February 22, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, February 15

There was a houseful of poets & listeners this night for the open mic & for our featured poet, Bunkong Tuon. The muse we invoked for the reading was the gone Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko as I read his poem “Loss.”

First up to the mic was faithful Bob Sharkey with “Siege” based on a poem he read that had been submitted in the Stephen A. DiBiase contest, on the conflicts in other parts of the world we sometimes don’t hear about here.

Howard Kogan was next & he read a poem, “Dick & Jane,” about going to school learning to read in what seems like another world. “Douglas” was D. Alexander Holiday (also writing as G. Douglas Davis IV) & he read from the new book Kith & Kin, one of 2 poems with that title in the book. W.D. Clarke, who will be the featured poet here next month brought his new book with him, Still More Tales (Infinity Publishing, 2017) & read us a sample, another of his signature rhyming ballads, “A Prospector’s Revenge.” Brianna came back again (I guess we didn’t scare her off) to read a poem about her Mom “Garden.” Mike, who doesn’t need a mic, read “Stueben’s Charge,” about a Revolutionary War hero who was gay & an immigrant, that I’m sure was heard back Utica.

Bunkong Tuon, or B.K. as we know him, read from his new book from NYQ Press And So I Was Blessed, explaining that his book was in 3 parts, about being a tourist in Viet Nam, about discovering his father’s family & about leading students on a study-abroad program & missing his new daughter. He began with “How to Prepare Yourself for a Semester Abroad in Viet Nam,” then the scary experience “On a Motorbike in Saigon.” “To the Blue-Eyed and Blonde-Haired Girl in a Hmong Village in Northern Viet Nam” ended with rich images of Hmong culture, then on to a poem about looking for his father “Lies I Told about Father” that was also about his own development, then one section from “Searching for Father in Kampuchea Krom,” about things his father had to do to so they could survive. He ended with “Song for Stella” for his daughter, about he & his wife singing to Stella even before she was born. & so we are blessed with poetry.

After a break I read this year’s iteration of “Birthday Poem.” A new poet here was Sarah who said she is a fiction writer but every once in a while a poem bubbles up, read “Cassandra .999” a political piece. Joe Krausman was here again with a poem written this morning based on a dream, a fable based on Yiddish saying that “shrouds don’t have pockets.” Alan Catlin read a hand-written poem also written today “Valentines Day 2018” the latest in this year’s string of school shootings. Frank S. Robinson read “Something There Is That Loves a Wall” adding a ladder to lift us up.

Kim Henry was back with an untitled piece, a love poem (& not about her daughter), her heart fluttering. Don Levy read a poem about a murder last month of a gay/Jewish man “Blaze.” Clarese Portofino was also not scared off from last month so returned to read about the complications of a past love met again & the emotions after time.

The Third Thursday Poetry Night is at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each month, at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us — your generous donation helps to pay the featured poet, & supports poetry & the work of the Social Justice Center. Please join us.

February 18, 2018

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, February 14

This being Valentines Day I had a date with my longest-lasting honey, Poetry, at the monthly open mic at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady. There was even a featured poet, Sarah Giragosian. But first some of the open mic.

Our host, Catherine Norr, started us off with a romantic ditty sung a cappella “Would You Walk Down the Valley Beside a Friend.” Once again (see the last Blog) I signed up in the open #1 slot to read 2 love poems, “Said Again” about re-cycling the words of old love poems, & one from Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011) "November 23."  Phil Williamston also had a poem on the day’s theme, his was titled “Love’s Labyrinth,” then he recited a blues tune about a character “Cash Daddy.”

Rich did pieces from memory, including singing “My Favorite Things” & poems he said were from when he “was in a leper colony in North Carolina.” Taz Pannell read 3 parts of a long poem “The War Rages On” that seemed to be about relationships & the nature of love. Scott Morehouse had us laughing along with his “absurdist” social commentary composed of a series of vignettes titled, ironically, “Modern Miracles.”

The featured poet was Sarah Giragosian who read 3 poems from her book Queer Fish (Dream Horse Press, 2017), which was the winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, & read some newer poems as well. The poems from the book were “To the Meerkat,” “Classifieds: Missed Connections” & “The Queer Creatures that Rise at Dusk,” which were tantalizing teasers to buy the book, poems of lush language, all with animals, insects, birds, etc. used as images of love, desire & sex — I bought the book. The newer poems also involved other creatures (& love) “The Crocodile Sleeps,” “Notes Toward an Apology” & “Devils Heads” (an invasive “Asian chestnut”). I think I’m going to be hanging out with Queer Fish for a while.

After a break to buy books, Catherine Norr brought us back to the open mic with 2 poems about her mother, “Mom” & “Stroke” from her 2014 book from Finishing Line Press Return to Ground. Bill Poppino read a New York Times article headlined “California: the Nation State.” Jackie Craven began with a punning mash-up of food & the evening news “She Serves the News for Dinner,” then a tongue-twister of a love poem “Vole Poem.” Susan Jewell read what she called a Valentine for the folks here “Gods & Angels” with references to the movie Paterson & local poets.

The evening concluded with 2 poets who were both here for the first time. Caroline Bardwell, who has begun to make the rounds of open mic venues, read a piece titled “Appealing to Wisdom” which seemed like a love poem & a plan to do better so perhaps a love poem to herself, then a love sonnet “Unrequited.”

Charlie Straney has also read at other venues in the area but this was his first time at Arthur’s Market; he read “How It Ends,” a poem of the open field, & “Dunsing (? spelling) Tip” about wild ponies in Ireland.

The open mic at Arthur’s Market in the Stockade Section of Schenectady is held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, starting at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, & it’s free.

February 17, 2018

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

Even with the icy streets outside we had 12 writers signed up for the open mic this month, but, as has been true for years, no one likes to sign up 1st (or even 2nd).  So, as I often do, I signed up in one of those open spots, this time #2.  

Even so, I was the 1st reader as the bottom list filled up.  Even though I had read it here last month, I repeated myself reading “Walking Rome,” for Dan Curley who was in attendance, then I read this year’s “Birthday Poem.”  Joe Krausman & I have been teasing each other about Jung’s theory of synchronicity for years (I’ll tell you the story sometime) & today he read 2 poems about synchronicity, with his usual wry humor of course.  Mike Conner read a poem about writing, “Word Painting” then a grim seasonal poem written today “Snow Birds.”  Dave DeVries read 2 long rhyming poems, on “Boxing Day” & a Valentines Day piece for the mail carrier “Postal Placebo.”

Kate Laity’s essay on being the only Medievalist on campus struck a personal note with me since at one point in my college career I thought that that might be path I would take (one not taken).  Bob Sharkey is coordinating the Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest & asks poets submitting work to cite a poet who has influenced them; one of the poets cited was Kofi Awoonor (1935 - 2013) from Ghana so Bob read selections from Awoonor’s “Songs of Sorrow,” then his own poem on temptation “Taken.”  Dan Curley read 2 poems about family members, the first set in his mother’s nursing home “At the Lighthouse Halloween Contest,” then “My Wife Jay-Walking.”  My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read “One” from her recently published collection God Must Be a Boogie Man (Recto y Verso Editions), then a new Haibun “Driving While Black.”

Michael Lopez stepped up with a poem titled “The Intimacies of Fruit,” his first confessional poem he said.  Karen Fabiane read 2 older “sort of love poems” “If at Dawn,” then the raucous “I Fucked St. Joan.”  Don Yorty returned with 2 rhyming sonnets, the 2nd about a butterfly titled “A Fragile Thing.”  

First time reader here Steve Rieger was our last reader with a poem in 3 parts, “Whisper,” about reading cemetery tombstones of his in-laws.

Each 2nd Sunday at 2PM Nancy Klepsch & I are the co-hosts of this open mic for poetry & prose at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY — bring 2 poems or 5 minutes of prose & join us.  It’s free.

February 7, 2018

Tom Nattell Memorial Beret Toss & Open Mic, January 29

Once again in January we gathered on the last Monday at the Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park for the annual beret toss to remember Albany poet & activist Tom Nattell — Mary, Nick, Don, Tess, Sally & me. We lit a candle & some sage, placed flowers at the statue & it was Mary’s expert toss (“You’ve got to crumple it”) that landed the beret on the statue. [2 days later the beret had blown down & I retrieved it for next year.]

Then on to McGeary’s for the open mic, Poet’s Speak Loud!, with me as the guest host, & just an open mic, no featured poet — Tom was the feature. But Mary Panza went first paying tribute to Tom. I played Tom reading “South End” from the 3 Guys from Albany CD, then read my opening poem “Theology 101.”

Carrie Czwakiel started off with a full-throttle “fuck-you” poem, “No More Chalupas,” then a poem of childhood memories “Blond Rising.” Nancy Dunlop had to be clear that her poem “Jerk Face” was not about anyone here tonight, then sang a piece she had written for the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center but hadn’t been able to deliver, “Singing Telegram for a Mr. Sanity Clause, who has celebrated a 20th Anniversary, a New Year, and a Birthday.” Fortunately, Joe Krausman didn’t sing, instead read the seasonal “Cabin Fever” & the timely “Molesters Beware.” Linda Boulette read a poem she said dated back to the QE2 open mic that Tom ran, her poem titled “Prologue,” then a dream piece that could be a continuation, “This is Not a Mourning Song.” Don Levy read new poem for his nephew “For Alex Studying Abroad,” then a poem like a sociological study “The Bro Dudes Across the Street.”

Anthony Bernini began with a W.S. Merwin poem “Unknown Age” (Tom once met Merwin, a fellow environmentalist, at the Dodge Festival in New Jersey), then his own poem “Desert Rivers.” Carol Jewell read “Remnant Snow,” then one of her pantoums, at which she is so expert, this based on a painting by Bruegal the Elder “The Wedding Dance.” Caroline Bardwell, here for the first time, continued the art theme with a poem titled “If Guilt Were a Painting,” then reflections a year later on her father’s death “My Father’s Legacy.” I read my elegy titled “Chasing Tom.” Frank Robinson had a short poem, actually an haiku, with a long intro (but that’s not so unusual at a poetry event), & a satiric piece “Introducing iVerse.” Tess Lecuyer read a song lyric she had not read out previously “Silent Song.”

Another new voice here, Amanda Pelletier, read a long, intricate piece that I think was untitled about learning from experience & making a mosaic of the pieces of a broken heart, with a repeating refrain (perhaps the title) “& I think that’s how you break it.” Julie Lomoe read a piece about using B.F. Skinner’s teaching machine back in her college days “Skinner’s Last Laugh.” Avery began with a piece “Meeting Sonia Sanchez” at RPI, then read Tom Nattell’s “The Richard Nixon Library Fantasy” from Pell Mell: Words for Voice & Consideration (BOOG Literature, 1992). A.C. Everson’s poem, “The Sisters, or No C for Me” was about her boobs & buying a bra.

I gave Tom (& 3 Guys from Albany) the last word by playing from the CD the “Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue.”

Poets Speak Loud! continues each last Monday of most months at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square, 7:30PM, with an open mic & a featured poet — great food, great drinks & equally great poetry. Check AlbanyPoets.com for details.

February 4, 2018

A Night of Features 4, January 25

Another in the occasionally occurring readings at the Hudson River Coffee House, coordinated by Brian Dorn & Harvey Havel. There were 4 readers tonight, including me who was a last-minute replacement for Mike Jurkovic. Our host was Harvey Havel.

First up was Lewis Benko, who has apparently been writing poetry for some time (by the size of his folder of poems & the number of poems he read, more than 17 by my count), but this was his first time reading. He began with a performance piece with radio warning sound effects (“this is a test … if this had been an actual poem…”). He said he would be doing “jocular” poems in between more serious pieces, & some of his less-serious poems were in rhymes that he called “limericks,” even though they were just ditties, not in the actual limerick form. There were a couple of pieces based on music, such as “How to Console a Guitarist,” “Listening to Moon Dog” (a NYC street musician from the 1960s), & “Poor Boy” about bluesman Booker White, & a couple list poems. Eventually Harvey had to “take out the hook” & Lew finished with a string of aphorisms, almost equal to the name.

Mz Tu is a performance poet who has been frequenting the Slam venues. Her stock-in-trade are angry & confrontational pieces on relationships, done from memory & delivered in a somewhat breathless style. Tonight she did 4 pieces from her open mic repertoire, “The Tongue,” “Poison & Venom,” “Balls & Bitches” (a wife’s lament in sports imagery), & the powerful if somewhat preachy “The Confederate Symbol."

Elizabeth Gordon, who performs at Slam venues as “Elizag,” performed some pieces from memory, read others. She often writes poems on issues of race, which tonight included the rhymed “For Edson,” & “To The Mothers of the Neo-Nazi White Supremacists,” as well as a piece on stereotyping, on being yourself. But she also included a poem titled “Taking Down the Xmas Tree,” & ended with a quieter, descriptive piece titled “Amish Horses."

Dan Wilcox (that’s me) was the last reader, by which time the room had filled with guys with guitars & girls in Goth makeup for the music open mic which is held here each Thursday. Because of the timing (on the eve of my birthday) I did a reading entirely of “Birthday Poems,” short pieces all written on my birthdays in 2009 through 2017, with a lacuna for 2010. But I began with one written in 2006 by former Albany poet Pierre Joris, but written as if by me, then crumpled & tossed away.

Watch for notices about A Night of Features which take place every so often on Thursdays just before the weekly (mostly music) open mic at the Hudson River Coffee House, 227 Quail St., Albany, NY — free, but Anton really appreciates it if you buy something to drink &/or eat.