June 26, 2018

”What is Poetry?”, June 20

Less than a question, this is the title of a monthly open mic at the Psychedelicatessan in Troy. Tonight there was a gathering of 7 poets/singers & we did a round-robin in 2 rounds, with Avery, our host, reading a poem by musician David Gilmore.

Clarese was in her usual spot in the corner & read from her laptop a piece on chasing love “Emotional Silence.” Brian Dorn read a poem he had entered — & won 2nd prize — in the Dolgeville poetry contest (who would’ve thought that the little town of 2200 had a poetry contest!) “Still Blooming” in his characteristic rhyme. Joe Krausman read a poem he’d written today while at Whole Foods on a topic about which he knows a lot, “Old.” Avery read “Setting the Scene” written after ingesting a gel tab of LSD.

Since we were doing 2 poems I decided that my first would be “Garrison Keilor” from the 2016 2: An Anthology of Poets & Writers from The 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic for Poetry & Prose. Dale sang & recited the Irish song “Will You Go Lassie Go?” Tim read a piece composed mostly of a list of single words, titled “Empathy.”

For the second round Clarese read an essay from her laptop titled “Online Behavior.” Brian Dorn read a prose piece “Why I Write Poetry” in which he worked in his experience lifting weights competitively. Joe Krausman’s poem “You Can’t Take It With You” began with a Yiddish proverb which was translated as “shrouds don’t have pockets.” Avery’s piece “Dance” is not usually read sitting down. I completed the 2-poem connection from 2 with “Trailer Park.”

Dale read “Laughing on the Way Home” inspired by a place overlooking a waterfall, then slipped in a poem & a song sung almost too softly to be heard. Anthony, who had been sitting listening while his cellphone charged, said he was from West Africa & was talked in to recite a poem, by someone else not him, abut inspiration. Tim also read a poem written by someone else, this by a friend, a portrait in rhyme of a brother.

The comfy chairs & sofas, the tables & chairs, with a defined performance area, lend themselves to a casual, informal sharing of poems. Find out “What Is Poetry?” at the Psychedelicatessan on River St. on the 3rd Wednesday of a each month.

June 23, 2018

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, June 13

It was the Poetry Taxi to Schenectady tonight with Joe Krausman & Don Levy keeping the ride to Arthur’s Market lively. Our host, Catherine Norr, began the night with an Blues she wrote, just the first verse & chorus, then an open mic for a while, the featured reader Alan Casline, then the rest of the open mic.

Alan Catlin, just to clarify things, read “I Am Not Alan Casline.” Paul Amidon read a poem for our patriotic holidays “2 Day Heroes” (Memorial Day & July 4th), then a family memoir of the couple “Ida & Len.” BK Tuon claimed that his portrait of a successful, academic poet titled “The Great Poet” was “the worst poem” he had written — maybe, but still better than lots of other poems out there. Ginny Folger’s poem “Night Fall” was descriptive & meditative. Scott Morehouse had us in stitches from laughing at his “Aunt Helen’s Letter from Home” full of small obituaries & hypochondriacal advice. Judith Prest began with “Lust Language” from a new series she is writing, then “Crow Stories” composed of found language.

A new voice was Amber who read a poem titled “Sparks” about inspiration. Jackie Craven’s poem “Sailors Take Warning” was set in the Florida sun but that didn’t help at all the despairing mood of the piece.

Alan Casline — now that it has been made clear that he is not Alan Catlin — was the featured poet, & was once was described as a “persistent poet.” He began by talking about his latest project, his attempt to have his neologism “summergreen” entered in the Oxford English Dictionary, & to that end about his forth-coming publication of a collection of his summergreen poems from Foot Hills Publishing. He began with some poems from 64 Changes (Foot Hills Publishing, 2015), poems based on the hexagrams in the I Ching, “The Power of the Great” (#34), & “Full of It & Happy to Be Here” (#55, Abundance).

Then on to a selection of pieces from the Summergreen manuscript, a variety of moods & settings, including inserting a poem into a conversation, findings squatters in the woods, ghost photos, the broadside “By Summergreen’s Dispersion” (which also appears in64 Changes for #43 Break-through), & “Summergreen Variations About What is Summergreen.” Then he ended with excerpts from a long poem “Michigan Moon” starting at (the now-defunct) Smitty’s Tavern. (I need to correct a remark I made at the reading that my counter to “summergreen” is “Wintergrey” — let’s see who will get in the OED first.

After the break Catherine Norr was back by request to finish the other verses to her Blues, then read a memoir in-progress “Grandma’s Writing Desk.” Betty Zerbst did a rhyming celebration “June is the Month…” then a non-rhyming memoir/family list “Cemetery.” Glenn Witecki read the very short piece, some words left behind for his son. Susan Jewell said she has been writing to the Rattle magazine ekphrastic challenge, read “The Open Shutter” responding to a photograph. Don Levy read 2 recent pieces, “Do Not Feed the Trolls!” a Facebook commentary, & “Freestylein’ It.” I followed with my latest political rant, not without a touch of humor,” Buttons Not Bombs.”

Joe Krausman’s “My Son the Mechanic” was a bit of poetic fiction, but “Pandering to Pandas at the National Zoo” was straight out of the news. Edie Abrams made it here for the first time & reprised her poem she read at the Arts Center, about getting rid of stuff, or not, & giving thanks.

This wonderful, casual open mic takes place each 2nd Wednesday at Arthur’s Market at the monument in the Stockade Section of Schenectady, starting at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & time for the rest of us. Free!

June 19, 2018

Poetic Vibe, June 11

I hadn’t been to this weekly open mic in some time, have missed the great mix of poets, & made a concentrated effort to get there tonight — & glad I did. The host is poet D. Colin & how she gets the energy to do this each week — must be youth — I don’t know. She got us started with “Artibonite Woman” from her book Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015), which I never get tired of hearing, & an untitled work-in-progress on wanting to be loved.

I was first on the sign-up sheet & read my “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock.” Sydney Clifford followed with a poem about losing her dream job “Enough.”

This was V.’s first time here, read a couple pieces on love & hurt & rivals, effectively using hip-hop rhyme to carry the story along. Julie Fresenius began with a poem about a medical procedure “Florescence,” then one titled “Conversations with My Father.” Alijah Pompey’s poem “The Pain I Can Feel” was autobiographical, about drugs & violence in his past (but doing better now), then a poem about personal loss from violence “Lost One.”

Kevin Francis Xavier Callahan started with a rambling introduction to his 5-year mission plan “Easy in My Own Skin.” Star’s pieces were on the theme of Black Lives Matter, the first “Colors” contrasting the colors of social justice with police shootings, the second on black as the new super-power. This was the first time for Ivy D. who began with “Music,” then the sexy “Coconut Colored,” & “Brothers.” I enjoy Liv’s work, writing real poems in a Slam style, tonight a new poem honoring the ancient women in her family “A Poem to the Grandmothers…”.

Elena Fiya Love began with what she described as the 1st Slam poem she wrote “My Vocabulary Stands from a Blooming Flower” then another in similar rhymes “Dark Knight” (not about Batman she said).  Ray had been sitting at the bar, unprepared to read, so free-styled about going to the gym in the early hours & somehow working jerk chicken into the piece. Michael Chambers’ piece was prepared, a long letter he had written as tribute to a woman after they had broken up. Kay L was a performer promoting his music business & did a couple of songs to prepared back-up tapes. Poetik read a new poem on horror movies “Sub-genres,” then read from her new book Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being by asking the audience to call out page numbers, picked page 23, a poem on video games (she will be reading on July 28 in Poets in the Park.

While we had been reading & listening D. Colin was listening & writing, picking out lines, & created a Cento, what she called “take-aways,” lines from what folks had read.

The feature was drummer, rapper, poet Jordan Taylor Hill with drummer Kojo Kofi. It was a musical performance with the words as music & rhythm, some free-style, some philosophical rap, some prison chants that Leadbelly had performed too, & lots of drumming. At one point Kojo tried to teach the audience a song from Ghana about Janey, call & response & enough repetition to learn the sounds/words. Did I mention lots of drumming? A good way to get us boppin’ out the door. But before we did, D. Colin read the group poem (otherwise known as an “exquisite corpse”) from the clip-board passed around all night — I won’t say which was my line. A great night of poetry & drumming, glad I finally got back there.

Poetic Vibe happens every (most) Mondays at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St. in Troy, NY, 7:30, contribution to pay the feature. There is a full bar & a food kitchen & lots of comfy seats. Pick a Monday & go.

June 14, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, June 10

This was an odd day at the Arts Center, starting off in the Black Box theater where we are most 2nd Sundays, but then in the middle they moved us upstairs to the Dance Studio. In the past we have occasionally been re-located to a studio on the 2nd floor, but this was the first time we were moved in the middle of our event. Whatever.

There was a long (16 writers) sign-up sheet, with a number of poets who have not been here in a while, to pay tribute to Howard Kogan who will be moving with his wife Libby to Worcester, MA. Howard has been an integral part of our community of poets & his poetry is much admired & enjoyed.  First up was Tom Bonville with a memoir of what many of us experienced “Hide & Seek.”

Edie Abrams hasn’t been here in quite some time & we’ve missed her; she read a piece that I’m sure Howard could appreciate, about acquiring too much stuff, "except…” Dianne Sefcik began with a descriptive piece titled “Thunder,” then a poem for Howard about the gifts from his garden. Tim Verhaegen read a long, lush, Whitmanesque memoir prose poem “I Am the Sea.”

One of the day’s new voices to show up today  was Kendall Hoeft who is new to the area, but jumped right in seeking out the poetry open mic, her first poem was a portrait of a street guy on a bench “God Who Bloodies Knuckles,” then “Poem I Didn’t Write” in response to her mother’s “don’t write a poem about me.” Joe Krausman read a poem by his uncle, originally written in Yiddish, on hating, & paid tribute to help with his translation by Barnett Zumoff, MD, endocrinologist & poet. I followed Joe with 2 new poems, a description of an imagined room from a photograph “Lily White,” & a political rant “Buttons Not Bombs.” Tom Corrado’s poem “Becoming Ocean” mentioning the suicides of Virgina Woolf & Anthony Bourdain was inspired by the music of the American composer John Luther Adams.

Our honoree, Howard Kogan, began with a poem celebrating unions “Blue Collar,” then one written for a workshop with Bernadette Mayer the assignment to write on Syria, it began “Seriously…”. Bob Sharkey read a childhood memoir “Cave” then another of his humorous, quirky re-writes of Chinese fortune cookies that he knows Howard likes, this one titled “Feckless Fortunes.” Alan Casline writes poems about being in the woods & read such a piece with birds, then a poem for Howard “Road Salt from a Previous Journey.”

Sometimes I can’t always understand Karen Fabiane so I think the title of her stream-of-conciousness piece that began with dogs & ended up in Brooklyn was “Me Fingers,” then a piece read previously but now re-written “Ain’t Like That.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a just-written poem “Cook” composed of the language of food & cooking ending with the name “Bourdain,” then the untitled poem “Untitled” from her 2017 book god must be a boogie man that begins “I am shaped by dreams…”

Sally Rhoades rushed in for Howard, read a poem about the night sky in Oklahoma “Missing the Starlight,” then one about a World War II memorial in Europe for American soldiers “White Crosses.” The last poet was also a new voice & face, John Teevan who read a short prose story titled “A Melancholy Euphoria” set in 1917, lovers parting, with a consideration of the possibilities, from a book titled Afternoons and Evenings in Vienna.

From there, many of us, Howard & Libby’s friends, adjourned to Brown’s for food, libations, conversations & a toast to one of the poets who added so much to our local poetry scene, so much to our community, a good poet & a fine gentleman. It ain’t over until it’s over, as another Brooklynite once said, we’ll see Howard again.

But you won’t see 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose again until September, we’re off for July & August, just like school. Otherwise, we’ll be at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY the rest of the year on, you know, 2nd Sunday @ 2. It’s free & open to all writers.

June 12, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 17

I like to say, “if your friends & relatives don’t come to your readings, who will?” & tonight’s featured poet, Katrinka Moore, certainly followed that axiom packing the house with acquaintances, including one whom signed up to read for the first time here, in addition to some of the regular open mic-ers. But first I invoked our Muse, the gone poet Joanne Kyger (1934 - 2017), & read her poem “It’s Been a Long Time.” Then on to the open mic.

First up was Alan Catlin with a grim litany of war wounds, “Walt Whitman’s Bitter Angel,” culled from his Civil War poems. Tom Bonville was here for the 1st time with a descriptive poem titled “Mother’s Day,” his mother at 74. Self-styled "country-girl" Dianne Sefcik read from her recent book Red Ochre, “Pipe,” also her first time here, a poem of social justice.

Joshua RA Dundas said his mission was “to bring light to people’s minds” & did his poem “Dark Glimpses,” as dark as its title. Don Levy is certainly not here for the first time, read a new poem, a FaceBook warning, “Do Not Feed the Trolls!” Carol H. Jewell’s pantoum is titled “Pre-Occupied or, How the Princess of Pantoums Passes Her Time.” I messed up the next poet’s name while announcing him, then G. Douglas Davis IV struggled with an Arabic word in his new poem for Palestine, delving into history.

Katrinka Moore had many fans in the audience & perhaps made more. She read from her new book Wayfarers (Pelekinesis, 2018). She explained that each of the poems in the book is a different tale by a different speaker. She began, appropriately enough, with the Big Bang, “Cosmogony,” then on to “Remnants,” “The Rolling World,” & a poem apparently not in the book “Visiting the Hermit Finding No One Home.” The poem titled “Parting” is actually the first poem in the book, & “Luna Lura,” a short poem, she described as a postcard from a butterfly visiting the Moon (& perhaps my favorite in the book).  The second section of her book, “A Crossing,” is about her grandparents migration in a model T from Texas to California, from which she read “Crow,” "The isle is full of noises” (which comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”), the lushly descriptive “Sea Road,” & “Wind Road.” She ended with 2 poems about her mother’s death, “Falling Sometimes” & “Scatter.” Wayfarers not only contains these & other fine poems, but also a number of nearly abstract black & white photos.

After a break we returned to the open mic, with me reading my new poem, “Buttons Not Bombs.”

A special treat was a reading of a poem for 2 voices, “Fusion Approach to Gathering,” by Dawn & Hani Marar from Dawn’s new book Efflorescence (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Howard Kogan announced that he had sold his house & would be moving to Massachusetts, but said the poem he read was not about him, titled “Over.” Betty Zerbst’s poem is titled “Looking Back” memories about her family in rhyme. Tom Corrado moved out of his comfort zone to read the grim “Notes from the Belly of the Beast” — he has published his “Screen Dumps” in a collection of 365 A Dump a Day. Philomena Moriarty read the first in a series of poems, written from notes of what comes up from sitting in a present moment, “Snapshot.”

Joe Krausman read a humorous, social commentary “The Magic of the Answering Machine,” a message that someone left behind before he died. Clarese Portofino read a poem, like a series of notes, describing a shameless party & its aftermath “The Last Brazier.” Brianna Kehrer’s poem, “Peter Paul & Amy,” describes a sad cook in a restaurant in Schenectady & finding a moment of compassion.

The final reader was also a first timer here, Jeannette Rice, has read other people’s poetry, read her own poem from 1956, from elementary school bomb drills, imaging the bombs had exploded & the Earth is dead.

But with any luck the Earth will not be dead on future Third Thursdays so we can gather at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us to read a poem too.

June 5, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 13

This week we got bounced upstairs but it doesn’t matter, the words still flow up. Nancy Klepsch & I play tag-team hosts here at the Arts Center each month.

& I ended up first on the open mic sign-up, & read 2 new pieces, “Buttons Not Bombs,” & a poem-joke dedicated to Peggy LeGee “A Traney Story.” Rena Ehrlich adds an international flavor, like vodka, to the readings here with her translations of Russian poets, today it was Evgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Here is What’s Happening” (translated by Andrey Kneller), & her own translation of “April” by Bulat Okudzhava. Mike Conner likes to read his seasonal poems, & appropriately enough his first was “May First,” then the descriptive “Summer Calls.”

Harvey Havel is often in the audience at open mics, but rarely reads; today he read the first 4 pages of a new novel of a love story for a crack addict told by an upper-class hockey player. Karen Fabiane’s first piece was titled “Navigating the Space Bar” then another portrait of a woman at a bar “Corner Spot.” Peggy LeGee read her newest chapbook Enter the Shopping Kart Man (Transgirl Press 2018) in the continuing graphics art saga of Moochie the Dumpster Kat (art & lettering by Raymond Lowell).

Co-host Nancy Klepsch wrote a poem this morning celebrating the color “Green” & tried it out.  Jil Hanifan started with the short “Poem in the Overcast” then a piece on urban sounds “Presences.” Bob Sharkey read 2 poems inspired by entries in the recent Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, “Siege” about the Battle of Malawi in the Philippines in May 2017, then a Cento titled “We Are Delivered by Wonder” composed of lines of poems from entries in the contest. Christian Ortega has just moved to Troy from the mid-Hudson area & read from his book Red Poems (Hispanic Paradox Press, 2014) the poems “My Name & Yours” & “Miami.”

Each 2nd Sunday @ 2 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region we gather for a wide-open literary open mic of poetry & prose — bring your pages to read, free & open to the public.

June 1, 2018

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, May 11

This was the beginning of what will be a truncated season at the Pine Hollow Arboretum which is going through some changes affecting the visitors center after the death of its founder John Abbuhl. For tonight the featured performer was poet & musician Mộng-Lan. Alan Casline was our host.

First on the open mic sign-up was Mark O’Brien who read “The Vocabulary Kiln” from The Rootdrinker Anthology, then a memoir poem about his mother. Paul Amidon’s poems are richly descriptive, he read “Old Dog” & “Roadside Memorial.” Mike Conner read the post-breakup “It May,” & a piece about a thunder storm “Storm Stranger.”

Tom Bonville’s poem “Why Jake Went” was about a school valedictorian who was killed in Viet Nam. Tim Verhaegen’s piece was humorous & nostalgic, about the first time in 1986 he heard the name of the-love-of-his-life. Mimi Moriarty read 2 political pieces, “Where is the Portrait of Peace Hanging, Which Wall?” & one written last year before he re-surfaced, “I Love You John Bolton.” Frank Robinson read what he said was the 1st poem he ever wrote, “We,” about the ocean & our brains & the start of civilization. Therese Broderick said they were just back from Ireland & read a persona poem “The Daughter on Sunday Display.” Joan Gran has not read out in a while so it was good to hear her again with a nostalgic poem about the Albany bar Mike’s Log Cabin, & a piece titled “Independence at 70.”

Mộng-Lan began her reading with a poem “Field” from her first book about seeing her ancestor’s graveyard in Viet Nam, then from her 2014 book One Thousand Minds Brimming: Poems & Art (Valiant Press) a poem titled “Saigon,” & “Love” in fish sauce. Then a section from Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art (Valiant Press, 2008), & on to poems from her latest book, Dusk Aflame: Poems & Art (Valiant Press, 2018), excerpts from the long title poem, then “Love Poem to Curry,” & excerpts from a long poem “Tone of Water in a Half-Filled Glass,” & “New Orleans Pillow Book.” She concluded with the playing on the guitar 2 Tangos, for a lush & varied performance.

After a break, Bob Sharkey led off the open mic poets with a cento composed of lines from entries to the Stephen A. DiBiase contest, titled “We Are Delivered of Wonders.”

Caroline Bardwell has been playing with forms & started off with a rondo, “Death of a Dream” including a quote from Ezekiel, then a free verse poem for the Arboretum “The Deep Forest.” Alifair Skebe read 2 poems from Thin Matter (FootHills Publishing, 2017) “Desire” & “Persevere.” Joe Krausman read about insomnia “Four” & a poem titled “No Day without a Line.” Peter Boudreaux’s poem “At Odds with the World” was recently written. Tom Corrado read the 18-part (some only a few words, others longer) “Notes from the Belly of the Beast” a grim portrait of dysfunctions, binging, purging, cutting, Walmart, group therapy.

Michale Czarnecki read from his newest book You (FootHills Publishing, 2018) a untitled piece on the ocean, then from another collection, “I’m a 46er!” Ron Pavoldi read a new poem for the 1st time, “When All is Right with the World.” Our host, Alan Casline, ended the night with the strangely titled poem “Give to Vitamin Angels.org,” then one of his poems based on the I Ching “Breakthrough” (Hexagram 43).

We’ll just have to see what the future brings for this reading series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum. Meanwhile, the Arboretum is still there & they trees are still growing — stop by sometime & visit.