October 30, 2018
A community night as well as a poetry night — as always. I was suffering with a pulled muscle in my back & Doug Holiday took over the heavy lifting to set the chairs up — & put them back at the end. Our featured poet was Dineen Carta, & our muse tonight tonight was Jackie Sheeler, who had read here in February 2011 & who died in March; I read her poem “Alien Periscopes” from Earthquake Came to Harlem (NYQ Books, 2010).
The first on what was a short open mic list (& thus the limit expanded to 2 poems) was the afore mentioned D. Alexander Holiday, who began with an early post 9/11 piece “How’s Your Invasion Going?” then read from an Academy of American Poets annual a poem by Patricia Smith “Ethel’s Sestina” about Ethel Freeman an elderly black woman who died outside the New Orleans Convention Center waiting for help. Tom Bonville returned to read “Reading” instead of watching football & what he felt like the next morning, then “Out for a Drive” a couple together among the wild flowers, a poem of love & loss.
Bob Sharkey had just announced the 4th Annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest, deadline January 15, 2019; Bob likes to read each year’s Best American Poetry & write a cento including lines from his favorite poems & read this year’s cento “We Wept to be Reminded of Such Colors,” & then an “Ode to Krausman” that he wrote in a Bernadette Mayer poetry workshop. Interestingly enough the next poet up was Joe Krausman, recently returned to the scene from a medical sojourn, read “The Game of Life” (snake house vs. mouse house), then one about the changes in life until Death “Things Passing.”
Karen Fabiane didn’t bring her new poems she said, so read 2 older relationship poems, “These Chocolates” from the ‘90s, then “a combination barbecue jazz session” titled “Your Are The Verithin On the Wood Paneling of My Life.” Then me, a poem for my older daughter “For Madeleine” set in NYC’s Village, & one for my younger daughter Anna from a Valley Cats game this Summer, a ditty titled “Vamos Gatos.”
& we will be back at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month with an open mic & a featured reader, starting about 7:30PM, bring a poem & make a donation to help pay the featured poet & support the work of the Social Justice Center.
October 25, 2018
While this was the 2nd poetry event I went to this particular Wednesday, this was also the last in what had been an ongoing series of readings/interviews/discussions with individual local writers of note, with the final subject being el presidente himself, Thom Francis. Local poets gathered tonight at an ever-expanding cluster of tables in the back room of the Navona Restaurant. Thom has been the host/interviewer at all the events in the past, but since he was the subject, Mary Panza took on the hosting duties.
The poems that Thom read were a sample of the best of his work that we have been hearing, often gritty, personal, but with some surprises about newer poetic projects. He started with “Al” written in 1999, a portrait of a character who came daily to the beer distributor where Thom worked, then the classic “love letter” to his insulin pump “Machine.” “Bar” was a picture of a place where no one cares. A pair of poems about his parents were sad & tender, about their vulnerabilities, but one taking us on into the next generation with his daughter Molly. He also read some poems from a 30/30 project, including a couple inspired by random photographs he had seen, “Wanted for the Weekend” & “Running Away.”
|Thom at Border's in 1994|
As Mother Mary (Panza) says, “for all your poetry needs, go to www.AlbanyPoets.com” — see you out & about.
October 22, 2018
This is was actually a noon-time reading by poet Frank X. Gaspar but because it was at Hudson Valley Community College, an academic institution, they had to give it a fancy title rather than “poetry reading” — as some poet once said, “a rose by any name…” I had read a few poems by Frank Gaspar over the years in various print & online poetry venues & this reading was a good chance to hear a bigger chunk & to buy an autographed copy of one of his books.
Bonnie Cook of HVCC introduced Frank to an audience of mostly students, but a fair number of older folks (like me, & younger), both faculty & literary & poetic community folks (like me). The poet began by singing the praises of his black pocket notebook, & read “Black Notebook #1, Gideon Bible, Los Angeles,” & “Black Notebook, Day Six, Canadian Rockies” both from his collection Late Rapturous (Autumn House Press, 2012); other poems from the same book that he read were “Sometimes God Saves a Fire” & the book’s title poem, that mixes memories, descriptions of Los Angeles & New York City & the paintings of deKooning. He also read the night-time/whisky musing “One Thousand Blossoms” & even a poem about a cat.
He ended with a long “spoken piece,” as he described it, set during the Viet Nam war, titled “Microphone.” Ironically, during the first part of his reading there had been some annoying feedback from his mic so he was moved to another at a podium just before reading this. The piece took the form of a long letter from a Portuguese kid from Provincetown, Cape Cod now living in New York City, to his girlfriend, written on a typewriter with a period key, leading to Kerouacian stream-of-consciousness mixing memories of his time with the girlfriend, longing & scenes of music in the Village — an energetic way to end a good reading.
The following Q&A began with probing questions by students, & other questions from the broader audience. As is often said, Frank said he has been influenced by everyone he has ever read, but did single out Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman & Edna St. Vincent Millay; he said he writes at night (as evidenced by some of the poems he had read), & to a question about “creativity” & the rest of the world, said he tries to “live in creativity,” which is another world.
Hudson Valley Community College does have a regular program of lectures, performances & art exhibits that are open to the public, visit their website for more information.
October 21, 2018
at The Low Beat on Central Ave. once again, tonight Mary Panza filling in for Thom Francis as the host. & tonight was the first time this open mic series has included a featured poet, visiting poet Mugabi Byenkya — more on that later.
The open mic began with D. Alexander Holiday who read from his latest book Kith & Kin written as G. Douglas Davis IV a piece on bullying titled “The Involuntary Leave of Absence as Punishment Routine.” I was up next & since we were in the midst of the baseball playoffs read 2 baseball poems “Baseball in Palestine” & “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Mr. Azarrah Moses was back again from last time with some strange pieces I find difficult to categorize, I think the first one (of 3) was titled “5137” & my notes say “mystical bs”. Not so with Christa DeMarco who read took the motivational speaker cliché of fearing your demons on its head, her poem saying demons were once gods, fear your angels instead.
Poets in the Park this past summer & which includes one of my poems. What a marvelous inter-connected world of poetry we live in.
Luciano Ferarra was back, this time announcing he has a new book out Romancing the Art of Being Honest & read 2 poems from it, “Spinning Records,” & “24/7 Diner Service” using a dysfunctional diner service as a metaphor for the USA. Avery read a piece he wrote just this morning about the unforeseen, “Interruptive Existence.” Alyssa Michelle read a revised version of one of her relationship complaints “Solitude Thoughts.” Aron (Algorhythm) just back from Japan read a rant about casting out 7 demons, not into the game, not lying anymore. Mac also read a complaint, this against his hustler father. Koi-yola’s rap was about to necessity to keep growing, keep moving.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks happens each 1st & 3rd Tuesday, usually just an open mic, but look for changes in the format. You can find out all about it at AlbanyPoets.com.
… or as my auto-correct would have it “A Night of Creatures,” oh well. Havey Havel was the host for this reading by 4 poets at the Hudson River Coffee House, part of an on-going quarterly series.
This series is held approximately quarterly at the Hudson River Coffee House, 227 Quail St., Albany, NY. Watch for notices about the next one on the AlbanyPoets.com calendar & the Poetry Motel Foundation email list.
October 11, 2018
This series run by Charlie Rossiter at the Tap House in Bennington, VT started one year ago today, & it was sadly poignant that on this particular night our host could not be be here to celebrate (he was recuperating from recent hip surgery). So I drove over to take over the duties — I had been here a year ago, & came over last month as well.
Jason Everett had with him his thick manuscript “Ligthstreet” & read a few from it, quirky poems with surrealistic images of the everyday, often with some sexy woman in it, one set in Montreal “Expo 10” & another he read in honor of a friend, only a few years younger than he, who died recently, becoming emotional as he read. Speaking of deceased friends I read “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” for the recently gone poets Harry Staley & Paul Pines.
A nice surprise was a brief visit from Charlie’s wife Mary Ellen Munley to wish us a happy first anniversary & to say Charlie was doing well — it’s wonderful how a poet's presence can be felt at a reading even when they are sitting at home with pain pills & poetry.
Since there were just a few of us, we went around again reading short poems, Laura doing more dog poems, one in Spanish about a one-eyed dog, then we convinced her to translate for us, another for her dog Ruby, & a prose poem for her 4 pets. Kenn read us his private “Decalogue,” some good advice for anyone. Jason’s second round were poems, like his first round, with seemingly random images thrown together, one piece like a dystopic John Ashbery. & I ended with a poem for the season my own “killer cocktail” a la Alan Catlin “Zombie Gourd.”
Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic is on the 2nd Tuesday of each month in the back room of the Tap House at Catamount Glass, 309 County St., Bennington, VT — sign up at 7:00PM, reading starts at 7:15. It’s about an hour from Albany, less from Troy & points East. Bring poems.
October 8, 2018
I had missed the last few months here, so I was glad to be back with the Saratoga open mic crowd, & even some other Albany poets who made the trip. Our constant host Carol Graser began with a poem by the sadly recently gone poet Donald Lev “How It Feels to Be Mortal” — we miss you already, Donald.
Rodney Parrott read a long, lecturing piece with the prop of a double-chewed log, from an apparent series “Universal Laws of the Universe.” Doug Holiday, signed up as G. Douglas Davis IV, recommended books on Donald Trump, also the eco-justice anthology Ghost Fishing, & read from an anthology of poems by native American authors Songs From this Earth on Turtle’s Back; then his own poem “Why We Should Not Re-cycle” the bad-taste characters & TV shows of the past (or present). Glenn Whitecki read in rhyme a piece about a masted sailing ship, then a take on Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Nicola Allain read about being on the island of Cyprus, feeling the connection with her native Tahiti (but seemed insensitive to the political issues of the divided island).
There were still a lot of poets signed-up so after a break the open mic continued. Leslie Sittner began with an exercise in alliteration titled “At Issue,” then read 3 pairs of 6-word stories, cleverly concise.
Brian Krauth’s poem “Poetic Sketches Cloud Lines” was a series of natural images stained by abstractions; he also read “Who in this Room?” Judith Prest read from her forth-coming chapbook from Finishing Line Press After the #MeToo poem “To Be A Woman” then from Elemental Connections the seasonal “Tree.” Jeff Stubits has been reading out a lot lately & tonight did a poem about finding umbrella parts in the rain “Mending Love,” then a piece on being distracted while meditating, in his throw-back style of reading like Ken Nordine from the classic Word Jazz LP way back in the 1950s. My poem was the tribute to the gone poets Harry Staley & Paul Pines “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz.”
Unfortunately, as seems to happen here frequently enough, the featured poet & his entourage left after the break & didn’t stay to hear the poets in the 2nd half share their poems. I had spoken to Lance briefly before the reading, then intended to read my poem to him about seeing one of his poems in a NYC subway ad “I Meet An Old Friend On the Subway” — he didn't stay, why bother? I read something else. All of the poets in the open mic had heard the feature (& the others who left with him) read in the first half of the night, but those who read in the second half went unheard by those who came to just read to themselves -- their loss.
Well, no matter whether the puffed up featured poets hear the open mic poets, or not, the open mic poets will be back to read their poems to whomever is left in the audience, the 1st Wednesday of the month at Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM.
October 6, 2018
I like hanging out at The Low Beat & listening to poetry being shared — & of course washing it down with a beer. Thom Francis, our host, got us going pretty much on time.
I was first up with 2 poems, as I said, “from my very rich fantasy life,” “Lilly White” & “Sleeping in Patchouli.” Algorhythm did a “drive-by” on his way to Japan with a wistful poem about the words & babies he never had “Still Born.” Rhonda Rosenheck had been at the last Poets Speak Loud! at McGeary’s, tonight read “Good at Math” from her book Looking (Elephant Tree House, 2018), then on to a sestina “The Woman” from her series of “crime poetry.”
Kendall Hoeft has been making the rounds of the open mics of late, read a poem based on the film of Anna Karenina “Of Sea & Sky,” then a love poem “Request for Body Modification,” & the descriptive “A Dream in Morning.” When Mr. Azanah D. Moses came up to read with a copy of AlbanyPoets' new print publication Offline in hand I thought he was reading from the text, but it turns out he had been using it to write in; he said he is usually here for the song-writer night, read something called “Super Hero #7” & a very short piece on stolen identity.
Brass Tacks continues the 1st & 3rd Tuesday poetry tradition at The Low Beat, 7:30PM, mostly an open mic, but featured readers lurking in the wings.
The New York State Author & New York State Poet are named every other year at a grand gathering on the University at Albany campus, this year at the Campus Center Ballroom. Officially, The Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers was given to Colson Whitehead, The Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets to Alicia Suskin Ostriker. I was not familiar with Colson Whitehead’s work, although I’d read a review of his latest novel The Underground Railroad. However, I have followed Alicia Ostriker’s work since seeing her read in Hastings-on-the-Hudson back in the early 1980s, & more recently at Split This Rock Poetry Festival.
It was full program, with speeches by Albany President Havidan Rodriguez, members of the NYS Assembly Patricia Fahey & John McDonald, a PBS film about the Writers Institute & then the presentation of the awards by H. Carl McCall, chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees.
Alicia Ostriker began with reading part of Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus,” then went on to claim Walt Whitman as her “grandmother,” & then talk about Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry; she read her “Requendo” & said Millay was one of our great forgotten & ignored poets. She also read from Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017) some very New York City poems — upper Broadway in the morning, 2 women talking, the homeless, & learning to sing in 1st grade. An engaging, charming & very real poet, another great pick to join such past recipients as Stanley Kunitz, Audre Lord, Sharon Olds & Yusef Komunyakaa, among others.
Of course, there was a book-signing afterwards with a chance to talk informally with both writers. I had the opportunity prior to the ceremony to talk to Alicia Ostriker & she asked me about the Millay Colony in Austerlitz New York.
For more information about the NYS Author & Poet & about upcoming programs at the NYS Writers Institute check out their website, https://www.nyswritersinstitute.org/
October 5, 2018
Two nights in a row to Troy, for poetry! Matthew Klane has over the last few years made Russell Sage College in Troy a center of poetry & other new writing with a series of readings by visiting writers as well as open mics for students & readings by contributors to The Russell Sage Review. The series takes its name from the student literary zine. The program tonight presented, not quite by design, 2 writers from Chicago to a packed house of mostly students, with a few faculty & staff, & a couple of us community poets.
In between tonight’s readers, Matthew read a poem “From the Book of Dust” by Cynthia Hogue, who had originally been scheduled for this reading.
Although the room was filled mostly with students, most of the questions seemed to come from faculty or community members — &, as is so characteristic of poetry readings in academic settings, no one applauds between poems, unlike the readings out in the community.
The series will continue throughout the semester; you can check their Facebook page for more information.
October 2, 2018
First up on the list was me (don’t blame me, it was open) & I read my new poem “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” pretty much written at the Lake George Jazz Festival this year, then the slightly older “Buttons Not Bombs” (to match my shirt). I haven’t seen Tim Lake at a poetry event in years but here he was, perhaps because it was Troy; he a read a couple of older anti-war poems “Contemplation of an Impending War” (2015) & “Homecoming” (2011). James Duncan, who is the co-host of the series, read a poem for Autumn “Life Cycle.”
After a break, we returned to the open mic with Kendall Hoeft who read a poem with images of waiting for Spring “Migration of a Hollow Swan,” & the memoir “Poem I Didn’t Write to My Mom.”
Kennedy Eldon was another voice new to me & read selections from a longer poem in short parts with sex & political undertones, then on to equally brief & sexy selections from a book titled Alphabetarium Penile, which was described in a 2016 notice for Troy Night Out as a “beautiful piece of wok which contains abstract paintings/depictions of penis[es] and the like [?] for each letter of the alphabet” — for everyone who loves a dick (their own or others) & "the like."
The management at Elixir 16 seems more enthusiastic about having poetry in the house than the feeling I got at O’Brien’s so I expect the Troy Poetry Mission to continue here for a while — but then “One never knows, do one?” For now, last Wednesday of the month, at Elixir 16, 45 Second St., Troy, hosted by R.M. Engelhardt & James Duncan — no time listed on their FaceBook page, but I wouldn’t get there before 7:30PM.