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.

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