiel, then a free verse poem for the Arboretum “The Deep Forest.” Alifair Skebe read 2 poems from Thin Matter (FootHills Publishing, 2017) “Desire” & “Persevere.” Joe Krausman read about insomnia “Four” & a poem titled “No Day without a Line.” Peter Boudreaux’s poem “At Odds with the World” was recently written. Tom Corrado read the 18-part (some only a few words, others longer) “Notes from the Belly of the Beast” a grim portrait of dysfunctions, binging, purging, cutting, Walmart, group therapy.

Michale Czarnecki read from his newest book You (FootHills Publishing, 2018) a untitled piece on the ocean, then from another collection, “I’m a 46er!” Ron Pavoldi read a new poem for the 1st time, “When All is Right with the World.” Our host, Alan Casline, ended the night with the strangely titled poem “Give to Vitamin Angels.org,” then one of his poems based on the I Ching “Breakthrough” (Hexagram 43).

We’ll just have to see what the future brings for this reading series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum. Meanwhile, the Arboretum is still there & they trees are still growing — stop by sometime & visit.

May 29, 2018

Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest Reading, May 6

This is the reading many of us have been waiting for since last October when it was opened up for submissions, or at least since March when the winners were announced. This is the 3rd year local poet Bob Sharkey & his family have run this unique event to remember a Viet Nam vet & friend of Bob’s, who died in 1973 at the age of 27. What makes this unique is that the contest asks for only 1 poem from each contestant, but that poem can be any length, any style, published or unpublished. This year there were 255 entries from 33 countries, including 41 from Ireland & 10 from Nigeria; 86 New York State poets entered.

It was a grand gathering of mostly local poets, with notable exceptions, Martin Willitts Jr. who drove over from Syracuse to read his First Place poem “Open Wounds,” about the trauma of war & its aftermath, & Hannah Bleier, a Finalist, who came up from Brooklyn to read her poem “The Word” & said she hoping to find the kind of experience that she did indeed find here.

I’ve included graphics of both the list of Contest Awards and Finalists, & the program of the reading itself, but will mention some of the highlights. Howard Kogan read “The Selective Lad” by Okere Godsent of Lagos, Nigeria which won the “Kogan/Wilcox International Award;” when Bob was telling us about the entries he was receiving from around the world, sometime after President Trump talked about “shit-hole countries,” both Howard & I, separately, suggested that Bob have a separate award for a poet from one of Trump’s disparaged countries/continents, thus the award for Okere Godsent.

Maroula Blades from Berlin, Germany was so thrilled by her High Honorable Mention for her poem “Thembi’s Initiation” that she sent a recording of her reading the poem which Bob played, a grim pantoum on female genital mutilation. Bob Sharkey read Olivia McKee’s “Antimony” & Mary Panza read Rebecca Schumejda’s 3rd place poem “Then He Begged Me to Go Back with Him and Rescue the Others,” both poets were at paid readings elsewhere. Mary also read her own Honorable Mention “I want you to know/ I was raped.” Nancy Klepsch read a couple of Honorable Mention poems, Chidinma Opaigbeogu’s “Afternoon” about the war in Biafra, & Lani O’Hanlon’s (from Waterford, Ireland) “Until the Young are Reared.”

I had the honor of reading with Bob Sharkey the 2nd Place poem by Richard Foerster, “The Hours,” a description of a usual work day using the monk’s canonical hours as a structure (originally published in Poetry).

Some poets who made rare appearances reading in Albany were Ken Holland reading “Boom Times at the Shake Shanty,” Jodi Ackerman Frank who read “I Survived,” & Mary Kathryn Jablonski with a revised version of a moving, whimsical poem I’d heard her read at Caffè Lena “On Hearing that Crayola is Retiring Dandelion.”

Speaking of poems I’ve heard previously at open mics, there was Paul Amidon with “The Three Kings” about schoolmates going off to war, Kathleen Smith reading “Rhapsody in Blue, Playing at the Egg in Albany,” & Sylvia Barnard read an archeological poem “Cat Print.” Mimi Moriarty read her poem about a poet struggling with immortality “A Poet Who Cannot Support Himself Takes a Job Pouring Cement.”

Bob introduced each poet & poem by reading the bios the poets submitted & their statement about their influences, poetic & otherwise. He also shared with us his memory of knowing Stephen A. DiBiase, & ended the reading with excerpts from the longest entry to the contest, a poem by Sylvia Anne Telfer from Scotland “Warp Wolves.”

All us, winners & other entrants, are most grateful to Bob Sharkey & his coterie of judges who made such a reading possible -- & we are looking forward to once again entering out "best" poem to this now annual event.

May 22, 2018

NYS Writers Institute: David Tomas Martinez, May 1

There is a new regime at the NYS Writers’ Institute & while they continue to bring world-class writers to UAlbany they are reaching deeper into our own writing community to bring the talents there to the audiences that attend these free events. Tonight’s reading by prize-winning poet David Tomas Martinez was the next-to-last in the semester’s (& season’s) impressive lineup.

Courtney Galligan
Mark Koplik, the Writers Institute’s Assistant Director, introduced a string of Albany students to perform their own spoken word poetry before introducing the featured poet. The student readers were Alicia Bonnard reading the autobiographical “Stardust;” Maggie Gorman with the memoir “Grandpa;” Fetuma Diello read “Sin;” Ivy Portes' piece was the grim “Maggots;” Courtney Galligan, the managing editor of Compendium, read “The Pain of Childbirth;” Destiny Brown’s untitled piece quotes the murdered Eric Garner “I can’t breathe;” Amy Savage was invited up from the audience to read an excerpt from a story on bonobos in a lab experiment; & Laurin Jefferson said she introduced using her “government name,” her writing name is Laurin DeChae, & read “That Black Light is So Cliché.”

Under most circumstances that in itself would have been a excellent program, but the featured poet David Tomas Martinez was next, introduced by UAlbany professor Michael Leung. Martinez started with 2 pieces from his 2014 book Hustle, reading a section from the poem “Calaveras” a childhood story from when he was in school, & “The Only Mexican” about “baby-sitting” his Grandpa. Then on to his just-published Post Traumatic Hood Disorder, “They Call Him Scarface Because He’s Sad” with gang members reading Nietzsche, “Fractal” on marriage & drinking, selections from “Found Fragment on Ambition,” & “And Three” on minorities in lit class, a dictionary as a Bible, & becoming a poet. From there he went on to read 2 new poems: “Distract” which he said was the first time he had read it out, with intricate wordplay on the names of rappers, & a “A Letter from DTM for Matthew Oldman” a friend.

I for one am looking forward to the new season of the NYS Writers Institute, particularly if they continue under the Directorship of Paul Grondahl to bring in local writers to share the stage with the A-list writers that the Writers Institute is renowned for bringing in to our community. Check out their website & support the good work they do.

[Note: I recognize that I may not have gotten the spelling correct for all the names of the student readers; corrections are welcome & may be noted in the comments section of this Blog, from which I will make corrections to the text.]

Poets Speak Loud!, April 30

Fresh from the poetic intensity of Split This Rock I was glad to be back at the poetry venues I am used to, among the poets I enjoy, hearing their poems, & back at McGeary’s on the last Monday with Mary Panza keeping it real, or thereabouts.

I was first up for the open mic & read my homage “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock,” then, still on the poetry theme, “Dot Dot Dot” (the ellipsis poem). Joe Krausman’s poems were inspired by what he read in the morning papers, “Sunny Side Up” & “Lawrence Pope” about a former bank president who became a bank robber. Bob Sharkey read about the fairies on “Surrey Hill,” then a poem, “Siege,” influenced by one submitted to the DiBiase Contest reading.

The next poet has been reading out as G. Douglas Davis IV but was introduced as we once knew him D. Alexander Holiday; his first poem was a series of questions allegedly put before Donald Trump before he was President, them a poem on the trial of Bill Crosby as a long letter, “Poem for Camille Following the Conviction.” Julie Lomoe’s poem “Jigsaw Puzzles” can be found online on her website. Robb Smith read one of his salacious grannie-porn stories, this about retirees partying at a casino.

The night’s featured poet was Melody Davis who began with her latest book One Ground Beetle: A Year in Haiku (Bad Cat Press, 2017), with prints by Harold Lohner. It was Show & Tell with Melody reading a haiku or two, then holding up the book to show the colorful print on the facing page. There were haiku on, of course, trees, clouds, birds, round stones, but also on Albany & on meetings. Then on to her 2013 collection of poems Holding the Curve (Broadstone Books), reading the ekphrastic “Caillebotte’s Laundry,” “Walter, the Lawyer,” the villanelle “It Only Starts,” & “Jasmine Boy, Cairo.” She finished up with a “new/old poem” about having hors d’oeuvres at the top of the World Trade Center, & a poem for a trapeze artist, “8 Different Ways to Fall.” A pleasant reading of richly varied poems.

Back to the open mic, stalwart Sylvia Barnard read John Keat’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” to introduce her own poem based on a text from ancient Greek that she teaches, “The Owl on the Water Jug.” Shannon Shoemaker tried out a poem-in-progress (isn’t that what open mic are for?) “Straight Girl Blues.”

Annie Sauter read a couple of poems from a recent run of 30/30 (30 poems in 30 days), the first an alliterative hippie fantasy/portrait of a girl on a bus, then a poem about rain “Late Night in Central New York.” Next a trio of new readers, the first “virgin” Meghan who read a sad love story “Answers to the Question You Were Afraid to Ask.” Ava read a description of herself in images of food “Lemon Juice.”

Olivia read a short piece that could have been an response to Meghan's poem, “Questions I Wanted to Ask.” Sally Rhoades, no stranger to the local open mics, read a birthday poem “I Blew Out the Candles” a childhood memoir, then one about a memorial to World War II dead in the Netherlands. Karen Fabiane had also recently done a 30/30, read a poem to a musician friend “Wise Beyond Her Years,” & “Even This.” Tim Verhaegen read a story in progress, a sad autobiographical piece about the love of is life.

As so often happens when Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on the last Monday of the month, a wonderful mixed bag of poets & poetry.

May 21, 2018

GOLDEN SHOVEL for SPLIT THIS ROCK 2008 to 2018 -- & Beyond

It’s Poems of Provocation & Witness Sarah & Melissa tells us, asks: Don’t

you want to join this poetic intervention in the public space? where you

sweat in morning yoga with Kazim, with Susan, with Yael the curly yogini, hear

poets you’ve only read, see poets you’ve never seen before, hear this

conscience of poetry Sister Sonia chant, I say Peace is my Hammer

poetry is a verb, Money’s not speech, Centos bounce off the pillars of power, ring

the bells of Congress, the White House, then love bombs I’m

dropping on Dupont Circle with Kelsey, John, Melissa, Martha, Katie & Sunu, gonna

be in 3 places at once to hear biker poets, professors, street poets, split

myself to hear Carolyn, Alice as if she were President, & share Naomi’s cookies, this

is how we leap from insight to the poem, how we buzzz with Tiffany’s bees, rock

with Regie wrapped in his boa, snap with the DC slam poets, and

worker poets, the poetic army of staff & volunteers, even poets who have split

to the beyond: June Jordan, Paul Weinman, Mahmoud Darwish, Jayne Cortez it

is always that there are more dead each year, gathered in words & photos wide

angle, close up from Jill in torn jeans & Kristen, & new tee-shirts when

we arrive from Susan, Jaime, I look for Greg, Sonja, mark my program & I

find old poets I never knew, new voices in print on stage, make River Flags, split

time for listening, find Nathaniel’s wall numbers, hear Martin say this

is a rant, because the title is long, these words meant not to rock

us to sleep but to shake us loose, disrupt Joe says, the old story, shout, stand

& applaud, hear Anne urge find projects to inspire, don’t be paralyzed by

the problem, Ocean: every poem a new beginning, Jennifer: my

whole life is a political poem — hammering with Langston by our side.

(The idea for this poem came at the 2016 Split This Rock from a workshop on the new poetic form invented by Terrance Hayes "golden shovel" & it was completed late in 2017.  The line of poetry which the end words form is from the Langston Hughes poem, "Big Buddy," from which the Split This Rock festival gets its name.)

May 20, 2018

Split This Rock, Part 8 — Saturday: Evening Reading, April 21

This was the final reading in this, again, fabulous festival of Poems of Provocation & Witness. Tonight’s hosts were Sarah Browning, who is stepping down as the Executive Director of Split This Rock, & Joseph Green, Director of Youth Programs, with Sarah doing a string of “thanks” & then paying tribute to the late Sam Hamill by playing a recording of him reading one of his poems (it was supposed to be “True Peace” but unexpectedly not, although that poem was read early in the festival at the tribute to the gone poets gathering).

The DC Youth Poet was Aniyah Smith who did a moving tribute to her Cuban grandmother, with some lines sung in Spanish, yet another stunning poem by a young poet in the DC Youth poetry program.

Keno Evol was the 2017 winner of the Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest, & he read his winning poem “on meeting a brother for the first time” on police violence & shootings in Chicago.

The first of the 3 featured readers was Paul Tran, resplendent in a white gown, who began with a family memoir “Elegy with My Mother’s Lipstick,” then read from a new series titled “Chrome,” which Paul introduced by saying “these poems are trash but thank you for being here,” poems about his Viet Namese family, a father who had molested them, trying to find a language for what we can’t describe. A poem about being at the Viet Nam memorial, “Facing My Reflection…” was inspired by a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa. Paul also read again the poem printed in Poetry, “Scientific Method,” & ended with a poem using the myths of Eve & Philomena “Against Redemption.”

Not only did Ilya Kaminsky have handouts of the 2 poems he read but they were projected on a screen behind him which I preferred to read from so I could watch the poet at the same time. He explained that it was because of his heavy Russian accent. The first poem was “We Lived Happily During the War” the shorter of the two. Then on to “Music Humana” an elegy for the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, described as:
"A modern Orpheus: sent to hell, he never returned, while his widow searched across one sixth of the earth’s surface, clutching the saucepan with his songs rolled up inside, memorizing them by night in case they were found by Furies with a search warrant."
It is a long poem, the equivalent of 8 printed book pages, rich in images from history, Russian poets & politics, read in a singing/chant adding even more magic to the words.

To top off 10 years of Split This Rock, in a neat bit of symmetry, the last reader was Sister Sonia Sanchez, who had kicked off the 1st Split This Rock reading standing on a table at Bus Boys & Poets. She is a mesmerizing performer, not just of her poems but of her stories, fables, not a preacher, but an Elder sharing the wisdom of her lived-life, as she said as she began, “I put everything in our youth…” because they continue what we & others have done. Jazz infuses her work, as in the blues sermon “Belly, Buttocks, & Straight Spines” for the work of a New York City artist, & the scat singing of her “10 Haiku for Max Roach” (she takes Haiku to a new, urban level full of the history of Black America & nary a frog to be found). Then read from “Sister’s Voice,” a long poem in rime royale (of all possible forms) to tell the story of her family in the musical voice of ancestors, her brother’s voice, that of her father, her mother, filling in the narrative with summaries between sections of the poem.

D. Vera, R. Cabico, S. Scheid, S. Browning, J Green
But it was not quite over. At almost the moment I first arrived at this year’s Split This Rock I was accosted by Susan Scheid & was asked to write a short love letter to Sarah to present to her with others tonight. Sarah was surprised by not only some folks on the stage honoring her role in creating Split This Rock with Melissa Tuckey but others like myself leaping on stage from the audience to thank her. My poem was

Sarah, Sarah
you brought us
all together —
like words forever linked
in the silken weave
of poems.

After all this, all these days, there was a late-night 10th Anniversary Party, with DJ Mane Squeeze, & a cash bar, & I was still meeting new people I haven’t met before. But this old poet was so full of these 3 days I needed to get back to the streets of DC, let the memory of the words & spirit & images soak in.

It will be a long 2 years until the next Split This Rock!

May 17, 2018

Split This Rock, Part 7 — Saturday: Afternoon Reading, April 21

The final day of Split This Rock ended with 2 featured readings, one in the afternoon & one later in the evening, & each deserve their own report. The afternoon readings were hosted by Clint Smith & Franny Choi, whom I remember from her electric performance at STR 2016. To begin they played a recording of the late Adrienne Rich reading one of her poems, with the prophetic line, “everything we write will be used against us…”

The DC Youth Poet was Kenny Carroll who performed a love poem, a memory of a brother, “back when something was good…” a tender, moving performance.

The first of the featured poets was Terisa Siagatonu, a National Slam finalist, Slam coach & mental health advocate, who taught us the correct pronunciation of "Samoa."  She read her contrapuntal poem in three columns, “Moana Means Home,” printed in the Split This Rock section in the April Poetry magazine. “Congregation” was a discursive, narrative piece about an aunt who died, & her grandfather, then on to a couple of environmental poems (she had been at the Paris Climate Conference in defense of Samoa), “The Day After American Samoa Was Underwater” which had been a Split This Rock “Poem of the Week”, & another from Poetry “Atlas.” She finished up with a piece dedicated to the youth open mic poets, a poem using a phrase from Lucille Clifton, “I’m still alive...” as a repeated refrain.

Kazim Ali also began with a poem from Poetry, the opening section of “The Voice of Sheila Chandra” inspired by the singer who has lost her voice, then the autobiographical (many of his poems are “personal” or spring from incidents in his life), “Origin Story,” then “John,” “Drone,” & “Check Point” (at each of which he gives a different response, making the personal political). “Inquisition” used a sex memoir to delve into history & violence. His poem titled Yannis Ritsos was not just about the Greek poet, but also referenced Mahmoud Darwish & Fadi Joudah. He ended with a poem he had read earlier in the festival, “Golden Boy,” & hearing it again I could appreciate more the intricacies of the weaving lines & the puns.

I had seen Ellen Bass at couple of the panels that I attended earlier in the festival; another thing that I like about Split This Rock is that the “stars” are often in the audience of the different sessions. Her poems are like story telling, or essays. She began with “Taking Off the Front of the House,” a humorous take on the everyday where she & her partner are like on a stage in their own house. A poem “Indigo” for her daughter began with a description of jogger, then imagined an alternative life. “God’s Grief" was a litany, while “Bearing Witness” came out of her experience working with victims of child sexual abuse. She also read the 2 Langston Hughes poems titled “Island,” & ended with “Jubilato Homo” taking the form from Jonathan Swift to write about transgender folk.

While sufficient unto itself this reading also served as a prelude to the finale of the festival, the reading later in the evening. So I wandered off to find The Pig, a pork-themed restaurant, for a quiet dinner.