March 30, 2018
Originally, poet Patricia Smith had been scheduled to read this night in the NYS Writers Institute Visiting Writers Series, but she had to cancel. The reading was paired with a screening of the documentary film Louder Than A Bomb, as part of the University at Albany’s 16th Annual English Graduate Student Organization Conference. I had interviewed Patricia Smith for the cable TV series The Poetry Motel in 1998 after she read in Poets in the Park. Years later, at a Poetry Therapy Conference in Boston, Charlie Rossiter & I hung out with Ms. Smith & the poet Quincy Troupe, who had also once performed in Albany at the QE2.
Tonight’s readers were the local poets/scholars Leonard Slade & D. Colin (both of whom also have read at Poets in the Park in Albany, Slade in 1993 & Colin in 2011). & Danielle is a student of Prof. Slade in the graduate program.
We are blessed to have so many interesting, thoughtful & powerful poets in this area & these are 2 examples of the best.
For more information about the programing (most of it free) by the NYS Writers Institute, visit their website, www.nyswritersinstitute.org.
March 25, 2018
Answer: “Beats the shit outa me!” On another note, this is the name of a new reading series in Troy at the Psychedelicatessen, a bagel place on River St., a few doors from the Arts Center. We were in a comfy side room with sofas, soft chairs, a nice gathering place, but awkward for an open mic. There was a lot of noise coming from the kitchen, & with the poets & listeners scattered about the room without a mic & amp the poets’ words were sometimes lost. But we persisted.
Daniel read a couple pieces that were strings of random, philosophical thoughts about the internet & nearly everything else. Avery read a couple of pieces from a long-distance role-playing writing game about characters caught in dreams that he’s doing with a friend, the first in rhyme, “Deeper into Dream,” then one titled “Awakening from the Dream.” Dale also extended the time limit with a string of pieces that included a poem Avery had sent him last night, & a lullaby for his daughter that he sang, dangerously close to putting me to sleep. Desmond picked up on Avery’s introduction & recited Dylan’s “The Times are A-Changin’” then read a poem based on the movie series The Lord of the Rings (not necessarily on the books by the same title), then a piece on food & love “A Cuban Love Song.” I read 2 poems for recent anniversaries, “Baghdad/Albany” for the 15th anniversary of the (ongoing) invasion of Iraq, & “for Hugh Thompson Jr.” for the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam.
This was the second in a planned monthly series at the Psychedelicatessen, 275 River St., Troy, on the third Wednesday of the month. However, Avery announced that in deference to the Albany WordFest during the third week in April that he would not have an open mic that month but that it would pick up again in May, to continue to ponder “What is Poetry?”
March 21, 2018
Unfortunately the featured poet scheduled for tonight had cancelled only a few days before, but that did not stop other poets from showing up for the open mic to read their own work, so tonight the limit was raised to 2 poems. But before the living poets read I invoked the Muse, the recently gone poet Gerrit Lansing who had been born in Albany 90 years ago. I had recently attended his memorial ceremony & his birthday celebration reading in Gloucester & heard his poem “Song (Autumn Festival)” performed by Nicole Peyrafitte & again by punk rocker Willie Alexander, so tonight I read the text then played Willie’s version from his CD I’ll Be Goode (Fish Eye Records). I had hoped that our scheduled reader, Nancy Dunlop, would be here to hear this, as she had told me a couple weeks ago at the Troy Poetry Mission that Gerrit Lansing was a poet whose work she admired, but alas that was not to be the case.
We are at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday at 7:30PM for an open mic with (usually) a featured reader — your donation supports poetry programming in Albany & the work of the SJC.
March 20, 2018
I drove up to Schenectady with my friend & Albany poet Don Levy to this monthly open mic in the Stockade section of Schenectady, both to read in the open mic & to hear the featured poet Luis (L-Majesty) Pabon. But first our host Catherine Norr sang a song in Spanish to call on the Muse for the night.
In spite of arriving close to the start time I was able to sign up first on the list & read from a poem “Tracings” from my 1995 chapbook Ireland, then a poem referencing the recently gone poet Lucie Brock-Broido “Vowels.” Alan Catlin read a poem from 2005, one about bombs & death, “Love in a Time of War.” Ginny Folger read a new piece “My Father’s War Pictures.” Susan Jewell’s ekphrastic poem “The Day Teddy Roosevelt Became President” was an entry for the Rattle contest. Caroline Bardwell has been working with forms & read a sestina “The Power of Words” & a rhyming sonnet “The Strange Phenomenon.”
After a break & a chance to buy Luis’ books we can back for the rest of the open mic poets, including our host Catherine Norr who read a wonderfully descriptive “Buddha at my Table,” then a poem about death “Words Upon a Platter.” Don Levy read a poem about the murder of a young gay man “Blaise,” then the raucously hilarious (in the mode of his “gay fantasy” poems of the past) “My Hardon for Adam Rippon” the Olympic figure-skater.
I always enjoy the community of poets at this cozy venue each 2nd Wednesday of the month in Arthur’s Market, 35 N. Ferry St., Schenectady — 7:30PM.
March 18, 2018
Our usual space in the Black Box Theater (named after a crooked local politician whose name I won't mention) was quite unlike what we are used to for this open mic: there were green plastic tables & chairs arranged throughout the room, created when the stadium seating was folded back against the wall, apparently for a dinner here last night. In the absence of my co-host, Nancy Klepsch, I made the decision to just leave it that way, creating a psychological test of how well poets deal with change. In spite of some kvetching (“it looks like a kindergarten,” “do you think this chair will hold 300 pounds?” etc.) we all survived, although perhaps some will forever after enter that room with fear & trepidation at what they might encounter. & Nancy took the day off, so I was left on my own with a room full of anxious poets & a bottle of wine.
Bob Sharkey read another in his series of re-written fortune cookie fortunes “Convex Features," then talked about poets’ responses to a question about people who have influenced them a conversational poem by Paul Durcan. Howard Kogan began with a poem titled “Dahlia,” then a true story of a wake “La Rocca.” Steve Rieger came back this month from his last time here to read a piece about Lenny Bruce “Dig It.” Mike Conner read “Winter Warden” from his self-published chapbook Seasonal Musings, then another Winter poem “Moment at Home.” Kate Laity's story “I’ve Told Every Little Star” was about a grungy couple living in a squat. Karen Fabiane’s poems “Cat Blinked” & “Collars & Cuffs” can be found on her Facebook page where you can read it for yourself.
Rena Ehrlich (which sounds closer to her Russian name then Inna Ehrlikh) began by reading my poem “What I Found at the Bus Stop” then her translation of it into Russian, Что я нашёл на автобусной остановке когда снег растаял; then 2 pieces from Russian “Napoleon” by Inna Goukhman & “Birthday” which was dedicated to Rena by her friend Sara Stoljarova. Then, quite anti-climatically after my own poem in Russian, I read 2 poems from my 1995 chapbook Ireland, “Brigit (for Michael Quirke of Sligo)" & a postcard poem about the cows of Limerick. It turned out to be a good afternoon on the kindergarten chairs.
I can’t promise what the Black Box theater at the Arts Center in Troy, NY will look like on the next 2nd Sunday @ 2, but I will promise we’ll be there for an open mic of poetry + prose & that it will be Free! Bring something to read.
March 15, 2018
I decided to make the trip down to Kingston to this reading at the Unitarian Universalist Society of the Catskills to hear a couple of my favorite poets, Bertha Rogers & Richard Levine, both of whom I’d featured at readings in Albany. The evening was hosted by Annie LaBarge who organizes the series. There was also an open mic around the featured readers.
Fred began the first open mic cluster with a lyrical piece to his family nose “The Nose Knows.” Matt Spireng read a take-off on the often heard phrase “Your Call Is Very Important to Us.” I followed with my take on last year’s eclipse “Spathe is the Plathe.”
After a short break — cookies, coffee, & browsing the book table — we returned to the open mic. Judith Kerman read poems from a new collection she is working on titled Gymp: “After a Failed Surgery,” “Chair,” & an acrostic “Trying to Sleep.” Betty McDowell read about koi dead in her pond & eaten by crows, then another about helping a friend at the ER, & one titled “Thanksgiving Misgivings.”
The night ended with 2 more open mic poets. Bobbi Katz read the humorous “Old Woman Thinking About Robert Frost” from a series of “old women poems.” Our host Annie LaBarge read a childhood memoir about her brother & playing the piano “Heart & Soul.”
This series titled “Spoken Word” takes place monthly on Saturday evenings at the Unitarian Universalist Society of the Catskills, 320 Sawkill Rd., Kingston, NY, 7:00 PM, $5.00.
March 12, 2018
|Joachim Frank at an anti-war reading, March, 2003|
During the afternoon, there was a “conversation about a life in the arts and sciences” held in the D’Ambra Auditorium in the Life Sciences Research Building on the UAlbany campus. Most of the questions centered around the perceived, or real, conflict between Joachim’s creative writing & his scientific research, & around the different ways of writing in each field. He was a bit flustered at one questioner's use of the acronym “STEM,” a term prevalent at least in this area including on one area TV station. I thought, perhaps we should have less S.T.E.M. (i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) & more C.R.A.P. (Creativity, Reading, Arts, Performance).
At Paul’s request Joachim began with a readings of his poem “Central Ave.,” a poetic walk up that iconic Albany street, written in 1978, 3 years after he arrived here. Then on to a short story inspired by the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, “Metamorphosis of an Executive,” in which the chairman of Exxon Corporation is tossed into the oil spill then rescued & cleaned up like one of the fish. The short story “Myopia, or the Chest of Drawers” was a Beckett-like conversation about a manuscript between 2 friends in a cafe. Joachim said he has written 3 unpublished novels & read an excerpt from one titled “Observatory” about an astro-physicist, his family & others being soaked in radioactive rain from Chernobyl.
|Joachim Frank with Paul Grondahl|
If you are not aware of the ongoing, mostly free, events of the NYS Writers Institute, you can visit their website to see their schedule & can sign up for their email newsletter.
March 9, 2018
The co-hosts were community writers Alifair Skebe & JP Garcia. While we were waiting to start Alifair introduced JP for a “pre-reading” & he read from his new chapbook So This is Story, a section titled “Zero” a fragmentary piece like notes to a story.
The St. Rocco Poetry Series appears to happen irregularly so it seems the best way to find out about it is from their FaceBook page where you can also sign up for their mailing list & show your interest in reading in the series (or not).
March 8, 2018
Back in Troy (last month’s event had been cancelled), with R.M. Engelhardt the host, & co-host James Duncan joining us in progress. It was a long night of poetry, with 2 featured poets filling up an hour & 13 signed up for the open mic. Rob began the night with one of his characteristic pieces “I Am the Darkness.”
After the break, J.J. Johnson read a merciless anti-Trump rant “Heartless Beat,” (making one member of the audience clearly uncomfortable).
Jeremy Olson began with a poem about the gym being like a church, then on to a 2-part piece, “Strange Sex” working in Hokusai’s Wave painting & tentacles. Julie Lomoe read a descriptive prose piece “Terminal Beige” about being in a doctor’s office, then an old favorite “Bi-Polar Gaia.” Christian Ortega brought the night to a close with “Postscript” the final poem in his book Red Poems (Hispanic Paradox Press, 2014) which in the printed text is in all caps making one want to SHOUT while reading it.
The Troy Poetry Mission is held on the last Wednesday of the month (except when it’s not) at O’Brien’s Public House on 3rd St. in Troy (between Broadway & State St.), with a featured poet (perhaps) & an open mic, 7:30PM (but usually after 8).
March 4, 2018
Always a feisty event, tonight no exception, with our host Mary Panza. Tonight’s featured poet was Stella Padnos-Shea, but first, some of the open mic.
Sylvia Barnard likes to be first so she can relax after & listen to the other poets, tonight she began with a work-in-progress an urban tale about walking thru the snow & and an encounter with a cabbie, then a poem about thinking of her daughter & son-in-law & Thanksgiving “Family.” I read my new “Birthday Poem” for this year & a slightly older piece “The Poet’s Coat.”
Back to the open mic, Brooke Kolcow took us to the ocean in her poem “Maine Things” then read a list of the small wonders in “Poem for Smalbany.”
Always a fun night on the last Monday of the month for Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM — a featured poet & an open mic.
March 2, 2018
|Gerrit Lansing, October, 2010|
A memorial service was held on Saturday, February 24 at Hammond Castle, a great crowd filling the huge, medieval-style room. Gerrit’s grand-nephews spoke, each remarking on the “Gerrit-shared community.” Then a string of local friends, young & old, made brief comments or read one of Gerrit’s poems; one woman read one of Diane DiPrima’s “Revolutionary Letters.” The M/C of the event was Amanda Cook who got the gathered to sing “Shenandoah.” There was mention of magic, the occult & the natural world. Someone said that Gerrit’s last recited poem was from Mother Goose, “Higgledy-Piddledy My Black Hen.” I wrote in my notes, perhaps a quote from someone, “the magic is in the poems.”
Afterwards, there was an equally grand gathering down the road at the Magnolia Library Center for a community pot-luck & a chance to hang out & talk with old friends, Peter Anastas, Don & Marge Byrd, Pierre Joris & Nicole Peyrafitte, & to meet new friends.
|Nicole Peyrafitte, Pierre Joris, Don Byrd, Michael Bisio|
The best tribute a writer can have is for people to read their work. Similar to Whitman’s many editions of Leaves of Grass, Gerrit Lansing’s life work Heavenly Tree can be found in a variety of editions, many out of print, but the most recent & most complete edition is the 2009 North Atlantic Books edition Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth — order it from your local independent bookseller.
March 1, 2018
|Carol Graser reading at the QE2, July 29, 1996|
To another question she she explained that she also works well with poetry groups, where the members read & discuss a particular poem. She talked about her early years in the open mic scene, including reading at the old QE2 open mic in Albany run by Tom Nattell. She also talked about starting her own open mic at Caffè Lena back in 2003, worrying that no one would show up — it is still going strong on the 1st Wednesday of each month & gets a good crowd of local poets for the open mic & for the featured poet.
Albany Poets Presents takes place about every-other month at the Navona Restaurant on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY; come early & have dinner. Check the AlbanyPoets website for details & for the date of the next one & who the guest poet will be.