November 11, 2018

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 7

Phew! 26 on the sign-up sheet! & the much-postponed featured poet April Bernard, with our host Carol Graser who got us going with a poem by Chase Twitchell.

Not all on the sign-up sheet actually read in the open mic, but 23 did & the first of those, who was also still here at the end, was Marilyn McCabe who read a sample from her new collection Fractured Psalms “Father Psalm” & “Waiting Psalm.” Glenn Witecki read a piece in rhyme about a campfire “Nigth Fire Intensity” (& actually used the work “portend” in the poem!). Lin Murphy’s poems were both political, “Asylum Seekers” & “Disrupt by Uplifting.” Leslie Sittner likes alliteration & work play, as in her sexy poem “Growing Good Roots” & in the ekphrastic “Portrait of Barry.” James Schlett made a rare appearance with a string of haiku, including one for his young daughter & another about a harvest festival.

April Bernard began her featured reading with a political poem on how the world has split, then on to a tribute to the gone poem Lucie Brock-Broido on the aging of poets. “Lord Crack their Teeth” was another political piece with its title drawn from the Psalms. She said that she teaches at Skidmore College & has recently moved here from North Bennington, VT, “Swishing Tails of Horses in October” & “Cold Morning” again with a horse, an elegy to a friend. A poem titled “The Legacy of Nicholas Ray” (the American filmmaker) was about her youth, followed by one about hunters “The Spell.” An Italian sonnet “The Dove” led to a series of poems linked to English Renaissance poetry, with titles drawn from Elizabeth I (“The Root of Weird Shall Be” & “My Care is Like My Shadow”) & Sir Thomas Wyatt. The 3 poems with titles from Wyatt were “Wreathed with Error” in a rush of words, “Who Falters” which was in the style of the Tang poets, & “Use Me Quiet” about how some scientific studies have shown that the DNA of a child lingers inside the mother.  A nicely varied reading of mostly short poems.

Due to the length of the sign-up sheet Carol dispensed with the customary break & dove right back into the open mic with a couple of young students. August Rosenberg read “Jack Shit” & a short piece with pizza “Worth It.” Katelyn R. read a letter-like poem “California Love,” then the grimly titled “Lung Cancer.”

I’ve seen Randee Renzi at some of the open mics in Albany but this was her first time here, she read from her phone an angry letter “Tell a Lie,” then from memory a poem celebrating a friend who is a glass blower “Air Bender.” Brian Crouth introduced his “A Wistful Poem” with another short poem. Amanda Blodgett proclaimed “I Do Not Need a Man” (“… I want one”), & prayed “Lord May I Forgive.” One of my favorite poets, Mary Kathryn Jablonski, started with a poem about the cutting down of trees “Second Death,” then a memoir poem “Diamond Sutra.” Jeff Stubits' long Halloween poem “Pestiliferous Flotillia” about an infestation of moths was read imitating the voice of the 1950s era radio personality Ken Nordine.

Doug Holiday began with his poem to Nancy Pelosi “It is a Wonder,” then paid homage to Ntozake Shange by reading her piece “My Father is a Retired Magician.” Effie Redman’s poem “Tell Me” sounded like an oblique self-portrait. Inspired by April Bernard’s poem to Lucie Brock-Broido I read one written after hearing Brock-Boido read at Skidmore back in 2002 “Vowels.” Karen Villesrik read a poem written after the 2016 election “Just Before Dawn,” then one about an encounter while driving “Vulture.”

Susan Kress, who reads here regularly, tonight read a poem titled “Relapse” about Fall & the falling out of hair. Rodney Parrott read a piece about falling asleep outside in a gazebo from his series “Universal Laws of the Universe.” Mary Ann Rockwell read 2 poems that have recently been published “Consider Your Options,” & “Alice Neel Self-Portrait” about the famous nude painting of the artist as an old woman.

Rebecca Sadlon’s long piece, “Welcoming the Day at Hunt Lake,” was a remembrance of the Summers spent by generations at this place on the lake. Will Keever read about a mermaid “Drifting Meridian.” Nancy White read 2 poems from a series in which the poems despise their titles, “Trust Me” in a string of single words & short phrases, then the poem-in-progress “She Thinks She’s All That.” Kerrea was the last reader of the night with a love poem in automatic writing “Communion of the Mind.”

There is always a great turn-out of local writers on the 1st Wednesday of the month for the Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, usually with a feature (or 2), at the renovated Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM, $5.00.

November 6, 2018

Poets Speak Loud!, October 30

A rare last Tuesday, rather than last Monday, here at McGeary’s Irish Pub for an open mic with Dave Kime as the featured poet, & our host Mary Panza on board to keep disorder at bay.

Sylvia Barnard was the first up for the open mic with a couple poems written this past Spring, the first looking back to the Psalms, the 2nd, titled “Family,” about Thanksgiving with her daughter & son-in-law. Christa DeMarco was next with a poem on hate, feeling overwhelmed if all we have is thoughts & prayers. Tom Bonville’s poem, “Trading Places,” was on aging with buying a new car on an urge as metaphor. I read 2 poems for the holiday, “This Is Not Trick or Treat” & “Zombie Gourd.” Carrie Czawhiel began with a poem from a couple years ago “My Message to Women Abused,” then a newer one about healing emotional scars with the image of kintsugi, the Japanese technique for mending pottery with gold.

Dave Kime, the featured poet, has a powerful presence & voice, & began with screed against McDonalds a piece formerly titled “McDonner Party” now titled “Neon Drive Thru.” His attacks on corporate America & its manipulation of pop culture continued with other pieces, such as “Stay Loyal” (to your corporation for a bad future), “Sound Bites,” “Operation Mind Trip” (TV), others on the corporate war machine. Others with titles like “Nightfall,” “Trigger Man,” & “Marionette,” most in rhymes & half-rhymes & playing on the sounds. His last poem was “Squirrel” in which he tries to save the small animal after it has been hit by a car. It was great to hear Dave up here (he lives in the Woodstock area) with a big chunk of his engaged, energetic poetry.

As the pitcher for donations was passed around, Cheryl Rice started, appropriately enough after Dave Kime, with “I Hear America,” then to another political piece “The Caskets of Mara Lago.” Joe Krausman was down & out of the poetry scene for weeks & weeks, but was back tonight with a couple poems, “Waiting for That Call” (from Death), & the classic “What’s In a Name.” Doug Holiday continued to pay respect to the late Ntozake Shange by reading her poems “I Live in Music” & “My Father is a Retired Magician.”

Brett Petersen made a rare open mic appearance with 2 poems from his blog,  “An Animal You’ll Never Understand,” & “A Gallon of Anti-Freeze to Wash Down the Guilt” which sounded like a quieter, then intense version of Dave Kime’s poems — a good way to bring it all home.

Poets Speak Loud! is usually on the last Monday of the month & continue to look for it on that day at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30PM, an open mic with a stellar featured poet, more info at

November 4, 2018

Poetic Vibe, October 29

No featured poet as there often is one at this weekly event, but there was an energetic open mic hosted as always by the equally energetic D. Colin, who started us off with a poem about not being sorry by the recently gone Ntozake Shange, whose work would become a theme of the night.

Unfortunately, the air was sucked, briefly, out of the room by the the first 2 performers who took the stage together, Snow & P.O.E.T. Snow rapped way too fast to be understood, which is fortunate because what I would figure out was filled with violence & debasing slang, while P.O.E.T. (not sure what that all stood for) did his rap slower & was more easily heard it did not make much sense other than posing. Danielle, retrieving the mic to announce the next poet, urged us to fill the room with good energy & that we did, nowhere to go but up. Erika did that with a piece title “Perspective” for a friend.

Ian Mack has returned to the area & read a couple of pondering love poems. My poems were based on the month of October, the first for Thelonious Monk’s birthday October 10, 1917 “Acrostic Jazz,” then a Halloween-themed one “Zombie Gourd,” complete with a drink recipe. Douglas Davis, IV read 2 grim pieces by Ntozake Shange, the first about the black children missing in Atlanta years ago, & “Crack Annie” who pimped out her daughter. L-Majesty got us back to love with “Love Lottery” & “Existential Climax” how we all got our beginnings in sex & orgasm. Poetik returned us to Ntozake Shange with a memorized monologue from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, then her own recently written love letter to herself.

Noro said that this was her first time here & read a piece titled #34 a critical piece parsing the use of “nigga this, nigga that…” in songs. Rooftopper Jenkins read his poem “I Stole a Dream” about colonizing, written when he was in a mental ward on Martin Luther King Day, then a similar themed memorized rant based on the writings of Franz Fanon. Kilijah returned us to the love theme with a poem beginning “I fell in love with love today…” then another love poem written today “Can’t Let Go.”

Christian Ortega had signed up in the very last spot on the sign-up sheet, ensuring himself the rock-star slot & read from his Red Poems (Hispanic Paradox Press, 2014) “Everything,” “Poem for Pope,” & the long, closing untitled post-script.

But the night was not quite done with Danielle back with her “take aways,” quotes from poems from the open mic noting that “Ntozake Shange is in the room.” Then on to her title poem from Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015) introduced by a song in Kreyol. & to really bring it on home read the group poem/exquisite corpse that had been making the rounds during the reading, another random masterpiece.

We really did bring the good, positive, loving energy back into the room, certainly helped by Ntozake Shange in the room. Come get your dose of such energy each Monday at Poetic Vibe at the Troy Kitchen, Congress St. in Troy, NY, 7:00PM — bring something to read.

November 1, 2018

Annual Charles Olson Lecture: Ed Sanders, October 27

It’s not like I need an excuse to go to Gloucester, where I’d been to this year at the end of September & before that at the end of August, but an event sponsored by the Gloucester Writers Center is always an added benefit. So here I was at the Cape Ann Museum to hear Ed Sanders deliver this year's lecture on the life of Charles Olson with Sander’s own hand drawn glyphs as illustrations.

Sanders was introduced by scholar Ammiel Alcalay who is no stranger to Gloucester himself, see his 2013 book a little history (republic/UpSet Press), & he filled his introduction with big chunks of quote from Olson’s poems & essays, & he has been a part of past panels & presentations on Gloucester’s biggest poet.

Ed Sanders’ 2-hour romp along the Charles Olson time-track was based on his just-published piece of investigative poetry, A Life of Olson & a Sequence of Glyphs on Points of his life, work, & times, self-published at Meads Mountain Press, Woodstock, NY (more on this later). His talk used the glyphs — had lettered & drawn pages — that in the book are interspersed with more traditionally printed text. Ed had a personal/poetic association with Olson, dating from 1962, so he interweaved anecdotes, quotes, postcards, even a pint Cutty Sark bottle of Olson's that he still has, with the facts of Olson’s life. Sanders is a scholar of ancient Greek & of Egyptian hieroglyphics which he used as integral parts of of the glyph pages. Of course, being at the Cape Ann Museum, most of Olson’s work cited was from his Maximus Poems. & at the end Ed also paid tribute to the late Gerrit Lansing, another Gloucester figure who was also an inspired poet of note.

I have read 2 biographies of Charles Olson, as well as shorter works that talk about his life & his Maximus poems, so his life story is familiar to me, but it was refreshing to hit the high points, &  to hear Ed's own anecdotes; & for those unfamiliar with Olson’s life & work this talk would serve as a excellent introduction.

[Addendum:  There is a recording of the lecture on youtube.]

The following day, Sunday, October 28, Ed Sanders did a reading & talk about his other new book, Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy, A Graphic History (Arcade Publishing, 2018) with illustrations by Rich Veitch at the Gloucester Writers Center. As he did when I saw him read from this work in July (see my Blog), he read sections from the climactic moment when RFK is assassinated, & talked about his years of research on the topic before finally writing the book, & performed a sad poem about RFK's murder on his lyre.

At the end of the reading I was able to purchase a copy of A Life of Olson, which is a manuscript box of 160+ pages, 8 1/2 x 11 inches, printed on one side each. Much of it is in traditional book type-face but a substantial number of pages are the hand-written & drawn glyphs. I’ve had great fun going through the box, not so much reading the text as studying the glyph-pages with it’s mix of drawings, pictures, text in ancient Greek, & Egyptian based designs -- a unique piece of investigative poetry/book-art.

Broken Glory is available at the usual online bookstores & I expect can be ordered through your local independent bookstore. Getting a copy of A Life of Olson is another story.

Poetry Memorial for Donald Lev, October 22

ArtBar Gallery, Kingston, NY, September 2017
Yet another Blog about an event for yet another gone poet, this shit has got to stop, but I guess that will only happen when it’s me. Although there have been a couple of other “memorials” recently for Donald, this one was billed as the “real” one. Whatever. This was held at the Harmony Cafe at Wok’n’Roll in Woodstock where Donald read almost every week when this venue hosted an open mic each Monday of the month. The host of those event was Michael Platsky, who was the host tonight as well. Donald liked to read in the 4th slot, often just before the featured poet.

There was an extensive sign-up sheet when I arrived with Mary Panza, & on stage was Harvey Kaiser on clarinet & Allen Murphy on bass were playing. Michael Platsky read his poem “Publish This!” for Donald, then from Donald's last book Focus.

Ed Sanders read a poem for Donald & for his late wife Enid Dame. Mikhail Horowitz said that the 1st poetry reading he attended in 1967 Donald Lev was the featured reader at St. John’s in the Village In NYC. Philip Levine, in Donald’s final year, built him a downstairs bathroom, with the help of community funds.

Ron Whiteurs drove Donald to countless readings & open mics. Marylin Stablein read poems by Enid, Donald & her own. Andy Clausen read Donald’s bio from the back of the 2012 A Very Funny Fellow. Frank Murphy is carrying on Donald & Enid’s long-running Home Planet News by publishing it online.

Judith Kerman, via a long mic cable, read from her table a poem to Donald. Teresa Costa was another poet who drove Donald to many readings & featured him at her poetry venues. Leslie Gerber read one of his poems that was like Donald’s. Pamela Twining read from Enid’s Lilith poems.

Shiv Mirabito read Donald’s poem written for Shiv’s annual bonfire. Lenny Brown read his “Memory of Donald.” Cheryl A. Rice who is another long-time poet friend of Donald (& Enid’s) also read.

At this point, although there were others on the list, Mary & I left for the drive back to Albany, marveling at the range & diversity & interconnectedness of all of our poetry communities. Donald Lev, & with Enid before she left us, had a large role in helping to built that community by his presence & by publishing so many of us in his Home Planet News. May that kind of spirit carry on & continue to inspire others.

The following is the list of books by Donald Lev that I have in my Library:

Strains, Pamphilus Press, High Falls, NY, 1991
Enemies of the Time, Warthog Press, West Orange, NJ, 2000
Yesterday’s News: Poems 1998 - 2001, Red Hill Outloudbooks, Claryville, NY, 2002
Grief, A Bardpress Chapbook, Staten Island, NY, 2006
Adventures at the Upstate: Poems on Films, Pamphilus Press, High Falls, NY, 2007
A Very Funny Fellow, NYQ Books, New York, NY, 2012
Where I Sit, Presa Press, Rockford, MI, 2015

The Lace Mill Presents: A Celebration of Gerrit Lansing, October 20

Gerrit Lansing reading in Albany, October 1999
This was a revised-replay of the Birthday/Memorial celebration held for poet Gerrit Lansing on February 25 in Gloucester, MA, held this day at the Lace Mill Gallery in Kingston, NY with many of the same players as the Gloucester event. You can read about the February events for Gerrit on my Blog. Pierre Joris served as MC, with bassist Mike Bisio providing musical accompaniment for many of the readers.

The readers today were Tamas Panitz, Tomas Urayoán Noel, Nicole Peyrafitte, George Quasha, Pierre, Don Byrd, Chuck Stein, & Robert Kelly.

Photo by Peter Monaco
Nearly all the readers read a poem(s) by Gerrit, many reflected on the Gerrit they knew, & read poems they wrote in tribute. Gerrit’s poems were published in various editions that were variations on “Heavenly Tree …” “… Grows Downward,” … Soluble Forest,” with many of the same poems in each edition, with newer, different poems, much like Whitman’s changing editions of Leaves of Grass, the most recent & most complete being the 2009 North Atlantic Books Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth.

Tomas Urayoán Noel read Gerrit’s “Amazing Grace And A Salad Bowl,” written for the poet Stephen Jonas, then Tomas’ own improv in Spanish & English on the poem. Among the 4 poems of Gerrit's that Nicole Peyrafitte read was the compact “Song: the Autumn Festival” (that Willie Alexander has set to music) with the magic line “All things go underground with glee.”

Don Byrd did a mash up from “The Burden of Set” with his own tribute/meditation to Gerrit. Robert Kelly described the 2 kinds of teacher that was Gerrit & Gerrit’s theory on the Gateways of 7 in each of lives, that each 7 years a door opens to change, the next phase of our life. Chuck Stein was by far the longest with a rambling mix of his own & Gerrit’s poems.

Pierre & Nicole recorded each of the readers to you can experience it for yourself at Pierre’s Blog. & I have posted some of my photos from the event at my Flickr site.

It was a grand gathering of poets, both readers & in the audience, to pay tribute to the grand Gerrit Lansing whose work was magic on many levels.