December 11, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 9


We were kicked upstairs due to a performance in our usual space, the black box theater (named after yet another crooked politician), but it was brighter, sunnier up there & not just because of the sunlight, but also because of the luminous poets & listeners. The hosts were Nancy Klepsch & myself, DWx.

First up was Bob Sharkey who read a magical poem about a visitation from his great-grandmother Brigid Connolly “Brigid Visits East Latham.” Joel Best followed with a poem perhaps titled “Nighting” that was perhaps a ghost story, then a poem about family “We Are 9 Old Chairs.” Dave DeVries began with a memoir of a ’58 Chevy “Car Fever,” then on to one titled “Questions” which was just that.

As you can see from the photo we were sitting around tables arranged with an opening in the center & lithe Kendall Hoeft was the only who was limber enough to crawl into the center where she read her first poem with dance moves “How to Match the Sky,” then a new piece that she read from back on the perimeter “Of Eden” back in the Garden. I didn’t read one of my own poems but instead read my favorite holiday-season poem by the marvelous (but gone) Enid Dame (1943 - 2003) “Holiday Poem” (“… we don’t need the solace of bought objects. We need other’s light.”). Mike Conner, who is the master of the seasonal poem, read one about Autumn “The Smell of Memory,” then a prose memoir of living in Japan in the ’90s “Shinkuchan Wandering.” Stealing a page from Peter Lamborn Wilson (who is also Hakim Bey) Jay Dalaba signed up as Hex’m Jai & read a poem about the cold “That Blue Bastard” then one then engendered some intimate discussion among the audience “Since It’s Sunday It’s Laundry Day.”

Mary Ellen Kelleher is an old friend of Nancy’s who began with a calendar poem titled “The Six Sisters & Their Brothers” inspired by a poem by Billy Collins, then an old poem about watching a woman across from her at a conference “Academic Itch.” Karen Fabiane read a new piece never read out before today “No Water There” about change & crossing over, then “Collars & Cuffs” which began with an old coat & spun out from there. My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read 2 poems on loss, “At 94” about a friend who didn’t make it to 94, & an untitled piece beginning “I am shaped by dreams …”; but the best part was when she said “We write alone but do not live alone.Jil Hanifan returned us to the seasonal/holiday theme with a piece about the parking lot of Walmart’s for last-minute shopping, then another that she began with a snippet of a Xmas carol.

R.M. Engelhardt is the host of the monthly Troy Poetry Mission, now at Elixir 16 on 2nd St. in Troy, & is the only person I’ve ever seen who puts on tinted reading glasses when it’s his turn, perhaps he’s going blind; he read from his phone the poems “Done Me Wrong” & “Not Fade Away” which is another in his long series of God poems, unfortunately “stepping on his punch line,” as Jil said.

So if you write alone but want to share some of it there is this monthly gathering 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free!

December 7, 2018

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, December 4


According to Thom Francis (el presidente), who should know, this was the 10th gathering of this open mic series at The Low Beat. It was also the public start of a week-long celebration of Thom’s birthday.

First up for the open mic was the long-absent Matt Galletta who read a wrestling poem as a sort of birthday present for Thom “Going Pro,” then an older piece “This Will Happen to You.” I’ve been sickened by the gush-fest for the most recent Dead President, Georg H.W. Bush, who gave us the invasions of Panama & Iraq, the pardon of Iran-Contra conspirators, & who ignored the AIDS crises, among other Patrician-class attacks, & so read my poem written after attending a rally against “Oil War I” in January 1991 in Washington, DC “Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial.” Christa DeMarco read 2 poems about elderly folks she has been caring for on her job, “6-Minute Egg” & “Impact.”

Always one to have cake for any celebration, Mary Panza passed around mini-cupcakes to kick off the celebration of Thom’s birthday (actually on Sunday, December 9) which strangely went well with the beer I was drinking & of course we all sang the Happy Birthday song.

Brett Petersen, wiping cake from his beard, read a couple poems from his Blog, like exercises in automatic writing, or a punk version of John Ashbery, “The Bottom of the Pool is Hungry for your Brain Damage” & “Have a Drink, Literally, On Me.” Alyssa Michelle has established herself as a regular here, with her first person poems, the first “Introvert” in which she tries to explain herself to extroverts, & the next about driving & watching the lights in the rain “Pause.” Kendall Hoeft read a poem titled “When the Body Breaks” then one starting with a quote from Anna Karenina & was about fear & desire & oysters & pearls “Of Sea & Sky.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Poetyc Visionz out & about & he read a new piece “I Met God on Lark St.” which was a sort of re-make of his Number 7 poem, then another in his signature wordplay (& an example of why he has been dubbed “the Pastor of Positivity”) “Be Grateful.” The Birthday Boy, Thom Francis, shared a poem about water flowing down 4th Street “Jesus Walks on the Water.”

Sarah Fountain has been to the Brass Tacks readings since the beginning but doesn’t always read, & was coaxed to read tonight; she read an intensely personal poem written after talking to her mother for the last time “Never Enough” & it was clear to see why they haven't spoken since.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks is a open mic (primarily) held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at The Low Beat on Central Ave., starts about 7:30PM. Another fine poetry event brought to you by the folks at AlbanyPoets.

December 5, 2018

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, December 1


On a late Saturday afternoon I went to the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany for a reading by 3 women poets. After a late start Doug Rothschild did a lengthy, & somewhat repetitive run through of the upcoming readings in this series (more on this later), then on to the poets, Kenning JP Garcia doing the intros, such as they were.

First up was Marina Blitshteyn who read from a new book just out Two Hunters, beginning with a poem titled “Welfare Princess,” then one based on a song from the ‘90s “White Town - Your Women.” The poem titled “Little Soldiers” introduced her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, who figures in most of the rest of the poems she read, her family from Moldova, which the poet left in 1991, & referenced in "Love in Moldova” in which she incorporates words in Russian. There were a couple of poems of sociological commentary from an immigrant's perspective all titled “The Americans,” some poems about her mother (“Pride,” “Toys,” “My Little Mother”), & she ended with a poem whose title summed up her reading “The Immigrant Experience.” During the reading I was certain I had seen Marina read previously some where, & later talking to her realized it had been in Brooklyn in February 2017 at the BOOG City 10.5 Festival.

Hawa Allan read from a triptych of projects, the first being found poems from an old sociological text, appropriating selected phrases, terms, even apparently complete sentences; even the titles of individual pieces seemed drawn from the text, “Believe in the Part One’s Playing,” “Idealization,” “Maintenance as Expressive Control,” etc. The second section were political poems: “A Single Step” about Haitians who migrated from Brazil to Mexico, “Gentrification,” & “Grenfell” about the June 2017 fire in the Grenfell Tower in London. The third section were, as she said, “love poems I guess you can call them” with titles that included, among others, “To All the Men that Wouldn’t Love Me,” “Not Cold Hearted,” & “Well Woman.”

The final reader, Dylan Krieger, from New Orleans, is on the final leg of a reading tour. She read a variety of work from her books, including the recently published The Mother War (the poem “The Night Miami Vice Taught Me What Rape Means”), from a series of poems on chronic pain (“Bedside Mechanic” & “ What Doesn’t Kill You Will Eventually”), a true story about being home schooled by a follower of David Koresh (“Fall Down Faithful”), as well as a poem about the Apocalypse. Being from Louisiana, there was a cockroach poem, another addressed to Louisiana in the style of Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” a breakup poem, others, & she ended with a new piece about where she is at now that was more fractured & random than the other poems she read.

This series, like the Sage’s The Rev, often brings in poets from outside this area to introduce their work to the local scene. Interestingly enough, during Doug Rothschild's opening peroration, he mentioned that he was also interested in featuring local poets in this series, & has put that information out to the community. But, he said, he often hears from local poets whom he doesn’t know, meaning, he said, that they have not been to the readings. I think he meant to his readings. I attend between 8 & 10 or so reading each month in the region (you can verify this by checking my Blog), but I rarely — dare I say “never”? — see Doug at any of them. I can only conclude that the only readings he goes to are the ones he is involved in organizing — which means, of course, that he doesn’t know who any of the other poets are in this community since he doesn’t get out of his comfort zone. It’s a dilemma.

Saint Rocco was born about 1340 in France; he is venerated as the protector against the plague & other contagious diseases; other sources say he is the patron saint of bachelors & of (in the 20th century) laundromats. Be that as it may, you can find notices about this series at their Facebook page.

December 2, 2018

The Rev, November 29


This reading series out of Sage Colleges is usually held in Troy, but tonight was in the colorful, bright Opalka Gallery at the Albany Sage campus on New Scotland Ave. The series is coordinated & hosted by poet Matthew Klane, formerly of the Yes! reading series.  There were 2 readers.

Jeff T. Johnson had set up his laptop, wires, the usual cluster of tech stuff, for his reading that he began with selections from his book Trouble Songs; A Musicological Poetics (Punctum Books, 2017), a book-length meditation on the use of the word “trouble” in 20th & 21st century music, accompanied by vocal & instrumental versions of “Secret Rider” (i.e., ‘trouble in mind”), as well as other songs. Then he read from a new work-in-progress "Portal" random, serious, often tedious philosophical reflections, written like random notebook jottings but on the Cloud so he could write them wherever he was, on whatever device he was using -- so 21st century. It included some ramblings about TV, particularly “Twin Peaks;” another section was read with a recording of him reading other sections from the manuscript.

I found the poems of Emily Sieu Liebowitz much more interesting & engaging, perhaps because her work was more descriptive, imagistic, & while equally self-absorbed at times & filled with the lyric “I,” as Jeff Johnson’s, she is less abstractly philosophical. She read mostly from her new book National Park (Gramma Poetry, 2018), including the ode “You Never Forget How to Ride Your Bike,” another, “I’m Always Leaving Together…” which she said was “stolen from André Breton."  The last poem she read, from the book, was titled “Days Separate” & played on repetitions of “I am,” “we were,” “we are,” musical & haunting. In between she read from a new manuscript collection titled “Goodbye,” with each of the sections are numbered & all titled "Goodbye," from which she jumped around, the main character called “X,” like a conversation, or letters, perhaps writing to herself the “you,” like an internal dialogue.

The reading was followed by a mercifully brief Q&A, that somehow got into the topic of the apocalypse, which seems to be in the air, hopefully only for discussion.

The Rev reading series is taking the traditional academic break until next semester.  I for one look forward to next semester’s program. Kudos to the Sage Colleges & to Matthew for making this happen.

November 29, 2018

Poets Speak Loud!, November 26


The old folks commandeered the center cluster of tables (I guess so they didn’t have to walk too far to the mic) while others, including some new faces, & audience/just-to-listeners were spread about the rest of the room, & others came in as the reading went on. Our host was Mary Panza, who at one point shared her experience in the rural hinterlands of Gloversville, NY when she performed recently at “Dorn’s Space;” hey, you can send a girl from South Troy to Gloversville, but you can’t make her move there either.

First to the open mic was Sylvia Barnard who read an older poem from her 2012 collection of poems Trees “Easter 1988,” then a new piece about the legendary British folk-lore figure “Green Man.” Joe Krausman’s first poem was about being alone, while his next poem pondered the end of Summer in the “garden of Good & Evil.”

A new face & voice tonight, who was in fact a poetry-virgin, was Sally Delesandro who read 3 love poems, “The Wait” (on longing), “Naked,” & “Home,” & she made it through all 3 just fine. I didn’t have any problems reading my poems either, both new, “Are Ewe a Frank Robinson?” & the commentary on MFA programs “To the consternation…”

Tonight’s featured poet was Luciano Ferarra, whom I’d first seen back in August at the Low Beat (& subsequently only there). He read 9 of the 13 poems in his recently self-published chapbook Romanticizing the Art of Being Honest: An Experience of Meeting People, in a frantic rush that ran all the words together, the poems a string of automatic writings, self-indulgent jottings out of a late-night, post-party spiral notebook that used to have notes from a history class. The book contains not only his poems but a portfolio of photographs he’s taken, including 2 of pet dogs, & a couple of performance shots (he plays guitar) taken by others. It was printed by one of those ubiquitous publishing services that have cropped up online in recent years. Buy his books so he can buy beers & not hold up a convenience store.

Don Levy was up to continue the open mic with a seasonal poem “Up Your Chimney, Santa” responding to the character of Santa in that gay-classic TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Bob Sharkey’s poem “One Day this Kid Will” was inspired by a photo exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York & a photo by David Wojnarowicz, & then a cento from entries from last year’s Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Contest titled “We Are Delivered by Wonders.”

Christa DeMarco, who will be the featured poet here in February, began with a poem, like a letter to her mom about their conflicts, her next poem styled as a computer message about a system shutdown, titled “Destruction Imminent,” made some of us wish her voice was used as the voice of the computer. We were pleased to see Julie Lomoe back from subdural hematoma less than a month ago, & she has a new writing project titled “Subdural” that seemed to be composed of a string of short poems she called Haiku, then on to a prose narrative about Thanksgiving Day at the U.U. with her family — Julie is back. Samuel Weinstein came in with his father, as he often does, then dismissed him before reading from his long poem “In a Pinch” (“about schizophrenia” he said, & sex), then one titled “A Bit Brighter.”

Another Poets Speak Loud! in the books, so to speak, usually on the last Monday of the month, but not in December when it falls between the craziness of family & the craziness of drunken amateur night, but otherwise (i.e., the last Monday of January) join this odd community of poets at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square on the last Monday of the other months at 7:30PM — check out the schedule at AlbanyPoets.com

November 27, 2018

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, November 20


This was certainly the shortest open mic I’ve been at, perhaps ever, but, as a former girlfriend once said to me, “shortest doesn’t mean it’s not fun…”

We were at The Low Beat for the 3rd Tuesday open mic & in addition to the poets on the very short list there were folks hanging out at the bar to listen to poetry, & that's not bad. Our host was AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis.

& I was first on the list, which was easy to do tonight. I have been going through my files & found a poem written in response to a call for entries in 1997 from the guys running Chronicles of Disorder to celebrate the birthday of James Joyce by writing on February 2, 1997 a piece that responded to the topic “The Literal Soundtrack of a Day on Earth.” My records don’t show if there was any eventual publication but my copy of the flyer indicates I did extensive research in my private diaries & I wrote “The Track of a Sound of a Day: Today & Over the Years” which I read tonight; I also read 2 new pieces “Are Ewe a Frank Robinson?” & the MFA-bashing “To the consternation…”

Thom Francis jumped in to read the “holiday poem” that began “I don’t have a family tree…” playing on the expected images of trees, wood, & dysfunctional family relationships, etc.

Christa DeMarco, who can often be found here for the open mics, began with a piece inspired by Mary Panza’s recent reading at Dorn’s Space in Gloversville “You’re Damn Right I’m Angry,” then a screed addressed to men who are either “Silent or Violent,” then a very short comment on relationships.

& then it was over — but the open mic is back each 1st & 3rd Tuesday at The Low Beat, on Central Ave., 7:30PM, bring poems & join us.

November 26, 2018

Community of Writers, November 18


Perhaps the longest running series sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild is the “Community of Writers” readings, this one held each year in November at the Schenectady County Public Library. The host today was Schenectady-poet-about-town, Alan Catlin, & there were 6 writers in a variety of genres.

The afternoon began with Mary Cuffe Perez who read from her collection of stories of her neighbors in rural Galway, NY, Barn Stories: Reflections from a Saratoga County Horse Farm (North Country Books, 2017). What she read was an hysterical tale of 2 brothers, combative, inept & ultimately lazy, titled “Butch & Wally’s Used Ladder World.” It was a light -hearted way to start the event.

Sarah Giragosian, I must admit, is one of my favorite “new” poets; she has been the featured reader at my Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany. Her 2017 book from Dream Horse Press, Queer Fish, won the American Poetry Journal Book Prize & she began with a selection of poems from it, including “The Decorator Crab,” “The Anglerfish Finds Her Muse,” “All at Sea,” “When the Horseshoe Crab Grieves,” & “King of Saxony Bird of Paradise.” She also has a new book pending from Black Lawrence Press, The Death Spiral, from which she read the title poem & “The Second Moon Colony Won’t Fail.” Her poems deal with love & relationships, often in the context of the environmental crises of climate change.

Some folks may recognize the name Wanda Fischer as the host of the WAMC folk music program “The Hudson River Sampler,” but she is also the author of a novel, Empty Seats (Spring Training Media, 2017). An avid baseball fan since a child, she once announced a full baseball game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox & the Twins in 2012. Her novel follows a couple of young minor league players through a season, & she read from the opening chapter, “Two Jimmys” & another brief section she called “Cookies.”

Back to poetry, next was another of my long-time favorite local poets Jill Crammond, who read a selection of poems that she says she writes in the voice of Mary (the mother of Jesus), Barbie or from the voices in her head. From a series she calls “The Queen of Resurrection” she read a piece titled “Gone Missing.” Inspired by Joyce Carol Oates’ book Black Water about the Edward Kennedy/Mary Jo Kopechne tragedy in July 1969, Jill also read a poem in the voice of Ms. Kopechne.

The only male reader followed, Rich Holt, a former teacher at Niskayuna High School & Schenectady County Community College. He read from his memoir in poetry & prose, As After Sunset Fadeth in the West published by The Troy Book Makers just this year. He got emotional reading a section about the boarding house his mother ran when he was still in school, describing his relationship, or shall we say crush, with a young woman tenant/guest; & he continued with a few poems also on the theme of memoir.

We began with humor & we ended with humor. Although I’ve read many pieces by Jo Page in the Albany Times Union & the former Metroland I believe this is the first time I’ve actually heard her read. And although she lives in Schenectady, & is a pastor of a Lutheran congregation here, she said this was the first time she has read in Schenectady from her book Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor (State University of New York Press, 2016). She read from the chapter “Happy Christians” about an encounter with a woman while waiting for a school concert to begin in which the woman, unaware that the person she was speaking to was a pastor, babels on about the early Christian Church, while the author comments in funny, ironic & self-critical asides.

& did I mention that in addition to the varied & refreshing readings there were some luscious sweets & other refreshments to make the afternoon even more enjoyable? The combination of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & the Schenectady County Public Library & the Friends made for a pleasant literary afternoon. For more information on either or both check out www.hvwg.org & www.scpl.org.

November 20, 2018

Arthur’s Market Poetry Open Mic, November 14


One of my favorite “new,” young poets, Caroline Bardwell, was the featured poet this night, & of course, there is always a wonderfully varied open mic, so how could I stay home & watch TV? Our host, Catherine Norr got us on our way with a song, “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” -- how true indeed.

Alan Catlin was the first up with another addition to his “Hollyweird” series written today “The Lord of the Flies” about a street person in Albany, then “an office poem” with a scorecard of characters titled “Secret Santa.” I followed with 2 new poems “To the consternation of …” for the MFA poets out there, & a mortality poem “Last Weekend In Gloucester.” Noah Kucij was here to support this friend Caroline read a poem with a great title “At the Missing Sock Laundromat” & one with password advice “Please Sign In.”

Tommy Holecek had been on the poetry scene many, many, many years ago but has been hiding out, but apparently been guilty of writing while driving, evidence is 3 poems, “One Fine Day,” “Infinite Pick Up,” & Invocation of Oaks.” Scott Morehouse, as always, left us laughing with the family saga of Henrietta & her collection of plastic L’Eggs brand panty-hose containers “The Legacy.”

I’ve been hearing & seeing Caroline Bardwell at open mics for some months now & like her boldness in trying out forms as well as expressing herself through free verse, so this was a great chance to hear a big chunk of her work at once. I wasn’t disappointed. She began with a poem about her love for the natural world “It Beckons Me,” then “If Guilt Were a Painting” from a chapbook manuscript. She then moved on to what she termed “classical verses,” poems in forms, “Curbing the Excess” (which I found too abstract), “Porch Swing,” “A Life Well-Lived” (a religious themed rondeau, perhaps), “Insomnia,” & a pantoum for her therapist “Paul.” One of her frequent themes is religious faith & she read an excerpt from a longer piece “My Faith’s Legacy” in short-line rhymes, & “The Fire Within.” “At Dusk, Wolves” was about the hunting of the weak, & “Indecision” was a worry about the future as her life changes. She ended with a seasonal poem “Winter” from a series on the seasons in obsessive alliteration. A nice mix of poems that she obviously planned carefully for her first featured reading to introduce us to the poet who is Caroline Bardwell.

Our host Catherine Norr got us back to the open mic with a poem about a farmer “Cousins” & one titled “Memory Bank.” I usually don’t like cat (or dog) poems because of their sentimentality, but Sarah Girgosian read the more grounded “When the Outdoor Cat Comes In,” then what she introduced as a new poem that was like a dystopic fantasy of the commercial world appropriating names. The night ended with Sahra Ali reading 2 poems, both just written today, the first like a journal entry by a robot who is herself, then the very short “Lucrative.”

The poetry open mic at Arthur’s Market, 35 North Ferry St., Schenectady, NY continues each 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, usually with a featured poet surrounded by the open mic.

November 15, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 11


We had missed last month (your hosts, both Nancy Klepsch & I were out of town) but here we were back with a full list of readers at the black box theater of the Arts Center in Troy.

First on the list was Steve Rieger who began with a long rhyme on “the beast of war” then a memoir in free verse about his Grandma “Childhood.” I noted that today was the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice at the end of WWI & read 2 anti-war poems “What Really Happened” & “Chatham Peace Vigil.” Bob Sharkey read a piece describing an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of photos from the AIDS crises, then read this year’s Cento based on Best American Poetry 2018 “We Wept to be Reminded of Such Colors” the title taken from Tracy K. Smith’s poem in that anthology. Dave DeVries read “Loss” a richly descriptive, colorful poem, then the grim “Age of Innocent” the point being that it is not safe anymore to be “innocent.”

I was pleased to see Mimi Moriarty back here after an absence & she read poems on the theme of today’s anniversary, the first about the military funeral of her father with a contrapuntal funeral of a young soldier nearby, then a piece centered around her nephew regretting his enlistment in the military “2 Incidents Involving Skype Plus a Prayer.” Joel Best read 2 enigmatic pieces, the first titled “Epiphany on Page 237,” the 2nd, titled “Beneath Gender’s Gaze” he said it would be OK if it doesn’t make sense.

Then began a string of poets with the letter “K” in their names. Kendall Hoeft is becoming a regular here, & this afternoon read “Coyote Chorus” a poem about what she heard while reading, then what she called “a celebration of polarizing light” a poem titled “Father Kaleidoscope.” Karen Fabiane’s poem “When She Spoke of Love She Meant Theft” was about a former lover who even stole poems, her second poem was a mélange of past lovers both from her life as a man & as a woman. Kate Laity read from the introduction to a talk she will be giving this week in Japan on the work of the author Tove Jansson (1914 - 2001), what she read lamenting the current political conditions in the U.S.

This was Kate Gillespie’s 2nd time here (the first in September), said she is a professor of Biotechnology at SUNY Cobleskill & interested in the intersection of science & poetry thus read her poem “Misconceptions of Molecules,” then recited from memory the famous poem by John McCrae from WWI “In Flanders Fields.” My co-host here, Nancy Klepsch, was the last of the “Ks” & began with a poem about having the conflicted role of signing a student’s military enlistment papers, then a poem on a theft (again) the anaphoric “Somebody took my voice…”

Another regular reader here is Peggy LeGee who sang a humorously bragging piece “I’ve got something for everyone…” she said. Christa DeMarco began with a meditation by a human in a forest “Do you think a tree imagined being a chair …” then a description of watching a person dying. Christian Ortega read 2 love poems from his Red Poems, “My Name In Yours” & “Amor Fou.”

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose takes place at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy each, well, you get it — bring something to read.

November 13, 2018

W.O.M.P.S., November 8


I just had to head down to the ArtBar Gallery in Kingston this night for the readings by 2 poets I really like, both as poets & as people, Annie Christain & Richard Levine, with the customary open mic, of course. Our host was Teresa Costa, who set the tone with a short poem by the recently gone Donald Lev.

Annie Christain read first & alternated poems from her collection Tall As You Are Tall Between Them (C&R Press, 2016) with newer poem, some never read out before. Her titles are characteristically long, more than a simple phrase, sometimes more than a sentence, & from the book she read, ”LAPD Blue Child, and Low Day Daily Rates; No One Was Killed in the Square,” “I Took to Walking Down the Middle of Highways to Avoid Getting Shot,” "Pretending to Go and Come from Heaven by Fire,” “Puteum Abyssi: Till I Get to the Bottom and I See You Again,” & “A Maple Gets Red.” Her new poems were “We Never Really Touch Anyone Because of Molecules,” “The Vanguards of Holography,” “I’m From the Earth Where Only 3 Have Walked on the Moon,” & “Japanese Video Game with a Man Whose Arm Grows When He Sleeps With Women.” Her poems, often persona monologues, come from the news, from pop culture (e.g., the Beatles), science fiction & a seemingly widely eclectic reading.

In contrast Richard Levine read entirely from his recently published book Contiguous States (Finishing Line Press, 2018), explaining that the title phrase was a way to look at how things are connected in life. He mixed in poems about veterans & his experience in Viet Nam with some of his stunning love poems. He read “Just Sleeping,” “Reaching to the Horizon,” “Brothers in Arms,” “Girls Dream of Toads Too,” “At Our Door” (on the dangers of climate change), “I Am a Witness,” "Chanukah Lights,” & “Joined in the Kind” which is tender & intense love poem that I wish I had written.

Following these 2 stellar readings, a break was badly needed to re-set our heads for the open mic.

Gary Siegel was first up with a poem he said was “untitled’ but the recurrence of “the world is soft” seemed to give it a title, “Clocks” (about how Time is printed on our face), & “Crack.” I read a couple of brand new poems, “To the consternation of…” (on MFA program produced poetry collections), & “Last Weekend in Gloucester” (“sampling” the lines of Gloucester poets to consider where the body goes).

Fred Poole’s first poem was a philosophical piece on the nature of politics & stupidity, his next was a remembrance from his childhood when “the men wore tops to their swimsuits.” Teresa read in the #4 slot that was habitually reserved for Donald Lev & read from Donald’s Enemies of Time (Warthog Press, 2000) including “Red Emma.” Norm Kamerling read from his poems in plastic page-protectors, “The Bust” a true story of being arrested, “Modern Time” on the proliferation of screens & numbers, in funny rhyme, & another amusing piece on parking limitations “Driver Man Blues.”

Davida began with a poem to a native vet “Born Between the Worlds,” then “Whoever Wins” written for the last Presidential election, & ended with a poem on ecstasy by her Sufi Master. Bruce Weber read a couple of “older poems,” the first on Impressionist painters “It Was Just Another Weekend in 1885,” & a poem that had been published by Donald Lev in Home Planet News “I Was Delivered by William Carlos Williams.”

W.O.M.P.S. (Word Of Mouth Poetry Series) is on the 2nd Thursday of each month at the ArtBar Gallery, 674 Broadway, Kingston, NY, 7:00PM, often with featured poets & an open mic, sometimes a different format, but worth the trip for the poetry & for the poets.

November 11, 2018

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 7


Phew! 26 on the sign-up sheet! & the much-postponed featured poet April Bernard, with our host Carol Graser who got us going with a poem by Chase Twitchell.

Not all on the sign-up sheet actually read in the open mic, but 23 did & the first of those, who was also still here at the end, was Marilyn McCabe who read a sample from her new collection Fractured Psalms “Father Psalm” & “Waiting Psalm.” Glenn Witecki read a piece in rhyme about a campfire “Nigth Fire Intensity” (& actually used the work “portend” in the poem!). Lin Murphy’s poems were both political, “Asylum Seekers” & “Disrupt by Uplifting.” Leslie Sittner likes alliteration & work play, as in her sexy poem “Growing Good Roots” & in the ekphrastic “Portrait of Barry.” James Schlett made a rare appearance with a string of haiku, including one for his young daughter & another about a harvest festival.

April Bernard began her featured reading with a political poem on how the world has split, then on to a tribute to the gone poem Lucie Brock-Broido on the aging of poets. “Lord Crack their Teeth” was another political piece with its title drawn from the Psalms. She said that she teaches at Skidmore College & has recently moved here from North Bennington, VT, “Swishing Tails of Horses in October” & “Cold Morning” again with a horse, an elegy to a friend. A poem titled “The Legacy of Nicholas Ray” (the American filmmaker) was about her youth, followed by one about hunters “The Spell.” An Italian sonnet “The Dove” led to a series of poems linked to English Renaissance poetry, with titles drawn from Elizabeth I (“The Root of Weird Shall Be” & “My Care is Like My Shadow”) & Sir Thomas Wyatt. The 3 poems with titles from Wyatt were “Wreathed with Error” in a rush of words, “Who Falters” which was in the style of the Tang poets, & “Use Me Quiet” about how some scientific studies have shown that the DNA of a child lingers inside the mother.  A nicely varied reading of mostly short poems.

Due to the length of the sign-up sheet Carol dispensed with the customary break & dove right back into the open mic with a couple of young students. August Rosenberg read “Jack Shit” & a short piece with pizza “Worth It.” Katelyn R. read a letter-like poem “California Love,” then the grimly titled “Lung Cancer.”

I’ve seen Randee Renzi at some of the open mics in Albany but this was her first time here, she read from her phone an angry letter “Tell a Lie,” then from memory a poem celebrating a friend who is a glass blower “Air Bender.” Brian Crouth introduced his “A Wistful Poem” with another short poem. Amanda Blodgett proclaimed “I Do Not Need a Man” (“… I want one”), & prayed “Lord May I Forgive.” One of my favorite poets, Mary Kathryn Jablonski, started with a poem about the cutting down of trees “Second Death,” then a memoir poem “Diamond Sutra.” Jeff Stubits' long Halloween poem “Pestiliferous Flotillia” about an infestation of moths was read imitating the voice of the 1950s era radio personality Ken Nordine.

Doug Holiday began with his poem to Nancy Pelosi “It is a Wonder,” then paid homage to Ntozake Shange by reading her piece “My Father is a Retired Magician.” Effie Redman’s poem “Tell Me” sounded like an oblique self-portrait. Inspired by April Bernard’s poem to Lucie Brock-Broido I read one written after hearing Brock-Boido read at Skidmore back in 2002 “Vowels.” Karen Villesrik read a poem written after the 2016 election “Just Before Dawn,” then one about an encounter while driving “Vulture.”

Susan Kress, who reads here regularly, tonight read a poem titled “Relapse” about Fall & the falling out of hair. Rodney Parrott read a piece about falling asleep outside in a gazebo from his series “Universal Laws of the Universe.” Mary Ann Rockwell read 2 poems that have recently been published “Consider Your Options,” & “Alice Neel Self-Portrait” about the famous nude painting of the artist as an old woman.

Rebecca Sadlon’s long piece, “Welcoming the Day at Hunt Lake,” was a remembrance of the Summers spent by generations at this place on the lake. Will Keever read about a mermaid “Drifting Meridian.” Nancy White read 2 poems from a series in which the poems despise their titles, “Trust Me” in a string of single words & short phrases, then the poem-in-progress “She Thinks She’s All That.” Kerrea was the last reader of the night with a love poem in automatic writing “Communion of the Mind.”

There is always a great turn-out of local writers on the 1st Wednesday of the month for the Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, usually with a feature (or 2), at the renovated Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM, $5.00.


November 6, 2018

Poets Speak Loud!, October 30


A rare last Tuesday, rather than last Monday, here at McGeary’s Irish Pub for an open mic with Dave Kime as the featured poet, & our host Mary Panza on board to keep disorder at bay.

Sylvia Barnard was the first up for the open mic with a couple poems written this past Spring, the first looking back to the Psalms, the 2nd, titled “Family,” about Thanksgiving with her daughter & son-in-law. Christa DeMarco was next with a poem on hate, feeling overwhelmed if all we have is thoughts & prayers. Tom Bonville’s poem, “Trading Places,” was on aging with buying a new car on an urge as metaphor. I read 2 poems for the holiday, “This Is Not Trick or Treat” & “Zombie Gourd.” Carrie Czawhiel began with a poem from a couple years ago “My Message to Women Abused,” then a newer one about healing emotional scars with the image of kintsugi, the Japanese technique for mending pottery with gold.


Dave Kime, the featured poet, has a powerful presence & voice, & began with screed against McDonalds a piece formerly titled “McDonner Party” now titled “Neon Drive Thru.” His attacks on corporate America & its manipulation of pop culture continued with other pieces, such as “Stay Loyal” (to your corporation for a bad future), “Sound Bites,” “Operation Mind Trip” (TV), others on the corporate war machine. Others with titles like “Nightfall,” “Trigger Man,” & “Marionette,” most in rhymes & half-rhymes & playing on the sounds. His last poem was “Squirrel” in which he tries to save the small animal after it has been hit by a car. It was great to hear Dave up here (he lives in the Woodstock area) with a big chunk of his engaged, energetic poetry.

As the pitcher for donations was passed around, Cheryl Rice started, appropriately enough after Dave Kime, with “I Hear America,” then to another political piece “The Caskets of Mara Lago.” Joe Krausman was down & out of the poetry scene for weeks & weeks, but was back tonight with a couple poems, “Waiting for That Call” (from Death), & the classic “What’s In a Name.” Doug Holiday continued to pay respect to the late Ntozake Shange by reading her poems “I Live in Music” & “My Father is a Retired Magician.”

Brett Petersen made a rare open mic appearance with 2 poems from his blog,  “An Animal You’ll Never Understand,” & “A Gallon of Anti-Freeze to Wash Down the Guilt” which sounded like a quieter, then intense version of Dave Kime’s poems — a good way to bring it all home.

Poets Speak Loud! is usually on the last Monday of the month & continue to look for it on that day at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM, an open mic with a stellar featured poet, more info at AlbanyPoets.com.

November 4, 2018

Poetic Vibe, October 29


No featured poet as there often is one at this weekly event, but there was an energetic open mic hosted as always by the equally energetic D. Colin, who started us off with a poem about not being sorry by the recently gone Ntozake Shange, whose work would become a theme of the night.

Unfortunately, the air was sucked, briefly, out of the room by the the first 2 performers who took the stage together, Snow & P.O.E.T. Snow rapped way too fast to be understood, which is fortunate because what I would figure out was filled with violence & debasing slang, while P.O.E.T. (not sure what that all stood for) did his rap slower & was more easily heard it did not make much sense other than posing. Danielle, retrieving the mic to announce the next poet, urged us to fill the room with good energy & that we did, nowhere to go but up. Erika did that with a piece title “Perspective” for a friend.

Ian Mack has returned to the area & read a couple of pondering love poems. My poems were based on the month of October, the first for Thelonious Monk’s birthday October 10, 1917 “Acrostic Jazz,” then a Halloween-themed one “Zombie Gourd,” complete with a drink recipe. Douglas Davis, IV read 2 grim pieces by Ntozake Shange, the first about the black children missing in Atlanta years ago, & “Crack Annie” who pimped out her daughter. L-Majesty got us back to love with “Love Lottery” & “Existential Climax” how we all got our beginnings in sex & orgasm. Poetik returned us to Ntozake Shange with a memorized monologue from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, then her own recently written love letter to herself.

Noro said that this was her first time here & read a piece titled #34 a critical piece parsing the use of “nigga this, nigga that…” in songs. Rooftopper Jenkins read his poem “I Stole a Dream” about colonizing, written when he was in a mental ward on Martin Luther King Day, then a similar themed memorized rant based on the writings of Franz Fanon. Kilijah returned us to the love theme with a poem beginning “I fell in love with love today…” then another love poem written today “Can’t Let Go.”

Christian Ortega had signed up in the very last spot on the sign-up sheet, ensuring himself the rock-star slot & read from his Red Poems (Hispanic Paradox Press, 2014) “Everything,” “Poem for Pope,” & the long, closing untitled post-script.

But the night was not quite done with Danielle back with her “take aways,” quotes from poems from the open mic noting that “Ntozake Shange is in the room.” Then on to her title poem from Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015) introduced by a song in Kreyol. & to really bring it on home read the group poem/exquisite corpse that had been making the rounds during the reading, another random masterpiece.

We really did bring the good, positive, loving energy back into the room, certainly helped by Ntozake Shange in the room. Come get your dose of such energy each Monday at Poetic Vibe at the Troy Kitchen, Congress St. in Troy, NY, 7:00PM — bring something to read.

November 1, 2018

Annual Charles Olson Lecture: Ed Sanders, October 27


It’s not like I need an excuse to go to Gloucester, where I’d been to this year at the end of September & before that at the end of August, but an event sponsored by the Gloucester Writers Center is always an added benefit. So here I was at the Cape Ann Museum to hear Ed Sanders deliver this year's lecture on the life of Charles Olson with Sander’s own hand drawn glyphs as illustrations.

Sanders was introduced by scholar Ammiel Alcalay who is no stranger to Gloucester himself, see his 2013 book a little history (republic/UpSet Press), & he filled his introduction with big chunks of quote from Olson’s poems & essays, & he has been a part of past panels & presentations on Gloucester’s biggest poet.

Ed Sanders’ 2-hour romp along the Charles Olson time-track was based on his just-published piece of investigative poetry, A Life of Olson & a Sequence of Glyphs on Points of his life, work, & times, self-published at Meads Mountain Press, Woodstock, NY (more on this later). His talk used the glyphs — had lettered & drawn pages — that in the book are interspersed with more traditionally printed text. Ed had a personal/poetic association with Olson, dating from 1962, so he interweaved anecdotes, quotes, postcards, even a pint Cutty Sark bottle of Olson's that he still has, with the facts of Olson’s life. Sanders is a scholar of ancient Greek & of Egyptian hieroglyphics which he used as integral parts of of the glyph pages. Of course, being at the Cape Ann Museum, most of Olson’s work cited was from his Maximus Poems. & at the end Ed also paid tribute to the late Gerrit Lansing, another Gloucester figure who was also an inspired poet of note.

I have read 2 biographies of Charles Olson, as well as shorter works that talk about his life & his Maximus poems, so his life story is familiar to me, but it was refreshing to hit the high points, &  to hear Ed's own anecdotes; & for those unfamiliar with Olson’s life & work this talk would serve as a excellent introduction.

[Addendum:  There is a recording of the lecture on youtube.]

The following day, Sunday, October 28, Ed Sanders did a reading & talk about his other new book, Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy, A Graphic History (Arcade Publishing, 2018) with illustrations by Rich Veitch at the Gloucester Writers Center. As he did when I saw him read from this work in July (see my Blog), he read sections from the climactic moment when RFK is assassinated, & talked about his years of research on the topic before finally writing the book, & performed a sad poem about RFK's murder on his lyre.

At the end of the reading I was able to purchase a copy of A Life of Olson, which is a manuscript box of 160+ pages, 8 1/2 x 11 inches, printed on one side each. Much of it is in traditional book type-face but a substantial number of pages are the hand-written & drawn glyphs. I’ve had great fun going through the box, not so much reading the text as studying the glyph-pages with it’s mix of drawings, pictures, text in ancient Greek, & Egyptian based designs -- a unique piece of investigative poetry/book-art.

Broken Glory is available at the usual online bookstores & I expect can be ordered through your local independent bookstore. Getting a copy of A Life of Olson is another story.




Poetry Memorial for Donald Lev, October 22


ArtBar Gallery, Kingston, NY, September 2017
Yet another Blog about an event for yet another gone poet, this shit has got to stop, but I guess that will only happen when it’s me. Although there have been a couple of other “memorials” recently for Donald, this one was billed as the “real” one. Whatever. This was held at the Harmony Cafe at Wok’n’Roll in Woodstock where Donald read almost every week when this venue hosted an open mic each Monday of the month. The host of those event was Michael Platsky, who was the host tonight as well. Donald liked to read in the 4th slot, often just before the featured poet.

There was an extensive sign-up sheet when I arrived with Mary Panza, & on stage was Harvey Kaiser on clarinet & Allen Murphy on bass were playing. Michael Platsky read his poem “Publish This!” for Donald, then from Donald's last book Focus.

Ed Sanders read a poem for Donald & for his late wife Enid Dame. Mikhail Horowitz said that the 1st poetry reading he attended in 1967 Donald Lev was the featured reader at St. John’s in the Village In NYC. Philip Levine, in Donald’s final year, built him a downstairs bathroom, with the help of community funds.

Ron Whiteurs drove Donald to countless readings & open mics. Marylin Stablein read poems by Enid, Donald & her own. Andy Clausen read Donald’s bio from the back of the 2012 A Very Funny Fellow. Frank Murphy is carrying on Donald & Enid’s long-running Home Planet News by publishing it online.

Judith Kerman, via a long mic cable, read from her table a poem to Donald. Teresa Costa was another poet who drove Donald to many readings & featured him at her poetry venues. Leslie Gerber read one of his poems that was like Donald’s. Pamela Twining read from Enid’s Lilith poems.

Shiv Mirabito read Donald’s poem written for Shiv’s annual bonfire. Lenny Brown read his “Memory of Donald.” Cheryl A. Rice who is another long-time poet friend of Donald (& Enid’s) also read.

At this point, although there were others on the list, Mary & I left for the drive back to Albany, marveling at the range & diversity & interconnectedness of all of our poetry communities. Donald Lev, & with Enid before she left us, had a large role in helping to built that community by his presence & by publishing so many of us in his Home Planet News. May that kind of spirit carry on & continue to inspire others.

The following is the list of books by Donald Lev that I have in my Library:

Strains, Pamphilus Press, High Falls, NY, 1991
Enemies of the Time, Warthog Press, West Orange, NJ, 2000
Yesterday’s News: Poems 1998 - 2001, Red Hill Outloudbooks, Claryville, NY, 2002
Grief, A Bardpress Chapbook, Staten Island, NY, 2006
Adventures at the Upstate: Poems on Films, Pamphilus Press, High Falls, NY, 2007
A Very Funny Fellow, NYQ Books, New York, NY, 2012
Where I Sit, Presa Press, Rockford, MI, 2015


The Lace Mill Presents: A Celebration of Gerrit Lansing, October 20


Gerrit Lansing reading in Albany, October 1999
This was a revised-replay of the Birthday/Memorial celebration held for poet Gerrit Lansing on February 25 in Gloucester, MA, held this day at the Lace Mill Gallery in Kingston, NY with many of the same players as the Gloucester event. You can read about the February events for Gerrit on my Blog. Pierre Joris served as MC, with bassist Mike Bisio providing musical accompaniment for many of the readers.

The readers today were Tamas Panitz, Tomas Urayoán Noel, Nicole Peyrafitte, George Quasha, Pierre, Don Byrd, Chuck Stein, & Robert Kelly.

Photo by Peter Monaco
Nearly all the readers read a poem(s) by Gerrit, many reflected on the Gerrit they knew, & read poems they wrote in tribute. Gerrit’s poems were published in various editions that were variations on “Heavenly Tree …” “… Grows Downward,” … Soluble Forest,” with many of the same poems in each edition, with newer, different poems, much like Whitman’s changing editions of Leaves of Grass, the most recent & most complete being the 2009 North Atlantic Books Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth.

Tomas Urayoán Noel read Gerrit’s “Amazing Grace And A Salad Bowl,” written for the poet Stephen Jonas, then Tomas’ own improv in Spanish & English on the poem. Among the 4 poems of Gerrit's that Nicole Peyrafitte read was the compact “Song: the Autumn Festival” (that Willie Alexander has set to music) with the magic line “All things go underground with glee.”

Don Byrd did a mash up from “The Burden of Set” with his own tribute/meditation to Gerrit. Robert Kelly described the 2 kinds of teacher that was Gerrit & Gerrit’s theory on the Gateways of 7 in each of lives, that each 7 years a door opens to change, the next phase of our life. Chuck Stein was by far the longest with a rambling mix of his own & Gerrit’s poems.

Pierre & Nicole recorded each of the readers to you can experience it for yourself at Pierre’s Blog. & I have posted some of my photos from the event at my Flickr site.

It was a grand gathering of poets, both readers & in the audience, to pay tribute to the grand Gerrit Lansing whose work was magic on many levels.


October 30, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 18


A community night as well as a poetry night — as always. I was suffering with a pulled muscle in my back & Doug Holiday took over the heavy lifting to set the chairs up — & put them back at the end. Our featured poet was Dineen Carta, & our muse tonight tonight was Jackie Sheeler, who had read here in February 2011 & who died in March; I read her poem “Alien Periscopes” from Earthquake Came to Harlem (NYQ Books, 2010).

The first on what was a short open mic list (& thus the limit expanded to 2 poems) was the afore mentioned D. Alexander Holiday, who began with an early post 9/11 piece “How’s Your Invasion Going?” then read from an Academy of American Poets annual a poem by Patricia Smith “Ethel’s Sestina” about Ethel Freeman an elderly black woman who died outside the New Orleans Convention Center waiting for help. Tom Bonville returned to read “Reading” instead of watching football & what he felt like the next morning, then “Out for a Drive” a couple together among the wild flowers, a poem of love & loss.

Bob Sharkey had just announced the 4th Annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, deadline January 15, 2019; Bob likes to read each year’s Best American Poetry & write a cento including lines from his favorite poems & read this year’s cento “We Wept to be Reminded of Such Colors,” & then an “Ode to Krausman” that he wrote in a Bernadette Mayer poetry workshop. Interestingly enough the next poet up was Joe Krausman, recently returned to the scene from a medical sojourn, read “The Game of Life” (snake house vs. mouse house), then one about the changes in life until Death “Things Passing.”

Karen Fabiane didn’t bring her new poems she said, so read 2 older relationship poems, “These Chocolates” from the ‘90s, then “a combination barbecue jazz session” titled “Your Are The Verithin On the Wood Paneling of My Life.” Then me, a poem for my older daughter “For Madeleine” set in NYC’s Village, & one for my younger daughter Anna from a Valley Cats game this Summer, a ditty titled “Vamos Gatos.”

Our featured poet, Dineen Carta, explained that she was a life coach & a writer, & the  motivation in her work was to be authentic, & to accept all the things in our self, & to love one another. She began with “Choices” from her book Loving the Ache: A Woman’s Journey (2015), then on to other poems in the book, “Driven,” a poem to her daughter (now 23, but written many years ago) “My Daughter Dreams,” “Neon Summer,” her tributes to #MeToo “Please” & “Disillusionment”, then to other poems not in the book, “Life” a tribute to the essence of Love, then one to women & their strength in spite of what they have lost, & she ended with a piece about the need to love yourself, her answer to it all. It was a practiced, thought-out reading with a message that reverberated with many.

& we will be back at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month with an open mic & a featured reader, starting about 7:30PM, bring a poem & make a donation to help pay the featured poet & support the work of the Social Justice Center.


October 25, 2018

Albany Poets Presents!, October 17


While this was the 2nd poetry event I went to this particular Wednesday, this was also the last in what had been an ongoing series of readings/interviews/discussions with individual local writers of note, with the final subject being el presidente himself, Thom Francis. Local poets gathered tonight at an ever-expanding cluster of tables in the back room of the Navona Restaurant. Thom has been the host/interviewer at all the events in the past, but since he was the subject, Mary Panza took on the hosting duties.

It was a grand gathering of folks who love & encourage the spoken word & the public venues that support the area open mics & readings — not everyone of course, but those who could make it tonight, there are many others out in the community who make these events happen month after month, even week after week.

The poems that Thom read were a sample of the best of his work that we have been hearing, often gritty, personal, but with some surprises about newer poetic projects. He started with “Al” written in 1999, a portrait of a character who came daily to the beer distributor where Thom worked, then the classic “love letter” to his insulin pump “Machine.” “Bar” was a picture of a place where no one cares. A pair of poems about his parents were sad & tender, about their vulnerabilities, but one taking us on into the next generation with his daughter Molly. He also read some poems from a 30/30 project, including a couple inspired by random photographs he had seen, “Wanted for the Weekend” & “Running Away.”

Thom at Border's in 1994
During the obligatory Q&A he cleared up the historical point that he was not a Stephannuci’s, an open mic venue off Wolf Rd. back in the 1990s, & said his first appearance at a poetry open mic was at age 16 in 1994 at the open mic that Mary Panza (!) ran at Border’s, an image that I captured for all time. The questions were varied & by the end even I had no questions because everyone else asked what I would have asked. Some probed Thom on the future & he said we could expect more of what we have seen in the past from this fine fellow who has done so much to promote, support & advance the spoken word scene here in this city of the spoken word. He ended with some “holy water” in his poem “Shower” — & we continued to party & talk.

As Mother Mary (Panza) says, “for all your poetry needs, go to www.AlbanyPoets.com” — see you out & about.

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 Ferarra 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.