August 27, 2018

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 15


The second poetry event of a very eventful poetry day & a warm, steamy night at the Social Justice Center for the open mic & the featured poet, Sarah Giragosian, but lots of cool poets in the house, a couple I’d seen just a few hours before at the Altamont Fair. The night's Muse was the recently gone poet, professor, activist Harry Staley, in whose honor I read his poem “Chalk It” trying to channel his past, energetic performances. Then on to the start of the open mic.

First up, to honor another recently gone artist, Aretha Franklin, was D. Alexander Holiday who read Nikki Giovanni’s “Poem for Aretha.” Joe Krausman read from his poems about surgery, this about needing a specialist, not a writer. Jan Tranmontano was back in town, all too briefly, from Southern Florida, read a work-in-progress, “Solar Eclipse Totality” about her mother in a nursing home. Cicada read her “first city poem” read 1st in Denver with a punk band, an energetic celebration of urban life. Alan Catlin read a horror-movie styled poem, containing a prompt somewhere, beginning “We are planting the baby-heads by moonlight…”

I’ve enjoyed seeing & hearing Sarah Giragosian read at places like the Rensselearville Poetry Month event, but became a fan after reading Queer Fish (Dream Horse Press, 2017), filled with richly descriptive images of creatures, some you’ve barely heard of, to explore love, gender & relationships. She began with poems from from Queer Fish (which she characterized as “a queer bestiary”), starting with “Lullaby for Cat,” “Eros” (expanding the erotic beyond the human), “All at Sea” talked about our responsibility for our ecological impact, another on a similar theme “When the Horseshoe Crab Grieves,” & “The Fish Beneath the Portuguese Man of War.” Then on to a few new poems from The Death Spiral forthcoming in 2020 from Black Lawrence Press, including “The Second Moon Colony Won’t Fail,” a poem to climate refugees, the Yupik, indigenous people of Alaska, then the title poem using the free-falling of eagles as a metaphor, & “Nina” for another great American singer, Nina Simone.

After a break, we continued with the open mic — I record the audio of each of these sessions at the SJC, rather than take notes as I do at most other readings, but when I sat down to write this Blog I discovered that I for some reason the rest of the open mic was not recorded. I have the sign-up sheet so I do know who read, but other than a fragmented, vague memory I do not have the kind of information about who read what (including myself) that I had for the first half. I will give each poet equal treatment & just list who read. My apologies, not only to the poets, but to the grad students of the future who are writing their dissertations on the poets & poems of the Albany poetry scene for this incomplete rendering.

The poets who read, marvelously I might add (!), were:
Dan Wilcox
Jackie Craven
Caroline Bardwell
Bob Sharkey
Mary Ann Murray
Slay! the Dragon (who had read at Poetic Vibe on Monday as “formerly known as Kid Flash”)
Therese Broderick
Frank S. Robinson
Screamer
Elizabeth

Take my word for it, it was Greaaaat!

Recorded or not, the Third Thursday Poetry Night takes place each (that’s right) third Thursday of the month, not affected by any national holidays, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30PM — your donation helps pay the featured poet, supports poetry events in the area, & supports the work of the Social Justice Center. & bring a poem for the open mic.

August 24, 2018

Poetry at the Altamont Fair, August 15


As far as I can tell from my records, the first time I attended the Poetry readings (called “Poetry Appreciation”) at the Altamont Fair it was in 1992 in the Hayes House where the art is exhibited. I note another attendance the following year where Charlie Rossiter & I are conflated to “Dan Rossiter.” In those early days each person who signed up got a small plaque, no name, just a metal design tacked to a piece of polished wood.

A few years ago Alan Casline took over the event, perhaps after the death of William Robert Foltin, & the reading is now held at the Carriage Museum, a larger more open space, on the Altamont Fairgrounds. He includes not only an open mic but also a “round-robin” where folks read the words of gone poets -- but no commemorative plaque (I'd thrown my out years ago).

D. Alexander Holiday trying to cool off
It was quite an open mic list with a cross-section of sweat-soaked poets from the area, along with a new voice. Dianne Sefcik read a poem for the late John Abbuhl, other pieces including “an attempt at a poem on peace.” Among Tom Bonville’s poems was “At the Altamont Fair” about reading a poem at the Altamont Fair, which became a sub-theme. Karen Schoemer’s poems were descriptive pieces like notebook entries from her life. When I read I started off with “Altamont Fair Poem” (included in the recent Coast to Coast: the Route 20 Anthology as “County Fair Poem”) which I believe I wrote for the 1992 reading here. I also believe that this was the first time here for D. Alexander Holiday who read a series of political (i.e., anti-Trump) rants. Bob Sharkey’s selections were a variety, including one of his signature fortune cookie poems & the Irish fantasy of wandering with Leopold Bloom thru modern Troy.

Mark W. O’Brien took us for a stroll down his Memory Lane including his poem “Shunpiker” from Coast to Coast. His wife, Gale Allen, sang a church-lady song “Even Song in Oxford on St. Cecilia’s Day” (whose feast day is November 22 - what event in American history occurred on that day?). Tom Corrado read #353 from his epic compilation of his “screen dumps” A Dump a Day.

A new face & voice, Amber Seymour, read a variety of poems, ones inspired by The Yellow Submarine, a found poem from the newspaper, & a collection of “wise sayings.” Betty Zerbst’s poems were a combination of nostalgia with happy, greeting-card thoughts. Sally Rhoades read recent poems from her trips to Cyprus & to Catalonia. Signed up as “www.group” Mimi Moriarty, Deni Whalen & Kathleen Smith did 3 rounds of alternating poems, ranging far & wide, from prompts on “maps,” to more elaborate prompts, to found poems, to poems on Peeps & on horses. Julie Lomoe read writing from a recent trip to Colorado to attend a conference of “Romance writers” including a memoir about horseback riding (must be the fact we were in the “Carriage House”). Robb Smith finished us off with an excerpt of a short story titled “Devil’s Night.”

After a break for beer, & cool breezes (did I say it was hot in there?), a few of us staggered back for tributes to gone poets such as Harry Staley, John Abbuhl, Paul Pines & others.

Getting in my car I noticed that I certainly had some mud on my sandals, but, fortunately, no horseshit.


August 22, 2018

Poetic Vibe, August 13


With the coordinator of this weekly series, D. Colin, off to the Slam Nationals tonight’s open mic was hosted by Jordan Taylor Hill, with the night's featured poet, Mary Panza, waiting in the wings. Jordan started us off with one of his songs done a cappella.

No matter where I go, to what open mics, no one wants to sign up in the #1 spot, so I am compelled to take mercy on the #2 person signed up who would be #1 if I signed up for a later slot — I read the anti-war rant “Buttons Not Bombs,” then, because I saw Peggy LeGee in the audience, I read my poem/joke “A Traney Story.” I was followed by Elizag whseo poem “At the End of the Movie 5 Pieces” was a string of advice. The next reader was introduced as “formerly known as Kid Flash” (& I suspect I’ve seen him under various names elsewhere) who read Gregory Corso’s long poem “Marriage.” The always colorful Peggy LeGee read pieces from her phone rather than her frequent notebook, “You’re Addicted to Distraction” & a piece from childhood “Revise the Echos.”

Amanda, who was new to me, read long, richly descriptive pieces in a manic, anorexic manner about guys, “Going Dutch” (with the provocative repeating line “I want my underwear back…”) & “Mall Men.” This was my first time seeing Alison Lennon read her work, whom the poet George Wallace had referred us each to the other; she did a short 4-act play, more a male/female dialogue with Elizabethan diction, from memory no less. Jordan performed another piece “What Now?” then brought up Josh RA Dundas; I was relieved to see he was wearing a vest over his naked chest, but then he took that off as he does when he is wearing a shirt, then proceeded into a long preachy sermon & 2 sections from his ever-present book he is promoting. Rose read from her journal/notebook an interesting progression of thoughts on words & concepts linked by the phrase “… translates to…” This was Sam’s first time reading & she read poems by a friend.

Mary Panza was the night’s featured poet & that certainly added motivation for me to get here tonight. She began with a cranky piece about spilling coffee in her cup holder & trying to soak it up with a Maxi-pad (which I must admit is not something I would have handy in a similar situation), then a piece pondering “those black & white photos.” She read her poem “The Little Blonde” for her daughter, one of my favorite pieces, then 2 about mentoring a young girl who had also been raped, full of self-affirming advice from her own experience. Mary doesn’t read much as a feature, or even at open mics, but when she does it is always worth the trip & the price of admission.

Jordan finished up with a reading of the group poem, as the Surrealist would say, “an exquisite corpse,” written by the audience as is the tradition here.

This weekly venue takes place each & every Monday in Troy at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St. where you can get food, drink, & poetry all in one place — 7:30 — bring poems for the open mic.

August 18, 2018

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, August 8


The Poetry Taxi took Don Levy to Schenectady for this open mic, which featured the poet Dawn Marar. Our host Catherine Norr started us off, as she does, with a song, tonight’s like a spiritual.

While I parked the car, Don had signed me up - first - & I read the brand-new “What Makes America Great #17” & Tom Nattell’s “Hiroshima.” It was a welcome 2nd time in 2 days to see Caroline Bardwell who read 2 new poems, a Rondeau “This Fire Within” & “Torn” about tearing away, divorce & facing the future. A poet I hadn’t seen before tonight, Michael Quinn Voyt, read a love-poem of self-discovery “Re-birth” & the stress-relieving “Exhale in a Bubble.”

Scott Morehouse often leaves us laughing & he did so again tonight with an hilarious piece about a dream of being stuck in 12th grade forever “Back to School.” Jackie Craven read a couple of “water poems” beginning with “The Psychic Says” she had past lives as bodies of water, then “I Heard a River Downstairs.” Betty Zerbst’s first poem, “The Hurt I Feel Inside,” was based on a prompt from an online poetry group then she read a piece about re-connecting with a “Teen Age Crush.” My passenger Don Levy had 2 new poems, the first about an Albany Facebook flurry “The Nazi Downtown,” then the much funnier “Bus Hottie Number 203.”

Even though I’ve seen Dawn Marar, tonight’s featured poet, read a couple times in recent months, promoting her new book, she does give “good read.” She began with a poem about paper clips “Gem” then a sonnet “This Ring.” From Efflorescence (Finishing Line Press, 2018) she read “Heavenly Bodies” & “Fusion Approach to Gathering” (a poem for 2 voices, aided by her husband Hani). In between, she read the sensual “Late Summer Missive” & at the end read a poem from a visit to Paris “This Hunched Back.”

After a break, our host Catherine Norr was back to talk of the recently gone poet Paul Pines, then read her own poem “Within the Mandala.” Susan Jewell read a dream poem “Portals (Thank You for Your Understanding)” from her ongoing exercise of writing from Rattle magazine’s ekphrastic prompts. Judith Prest began with a poem “Thunder’s Name” from a chapbook manuscript, then a memory poem with the recurring line “when I found out my father was the pilot…” Rick Harringer made a welcome appearance before his upcomng move to Florida to do from memory “Dale County Blues” about being on a prison farm down South.

Another face/voice I hadn’t seen/heard previously was Barbara DelMastro who read poems written on a recent retreat, “Loon” & “Thin Places” (a Celtic term for a holy place where the Spirit comes through). Malcolm Willison rounded off the night with a description of a rural scene “Night Chamber” & “High Wire Antics” on the end of Ringling Brothers circus & the circus in the White House.

Another pleasant night of poetry at this friendly place in Schenectady, Arthur’s Market on Ferry St., each 2nd Wednesday, 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the community of poets.

August 9, 2018

Brass Tacks: Poetry & Spoken Word, August 7


Bar flies at The Low Beat
Otherwise known as getting down to the low beat. Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets was is host for a most eclectic mix of poets, in styles, age, sobriety, appropriateness, physical appeal, etc., etc.

The first of the new voices, Emily Litwin, read 2 poems about an ex-boyfriend (emphasis clearly on the “ex-“), the first titled “Melonballer” summed up in the last line “you were just a tool,” then another attack titled “Field Corn.” Luciano Ferrara must be a musician because he said he’d been on this stage before but never to read his poetry, did 4 poems, “Overreaching Reactor” in sort of half hip-hop rhymes, others playing off music of the words, another from a series, like pressured writing, sometimes rhymed, bouncing from image to sound to image.

I had more mercy on the audience, just read one poem, “A Traney’s Story.” Julie Lomoe took the opposite tack (not brass) with a long, rambling intro, then read parts 1 & 2 of a prose memoir/journal entry “Rocky Mountain High” about buying pot cookies in Leadville, CO. Caroline Bardwell brought back rhymes with another ex- poem “Liar,” then one titled “Indecision” about her worries about the future with her new-found freedom.

Sarah Fountain said she had never read her poems out in public before tonight but did a fine job with 2 thoughtful poems, “Drivers” about bus riders (like her) versus people in cars with the running refrain “clang, clang…” then “The Past” pondering what people mean when they suggest “just let it go.” Algorhythm started with a positive, intense love story for his wife, then a short work-in-progress, & ended a piece on horror drug memories, mostly from memory.

Algorhythm can't believe he took his shirt off!
Joshua RA Dundas has already established a reputation for taking his shirt off at readings & did it again tonight for his 2nd poem, but first read a poem from his “light side” then one from his dark side called Sin Byron, reading from his book which he hypes as a life-changer. Yusuf followed, he more of a musician than a poet, read 2 parts of a piece wondering if there is a purpose anymore. Amanda was also a nervous, first-time reader like her friend Sarah, but gave a unique performance singing from a journal-like piece titled “Just Some Thoughts” talking about herself, her hesitation, her hiding inside.

It was mostly fine up to this point, then Vincente Maurice took the stage thinking it was a Tuesday comedy night, with some purposefully outrageous ramblings that make people laugh more from nervousness than from any humor, & I left. Besides, I’d finished my beer.

So you too can get down to Brass Tacks: poetry, spoken word, each 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY — but not so-called comedy, that’s the other Tuesdays, please!

Poets Speak Loud!, July 30


As always here at McGeary’s it was a special night on the last Monday of the month. There was a variety of open mic poets, even a first-timer, & a featured poet, D. Alexander Holiday, who might be called the “Jiminy Cricket" on race issues for the poetry scene. &, of course, the host, Mary Panza.

I was the first on the sign-up list (even though others had signed the list before me) & I read the brand new “What Makes America Great #17” based on signs from the #MarchForOurLives rallies, & the bar-jotting poem “My Lucky Hat.” Being on Summer vacation Samuel Weinstein read a couple Summer poems “A Sunny Day” &, from a prompt from a friend, “Smokey Summer Emerald Eyes.”

Mary Panza takes Joe Krauman's picture
Joe Krausman passed around a picture of his father taken in Lebanon (the country, not the rural town in New York) in 1924 & read his poem about it “Is the Guy on the Left [his father] Charlie Chaplin?” then a poem titled “Gratitude.” Linda Boulette read the related poems “The Angel of Death Speaks” & “The Spirit of Life Speaks.”  

Marianna Boncek made a rare appearance here with a poem titled “Iftar” (the daily meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan) about a well built as a tribute to the dead, the a forward-looking poem “The End of Patriarchy.”

Our featured poet, D. Alexander Holiday, has been on the scene since the early 1990s, & is the author of a number of books of poetry & prose, the most recent Kith & Kin: A Klannish, Klownish, Tragic Komedy, written as G. Douglas Davis, IV. Often a serious poet on topical/political themes, tonight’s performance had more than the usual share of humor, but it’s point just as sharp, perhaps sharper. He began with “The Tee Shirt” that he bought at an Irish Festival that said “Irish Livers Matter," then on to a couple poems about Roseanne Barr, one in the voice of the ghosts Confederate soldiers “that made her” send her tweets. After discussing Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America, he said he was dedicating the rest of his reading to the children in detention centers, & read from his 2011 book E-mails from Satan’s Daughter, then to “13 Years a Slave, Me” from Kith & Kin. He concluded with the political commentary “Invisible Music” complete with dancing to what he was hearing on his earphones & a fancy Church-lady fan.

Then on to the rest of the open mic, with Dave Kime, also making a welcome, rare appearance, reading (no mic needed) “Nightfall” & the anti-corporate TV screed “Blue Light.” Don Levy’s poem “Home Movies 1947” was a look at the history of gays in America before it was safe(r) to come out. Frank Robinson’s poem “The Wanderers” took us into his & Therese’s home as boxes of files of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild moved from their basement, to the kitchen, to the dining room, etc., then a political parable based on the story in Genesis “Original Sin, the 2nd Bite.” Therese Broderick read about burning her face from sunglasses left in the sun on the dashboard of her car “Sunglasses Gone the Way of the Dodo.”

Bob Sharkey’s poem “Malone” was about a road-trip when he was working for NY State, then the travel-guide “Things to Do in East Latham” (who knew?!). Jeff Stubits made a return appearance with a poem entitled “Poetry” which he likened to berries, then wondered “When Will the Moon Be Renovated?” (in order to be closer to God).

Our last reader was Joan Geitz who had showed up to listen & hadn’t planned to read but Mary convinced her & she read the political rant/curse “For the War Mongers,” fitting right in with the readers tonight.

You are never sure who (or what) will show up in McGeary’s backroom for Poets Speak Loud! most last Mondays of the year, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us. McGeary’s is on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, across the street from the Palace Theater.

August 8, 2018

A TRANEY STORY


A traney walks into a bar
orders a burger, “medium rare.”

The waiter asks, what kind
of cheese: cheddar, Swiss
provolone, or vegan cheese?”
“Vegan, please,” she says.

The waiter looks at her funny
“On a burger?” he asks.

She says, “Yes, I’m transitioning.”

August 6, 2018

Poets in the Park 2018


July 14 - Ghost Fishing: an Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology Reading
Back in Albany’s Washington Park, at the foot of the statue of Robert Burns for another edition of Poets in the Park, the 29th year of this series started by Tom Nattell. Tonight’s reading was by poets in the recently published anthology of eco-justice poetry Ghost Fishing, published by the University of Georgia Press & edited by Melissa Tuckey, who was our first reader.

Melissa described the book as containing “poetry at the intersection of social justice & the environment,” with diverse work with roots in many cultural traditions. The first poem she read, the first in the book positioned like a dedication, was by Ross Gay, “A Small Needful Fact,” about Eric Garner; then her own poem in the voice of the chemical company “Monsanto Drunk in the Garden.” She ended with Chen Chen’s poem “Set the Garden on Fire”.

Karen Skolfield, who had read here last year with the late Jay Wenk, read her poem “Mid-Western Zoo” from the anthology with a conversation with her son about a polar bear. Then on to
a coupl poems from her book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013) “Art Project: Earth” a school project with her son, & then “Lost Mountain.” Another poem also starting with a moment with her family & expanding to the larger issues was “Mining a Bath is Not the Same as a Bath.”

Gretchen Primack’s poem from Ghost Fishing was a grim true story of finding the bodies of coyotes that had been shot, “The Dogs & I Walk the Woods.” She talked about being a vegan, & on to related poems, including one from her next book about an imaginary prison like where she has taught, “Knowledge,” a prisoner’s hard task to be a vegan while confined, then the list poem “The Caged” & “Restriction” on the pleasure of food.

I also have a poem in Ghost Fishing, “Water” conflating Hurricane Katrina & a lake in Saratoga. I’m sure that if Tom Nattell, who created this event back in 1989 was still alive that he would have a poem or too in Ghost Fishing, so performed his chant “Save It” — thanks, Tom.

July 21 - Coast to Coast: The Route 20 Anthology Reading
The following week we were back at the Robert Burns statue for a reading by some poets from the just published FootHills Publishing anthology, Coast to Coast edited by Charles Rossiter & Michael Czarnecki. As folks gathered with their folding chairs for the reading, Dave Seely a musician from Louisville, KY, whose parents had poems in the anthology, entertained us with his songs & guitar.

Standing barely a tenth of a mile from Route 20, aka Madison Ave., Michael talked about his love affair with America’s longest highway, running 3,365 miles from Kenmore Square in Boston to Newport, OR on the Pacific coast. Her served as host to introduce poets local & from as far away as Buffalo who read in the order their poems appear in the collection. These were Tom Seely “Thanks, Route 20,” Alan Casline “The Bear’s Song,” Me (Dan Wilcox) “County Fair Poem,” Martha Deed “Housatonic Sam,” Tom Corrado “Eating a Footlong in the Car on the Way to Ballet,” Peggy Seely “Ghost Hunting” & “Coming Home Late One Night on Route 20,” Mark W. O’Brien “Shunpiker,” Michael Czarnecki “Seeking ’the West’” & “Soaking in the Hot Springs,” Charles Rossiter “At the Idaho/Montana Border” & “Somewhere East of Bend,” & Alan Casline again “Carla, Jewel of the Ocean.”

Michael ended with a reading of just the titles of a number of the poems, making another poem of sorts in homage of Route 20.

July 28 - poetik & Bob Sharkey
The final reading in this year’s series took us back to the traditional format of 2 poets, tonight both local, poetik & Bob Sharkey. Unfortunately when I arrived there was a loud revival meeting of sorts going on in the parade ground just beyond the statue with music loud enough to fill the Park & Willett St. & beyond. It’s hard to compete with Jesus, but then we are poets who have had to compete with punk rockers at Valentines & we did it.

I’d been impressed by poetik’s poems & performance the times I’ve seen her at open mics at Nitty Gritty Slam in Albany & at Poetic Vibe in Troy. Tonight she was up against Jesus & she held her own. She read mostly from her 2017 book Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being, her poems are unabashedly 1st person, strong, assertive, even humorous & sexy when need be. She began with the title poem, then on to “confessions of a fat black girl,” saying she writes a lot about bodies, & continued to prove it with “i dream about brunch.” Then on to a couple poems about people she hadn’t met yet, “to a child named kadyn” & “to the next person who will be the love of my life,” both letters to the future. One more from the book was #26 from the series “following the steps…” & she finished with a new, untitled, poem about being a poet, with the refrain, “i’m trying to be a different kind of poet…” characteristically in your face & personal.

Bob Sharkey has been on the open mic scene for a number of years, frequently reads at area open mics, &, with his family, runs the annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, getting submissions from all over the globe. His first poem was the boyhood adventure tale “Cave,” then to a rhapsodic family history/memoir/fantasy “Bridget [Connelly] Visits East Latham” taking his ancestor from Galway on tour; next one of his series of re-written fortune cookies poems “Washington Park Fortunes.” Inspired by a poem by Barbara Ungar, Bob's poem “Their Own People” is a series of answers to questions that he had, relating to Syria & the Syrian civil war, & contrasting other world facts about the US, East Latham & the world. “Questioning” was about his longings, identity, with one of his granddaughters making an appearance; another granddaughter is the subject of “Johanna in the Maze” at the Clark art museum & their delight together. He ended with a Cento he wrote from lines from poems submitted to the most recent
Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, many of the lines from local poets.

This year’s Poets in the Park, as other years in the past, was co-sponsored by a grant from the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. We hope to be here next year for our 30th year of bringing poetry to the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park, Albany, NY on Saturdays in July. Thank you to the poets & poetry fans in Albany for your support.

(Additional photos from Poets in the Park can be found here at my Flickr site.)