December 22, 2018

Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic, December 11

Back to Bennington, VT for this open mic run by fellow 3 Guys from Albany member Charlie Rossiter, on his birthday (I won’t say which one, but it is less than 100).

I was first up & read 2 new poems “Are Ewe a Frank Robinson?” & “Last Weekend in Gloucester.” Laura Ellsey is a regular here & read “What is Depression?” & a poem written for a dog-grooming business (a first time for me for such a poem). Ken Ash, another regular, read a humorous rhyming poem titled “Christmas Redundancy.”

Jason Price Everett, another stalwart of this event, read a long prose piece entitled “Ostinado” a character study of repeating (thus the title) images & phrases written in the third person without dialogue. This was Michele Wiegers’ first time here & she began with a poem about her son titled “Caleb’s Cadence,” then “A New Poem” about what dragged her out of bed. Bridget Elder was also here for the 1st time, having recently moved to Bennington, read a short piece written today.

Our birthday boy, Charlie Rossiter, read a poem from a painting “Got the Blues” then a re-write of a lost poem “Don’t You Think There’s Something About You Should Change?” (which I remember performing with 3 Guys from Albany). Bill began with an eco-poem “Extinction Looms,” then a piece written a long time about about his 3rd son & looking for spiders.

We took a short break to “re-fresh” in whatever was our fashion, then on to a 2nd round. I read another new piece, about MFA programs, “To the Consternation of …” Jason apologized for the length of his reading the first time & read a 2-page version of the same piece, both of which to my ear sounded like Samuel Beckett.

Laura also read again, a poem in English then it’s Spanish version, “I’m Going to Knit,” then “My Response to” both poems in rhyme. Speaking of rhymes, that’s what Ken does too, & read 2 poems about dreams & getting up in the morning.  Michele read about soil & worms & birds in a piece titled “Backyard Prayer” then a poem full of ocean metaphors “Never Run Dry.”

Bill returned with another eco-poem “Something’s Happening” on climate change, then one about the Solomon Islands from World War II to the current imminent flooding of the island, & ended with a poem in Spanish he just found in a copy of Blue Collar Review “The Last War.”

Our host, Charlie, brought it all home with a couple poems centered on Bennington, “Coming Home” (from Saratoga Springs, NY), then a landscape poem about a mountain view, all too common around here.

According to Charlie it was a record-breaking attendance, counting readers & listeners — glad I was there for the historic event. & you can find Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic in the back room of the Tap House, 309 County St., Bennington, VT each second Tuesday of the month, sign-up at 7PM, reading starts 7:15PM.

December 11, 2018

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 9

We were kicked upstairs due to a performance in our usual space, the black box theater (named after yet another crooked politician), but it was brighter, sunnier up there & not just because of the sunlight, but also because of the luminous poets & listeners. The hosts were Nancy Klepsch & myself, DWx.

First up was Bob Sharkey who read a magical poem about a visitation from his great-grandmother Brigid Connolly “Brigid Visits East Latham.” Joel Best followed with a poem perhaps titled “Nighting” that was perhaps a ghost story, then a poem about family “We Are 9 Old Chairs.” Dave DeVries began with a memoir of a ’58 Chevy “Car Fever,” then on to one titled “Questions” which was just that.

As you can see from the photo we were sitting around tables arranged with an opening in the center & lithe Kendall Hoeft was the only who was limber enough to crawl into the center where she read her first poem with dance moves “How to Match the Sky,” then a new piece that she read from back on the perimeter “Of Eden” back in the Garden. I didn’t read one of my own poems but instead read my favorite holiday-season poem by the marvelous (but gone) Enid Dame (1943 - 2003) “Holiday Poem” (“… we don’t need the solace of bought objects. We need other’s light.”). Mike Conner, who is the master of the seasonal poem, read one about Autumn “The Smell of Memory,” then a prose memoir of living in Japan in the ’90s “Shinkuchan Wandering.” Stealing a page from Peter Lamborn Wilson (who is also Hakim Bey) Jay Dalaba signed up as Hex’m Jai & read a poem about the cold “That Blue Bastard” then one then engendered some intimate discussion among the audience “Since It’s Sunday It’s Laundry Day.”

Mary Ellen Kelleher is an old friend of Nancy’s who began with a calendar poem titled “The Six Sisters & Their Brothers” inspired by a poem by Billy Collins, then an old poem about watching a woman across from her at a conference “Academic Itch.” Karen Fabiane read a new piece never read out before today “No Water There” about change & crossing over, then “Collars & Cuffs” which began with an old coat & spun out from there. My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read 2 poems on loss, “At 94” about a friend who didn’t make it to 94, & an untitled piece beginning “I am shaped by dreams …”; but the best part was when she said “We write alone but do not live alone.Jil Hanifan returned us to the seasonal/holiday theme with a piece about the parking lot of Walmart’s for last-minute shopping, then another that she began with a snippet of a Xmas carol.  Vik began with a short piece "It's a Heart I Love," then another about Primo Levi.

R.M. Engelhardt is the host of the monthly Troy Poetry Mission, now at Elixir 16 on 2nd St. in Troy, & is the only person I’ve ever seen who puts on tinted reading glasses when it’s his turn, perhaps he’s going blind; he read from his phone the poems “Done Me Wrong” & “Not Fade Away” which is another in his long series of God poems, unfortunately “stepping on his punch line,” as Jil said.

So if you write alone but want to share some of it there is this monthly gathering 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY — Free!

December 7, 2018

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, December 4

According to Thom Francis (el presidente), who should know, this was the 10th gathering of this open mic series at The Low Beat. It was also the public start of a week-long celebration of Thom’s birthday.

First up for the open mic was the long-absent Matt Galletta who read a wrestling poem as a sort of birthday present for Thom “Going Pro,” then an older piece “This Will Happen to You.” I’ve been sickened by the gush-fest for the most recent Dead President, Georg H.W. Bush, who gave us the invasions of Panama & Iraq, the pardon of Iran-Contra conspirators, & who ignored the AIDS crises, among other Patrician-class attacks, & so read my poem written after attending a rally against “Oil War I” in January 1991 in Washington, DC “Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial.” Christa DeMarco read 2 poems about elderly folks she has been caring for on her job, “6-Minute Egg” & “Impact.”

Always one to have cake for any celebration, Mary Panza passed around mini-cupcakes to kick off the celebration of Thom’s birthday (actually on Sunday, December 9) which strangely went well with the beer I was drinking & of course we all sang the Happy Birthday song.

Brett Petersen, wiping cake from his beard, read a couple poems from his Blog, like exercises in automatic writing, or a punk version of John Ashbery, “The Bottom of the Pool is Hungry for your Brain Damage” & “Have a Drink, Literally, On Me.” Alyssa Michelle has established herself as a regular here, with her first person poems, the first “Introvert” in which she tries to explain herself to extroverts, & the next about driving & watching the lights in the rain “Pause.” Kendall Hoeft read a poem titled “When the Body Breaks” then one starting with a quote from Anna Karenina & was about fear & desire & oysters & pearls “Of Sea & Sky.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Poetyc Visionz out & about & he read a new piece “I Met God on Lark St.” which was a sort of re-make of his Number 7 poem, then another in his signature wordplay (& an example of why he has been dubbed “the Pastor of Positivity”) “Be Grateful.” The Birthday Boy, Thom Francis, shared a poem about water flowing down 4th Street “Jesus Walks on the Water.”

Sarah Fountain has been to the Brass Tacks readings since the beginning but doesn’t always read, & was coaxed to read tonight; she read an intensely personal poem written after talking to her mother for the last time “Never Enough” & it was clear to see why they haven't spoken since.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks is a open mic (primarily) held on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at The Low Beat on Central Ave., starts about 7:30PM. Another fine poetry event brought to you by the folks at AlbanyPoets.

December 5, 2018

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, December 1

On a late Saturday afternoon I went to the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany for a reading by 3 women poets. After a late start Doug Rothschild did a lengthy, & somewhat repetitive run through of the upcoming readings in this series (more on this later), then on to the poets, Kenning JP Garcia doing the intros, such as they were.

First up was Marina Blitshteyn who read from a new book just out Two Hunters, beginning with a poem titled “Welfare Princess,” then one based on a song from the ‘90s “White Town - Your Women.” The poem titled “Little Soldiers” introduced her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, who figures in most of the rest of the poems she read, her family from Moldova, which the poet left in 1991, & referenced in "Love in Moldova” in which she incorporates words in Russian. There were a couple of poems of sociological commentary from an immigrant's perspective all titled “The Americans,” some poems about her mother (“Pride,” “Toys,” “My Little Mother”), & she ended with a poem whose title summed up her reading “The Immigrant Experience.” During the reading I was certain I had seen Marina read previously some where, & later talking to her realized it had been in Brooklyn in February 2017 at the BOOG City 10.5 Festival.

Hawa Allan read from a triptych of projects, the first being found poems from an old sociological text, appropriating selected phrases, terms, even apparently complete sentences; even the titles of individual pieces seemed drawn from the text, “Believe in the Part One’s Playing,” “Idealization,” “Maintenance as Expressive Control,” etc. The second section were political poems: “A Single Step” about Haitians who migrated from Brazil to Mexico, “Gentrification,” & “Grenfell” about the June 2017 fire in the Grenfell Tower in London. The third section were, as she said, “love poems I guess you can call them” with titles that included, among others, “To All the Men that Wouldn’t Love Me,” “Not Cold Hearted,” & “Well Woman.”

The final reader, Dylan Krieger, from New Orleans, is on the final leg of a reading tour. She read a variety of work from her books, including the recently published The Mother War (the poem “The Night Miami Vice Taught Me What Rape Means”), from a series of poems on chronic pain (“Bedside Mechanic” & “ What Doesn’t Kill You Will Eventually”), a true story about being home schooled by a follower of David Koresh (“Fall Down Faithful”), as well as a poem about the Apocalypse. Being from Louisiana, there was a cockroach poem, another addressed to Louisiana in the style of Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” a breakup poem, others, & she ended with a new piece about where she is at now that was more fractured & random than the other poems she read.

This series, like the Sage’s The Rev, often brings in poets from outside this area to introduce their work to the local scene. Interestingly enough, during Doug Rothschild's opening peroration, he mentioned that he was also interested in featuring local poets in this series, & has put that information out to the community. But, he said, he often hears from local poets whom he doesn’t know, meaning, he said, that they have not been to the readings. I think he meant to his readings. I attend between 8 & 10 or so reading each month in the region (you can verify this by checking my Blog), but I rarely — dare I say “never”? — see Doug at any of them. I can only conclude that the only readings he goes to are the ones he is involved in organizing — which means, of course, that he doesn’t know who any of the other poets are in this community since he doesn’t get out of his comfort zone. It’s a dilemma.

Saint Rocco was born about 1340 in France; he is venerated as the protector against the plague & other contagious diseases; other sources say he is the patron saint of bachelors & of (in the 20th century) laundromats. Be that as it may, you can find notices about this series at their Facebook page.

December 2, 2018

The Rev, November 29

This reading series out of Sage Colleges is usually held in Troy, but tonight was in the colorful, bright Opalka Gallery at the Albany Sage campus on New Scotland Ave. The series is coordinated & hosted by poet Matthew Klane, formerly of the Yes! reading series.  There were 2 readers.

Jeff T. Johnson had set up his laptop, wires, the usual cluster of tech stuff, for his reading that he began with selections from his book Trouble Songs; A Musicological Poetics (Punctum Books, 2017), a book-length meditation on the use of the word “trouble” in 20th & 21st century music, accompanied by vocal & instrumental versions of “Secret Rider” (i.e., ‘trouble in mind”), as well as other songs. Then he read from a new work-in-progress "Portal" random, serious, often tedious philosophical reflections, written like random notebook jottings but on the Cloud so he could write them wherever he was, on whatever device he was using -- so 21st century. It included some ramblings about TV, particularly “Twin Peaks;” another section was read with a recording of him reading other sections from the manuscript.

I found the poems of Emily Sieu Liebowitz much more interesting & engaging, perhaps because her work was more descriptive, imagistic, & while equally self-absorbed at times & filled with the lyric “I,” as Jeff Johnson’s, she is less abstractly philosophical. She read mostly from her new book National Park (Gramma Poetry, 2018), including the ode “You Never Forget How to Ride Your Bike,” another, “I’m Always Leaving Together…” which she said was “stolen from AndrĂ© Breton."  The last poem she read, from the book, was titled “Days Separate” & played on repetitions of “I am,” “we were,” “we are,” musical & haunting. In between she read from a new manuscript collection titled “Goodbye,” with each of the sections are numbered & all titled "Goodbye," from which she jumped around, the main character called “X,” like a conversation, or letters, perhaps writing to herself the “you,” like an internal dialogue.

The reading was followed by a mercifully brief Q&A, that somehow got into the topic of the apocalypse, which seems to be in the air, hopefully only for discussion.

The Rev reading series is taking the traditional academic break until next semester.  I for one look forward to next semester’s program. Kudos to the Sage Colleges & to Matthew for making this happen.