October 22, 2018

No Borders, No Walls: Exploring Truth, Beauty and the Creative Self, October 17

This is was actually a noon-time reading by poet Frank X. Gaspar but because it was at Hudson Valley Community College, an academic institution, they had to give it a fancy title rather than “poetry reading” — as some poet once said, “a rose by any name…” I had read a few poems by Frank Gaspar over the years in various print & online poetry venues & this reading was a good chance to hear a bigger chunk & to buy an autographed copy of one of his books.

Bonnie Cook of HVCC introduced Frank to an audience of mostly students, but a fair number of older folks (like me, & younger), both faculty & literary & poetic community folks (like me). The poet began by singing the praises of his black pocket notebook, & read “Black Notebook #1, Gideon Bible, Los Angeles,” & “Black Notebook, Day Six, Canadian Rockies” both from his collection Late Rapturous (Autumn House Press, 2012); other poems from the same book that he read were “Sometimes God Saves a Fire” & the book’s title poem, that mixes memories, descriptions of Los Angeles & New York City & the paintings of deKooning. He also read the night-time/whisky musing “One Thousand Blossoms” & even a poem about a cat.

His poems are discursive, meditative, written in full, sometimes complex, grammatical sentences so that they sound like poetic essays filled with vivid images of the world around him. In the book, some of the poems are set like fully-justified prose, others with the lines so long they could be prose that is not right-justified, begging the question of genre, poetry or prose? My vote is “poetry.”

He ended with a long “spoken piece,” as he described it, set during the Viet Nam war, titled “Microphone.” Ironically, during the first part of his reading there had been some annoying feedback from his mic so he was moved to another at a podium just before reading this. The piece took the form of a long letter from a Portuguese kid from Provincetown, Cape Cod now living in New York City, to his girlfriend, written on a typewriter with a period key, leading to Kerouacian stream-of-consciousness mixing memories of his time with the girlfriend, longing & scenes of music in the Village — an energetic way to end a good reading.

The following Q&A began with probing questions by students, & other questions from the broader audience. As is often said, Frank said he has been influenced by everyone he has ever read, but did single out Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman & Edna St. Vincent Millay; he said he writes at night (as evidenced by some of the poems he had read), & to a question about “creativity” & the rest of the world, said he tries to “live in creativity,” which is another world.

Hudson Valley Community College does have a regular program of lectures, performances & art exhibits that are open to the public, visit their website for more information.

October 21, 2018

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, October 16

at The Low Beat on Central Ave. once again, tonight Mary Panza filling in for Thom Francis as the host. & tonight was the first time this open mic series has included a featured poet, visiting poet Mugabi Byenkya — more on that later.

The open mic began with D. Alexander Holiday who read from his latest book Kith & Kin written as G. Douglas Davis IV a piece on bullying titled “The Involuntary Leave of Absence as Punishment Routine.” I was up next & since we were in the midst of the baseball playoffs read 2 baseball poems “Baseball in Palestine” & “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Mr. Azarrah Moses was back again from last time with some strange pieces I find difficult to categorize, I think the first one (of 3) was titled “5137” & my notes say “mystical bs”. Not so with Christa DeMarco who read took the motivational speaker cliché of fearing your demons on its head, her poem saying demons were once gods, fear your angels instead.

Mugabi Byenkya was born in Nigeria to Ugandan parents & is currently based in Canada. He has written a novel, Dear Philomena, like letters, emails, & text messages to his alter-ego about a year in his life where he suffered 2 strokes & other health issues. Tonight he talked about his novel, & said “I let my writing speak for itself…”. Some of his pieces were like slowed down rap in hip-hop rhyme, did a call-&-response piece with the audience. One of his poems was titled “If I Die Bury Me Next to My Father,” then a poem to his mother, some poems done from memory, some read. He read what amounted to a love letter to a friend, celebrating Platonic love. Later, talking to Mugabi, I found out he was an assistant to Melissa Tuckey while producing Ghost Fishing: an eco-justice Anthology of poetry, a reading from which I hosted Mellisa & others at Poets in the Park this past summer & which includes one of my poems. What a marvelous inter-connected world of poetry we live in.

Luciano Ferraro was back, this time announcing he has a new book out Romancing the Art of Being Honest & read 2 poems from it, “Spinning Records,” & “24/7 Diner Service” using a dysfunctional diner service as a metaphor for the USA. Avery read a piece he wrote just this morning about the unforeseen, “Interruptive Existence.” Alyssa Michelle read a revised version of one of her relationship complaints “Solitude Thoughts.” Aron (Algorhythm) just back from Japan read a rant about casting out 7 demons, not into the game, not lying anymore. Mac also read a complaint, this against his hustler father. Koi-yola’s rap was about to necessity to keep growing, keep moving.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks happens each 1st & 3rd Tuesday, usually just an open mic, but look for changes in the format. You can find out all about it at AlbanyPoets.com.

A Night of Features, October 11

… or as my auto-correct would have it “A Night of Creatures,” oh well. Havey Havel was the host for this reading by 4 poets at the Hudson River Coffee House, part of an on-going quarterly series.

First out of the blocks was Jame Duncan, who co-hosts the Troy Poetry Mission with another poet reading tonight, R.M. Engelhardt. James began with poems from his 2017 book We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, about growing up in a trailer park in upstate New York, poems about biking & Halloween, mostly short pieces that in the book are set up in prose blocks. From a new book of flash fiction titled Nights Without Rain he read “Much Less” the musings of a woman tired of men, & one set in Texas “Jazz Annex.”

In this age of instant, on-line book production Carol Durant is one of a string of poets lately who burst on the scene with a book of their poems already in their hands, hers is titled Whole Phat and Gluten Free Poetry. Her poems are short ditties, less than a page, one only 4 lines. She read “My End,” “Empire Motto,” “Poof,” “Fake Sentiment,” “PJ Promenade,” & “Lobed Out.” In between she threw in some new ones, “Click Done,” & “Obvious & Oblivious.”

R.M. Engelhardt, on the other hand, has been on the scene since he was in high school, organizing open mics in uncountable venues, & publishing poems. Unfortunately, he was unable to pull up his new book, Coffee Ass Blues, on his phone so read a string of other poems instead, beginning with a characteristic piece “Death Is Open For Business” a dramatic monologue by the Grim Reaper in the modern era — he has lots of poems like that. In fact, death, or rather Death, figured in most of what he read, including “Jim Morrison Lives in my Basement,” & the similar “Jazz Maverick” (Bob suffering dementia). “Hipster Lycanthrope” was just plain silly, while the long 2-part piece “Under Sea” name-dropped 19th Century poets. His last 2 poems were also very serious, the short “Rapture” & another monologue, this time of a killer “The Dark Road.”

Nancy Dunlop was the last of the 4 to read, she also read the longest & was the most intense, beginning with a long “subtle performance piece” (as she called it) written out on index cards, about being sexually assaulted by a man weilding a knife 35 years ago right here on Quail St., an incident she said cut her life in 2, Nancy before & Nancy after; she managed to fight off her assailant & the piece ends with her giving encouraging advice to the “Nancy before.” After a short palate-cleanser poem she read a poem from her manuscript “In the Keep,” about sailing with her father, a descriptive piece "Frida Kahlo in Bed," then finished with nature poems written last month “The Wind” on change, “Kingfisher Country” with “hope” & “light” repeated, & a baby deer in the morning in “Thru the Trees I See.”

This series is held approximately quarterly at the Hudson River Coffee House, 227 Quail St., Albany, NY. Watch for notices about the next one on the AlbanyPoets.com calendar & the Poetry Motel Foundation email list.

October 11, 2018

Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic, October 9

This series run by Charlie Rossiter at the Tap House in Bennington, VT started one year ago today, & it was sadly poignant that on this particular night our host could not be be here to celebrate (he was recuperating from recent hip surgery). So I drove over to take over the duties — I had been here a year ago, & came over last month as well.

Tonight’s sign-up list & readers were the same as last month, except for Charlie. Laura Ellsby went first with a couple of “pet poems," one was titled “Small Perspective” about her chihuahua. Kenn Ash was very philosophical in his first piece “Self Possession,” & in a fantasy in which the description of “a small giant” on a distant planet becomes a philosophical treatise.

Jason Everett had with him his thick manuscript “Ligthstreet” & read a few from it, quirky poems with surrealistic images of the everyday, often with some sexy woman in it, one set in Montreal “Expo 10” & another he read in honor of a friend, only a few years younger than he, who died recently, becoming emotional as he read. Speaking of deceased friends I read “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” for the recently gone poets Harry Staley & Paul Pines.

A nice surprise was a brief visit from Charlie’s wife Mary Ellen Munley to wish us a happy first anniversary & to say Charlie was doing well — it’s wonderful how a poet's presence can be felt at a reading even when they are sitting at home with pain pills & poetry.

Since there were just a few of us, we went around again reading short poems, Laura doing more dog poems, one in Spanish about a one-eyed dog, then we convinced her to translate for us, another for her dog Ruby, & a prose poem for her 4 pets. Kenn read us his private “Decalogue,” some good advice for anyone. Jason’s second round were poems, like his first round, with seemingly random images thrown together, one piece like a dystopic John Ashbery. & I ended with a poem for the season my own “killer cocktail” a la Alan Catlin “Zombie Gourd.”

Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic is on the 2nd Tuesday of each month in the back room of the Tap House at Catamount Glass, 309 County St., Bennington, VT — sign up at 7:00PM, reading starts at 7:15. It’s about an hour from Albany, less from Troy & points East. Bring poems.

October 8, 2018

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, October 3

I had missed the last few months here, so I was glad to be back with the Saratoga open mic crowd, & even some other Albany poets who made the trip. Our constant host Carol Graser began with a poem by the sadly recently gone poet Donald Lev “How It Feels to Be Mortal” — we miss you already, Donald.

Rodney Parrott read a long, lecturing piece with the prop of a double-chewed log, from an apparent series “Universal Laws of the Universe.” Doug Holiday, signed up as G. Douglas Davis IV, recommended books on Donald Trump, also the eco-justice anthology Ghost Fishing, & read from an anthology of poems by native American authors Songs From this Earth on Turtle’s Back; then his own poem “Why We Should Not Re-cycle” the bad-taste characters & TV shows of the past (or present). Glenn Whitecki read in rhyme a piece about a masted sailing ship, then a take on Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Nicola Allain read about being on the island of Cyprus, feeling the connection with her native Tahiti (but seemed insensitive to the political issues of the divided island).

Elena Reynolds read here for the 1st time & her poem was a dialogue (not as grim as the title) “Explaining Suicidal Ideation to my Teenager.” Joe Bruchac read 2 poems, “In the Night” partially in a Native language, & “Proof of Life.”

Lance Henson, tonight’s featured reader, had lived & worked in this area in the early 1990s, & did some readings for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & at the QE2 in Albany. He began with sage — but not burnt here — for the missing indigenous women — & recited a dedication in, I think, Chippewa, “for the Peyote-ists around the USA.” He read mostly short poems, many untitled, from his world travels, from Zurich, from Jordan, Italy, Syria. He read a poem to his mother who was “a prisoner of war” in a a Catholic school who when she ran away was returned to the school with a ball & chain on her ankle. Another poem was about violence in Mexico in 1968. “Song of a Female Wolf in Captivity” told of a vision he had in Italy, & he ended with “To a Child Killed in Bethlehem by Israeli Soldiers.” He was one of those readers who asked us not to applaud his poems, & when he ended I applauded, thinking he meant only between the poems, but then that’s how I honor a poet’s work in my culture — no disrespect intended.

There were still a lot of poets signed-up so after a break the open mic continued. Leslie Sittner began with an exercise in alliteration titled “At Issue,” then read 3 pairs of 6-word stories, cleverly concise.

David Graham (along with Carol Graser & myself) had been among the dozen readers at the 100K Poets for Change performance at SUNY Adirondack last Saturday & read his poem “100K Pebbles” that had been included in the text. Dan Vollweiler read a humorous rhyme “The Poetry Bug.” Amanda Blodget was the second poetry virgin of the night & read “Why Do I Write?” & a companion piece “In My Cocoon” about becoming a butterfly. Suzanne Rancourt, who has been making the rounds of readings lately read from her series “Song of the Hummingbird,” the poems titled “Shiver” & “Clear Skin.”

Brian Krauth’s poem “Poetic Sketches Cloud Lines” was a series of natural images stained by abstractions; he also read “Who in this Room?” Judith Prest read from her forth-coming chapbook from Finishing Line Press After the #MeToo poem “To Be A Woman” then from Elemental Connections the seasonal “Tree.” Jeff Stubits has been reading out a lot lately & tonight did a poem about finding umbrella parts in the rain “Mending Love,” then a piece on being distracted while meditating, in his throw-back style of reading like Ken Nordine from the classic Word Jazz LP way back in the 1950s. My poem was the tribute to the gone poets Harry Staley & Paul Pines “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz.”

Caroline Bardwell is one of the newer poets on the scene that I always enjoy hearing & tonight she read a poem based on a story from her brother “At Dusk Wolves,” then “Cascades” a philosophical piece built on images of water. Nancy White read “a villanelle” that was a poem on mortality but not a villanelle titled “Villanelle."  Sally Rhoades read a piece for the anniversary of the shooting in Las Vegas last year “Innocence Lost,” then a poem from her time in Ada, OK “At the Chickasaw Cultural Center.” Our host, Carol Graser, to bring the night to a close, read her poem that was incorporated into the group poem last Saturday at SUNY Adirondack “Now Is the Time.”

Unfortunately, as seems to happen here frequently enough, the featured poet & his entourage left after the break & didn’t stay to hear the poets in the 2nd half share their poems. I had spoken to Lance briefly before the reading, then intended to read my poem to him about seeing one of his poems in a NYC subway ad “I Meet An Old Friend On the Subway” — he didn't stay, why bother?  I read something else.  All of the poets in the open mic had heard the feature (& the others who left with him) read in the first half of the night, but those who read in the second half went unheard by those who came to just read to themselves -- their loss.

Well, no matter whether the puffed up featured poets hear the open mic poets, or not, the open mic poets will be back to read their poems to whomever is left in the audience, the 1st Wednesday of the month at Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM.

October 6, 2018

Brass Tacks #6, October 2

I like hanging out at The Low Beat & listening to poetry being shared — & of course washing it down with a beer. Thom Francis, our host, got us going pretty much on time.

I was first up with 2 poems, as I said, “from my very rich fantasy life,” “Lilly White” & “Sleeping in Patchouli.” Algorhythm did a “drive-by” on his way to Japan with a wistful poem about the words & babies he never had “Still Born.” Rhonda Rosenheck had been at the last Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s, tonight read “Good at Math” from her book Looking (Elephant Tree House, 2018), then on to a sestina “The Woman” from her series of “crime poetry.”

Kendall Hoeft has been making the rounds of the open mics of late, read a poem based on the film of Anna Karenina “Of Sea & Sky,” then a love poem “Request for Body Modification,” & the descriptive “A Dream in Morning.” When Mr. Azanah D. Moses came up to read with a copy of AlbanyPoets' new print publication Offline in hand I thought he was reading from the text, but it turns out he had been using it to write in; he said he is usually here for the song-writer night, read something called “Super Hero #7” & a very short piece on stolen identity.

Zacha was in Albany for work with co-workers, found a night out for poetry, beginning with an untitled piece on women, then something written from a prompt combining “security” & “my Jesus.” The poet who has been signing up (mostly) as Slay! the Dragon read on the crime theme with a strange piece about a detective looking for missing cats in Troy. Alyssa Michelle was back once again at the bottom of the list with another first person relationship poem “When the Past Calls” about remembering a love.

Brass Tacks continues the 1st & 3rd Tuesday poetry tradition at The Low Beat, 7:30PM, mostly an open mic, but featured readers lurking in the wings.

New York State Writers Institute, September 28

The New York State Author & New York State Poet are named every other year at a grand gathering on the University at Albany campus, this year at the Campus Center Ballroom. Officially, The Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers was given to Colson Whitehead, The Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets to Alicia Suskin Ostriker. I was not familiar with Colson Whitehead’s work, although I’d read a review of his latest novel The Underground Railroad. However, I have followed Alicia Ostriker’s work since seeing her read in Hastings-on-the-Hudson back in the early 1980s, & more recently at Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

It was full program, with speeches by Albany President Havidan Rodriguez, members of the NYS Assembly Patricia Fahey & John McDonald, a PBS film about the Writers Institute & then the presentation of the awards by H. Carl McCall, chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees.

Alicia Ostriker began with reading part of Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus,” then went on to claim Walt Whitman as her “grandmother,” & then talk about Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry; she read her “Requendo” & said Millay was one of our great forgotten & ignored poets. She also read from Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017) some very New York City poems — upper Broadway in the morning, 2 women talking, the homeless, & learning to sing in 1st grade. An engaging, charming & very real poet, another great pick to join such past recipients as Stanley Kunitz, Audre Lord, Sharon Olds & Yusef Komunyakaa, among others.

Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad, now available in paperback from Anchor, has received a slew of awards. He is also the author of 5 other novels & a couple of works of non-fiction. In his remarks he made a humorous reference to his mission as NYS Author to re-open the investigation into the Headless Horseman. He also read about NY City, from his essay “The City Limits” (from The Colossus of New York) which talked abut the ever-changing neighborhoods of the City, how each person’s concept of “their” City is different depending on when they lived there.

Of course, there was a book-signing afterwards with a chance to talk informally with both writers. I had the opportunity prior to the ceremony to talk to Alicia Ostriker & she asked me about the Millay Colony in Austerlitz New York.

For more information about the NYS Author & Poet & about upcoming programs at the NYS Writers Institute check out their website, https://www.nyswritersinstitute.org/

October 5, 2018

The Rev, September 27

Two nights in a row to Troy, for poetry! Matthew Klane has over the last few years made Russell Sage College in Troy a center of poetry & other new writing with a series of readings by visiting writers as well as open mics for students & readings by contributors to The Russell Sage Review. The series takes its name from the student literary zine. The program tonight presented, not quite by design, 2 writers from Chicago to a packed house of mostly students, with a few faculty & staff, & a couple of us community poets.

Alix Anne Shaw read from her forthcoming collection from Etruscan Press, Rough Ground, in which, as she explained, she contemplates the nature of language, playing off the texts of Ludwig Wittgenstein. She began with the prologue, “An Argument” about whether it is a “cup” or a “mug,” then on to a selection representing different aspects of the book; there is a central female character, a bomb blast that is part of the narrative, the main character moving from the country to the city; some titles such as “No Body Can Be Separate from its Bruise” (“bodies” is a word that recurs), “Forensic Scene,” “Nest” (the bomb blast), “A Labyrinth of Houses,” “An Empty Superstition” (rain & fire also figure in a lot). The poems were plain spoken, in simple language, almost like essays, read in a quiet, precise voice that matched the text. She concluded with a poem not in the book, interlacing physics (“the mean free path”) & the political, with a more emotional reading than the poems from Rough Ground.

In between tonight’s readers, Matthew read a poem “From the Book of Dust” by Cynthia Hogue, who had originally been scheduled for this reading.

In contrast, the next writer Jac Jemc read from her novel The Grip of It (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) about a young couple moving ton a new suburban house that turns out to be haunted. Interestingly enough, the author uses a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein as the epigraph. The story is told in short chapters, alternating between the husband, James, & the wife, Julie. Jemc gave us a sample of the voices & outlined the plot. She said later during the Q&A that she always liked haunted house horror stories & a wanted to try her hand at one.

Although the room was filled mostly with students, most of the questions seemed to come from faculty or community members — &, as is so characteristic of poetry readings in academic settings, no one applauds between poems, unlike the readings out in the community.

The series will continue throughout the semester; you can check their Facebook page for more information.

October 2, 2018

Troy Poetry Mission, September 26

This series started about 2 years ago at O’Brien’s Public House over on 3rd St. in Troy, but, alas, O’Brien’s closed a few months ago, not due to the poetry I assume. Now host R.M. Engelhardt has found a new home for this series at Elixir 16 on 2nd St. Rob got us off to a good start by reading Harry Staley’s tongue-in-cheek poem “Invocation” invoking the “Moose,” then read the lyrics to Tom Waits’ song “The Piano Has Been Drinking.”

First up on the list was me (don’t blame me, it was open) & I read my new poem “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” pretty much written at the Lake George Jazz Festival this year, then the slightly older “Buttons Not Bombs” (to match my shirt). I haven’t seen Tim Lake at a poetry event in years but here he was, perhaps because it was Troy; he a read a couple of older anti-war poems “Contemplation of an Impending War” (2015) & “Homecoming” (2011). James Duncan, who is the co-host of the series, read a poem for Autumn “Life Cycle.”

I was also surprised to see Suzanne Rancourt from the North Country here; she read an intriguing, titillating poem that used a litany of panties as ways into memory, then a poem about talking to the leaf clusters in the morning. Rob took a turn but took almost as much time to find his poems on his phone as it took to read them (perhaps it was his tinted glasses), a poem about sharing a smoke with the late writer Jim Harrison (who died of a heart attack from smoking), & one of his signature-style pieces “My Time Spent in Hell” with an old poet.

Alan Catlin was the scheduled poet back when O’Brien’s tanked & didn't get a chance to read so he was invited back for the re-birth. Once again Rob had difficulty with his cellphone trying to find Alan’s bio for the introduction. Alan explained that he would be reading poems that he had never read out before tonight, & began with a couple inspired by the work of Charles Simic, one where poems rush in take over the house, another in a museum of dead ideas & emotions. “Frightening Toys” was from a prompt he gave at a writing workshop, then “The Graveyard of the Beach Chairs”, & an elegy for an old guy at the bar Alan once worked at. From his work-in-progress “Hollyweird” based on films he read “Exterminating Angel” & “Look Homeward Angel,” then on to a persona poem about stopping time while drinking, & another bar piece “On Hearing 2 Army Rangers Killed by Friendly Fire.” From the zine Big Scream 57 he read “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” written in the 1980s but still worryingly pertinent. Strangely related in some way (Alan has a knack for linking his poems in readings in quirky ways) was a poem about Sharon Olds being bumped from the news by terrorists bombs. Alan also likes to write poems about photos & photographers & ended tonight an assemblage from a series of grim photos of cholera victims, soldiers being shot, starvation in Biafra & other horror news pictures.

After a break, we returned to the open mic with Kendall Hoeft who read a poem with images of waiting for Spring “Migration of a Hollow Swan,” & the memoir “Poem I Didn’t Write to My Mom.”

Megan Marohn began with the lyrics to the folk song “Same Old Man,” & continued into a poem, like a journal of her feelings, in response to police shooting of black men in Troy, then a poem titled “The Mermaid.” Schenectadian J. Dalaba/Hex’m Jai read a poem of Gothic images “Conjunctions,” then the sort of Monty Python-esque “Tally-Ho.” James Duncan was back with a poem based on the 1944 Humphrey Bogart film Passage to Marseille. Also reading from his phone tonight was Jeremy Olson with “Borrowed” on the theme of the strangeness of modern romance, the “Small Talk with a Stripper.” Gloria Manthos, also from the North Country, read the just-written “Buyers of Mindfullness Beware,” then a piece summed up in the line “I miss the desert.”

Kennedy Eldon was another voice new to me & read selections from a longer poem in short parts with sex & political undertones, then on to equally brief & sexy selections from a book titled Alphabetarium Penile, which was described in a 2016 notice for Troy Night Out as a “beautiful piece of wok which contains abstract paintings/depictions of penis[es] and the like [?] for each letter of the alphabet” — for everyone who loves a dick (their own or others) & "the like."

The management at Elixir 16 seems more enthusiastic about having poetry in the house than the feeling I got at O’Brien’s so I expect the Troy Poetry Mission to continue here for a while — but then “One never knows, do one?”  For now, last Wednesday of the month, at Elixir 16, 45 Second St., Troy, hosted by R.M. Engelhardt & James Duncan — no time listed on their FaceBook page, but I wouldn’t get there before 7:30PM.

September 30, 2018

Poets Speak Loud!, September 24

Another busy night in McGeary’s back room for this AlbanyPoets event, hosted by Mary Panza, & the featured poet Margot Malia Lynch-Steiner. But first on to the open mic.

The first poet on the list Rhonda Rosenheck was here for the first time & announced that she has a chapbook out from Elephant Tree House, Looking: Out, Up, In & Under Rocks, but the poems she read were not in the book, “The Conifers” speaking to each other (a villanelle), & “Synesthesia.” I was next with “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” & an older, Lark St. poem “The Spoon.” Judith Prest gave us a preview of her forthcoming book After with “Wild Woman Closing in on 62 Takes Stock,” & a new poem also on aging “Extra Beats.” Sylvia Barnard has been working on her poem “The Owl on the Water Jug” & read us the latest version, then on to a new poem written this morning, also on aging, “Hair.” I think this is the 3rd time I’ve heard Don Levy read his new poem “Meat the Beatles” & it is just as outrageous as the 1st, & left the audience, who were hearing for the 1st time, stunned.

Our featured poet was Margot Malia Lynch-Steiner, a rare but welcome appearance reading her poems. She began with a poem about finding “the lotus,” the inner light, with images of gardening, then a prenuptial poem “Engaged to Be” & the philosophical “The Night David Bowie Died.” Another poem, untitled, was a love poem about performing her music, affecting others. Margot is also a singer/song-writer & took out her guitar to sit & sing about a lover who has swept her away “Better Number 4.” Then on to a poem about another singer, Robert Plant, in her dream “Turtle Circle,” then ended with a good-by poem to a dead poet. In addition to reading, Margot had for sale a couple of lovely, eclectic DIY editions of her poems Tropical Storm from1996, & a more recent Carefully banded with Love.

Julie Lomoe once again (I’ve heard her a few times at recent open mics) read from her “Colorado Chronicles” the pieces “Hope Dawns Eternal” (the actual title of her earlier novel), & “Age & Altitude.” Sally Rhoades read 2 contrasting pieces, the ecstatic native images of “I Heard the Drumming” & a poem about her past “Sorrow So Deep.” Rich Tomasulo also made a rare appearance to read “a persona poem” titled “In the Antique Store: the Customer’s Dilemma.” Tom Riley showed up tonight with 2 short poems, “My 32-year Old Dryer” (confronting his own mortality), & “Still Life.” Mary Baker was a stranger to the poetry scene but held her own well with a poem & a song about rebellion from age 15.

Annie Sauter was done up in her best rock-star regalia to read 2 rambling stoner poems that pretty much sounded the same “Trailer Love” (in Colorado) & “Slow” actually read fast. Robb Smith did what was basically a stand-up comedy improv on giving the Bishop the finger. Karen Fabiane, who likes to sign up last, read “2 older poems” the first titled “Glass Door” & the 2nd published in Home Planet News years ago about what happened to all those Sunday comic characters “Popeye Revisited.”

There is no “typical night” at Poets Speak Loud! so this was a typically atypical night here at McGeary’s, Sheridan Square, Albany, NY, the last Monday of the month, with food & drink & poetry & whatever else happens. Check out the website at AlbanyPoets for details.

September 27, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, September 20

We were back at the Social Justice Center on a third Thursday with a solid list of open mic poets & the featured poet Charles Straney. Tonight’s Muse was the gone American activist poet Sam Hamill (1943 - 2018), editor of the important poet anthology Poets Against the War published by Copper Canyon Press in 2003; I read his poem “True Peace.”

Bob Sharkey was first up on the list to read “Living in the Light Blue” a sociological summary of his neighborhood in "East Latham." Marilyn Zembo Day hadn’t been here in a while & was fresh off her reading this month at Arthur’s Market, read an anaphoric political rant inspired by a prompt “Goddess Bless America” (with apologies to the other countries in the Americas), then read from the dedication in Joy Harjo’s 2015 book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.

Tom Bonville showed up to read the celebratory “Poems in the City,” about reading at an open mic & writing more poems the next morning. Sally Rhoades, who had been sitting on the couch here with her husband, read the tender “I Touch my Husband’s Skin.” Don Levy reprised the poem he had read in Schenectady a week ago “Meat the Beatles,” in which he puns on titles of Beatles’ songs about a news story of how John Lennon & Paul McCarthy would masturbate together, leaving us in hysterics. John Teevan made it across the river from Troy to read the title story from his book A Mysterious Evening in Vienna.

I have seen our featured poet, Charles Straney, & heard him read at a few venues over the years, notably Caffe Lena, at a couple events in Voorheesville, even at a couple WordFests & I am pleased I was finally able to bring him to the Social Justice Center to read. He has no book out, nor are his poems published in any journals or zines, so a reading like this is the only way you can get to know his work. He started off by singing the spiritual “Who was John?” then on to the poem “The Necessary Moon” & an untitled piece about the mysteries around us. Then on to a set of “farm poems,” descriptive meditations on the changing day & seasons & life, including “The Season’s Coat” (weasels), & “Porch Light,” leading to the the next group about the aging & death of family members, including “Losing Love Mid-Age,” & untitled pieces, one playing on “wont”. He ended with 3 poems on “the world we live in,” the common things we have come used to, even a visit to Lowe’s as a metaphor, & “Super Tramp” (nostalgia & the passing of time & life). Over the years I have heard some poets who were much more experienced at reading out who did not give such a carefully planned program of thoughtful, crafted poetry as poet Charles Straney did tonight.

After a break, I read my new poem incorporating lines from the late Paul Pines & Harry Staley “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz.”

The poet known as Screamer was wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, her poem, “I Don’t Really Know Why You Felt Right to Me,” using a line from a song, was a sad break-up poem. Joan Geitz showed up to read an old poem she had forgotten she had written about the difficult, fatal struggles of her son “The Perfect Storm.” Anthony Bernini read about love in his poem titled “Turning To.” Doug Holiday is a regular here & urged us to read a book or books about Donald Trump to understand his tyranny, & read from the anthology Sister Fire the chilling poem “Finished” by Ai in response to the current scandals about public officials & the abuse of women. The last 2 readers were both named Samuel/Sam, beginning with Samuel Weinstein who did a long rambling performance piece playing on the ditty “Roses are Red…” Then on to Sam T. who ended the night with another performance piece, this one short & surreal.

We are at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday of the month, starting at 7:30PM for an open mic with a featured reader, a local, regional or national poet, for a large or small donation that helps support poetry programming & the work of the Social Justice Center. Please join us.

September 24, 2018

Brass Tacks Open Mic, September 18

Back to The Low Beat for this low key open mic run by the folks at AlbanyPoets, with the host, el presidente Thom Francis — who announced that this was only the 2nd time in 28 years that he has worn shorts at a poetry reading (me, never).  Thom also announced the first publication of Offline - Poetry on Paper (Issue 1, September 2018) that contains print versions of poems by 10 poets who have been featured on the Albany Poets website, "to allow lovers of poetry ... to unplug from time to time."  Check out the website for more information.

I was the first on the sign-up list & read my new poem “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” incorporating lines from gone poets Paul Pines & Harry Staley, then one for the season “Yom Kippur 2004.” L-Majesty showed up & read a couple poems, “How to Become a Famous Poet” & from his book Bitter Boy Love Poems (a 10-year review of all his old relations, he said) “On Why I Bleed So Good for Them.”

Julie Lomoe (once referred to as “a national treasure” by someone at an open mic) read “Hope Springs Eternal” which she said was the title of her novel, about heading to Colorado for a Romance writers conference, then the poem/personal essay “Age & Altitude.” Christa DeMarco keeps coming back here, & read a piece dedicated to her therapist about learning to learn & not criticize herself “Tools, Skills & Life Lessons,” then a piece in which she sees herself in a new country as a refugee of hate.

Randee Renzi had a baby-sitter tonight & was able to get to an open mic; she began with a work-in-progress (aren’t they all?) “Reach Out to Me,” then from memory “Beautiful Brown Baby Boy” about the love & fears of being a (white) mom of a black boy. This was only Sarah Fountain’s 2nd reading, as she first came here just to listen; she read “Armored Up” & it’s opposite without armor “Raw.” I also saw Alyssa Michele the last time I was here, she started with the very brief “Soul Sis,” then a couple pieces to lovers “1:00 AM” responding to a text, & “Hey Stranger.”

Then Randee, because she has a baby-sitter tonight, returned with a piece titled “Peace” (or perhaps “Piece”).

This relatively new open mic has begun to attract regular readers here at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, 7:30PM — check out the AlbanyPoets website for more information.

September 19, 2018

W.O.M.P.S., September 13

Back down to Kingston to the ArtBar Gallery for the Word Of Mouth Poetry Series, hosted by Teresa Costa. There were 2 featured poets before a spirited open mic, the scheduled poets had been postponed from last year (I’d come down for that one too).

The first featured poet was Donna Reis. The first poem she read was from a mis-heard prompt at a workshop “Learn to Sail,” then to one about phrases her mother said, “How Do You Like Them Apples?” She when on to poems from her book No Passing Zone (Deerbrook Editions, 2012) “Forgotten,” “Perseverance,” & “Centrifugal Force.” “Shoe” was about the shoes of the shipwrecked on the ocean floor. She ended with poems from a series for her late husband, “Ocean Grove NJ,” “Again” about their dating, & a later “Again 2.”

Janet Hamill had been a featured poet a few years back at the Third Thursday Poetry Night & I am a sucker for poetry rich in images with a surrealist bent. She began with a couple of poems (done from memory) referencing poets upon whom she has a crush, Mayakovsky whose poem “The Tragedy of Vladimir Mayakovsky” her poem “The Tragedy of Janet Hamill” was based, & “Kerouac” in which she appropriates images, phrases, even titles of his work. From her book Knock (Spuyten Duyvil) she read pantoums, one like a travel diary in St. Tropez, another about NYC in her youth. She also read from Real Fire, a collaboration with photographer Richard Baron, including a poem about watching a campfire in the woods on acid “Not an Enraged Aviary” from memory. She ended with another of her crush poems, this on Rimbaud “Universe.”

After a break, Don Haynic began the open mic by reading Donald Lev’s poem “Brokeback Mountain” from his chapbook of movie poems (Donald is in a nursing home). T.G. Vanini performed from memory 2 poems from his new book Dear Cloudface (Post Traumatic Press). Judy Smith read poems of self-affirmation & advice for suicide-prevention month. I read my poem on the 9/11s “Another Tuesday.”  

John Muzak had a sound system strapped to his waist to accompany the poems he read with wacky, electronic sounds. Fred Poole read from his chair at the back of the room, “Thinking of Death” a summary of his world travels. Alison Koffler-Wise read a poem from this Summer’s dog training “Back-chaining.” Dayl Wise read the stunning, surprising “Checkout” (in a supermarket).

Rich Barley said his poem “America’s Choice” (on the AR-15 assault rifle) was his only political poem, but then read a poem about the US/USSR space program, & another poem entitled “Strong.” Don Haynic returned to read one of his own poems, “Pigeons,” from his phone, a descriptive, philosophical essay. Roberta Gould read from a new book, Women Lightening, “What to Do What to Say,” then a persona poem (not in the book) “Talk When You Can Tell the Truth.” Suze Bottigliero read a just written, rambling piece about Trump & being sleepless at midnight. Teresa Costa read a poem by one of my favorite poets, Bob Kaufman (“you wear my eyes…”), then one of her own on the absent gods & goddesses. Gary Siegel was a late arrival on his birthday (but he brought cake) & finished out the night with the philosophical “Clocks” & the descriptive/romantic “A Dinner by the Sea.”

W.O.M.P.S. takes place on the 2nd Thursday at the Kingston, NY hangout the ARTBar Gallery, 674 Broadway, about 6:30, features & an open mic, all for a donation — give what you can: Support Your Local Poets!

September 18, 2018

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, September 12

There was long sign-up sheet (19) & lots of fans to see Marilyn & Kristen Day which made for a stupendous night of poetry. Our host, Catherine Norr, started us off with an a cappella rendition of the Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts” then on to the open mic.

David Walsh was first on the sign-up sheet & read from his book Touchstones (Troy Book Makers) the timely “New York Noon September 11” & “Doctors.” I read a couple of older pieces “The L-Word” & “Hidden Cafe Table Poem.” Susan Jewell read her most recent ekphrastic poems, on architectural subjects, “Burnham” on the NYC Flatiron Building (the architect Daniel Hudson Burnham), the second, “Root,” on Burnham’s partner in Chicago, John Wellborn Root.

Making a rare, but indeed most welcome, appearance at an open mic was Kim Henry, whose poems are untitled, the first an homage to her mother & the second a dream vision of her ex. Don Levy read a new poem ripped from the pages of the news “Slossberg Nightmare” then “I Want Fall!” (I guess he doesn’t like Summer). Philip Williamston read 2 political pieces (same as he read at the Arts Center) “Jack Johnson’s Face” (& the faces of other ancestors), & “Build a Blue Wave,” both worth hearing again.

Both tonight’s featured poets, mother & daughter, have not read out much of late so it was a great pleasure to hear both these fine poets. Marilyn Zembo Day read first with a personal manifesto “Uncomfortable” holding her quote-encrusted goddess bowl, then a poem from a writing/spiritual workshop & the matchbox “Gift.” Her next poem was response Amit Majmuder’s poem “Kill List” (see The Best American Poetry 2017), 70 parts in short phrases, food, recipes, flashbacks. Her next poem was a response to the Obama election “Pseudo Sestina, then a memoir/celebration poem “At St. Casmer’s Polish Fest,” & a piece on balance “God(dress). She ended more personally with “Think of Me” & “Remnants.”

In contrast, Kristen Day combines humor, profanity & (like her mother) a firm undercurrent of real feeling & emotion that make us laugh & nod our heads in solidarity & agreement. She began with a favorite of many “Four Fucking Dollars” about a conversation with her grandmother, then on to a new poem taking on Trump “Gettysburg Tweet.” Her poem “This” was about the challenges, & life lessons, of being with a toddler, then she took apart all the thing she (& we) say everyday in, of course, “Everyday.” One of my favorite poems by anyone is her take on the destruction of the World Trade Centers “The 6:20 & the 2:45” & a piece on coming to peace (or not) with tinnitus “My BFT.” She ended with another favorite of mine, a humorous - & pointed - take on the open mic scene “Pick a Poem.”

After a break, much needed after such a 1 - 2 punch of poems, Catherine Norr was back with a poem about the loneliness of house-sitting. Alan Catlin read an Autumn poem which was a take on sports “Mascots,” then “Banks” a sci-fi poem imagining a clone store. Jackie Craven read a memoir piece “Cocktail Party on the Patio 1974,” then a poem about an imagined opening a pink box of famous painters. Betty Zerbst’s poems have the feel of “feel-good” greeting cards, with their rhyme & home-spun wisdom, as in tonight’s “Autumn Wind” & “A Little Too Late.” Carol Graser’s poem “The Ironing Board” was about a woman escaping.

Judith Prest read a new poem “The Secret Names” (that protect us), then “Unsafe” from her new Finishing Line chapbook After. Malcolm Willison’s poem “I Win” was an impressionistic take on Shakespeare’s Richard III, then recited (thankfully not sung) one of his song lyrics “Oldies.” Kendall Hoeft read a couple of children’s poems she had written in high school, one about Mini Bubbles & Mrs. Air, another about on old fish frier. Helen Farnham read a 3rd person portrait of a rebellious art teacher “Pinned to the Wall.” Pat Ward’s long piece “My Brother John” tracked the things he lost as his mind deteriorated.

Another fine local poet making a rare appearance tonight was Mary McCarthy with a piece on the march of technology with the opening line “We were the paper age…” Ginny Folger’s first poem “At the Nature Preserve” has just been accepted for publication, while her next poem she described as a work-in-progress was a discussion about “That Incident Long Ago.” In all the years she has been going out to poetry open mics, this was Sally Rhoades’ first time here at Arthur’s Market, & she read 2 poems about her family, “My Grandfather’s Fiddle” & for her 95 year old Aunt Polly “Disassembling” about a yard sale of a life-time of stuff.  & that was that, a full night of local poets.

This open mic on the 2nd Wednesday of each month takes place at Arthur’s Market in the historic stockade section of Schenectady at 7:30PM, & usually includes a featured poet.

September 16, 2018

Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic, September 11

I haven’t made it back to this open mic in Bennington, VT in nearly year, & wanted to see how it has progressed since I was last here. The host is Charlie Rossiter, of 3 Guys from Albany fame. He seems to have planted his feet firmly in the Bennington poetry & arts scene, such as it is, with a group of regulars gathered around tables in the back room of the Tap House.

Good ole Charlie was hanging out with Jerry (who didn’t read) when I arrived but we quickly moved into the open mic, with Laura (Ellsby) first up with her newest poem “The Tragedy of Co-Dependency” then on to the nature/descriptive “White Egrets.” I followed with a poem written for other September 11’s “Another Tuesday” & the much smaller “Hidden Cafe Table Poem.” Kenn Ash read about a universal issue, “Other People’s Children” (in rhyme), then a piece titled “Let Us Pray.”

Jason Everett read his almost sci-fi architectual/gynogological piece from the KGB Bar Lit Magazine “Noma Plus” then the one-sentence effort “Bone Folder.” Charlie read a nostalgic memory piece “Fredericks Maryland I-70 Truck Stop Torn Down," then a poem built on someone else’s line “Confessional Poem” about the poem itself.

Charlie offered us a 2nd round & Laura took the bait to read “Other People’s Children” written at a recent workshop from a prompt (as was Kenn's earlier poem), then an early poem “The Swing.” I did 2 baseball poems, “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson” & the ditty about the Valley Cats’ players the 2 Pinedas. & Kenn finished up the night with another rhyme “Ephemerality.”

This open mic is on the 2nd Tuesday of each month in the back room of the Tap House at Catamount Glass, 309 County St., Bennington, VT — sign up at 7:00PM, reading starts at 7:15. It’s about an hour from Albany, less from Troy & points East.

September 14, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2 - Poetry + Prose, September 9

After our Summer break, we (Nancy Klepsch & I) were back for our 9th year (!) of poetry + prose at the Arts Center in Troy - & a dozen on the sign-up sheet.

Just because it was there, I was signed up #1 & Nancy #2. I began with an old poem for the season “Tashlich” & my new ditty about the Valley Cats’ Pineadas. Nancy Klepsch read a new poem about Serena Williams, then a love poem for the everyday.

Dan Curley was back from his Roman sojourn & read 2 poems, the richly descriptive “The Starlings are Riding” (& counting), & “Toward a Grammar of Death” done up like a grammar text, complete with examples of usage. Dave DeVries began with “Rhythm” on music & the beat of words, then one from walking his dog in a cemetery “Gone.” Carol H. Jewell read from her 2017 chapbook Hits & Missives (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), “Furtive” & “Cento Pantoum #1” with lines from famous poets. Poor Bob Sharkey had a tough time making up his mind to choose from 5 poems, went with the “Ode to Our Laundry Basket” like an autobiography of a marriage, & one about visiting the Clark museum with his granddaughter, “Johanna in the Maze.”

Kendall Hoeft (who was wearing the fanciest socks in the place) read 2 sensuous poem written at a recent poetry workshop, “Shock Me Major Tom” & “Barrier” (what desire looks like). Karen Fabiane said the poems she read she hadn’t read out before, the first starts with a painting & heads out from there “Bumps Shouts & Pops,” then read “Finding the Car” where description leads to memories & ponderings. John Teevan read a story titled “International Territory” from his book of stories A Mysterious Evening in Vienna. Mike Connor read about laundry & “The Cool that Came off Sheets,” mentioning the anniversary of the death of Seamus Heaney, then one about the confluence of Autumn & his mother-in-law in hospice “Maple Blight.”

I’d heard Philip M. Williamston read at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady & here he was today in Troy with 2 political pieces, “Jack Johnson’s Face” & “Build a Blue Wave.” Kate Gillespie, who described herself as a “poet & scientist,” was here for the first time; she read “The Misconceptions of Microbes” then a walking poem written during a poetry workshop on Martha’s Vineyard “A Silent Wednesday Morning.”

An excellent start for this season of 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mics at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free! Bring 2 poems or 5 minutes (max.) of prose.

September 10, 2018

NYS Writers Institute - Elizabeth Acevedo, September 6

This was a spirited evening, early in the Writers Institute semester-long season, with many students in the audience to see, hear & talk with Elizabeth Acevedo, National Poetry Slam Champion & author of the novel The Poet X (2018).

Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl introduced one of my favorite local poets, D. Colin, to introduce Acevedo, with an emotional & personal take on Acevedo’s novel — Danielle’s family is from Haiti, while Acevedo’s are from the Dominican Republic. Acevedo then dedicated her opening piece to Danielle, “…for us writers, us readers, us girls …” She went on to talk about an early professor of hers who perpetuated the stereotypical poetic subjects, so that she responded with a poem “The Rat” (that the professor did not think “noble enough” for poetry).

She then talked of her Dominican family, & hair, & performed her piece about “how do you fix this hair?” From the novel she read a section from the beginning where the main character describes herself; & the author talked about her own experience coming up with her poems through the NYC hip-hop scene, then performed her poem about the bravado that characterizes rap performers, no matter what the quality of their work.

The Q&A session began with a question in Spanish (answered in English) about her beginnings as a writer, & more discussion of proving herself in the competitive hip-hop community. She also talked about the huge influence & support she received in her youth from The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (Bro/Sis).

If you don’t have the Writers Institute schedule for the Fall, visit their website for a complete listing.

September 9, 2018

Brass Tacks, September 4

Getting back down to the brass tacks of an open mic at The Low Beat on the first Tuesday, with the host Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets.

Algorhythm was first up with a poem he described as coping with anger, about his mother & a man-hating environment, “Escalation of Emasculation.” I followed, trying to lighten it up a bit, with “A Traney Story,” “Blue” a poem I’ve worked on for years, & my baseball ditty about the Valley Cats’ players Juan & Andy Pineda. el presidente read a new poem “Family Tree” with the interesting trope that it is not a tree but a pile of sticks. Roof-Topper Danger Jenkins spent some time flipping pages before reading “Unassimalated” then, for his daughter’s step-sister, “Bloody Footprints.”

Christa DeMarco was back to read 3 poems like letters, “In the Dark,” “Always,” & “The Places You Would Find Them.” It’s always good to see Shannon Shoemaker at these open mics, she read a new poem-in-progress about living alone “I’m Becoming Feral” then an oldie-but-goodie “Emo Boys.” Algorhythm was back with a segment from a play on suicide prevention in the voice of a political figure, but sounding like so many of his poems. The last reader was Alyssa Michele, who had been mentioned by Algorhythm, with 2 pieces on similar themes of love & relationships “Solitude Thoughts” & Soul’s Vacancy.”

This relatively new series, Brass Tacks, is at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, just an open mic for now — more information at AlbanyPoets.

September 3, 2018

Poets Speak Loud!, August 27

It was the last Monday of the month so I wandered in to McGeary’s for dinner & drinks at the bar & then to poetry in the back room, with Mary Panza in charge, definitely in charge.

Someone signed me up in the #1 slot so I started off the open mic with a couple of fantasy poems (aren’t they all?), “Lilly White” & “Sleeping in Patchouli.” D. Alexander Holiday read a poem by the late West Coast poet/activist Pat Parker (1944 - 1989)  “One Thanksgiving Day,” a poet about whom you should know.  

A poet quite still with us (thankfully), Carrie Czwakiel, read poems from her journal kept at age 14, “Castle Mute My Anger,” “Rain Drops” & “Turning Back Again” (about her parents). Bob Sharkey began with an “Ode to Our Laundry Basket” then one of his signature fortune cookie poems “Feckless Fortune.” Julie Lomoe read the memoir pieces from a trip to Colorado that she had read recently at The Low Beat about buying legal (!) pot “Rocky Mountain High.”

Tonight’s featured poet, Alyssa D’Amico, had come to Albany with her parents from Queens, NY to read here. Her poems appear in the latest issue of Up the River, which is how she got invited to read tonight. She read from her book Short Circuit: An Epileptic Journey (Shires Press, 2017), a journal of sorts collecting poems on different moments in her “journey.” This includes the description of being in an ER “Waiting,” the narratives of 3 brain surgeries (“Conversation” & “Caught in a Storm”), but most importantly coming to terms with who she is in such poems as “Epilepsy” (with its line “epilepsy is a part of me..”) & “Different Girl.” As often happens here in Albany, many of the poets in the audience bought her book or made trades with their own books - Support Your Local Poet.

Harvey Havel talked about his latest project ghost-writing a book & helping with the fund-raising through social media. Don Levy read his humorous poem considering the possibilities of “Bus Hottie 201.”

There was a time when Rich Tomasulo would frequent some of the early poetry venues, like the QE2, but we haven’t seen much of him lately; tonight he read “Birthday Wish” a memoir piece, then the imagined poems “In Coconut Grove” & “A Good Death” (which he said he read 10 years ago). I think the next reader’s name was Sam Maurice, or some variation of that, & he read a fragmentary piece titled “Symphony 23 in Easy Damage Management.”

Christa DeMarco read 2 poem, like letters, in which she confronted on “other,” “Exercise Your Demons” & “In the Darkness.” Joe Krausman was awash in synchronicity with his poems “How to Have Sex at the Age of 90,” & “Brain Surgery.” Avery concluded the night with the harrowing 2-part narrative “How To Install a Fan.”

The last Monday of most months is a good time to find poetry at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square (across the street from the Palace Theater) in Albany, NY, 7:30PM, with a featured poet surrounded by an open mic. Bring poems & a donation.

August 27, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 15

The second poetry event of a very eventful poetry day & a warm, steamy night at the Social Justice Center for the open mic & the featured poet, Sarah Giragosian, but lots of cool poets in the house, a couple I’d seen just a few hours before at the Altamont Fair. The night's Muse was the recently gone poet, professor, activist Harry Staley, in whose honor I read his poem “Chalk It” trying to channel his past, energetic performances. Then on to the start of the open mic.

First up, to honor another recently gone artist, Aretha Franklin, was D. Alexander Holiday who read Nikki Giovanni’s “Poem for Aretha.” Joe Krausman read from his poems about surgery, this about needing a specialist, not a writer. Jan Tranmontano was back in town, all too briefly, from Southern Florida, read a work-in-progress, “Solar Eclipse Totality” about her mother in a nursing home. Cicada read her “first city poem” read 1st in Denver with a punk band, an energetic celebration of urban life. Alan Catlin read a horror-movie styled poem, containing a prompt somewhere, beginning “We are planting the baby-heads by moonlight…”

I’ve enjoyed seeing & hearing Sarah Giragosian read at places like the Rensselearville Poetry Month event, but became a fan after reading Queer Fish (Dream Horse Press, 2017), filled with richly descriptive images of creatures, some you’ve barely heard of, to explore love, gender & relationships. She began with poems from from Queer Fish (which she characterized as “a queer bestiary”), starting with “Lullaby for Cat,” “Eros” (expanding the erotic beyond the human), “All at Sea” talked about our responsibility for our ecological impact, another on a similar theme “When the Horseshoe Crab Grieves,” & “The Fish Beneath the Portuguese Man of War.” Then on to a few new poems from The Death Spiral forthcoming in 2020 from Black Lawrence Press, including “The Second Moon Colony Won’t Fail,” a poem to climate refugees, the Yupik, indigenous people of Alaska, then the title poem using the free-falling of eagles as a metaphor, & “Nina” for another great American singer, Nina Simone.

After a break, we continued with the open mic — I record the audio of each of these sessions at the SJC, rather than take notes as I do at most other readings, but when I sat down to write this Blog I discovered that I for some reason the rest of the open mic was not recorded. I have the sign-up sheet so I do know who read, but other than a fragmented, vague memory I do not have the kind of information about who read what (including myself) that I had for the first half. I will give each poet equal treatment & just list who read. My apologies, not only to the poets, but to the grad students of the future who are writing their dissertations on the poets & poems of the Albany poetry scene for this incomplete rendering.

The poets who read, marvelously I might add (!), were:
Dan Wilcox
Jackie Craven
Caroline Bardwell
Bob Sharkey
Mary Ann Murray
Slay! the Dragon (who had read at Poetic Vibe on Monday as “formerly known as Kid Flash”)
Therese Broderick
Frank S. Robinson

Take my word for it, it was Greaaaat!

Recorded or not, the Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place each (that’s right) third Thursday of the month, not affected by any national holidays, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30PM — your donation helps pay the featured poet, supports poetry events in the area, & supports the work of the Social Justice Center. & bring a poem for the open mic.

August 24, 2018

Poetry at the Altamont Fair, August 15

As far as I can tell from my records, the first time I attended the Poetry readings (called “Poetry Appreciation”) at the Altamont Fair it was in 1992 in the Hayes House where the art is exhibited. I note another attendance the following year where Charlie Rossiter & I are conflated to “Dan Rossiter.” In those early days each person who signed up got a small plaque, no name, just a metal design tacked to a piece of polished wood.

A few years ago Alan Casline took over the event, perhaps after the death of William Robert Foltin, & the reading is now held at the Carriage Museum, a larger more open space, on the Altamont Fairgrounds. He includes not only an open mic but also a “round-robin” where folks read the words of gone poets -- but no commemorative plaque (I'd thrown my out years ago).

D. Alexander Holiday trying to cool off
It was quite an open mic list with a cross-section of sweat-soaked poets from the area, along with a new voice. Dianne Sefcik read a poem for the late John Abbuhl, other pieces including “an attempt at a poem on peace.” Among Tom Bonville’s poems was “At the Altamont Fair” about reading a poem at the Altamont Fair, which became a sub-theme. Karen Schoemer’s poems were descriptive pieces like notebook entries from her life. When I read I started off with “Altamont Fair Poem” (included in the recent Coast to Coast: the Route 20 Anthology as “County Fair Poem”) which I believe I wrote for the 1992 reading here. I also believe that this was the first time here for D. Alexander Holiday who read a series of political (i.e., anti-Trump) rants. Bob Sharkey’s selections were a variety, including one of his signature fortune cookie poems & the Irish fantasy of wandering with Leopold Bloom thru modern Troy.

Mark W. O’Brien took us for a stroll down his Memory Lane including his poem “Shunpiker” from Coast to Coast. His wife, Gale Allen, sang a church-lady song “Even Song in Oxford on St. Cecilia’s Day” (whose feast day is November 22 - what event in American history occurred on that day?). Tom Corrado read #353 from his epic compilation of his “screen dumps” A Dump a Day.

A new face & voice, Amber Seymour, read a variety of poems, ones inspired by The Yellow Submarine, a found poem from the newspaper, & a collection of “wise sayings.” Betty Zerbst’s poems were a combination of nostalgia with happy, greeting-card thoughts. Sally Rhoades read recent poems from her trips to Cyprus & to Catalonia. Signed up as “www.group” Mimi Moriarty, Deni Whalen & Kathleen Smith did 3 rounds of alternating poems, ranging far & wide, from prompts on “maps,” to more elaborate prompts, to found poems, to poems on Peeps & on horses. Julie Lomoe read writing from a recent trip to Colorado to attend a conference of “Romance writers” including a memoir about horseback riding (must be the fact we were in the “Carriage House”). Robb Smith finished us off with an excerpt of a short story titled “Devil’s Night.”

After a break for beer, & cool breezes (did I say it was hot in there?), a few of us staggered back for tributes to gone poets such as Harry Staley, John Abbuhl, Paul Pines & others.

Getting in my car I noticed that I certainly had some mud on my sandals, but, fortunately, no horseshit.

August 22, 2018

Poetic Vibe, August 13

With the coordinator of this weekly series, D. Colin, off to the Slam Nationals tonight’s open mic was hosted by Jordan Taylor Hill, with the night's featured poet, Mary Panza, waiting in the wings. Jordan started us off with one of his songs done a cappella.

No matter where I go, to what open mics, no one wants to sign up in the #1 spot, so I am compelled to take mercy on the #2 person signed up who would be #1 if I signed up for a later slot — I read the anti-war rant “Buttons Not Bombs,” then, because I saw Peggy LeGee in the audience, I read my poem/joke “A Traney Story.” I was followed by Elizag whseo poem “At the End of the Movie 5 Pieces” was a string of advice. The next reader was introduced as “formerly known as Kid Flash” (& I suspect I’ve seen him under various names elsewhere) who read Gregory Corso’s long poem “Marriage.” The always colorful Peggy LeGee read pieces from her phone rather than her frequent notebook, “You’re Addicted to Distraction” & a piece from childhood “Revise the Echos.”

Amanda, who was new to me, read long, richly descriptive pieces in a manic, anorexic manner about guys, “Going Dutch” (with the provocative repeating line “I want my underwear back…”) & “Mall Men.” This was my first time seeing Alison Lennon read her work, whom the poet George Wallace had referred us each to the other; she did a short 4-act play, more a male/female dialogue with Elizabethan diction, from memory no less. Jordan performed another piece “What Now?” then brought up Josh RA Dundas; I was relieved to see he was wearing a vest over his naked chest, but then he took that off as he does when he is wearing a shirt, then proceeded into a long preachy sermon & 2 sections from his ever-present book he is promoting. Rose read from her journal/notebook an interesting progression of thoughts on words & concepts linked by the phrase “… translates to…” This was Sam’s first time reading & she read poems by a friend.

Mary Panza was the night’s featured poet & that certainly added motivation for me to get here tonight. She began with a cranky piece about spilling coffee in her cup holder & trying to soak it up with a Maxi-pad (which I must admit is not something I would have handy in a similar situation), then a piece pondering “those black & white photos.” She read her poem “The Little Blonde” for her daughter, one of my favorite pieces, then 2 about mentoring a young girl who had also been raped, full of self-affirming advice from her own experience. Mary doesn’t read much as a feature, or even at open mics, but when she does it is always worth the trip & the price of admission.

Jordan finished up with a reading of the group poem, as the Surrealist would say, “an exquisite corpse,” written by the audience as is the tradition here.

This weekly venue takes place each & every Monday in Troy at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St. where you can get food, drink, & poetry all in one place — 7:30 — bring poems for the open mic.