July 22, 2019

Getting Down to Brass Tacks — 1 Year Anniversary, July 16

What a fabulous way to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of this open mic & reading series at The Low Beat with a packed house. Thom Francis el presidente was exhilarated with the poets from near & far who came here tonight. There were 3 featured poets on tour from the mid-west, & 18 signed up on the (wide) open mic list.

Alan Catlin read a couple pieces from his 2003 book from Staplegun Press The Schenectady Chainsaw Massacre, one was titled “Son of a Hack.” Shawn Hopkins must’ve thought this was comedy night but his routine was more manic than funny. BK, on the other hand, read a moving piece just written this morning on being an immigrant & on Trump’s raids titled “Love It or Leave It.” Cheryl A. Rice’s poem was a memoir of the Moon landing, the anniversary barely a week away.

Zakim also thought it was comedy night & did a ramble through the movie Remember the Titans (can’t say that I do). Algorhythm, rather than read his own work, read William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper.” Reed’s manic performance was about something called “The Amanda Show” that I have never saw. D. Alexander Holiday brought us back to the texts & politics with a poem by Assata Shakur about the power of the grass growing in the prison yard, then one of his own poems based on a passage from Toni Morrison “Oh My People.”

Poet Rebecca Schumejda served as the MC for the 3 featured poets, the first being Margaret Crocker. She read a bunch of poems (9 by my count) from her recent book When I Was A Girl Like Me (Margaret Bazzell-Crocker) ( Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), many filled with precision anger as a woman, like “Wrench,” often with long titles, such as “Age (or) What The Hell Do I Write About Now - As Told Through The Weekend Binge,” about growing up poor. She also writes about working in the mental heath system (“A Barren Tree with a Dried Sparrow’s Nest Near a Desolate Soup of Strange Biology”), & in a prison.  Each of the poets, of course, had books to sell; I had to make a choice & bought When I Was A Girl Like Me.

She was followed by her husband, Dan Crocker, who read from his latest book Leadwood: New and Selected Poems, 1998 - 2018 (Stubborn Mule Press, 2018), & from Shit House Rat (Spartan Press, 2017), including “Elton & George” & a Ginsberg pastiche “All Hell Wallmart.” His poems depend heavily on storytelling, making them accessible, such as “My Mother Calls,” “Dreams of My Siblings,” “Hulkster” (from the point of view of Hulk Hogan), & “The Barryman Hood.” A major theme was mental disorders, such as one to his wife Margaret “I Married a Sling Blade” a reference to the psycho movie, not the tool, & an exploration of Sesame Street characters as images of different mental disorders.

The final, & longest, feature reader was John Dorsey of the famous “Beards,” a loose fraternity of poets some of whom their greatest achievement is their beard (obviously no “girls” allowed). He began with a piece titled “Christmas Cookies” about his great-grandmother, then quickly on to poems that all sounded like true stories, “Getting Lucky,” “The Ballad of PegLeg & Double Stump,” even a poem about his local pool hall that named a sandwich after him. He read a couple poems from a series about women in Missouri named Tammy, & others about other women, “Where the Prom Queen Ends Up” (at a truck stop), & “Rosalia Ain’t Dead Yet” based on a bumper sticker. His ending piece was a eulogy to the owner of a noodle shop “Sam Ryan is in Noodle Heaven.” Unfortunately he rarely varied his reading style, so it was like the same tune with different words, the tune was shouting with his voice falling at the end of lines, like a parody of the oft-noted style of academic poets.

Thom Francis brought us back to the open mic with a poem to his mother “I Want to Go Home,” then another about growing up working class “Tar Walls.” Shane’s quiet reading was a relief after Dorsey’s shouts, read a piece titled “Waiting & Wasting” (or was it the first line?), some automatic writing on the nature of his feelings, & some observations about being in Holland. James Duncan read what he called “2 road poems” one for the next poet on the open mic list “A Man of Himself,” then the meditative “The Grass & Dandelions & Me.”

P. Lester Allen was the poet Duncan was referring to, read his poem to poets, “I’d Follow James Wright into Battle.” Unbelievable as it may seem, this was the first time Don Levy has come to this open mic since it began a year ago; he read a characteristic piece combining pop culture & social commentary titled “I Heard the Black Mermaid Singing.” I had given Don a ride to The Low Beat tonight & began by reading my day’s Love Horoscope which said “… your date this evening defies all your expectations, & is decidedly unique, original, & completely different from anything you had expected,” which sounds like Don, then for the poets here tonight I read my poem “Trailer Park.”

Tanya is only in town briefly but found her way here & read 2 touching poems about her daughter’s struggle with mental disorders, “The Cost of Pride” & “Being a Hero is Genetic I Inherited It from My Daughter.” Brett Petersen read an intricate piece of automatic writing perhaps titled “Truth Boneless in Misery’s Corner Store.” I missed the title of Matt Galletta’s first poem, but his second was titled “Must be Nice” & was about a man on a plane seeing a cross in the sky. Michael Lawrence read from his phone “a quick monologue” about nasty relations with a woman. & that was that.

Quite a cap to the year & a great way to start the next. Getting Down to Brass Tacks happens each 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month, at 7:30PM at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, always an open mic, sometimes features, always poetry (& whatever else happens).

July 20, 2019

Poets in the Park — 30th Anniversary Edition, July 13

Poets in the Park can be dated back to a poetry series the late Tom Nattell called “Community Poets/Public Verse” & a string of readings in Albany parks in 1989, the last of which was held at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park on the night of a Full Moon eclipse, August 16. There were 5 featured poets, Lyn Lifshin, Sarah Davenport, Amy Halloran, Tony Burroughs, G.E. Schwartz & me, plus an open mic. Tom liked the site for poetry readings so much that the following year he began an annual event here. In the Fall of 2004 he asked me to continue the series & Tom died in January 2005. Here we are 30 years later.

This night was the first of this season’s 3 readings in the Park, & it was lovely evening to sit at the feet of Robert Burns & listen to poetry. Our readers, Guy Reed & Cheryl A. Rice have a new, collaborative book out, Until The Words Came (Post Traumatic Press, 2019).

Guy Reed began with a couple poems from his 1st book, The Effort to Hold Light (Finishing Line Press, 2011) “Community” making up names for the fireworks, & “Blue Conveyance.” He explained that Until The Words Came originated from a reading he & Cheryl did & they liked the way the poems played off each others. From the book he read, “Oh But it Does” “Why I don’t write Like Frank O’Hara,” “Revision” from a dream, & “Poet at the Convenience Store” abut the late John Ashbery. Then from “manuscripts waiting to become books” (as he described it), “Taking Flight” (dragonflies) “Ghost”, & ended with “Prayer” walking in a meadow at dawn.

Cheryl A. Rice responded to Guy’s first poem with her own “Fireworks” from one of her homemade Flying Monkey Production chapbooks, as was “Hay Run” about Long Islanders trucking hay from “upstate.” From Until The Words Came she read the the title poem, then “Paul Newman at the Dodge.” Poems from other chapbooks were “Finding Orion”, & “Morning Prayers” with the message to work for it don’t pray for it. She finished off with 3 more poems, these about poets, from Until the Words Came: “Ed Hirsch in the Congo,” “Donald at Boughton Place” (poet Donald Lev), & “Taking Off Billy Collins’ Clothes.”

Visit the website PostTraumaticPress.com for more information about Until The Words Came. Poets in the Park continues on July 20 & July 27, 2019 — free, just like the Park itself.

July 18, 2019

KNOW Readings Present Pierre Joris, July 13

I frequently have other things to do, other places to be on Saturdays when then this series is held each month, but I made sure I was at the Excelsior Pub in Albany this Saturday to hear Pierre Joris. The publicity says it starts at 1:30PM, but then I must believe in the Easter Bunny because all the St. Rocco series readings don’t start until at least a half-hour after the announced time. In fact, this day the host Douglas Rothschild didn’t set up the mic & amp until after 2:00PM, then rambled on about tennis scoring, TV as the origin of the “flashback,” & the flashbacks of Homer.  There were a dozen or so in the audience, waiting, drinking beer.  Then at about 2:30 Doug introduced Pierre.

But once it started it was a pleasant ramble as it often is at Pierre’s readings. He began reading the last poem he had typed up this morning, perhaps another cormorant poem, or notes leading to one, & on to new translations of Celan, then a series of Haiku, where Robert Kelly popped up for the first time in thoughts on Purgatory (later there was an older piece for Kelly from 1976 & another for his birthday). Pierre’s new poems are in those black, snap-spring binders that were once so de rigueur for any serious poet. He remarked that he has been translating the poems of Paul Celan (1920 - 1970) for 51 years, & is now working on a new translation, from which he gave us a sample of 5 poems.

We took a break. There is an excellent selection of craft beers to make the poetry go down. Then back to the reading.

The Excelsior Pub is just down the street, a very short walk, from where Pierre & Nicole Peyrafitte lived for years on Madison Place while he taught at UAlbany, so he read “52°, back porch” written there & included in his 1999 collection h.j.r. (OtherWind Press), then read the last poem in the collection, a love poem to Nicole. Back to the spring binder he read a long poetic memoir/meditation titled “Iceberg Meets Kingfisher” on his writing, & birds, & cormorants again. He tried a little magic from an issue of Barzakh to keep the hurricane away from NOLA, then ended with more cormorant poems in both English & translations into French by Nicole, as well as a painting of a cormorant by Nicole from The Book of U/Le Livre des cormorants (Editions Simoncini, Luxembourg, 2017).

This is an odd series that showcases the work of one writer in a reading that lasts one hour, which Pierre Joris was able to do holding our attention & interest to the end. But there are few writers I want (or am able) to hear read for a full hour, including myself. In fact I’ve heard many read for 20 minute features that have seemed like they read for an hour; I wonder if that counts? KNOW seems to occur on the 2nd Saturday, definitely at the Excelsior Pub, corner of Philip St. & Madison Ave., & the listings say “1:30PM” but don’t believe it.

July 17, 2019

2nd Wednesday Poetry Night, July 10

Back once again to Schenectady, I discovered a new brewpub across the street, Frog Alley, but it is not yet selling food. It will be a handy place to visit, before or after the open mic, once their kitchen is set up.

Jackie Craven is the host for this monthly open mic at C.R.E.A.T.E. on State St. She read a poem to start us off by Michael T. Young, “Advice from a Bat” published on Verse Daily. Marilyn Day read a poem titled “Ghosts” honoring her aunt & uncle, then a poem with a political bent, “Goddess Bless America…” Lin Murphy read 2 travel poems, one about an adventure on a river in Costa Rica, the other a description of Budapest.

Kelly De La Rocha’s poem “Ode to Peonies” was about the comfort found by the flowers as someone who moves around a lot. Ron Tersigni read a humorous piece, “Rhyme Ain’t Good” in rhyme, of course. Alan Catlin read poems about his parents, “Sorting Family Photos,” for his father, & “South Sea Tale” which he said he has never read before about being 5-years old & witnessing his mother’s breakdown in St. Thomas.

Jackie read the bios for both featured poets, & Leslie Neustadt, who had been in the group featured reading here last month, read first. She began with the title poem, “Bearing Fruit,” from her 2014 book from Spirit Wind Books, then on to another in the book, “Unspeakable.” A more recent poem was “Dear Mommy,” then the sad poem “Yahrzeit for Segalit,” about her infant daughter who was denied a Jewish ritual because she did not live 30 days. A couple poems were from workshops, “Soldier for a Lost Cause” & “I’m a Blankety Blank Poet” (an amusing performance piece). Also, “Incurable” on her cancer & a Nature poem “The Sustenance of Stars.” Returning to her book she read a poem on making collage “Piece by Piece,” then closed with an example of that with the poem “Poet’s Prayer” done up in a collaged accordion book. It was a typically colorful & engaging reading.

Following Leslie, Judith Prest began with a poem also titled “Poet’s Prayer” from her recent book After (Finishing Line Press, 2019), on to others from the book, the title poems “After,” “Wildwoman, Closing in on 62, Takes Stock,” & “Witness.” From her 2011 book Late Day Light she read the moving “Immigration Clinic, Juarez, December 1989.” Other poems included “Migrant Dreams,” “What I Want” (& improvised the last page when she realized it was missing), “Moon,” & “Adirondack Twilight.” For her final poem, “Survivor,” she returned to After. Judith’s poems were lyrical & self-affirming.

After a break, Jackie Craven returned us to the open mic & read her pleasantly surrealistic piece “Cyborg Sister.” & speaking of Surrealism, Edwin Litts read a piece titled “Handsome Man” a strangely thought-provoking description of a man at a bus stop, imaging his life — but what is the bakery doing there? Ginny Folger read her newest poem about thinking about all the ways there are to die, then an older piece that has just been published, “Summer, Maine 1968.” I just happened to have with me an old poem (so old the copy was printed on a dot-matrix printer) from a series I wrote about ways of dying, “Tape Recording of a Man Jumping Off a 12 Story Building,” then the much more pleasant poem “The Day God Invented Wine.”

Susan Jewell read another of her poems written for the Rattle Magazine ekphrastic project, this one a villanelle titled “Gated Community Under Construction,” then a poem in the style of Alan Catlin’s bar poems “Why Don’t You Shoot Someone on Fifth Avenue and See What Happens.” Greg Wilder, who signs up a “Slay, the Dragon,” began with a poem based on the movie A Quiet Passion a humorous & playful poem about making love with Emily Dickinson, then another playful piece, a mashup of Instagram & Vincent Van Gogh, “Felt Cute, Cute off My Ear & Gave it to a Prostitute.”

What a night of ups & downs, & even some sideways, what often happens at open mics. This series, formerly at Arthur’s Market, is now at the C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, a store-front at 137 State St., Schenectady each 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, your donation helps support the venue.

July 13, 2019

Book Launch/Signing, July 8

This was the official book launch for Kathleen McCoy’s book of poems, Ringing the Changes, just out from Finishing Line Press. I have written about this book previously when Kathie did a pre-publication reading in March. Tonight’s reading was at the Lower Adirondack Regional Art Center in Glens Falls, with copies of the book, bright & shining, for sale. The room was filled with colleagues from SUNY Adirondack & the wider North Country, poetry community, as well as her broad circle of friends & relations.

The poems in the book are organized in 4 sections, the first, “Dreams & Meditations,” a general category, with the remaining sections relating to liturgical seasons, Advent, Lent/Pashch/Passover, & Ordinary Time. She described her book as “a storied collection” with poems originally written for church, others pulled from drawers & notebooks.

She began with one of my favorites in the book “In dreams’ liminal land” with it’s stunning conclusion
                                                                           … so all
           that’s left when these kaleidoscopic dreams resolve
           is to enter their shadows and spin.

Others from the first section of the book were, “Little Buddha” (trying to save a Ladybug), “Learning to Pray,” & “Read My Lines” acknowledging her women writing companions.

Then on to poems with the Biblical connections, “Dreaming of Jesus” (dreams are a major theme throughout the book), “The Sixth Sign,” “Cleaning Heart,” & the title poem “Ringing the Changes” (as Kathie said, “what I’ve learned about bells”).  While the poems frequently have an epigraph from either the Old or the New Testament, they are not "religious poems" in the sense of expressing commonplace religious sentiments, but truly spiritual documents that reach across religious traditions to address the deep issues of compassion & inner inner growth that lie at the heart of all spiritual teachings.

The questions period that followed was more like a group discussion among friends, relaxed, funny conversations, even a request for one more poem, “Larval Dream.”

I’ve enjoyed this book very much, & as a student of spiritual texts in all traditions, expect to return to it again & again.

Kathleen McCoy will be reading at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany on October 17, 2019, 7:30PM.

July 4, 2019

Brass Tacks, July 2

This was almost the 1-year anniversary of this open mic series organized by AlbanyPoets.com, with el presidente Thom Francis presiding as host/MC. It was an all-guy lineup, in fact we were the only customers in The Low Beat tonight.

Nick Bisanz, who was the host the last time we were here, was first on the (mental) list Thom had prepared, with what he called “an airing of grievances” against recent bio-pics, & related a true story about Lou Reed heard from the lips of Billy Name; then he read the lyrics of the Roger Taylor (of Queen) “Air Heads.”

Shane, who has become a regular at this event as well as others held here at The Low Beat, read a series of short pieces from the pages of his notebook, starting with a tribute to a steak from cattle raised on his family farm, then some memories of better times, love, & the blowing of a cold wind.

I brought up the rear, beginning with an old poem from the vault “Ricard Speck” (a mass murderer from another era), “My Lucky Hat,” & a couple of short haiku-like pieces I am calling “Shards.”

Thom said that the open mic was 16 minutes & 40 seconds -- that's shorter than the readings of many featured poets, even some open mic poets who get carried away (not mentioning any names).

But come back to The Low Beat on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month for the open mic, sometimes with featured poets, 7:30PM. Details at AlbanyPoets.com.

Poets Speak Loud!, June 24

This monthly series was back, with the force of Mary Panza as the host, in McGeary’s back room where the force of food, beer & other adult beverages prevailed.

Sylvia Barnard was back with a poem about a visit last December to a church she used to attend in Cambridge, UK, the historic St. Bene’t’s, then read a revised version of a poem she has read previously, memories of riding the school bus, in rhyme. Joe Krausman was fascinated by a couple making out while texting “Seen in the Subway,” then a poem about death “The Great Chain of Being.” D.Alexander Holiday continued our education with poems by others, one by Frank X. Walker, & then Harriet Mueller’s “We Are Not Responsible.”

Christopher Burton read a impassioned, unfettered rant on nearly everything, that also urged us to read the Declaration of Independence, The Merchant of Venice, etc. My 2 poems were the quite old “The Simplest Surrealist Act,” & the very new “Argus String Quartet.”

Tonight’s featured poet was Dan Vollweiler, whom I’ve heard read in the open mic at Caffè Lena. Mary Panza read his hilarious bio, which was a perfect intro to the poems he read — playful, humorous, but with a (political) bite, & inventive use of rhyme. The first poem he read “Summer is Gross” was a good example, with twisted rhymes & wordplay about memories of high school, then he delved into rap, of sorts, with a commentary on “Generation X” & the aptly titled “Just Me, My Bro, Wings & Beer.” “When Catholics Cut You Like Meat on Friday” told the tale of being laid off, a bearded, Jewish teacher, from his job at a Catholic school. The poems “The Best Words,” & “Oh Con Man My Con Man,” were comments on the Trump Presidency, & were linked up with another piece that took its lead from Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again.” His life as a poet were taken on in “Beware the Bard Beetle” (afflicted with “rhyme disease”) & “My Dangerous Early Life as a Poet” both, again, with funny wordplay. He ended with another rap piece, this about the life of a nerd. A most enjoyable feature.

Back to the open mic, Don Levy read a new piece, “Me & My Cane,” about his brand new cane. Since R.M. Engelhardt’s monthly open mic at Elixir Cafe in Troy is taking a break for the Summer, he had time to come to someone else’s open mic; he read a poem about his cat, “Anachronism” (I’m don’t know if this is the name of his cat, or not), then “Resume of a Dead White Poet” trying to be ironic. Julie Lomoe began by saying she took a class on the prose poems, which she described somewhat simplistically as “a poem without line breaks”; she then read selections from a long, prosy memoir “Typewriters” that really didn’t sound like a “prose poem” & was way over the 2-poem open mic limit.

Tom Reilly came out of the woods, a welcome sight, to read a couple of recent poems, the first about cleaning out stuff from his parents’ house “An Emergency Kit for the Soul,” then “Butterfly & I.” Tim Verhaegen has been writing — & reading to us — about his family, particularly his mother, entertainingly for years, tonight read the latest installment “What Shall I Do When Mother Comes Back?”

One learns so much at Poets Speak Loud! held on most last Monday’s of the year, 7:30PM at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square, Albany, NY — good food, good drinks, good service, good (mostly) poems.

June 30, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 20

Surprise! The locks had been changed & we were locked out when I arrived to set up for our monthly open mic. The sad part was that the locks at the Social Justice Center had been vandalized at the beginning of the month just prior to a gathering to discuss the history of the Stonewall Riots as part of Pride Month events. I had not heard about it but found it out about it later this night from the SJC’s Facebook page. Now, as I waited for folks to arrive so I could explain that we were locked out, the owner of the restaurant next door, Lazeez, came out & we talked of the weather & of locks. When there were about 5 or 6 of us gathered he offered to let us have our reading in his downstairs banquet room. Bad things, like the vandalizing of the locks, happen often & are frequently on the 6 o’clock news or in the newspapers, but it has been my experience that good things are happening all the time, usually unnoticed, such as this spontaneous offer to use this space next door. I like to say this is what makes America great!

Once gathered I invoked the Muse, finally not a local gone poet, but one who had left us back in 2017, the Russian poet & activist Irina Ratushinskaya (1954 - 2017), reading section #14 from Beyond the Limit, written in 1983 - 1984 while she was in a labor camp in Russia due to the offense, among many things, of “authorship of poetry, documents in defense of human rights…”

The first open mic poet up (I hadn’t bothered to set up the amp & mic) was Tom Bonville who read “The Trouble with Sleeping the Night” pondering what his neighbors are doing in the middle of the night (while he is up). Joe Krausman read “Limits” about the paradox of having one thing & therefore not another. Doug Holiday read a poem by the new Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, a piece for Audre Lord, “Anchorage.”

John Allen described what he was going to read as “I have no idea where it came from,” a piece titled “For When She Owns the Place,” sounding like a dream love poem. Jessica Rae was on a visit back in Albany, read a political poem based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” titled “Real Free, Happy Hour, the Boys at North Woods Lodge” playing on “democracy.” I read my reaction to one of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s concerts during their recent American Music Festival series “Argus String Quartet.”

Tonight’s featured poet, Richard Levine, was non-plussed by the odd turn of events here, but did modify his planned reading as the moment moved him, or so he said. He began with a poem about weeding in his garden “Believe This” hearing the birds say that. “Field Bandage” was a grim poem from his service in Viet Nam, as was “Yankee Street” about returning home from service, both from his early book A Language Full of Wars and Songs; another such poem, one of my favorites that he read, was “Graceland,” from Contiguous States (Finishing Line Press, 2018) about seeing a buddy from Viet Nam, he thinks, at Elvis’ house. “At our Door” is an eco-poem pondering what lies before us, while “Epiphany” celebrates the ordinariness in our lives. A poem for a fellow teacher, “Picket Fences,” explores the racism we still find around us; “Late Hour” is from a father’s perspective, waiting for a teenager to come home. He ended with a mix of nostalgia & thoughts on aging (aren’t they the same thing?) “Girls Dream of Toads, Too.” Richard Levine’s most recent book is his Selected Poems (FurtureCycle Press, 2019) which brings together poems from 5 poetry books, a good way to get a sense of the range of his poetic work.

We hope to return to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY next third Thursday, but are ever so grateful for our friends at Lazeez, 35 Central Ave. for giving us a place for our reading tonight. Please support the people who support us.

June 25, 2019

Brass Tacks, June 18

Another in the continuing series of open mics at The Low Beat in Albany, NY. Tonight’s guest host was Albany rocker Nick Bisanz, who got us off to an appropriate start with a reading of the lyrics of The Cars’ song “Touch & Go” by Ric Ocasek. Then on to those who had signed up for the open mic.

Reed has become a regular here, as he also attends the comedy open mic on the other Tuesdays (so I’ve been told); tonight he rambled on about the/many Harry Potter movie/s, trying to recall what happened while wanderings into many divagations. Zahim Mowin followed in a similar tack talking about films in the Friday film series, reciting memorized scenes, but not mentioning the title (or titles) of the film(s) (I think he also signs up for the comedy night so be warned). 

Brett Petersen can be just as meandering but his drifting is more from the Surrealist tradition of automatic writing & as such has more a semblance of art; his first piece was in that vein & titled “Comintell,” while his his second poem had one of those long, un-transcribable titles that could be poem in itself, & ended up as as the last line, “Gallons of Cyanide Poured On the Head Of …”

Shane Nanson (another regular at The Low Beat) read a couple pieces like jottings from his therapy session's  notebooks, then a wide-ranging meditation on poems & rhyming with excursions into The Iliad, The Odyssey & Haiku. Christa (another favorite here & elsewhere) confused me by describing her rhyming poem as a “sestina,” & it might have been but I couldn’t pick up the repeating end words & the rhyming lines seemed to be be very short, it wasn’t titled but played off the phrase “I’m not there…”

Speaking of Surrealists, I read a poem that was a reaction to a meeting at work, & a play on Andre Breton’s description of “The Simplest Surrealist Act,” then the more randy “Reading Mary Oliver While Masturbating."  Alyssa Michelle is a welcome regular here & read 2 poems, the first from memory “Solitude Thoughts,” then one I’ve heard before — & like — “The Other Side of the Bed.”

One of the night’s surprises was the return to Albany, briefly alas, Jessica Rae, who apparently has been working on her craft, her first poem about her 23-year old self & based on her 10 favorite words, then a piece about an audition “Anywhere Else,” & ended with a poem about a dream of growth away from anxiety, the title the name of a plant.

This open mic continues each 1st & 3rd Tuesday at The Low Beat on Central Ave. in Albany, 7:30PM -- you may get more laughs for this event than on "comedy night."

June 24, 2019

Megaphone, June 15

I was pleased to have been invited to read with William Seaton in this monthly series at the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf, NY. The Saturday poetry series is coordinated by poet Janet Hamill.

The Seligmann Center is an art center located on the 50-acre rural homestead of Swiss-American Surrealist painter Kurt Seligmann (1900-1962) and his wife Arlette (Wildenstein Paraf) Seligmann (1906-1992). The Seligmann Center is committed to celebrating the artistic and intellectual legacy of Kurt Seligmann, honoring the history of its site, and presenting contemporary work by emerging and established artists.

Given that I was reading on the homestead of an international Surrealist, & that I was reading with William Seaton, one of who’s books is Dada Poetry: An Introduction (Nirala Publications, 2013), I started with a couple poems in a more “experimental” mode than my usual snarky rants, “Saturday Hawk” & the multi-lingual “Kadinsky’s Red Spot” that includes a translation into Russian by Inna Erlikh. Then on to playful pieces from Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D., 2011) “Poeming” & “The Lesson,” from the chapbook Baseball Poems (A.P.D., 2019) “The Cardinal,” & my tribute to poets Harry Staley & Paul Pines “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz.” I ended with a political poem “Books Not Bombs.”

William Seaton set the tone for his reading with a quote from that great American philosopher, Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic strip Pogo, then on to some playful rhymes & wordplay, & descriptions such as “Cabbage,” “Grape Leaves,” “Watermelon,” & a poem in which he wonders if he is just a video game. Others were “though experiments” such as one titled “Time’s Arrow” where he considers Time going backwards. He moved on to a series of travel pieces, beginning with prose portraits of people he had met along the way, then a poem listing the things done titled “A Vision of the Invisible,” others, such as “Bullfight,” & “The Clock of d’Avignon.” A poem from “long ago, a snapshot” was titled “Golden Park Through a Telescope Forged on an Anvil of Ease,” & ended with the last paragraph of an essay on what poetry is good for, with the image of Orpheus as a detective in a film noir.

It was great fun to read with William Seaton & to find out about this venue, & about the work & legacy of Kurt Seligmann. Note that there is no poetry programming here in July & August, with the next Megaphone poetry event on Saturday September 21 with poets Robert Milby & Howard Horowitz, & an open mic.

June 20, 2019

Literary Legends, Parts 1 & 2

The Albany Public Library Foundation has named me, novelist Peter Golden & poet Lyn Lifshin’s as their Literary Legends for 2019. The major event will be the annual gala on October 19 with food, drinks, music, but in the meantime the Foundation held some more modest events to introduce us to the public.

Photo by Jessica Wilcox
On May 30 Peter Golden & I gathered with a roomful of friends to give brief readings & talk about our work, answer questions, even debate the character & legacy of Richard Nixon, MFA programs & professor-poets who only show up at readings when they were paid. The discussion was moderated by Albany Public Library Foundation Director Lex Bhagat.

Lyn Lifshin, who has a house in Niskayuna but spends much of her time at her home in Virginia, was unable to attend the May event, so separate events to celebrate her were scheduled in June with Lyn in attendance. The first being on June 13 at the Opalka Gallery in Albany with a screening of the 1987 film my Mary Ann Lynch, Not Made of Glass. The film takes you inside Lyn’s home, her archives — vast even then — & includes interview & readings. Prior to the showing the film, there was a Skype phone call from poet Arielle Greenberg in Maine, who read Lyn’s well-known poem “Hair.” I had originally seen the film in October 1989 at the Albany rock club QE2 where Tom Nattell ran poetry readings; both Lyn & Mary Ann Lynch the filmmaker were in attendance.

Lex Bhagat
The following evening, June 14, there was a reading of Lyn Lifshin’s poems by local poets. Again, Lex Bhagat did the general introduction, & I served as host of the reading. Many of Lyn’s friends from the area were there to greet her & celebrate her role as Literary Legend. Joe Krausman read a poem by Lyn titled “The Hanukah Bush” that had appeared in a journal that included one of Joe’s poems as well. Likewise, I read Lyn’s poems “Bloody in the Light” & “At That Last Spinning Moment” that had apppeared in the only issue of a mimeographed zine called The Old Woman from 1967 (by best guess) that also included a couple of my poems.

Mary Panza read from Lyn’s 1987 book Raw Opals “The Next Door Neighbor is Moving” & “For Three Days Things Kept Changing.” Lex Bhagat read from the Black Sparrow Press Selected Poems 1970 - 1996 Cold Comfort (1997) from the section on war titled “And These Bones Do Blossom” the poems “It Was Like Wintergreen” & “Treblinka.” Sally Rhoades read from the 1991 Before It’s Light, beginning with “That August 24th;” then commenting that she wanted to read one of Lyn’s longer poems, dove into the long, pornographic “Jackie O Reads the Story of O Again,” then left us with the much shorter, calmer “It Goes On.” Lyn didn’t read, but did take questions about her current work, the fate of her archives, & others.

Back in the earlier days of the start of the poetry scene at the QE2, organizer Tom Nattell booked a program that included Lyn Lifshin, Joe Bruchac & Ed Sanders in March, 1988. Later that year, in July, Lyn read with the poet Ione, & I’ve already mentioned the screening of Not Made of Glass in 1989. Tom also included Lyn in the Poets in the Park series in July 1998 reading with Laura Boss. I also saw her read in July 2006 at Caffè Lena reading her poems about the race horse Ruffian.

The Albany Public Library Foundation provides critical financial support to the Albany Public Library in order to help the Library provide education, literacy, career development, cultural enrichment and lifelong learning.  Visit their website for more information.

June 19, 2019

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, June 12

This is the series in Schenectady that was formerly at Arthur’s Market, now at a storefront on State St. known as C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, & this was the first time I had been able to get here. It is being coordinated now by poet Jackie Craven. To start us off, Dave, who runs the space & makes it available for us poets every 2nd Wednesday, sang & played one of his unique homemade guitars that use old license plates as a reverberator, a funny piece (his 1st!) titled “Is This How You Write A Song?” Then on to the poets.

Jackie Crave, Host
I hadn’t seen Margaret Bryant in some time & so it was good to hear her read again, tonight from her 2010 chapbook Aligning Stems the poem “Ivonne” a touching tale of a child immigrant from Cuba. David Walsh’s short pieces included “Draft #8” about writing a poem. Edwin Litts read a pair of somewhat prosaic pieces, the descriptive “A Few Couples,” & a pondering of what it would be like to live in “Oh that Prohibition Era.”

Scott Morehouse read a piece about Dorian, a mannikin he lives with that is dressed in his clothes, appropriately enough titled “Probably More Than You Want to Know.” I was somewhat in that same vein & read my poem “Reading Mary Oliver while Masturbating.” Malcolm Willison calmed us down with a descriptive piece about the Saratoga County “Scotch Church Cemetery.” Susan Jewell read one of her entries in the Rattle ekphrastic poetry assignments, her poem titled “Mother 1952” with a nod towards the poet Elizabeth Bishop.

Poets in the Dugout: Ungar, DeBritz, Kress & Neustadt
Tonight’s featured reading was by 5 poets who wrote together in a class/workshop run by one of the night’s readers, Barbara Louise Ungar, as part of her series “Poetry One, Two, Three.” This one on the theme(s) of “Questions, Curses, Blessings & Invectives.” Barbara began the first segment on questions with the first poem from her first book, a series of questions. Jackie Craven followed with questions about the functioning of the microwave, while Stacy DeBritz’s questions were about planning a party for “March Madness.” Susan Kress’ “FAQs Frequently Asked” was just that, & Leslie Neustadt read “Things You Know About Taking Care of Maya” her granddaughter.

For the curse poem, Barbara read an eco-poem with a very long title that began “Curse You Donald Trump...” Jackie read “Dear House” cursing the nests of vermin & parasites. Stacy’s poem “Our Lady of Guadaloupe” was in the voice of a sponge in the sink. Susan said her poem “Sticks & Stones” was more of an insult poem. Leslie read “Curses for Dummies.”

Blessings are apparently hard to write as some of the poems veered into invective, such as Barbara’s “Daphne at the Dodge Poetry Festival” about lusting after a famous (now dead) poet, & Susan’s poem about a woodpecker on her house (but in the end was a blessing). Jackie reached back in her memory to write “For Room 329.” Stacy wrote about a funeral mass of a prominent politician & non-Catholics taking communion. While Leslie rose to the occasion with a political piece inspired by her research about the #MeToo movement “Praise Be the #.”

It all made for a wonderfully varied, engaging & thought-provoking reading.

This series will continue each 2nd Wednesday of the month at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, 137 State St., Schenectady, 7:30PM, with a featured poet (or more) & an open mic. Your contribution (& purchase of coffee) supports the work of the venue, which includes making the space available to poets.

June 16, 2019

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

The final gathering here at the Arts Center this season, the end of our 9th year! A small dedicated cadre of poets on this beautiful June day.

My co-host Nancy Klepsch started us off with a brand-new piece written yesterday inspired by Georgia O’Keefe, “I Believe It Was June Before I Needed Blue,” then her animated poem “My Clit Poem” in which it speaks to her.

Michelle Arthur returned to read a couple poems about being with the performer Henry Rollins back stage, “Notes on the Alien Nation,” & “Parlor Games.”

Dave DeVries talked about a fascination with horses & read about the Dutch breed “The Fabulous Friesians,” then a poem titled simply “Regret.”

Bob Sharkey read from his ongoing prose saga about the cop/spy Slocum Meeney the episodes “White Flower” & “Hight Desert.” Then I read a couple poems, & the season was over & we are off for the Summer.

But join us on the 2nd Sunday of September (the 8th) at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY for the start of our 10th season — Free!

Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest Reading, June 8, 2019

Bob Sharkey
This was the 4th Annual Contest & reading from this best-poetry-contest-in-the-world.  I was pleased to be one of the Honorable Mentions again this year, & more pleased to be in the company of such great poets & poems. The contest is run by Bob Sharkey, who was the host of the reading this day at the Colonie Town Library. Bob said there were 405 entries, 145 from outside the USA, 18 from Nigeria among whom 5 were finalists.

As a way to invoke the Muse, Bob asked me to read my poem “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz” that pays tribute to the gone poets Paul Pines & Harry Staley.

Richard Foerster
Four of the top winners were here to read their poems, Ken Holland, 1st Prize for “Habana;” Caroline Bardwell, 2nd Prize for “The Snowy Lean-To;” Mary Kathryn Jablonski, 3rd Prize for “On a Mission:” & Richard Foerster, from Eliot, Maine for “Double Going.” Other top prizes included the “International Award” which went to a high school student from Nigeria, Ikeonyia Mercy for “Self narration would kill the black women street code,” & the “Editor’s Choice” which went to Elena Croitoru from Kent, UK for “The Road to School No. 10.” Bob read both of their poems.

Besides myself, there were a number of Honorable Mentions & the poets to read them. Dan Curley, “The Night Tristan Jumped into Our Pool;” Annie Christain, “Heaven is a Soundstage Built to Make Drugged Soldiers More Fearless;” Elizabeth Zerbst, “Flower Hill;” & Mary Cuffe Perez, “Five Minutes of Poetry.” Three of the Honorable Mentions were represented by audio recordings of the poets reading their poems, “Flight Plan” by Jen Karetnick; “We Have Our Songs” by Maroula Blades; & “With An Army At Our Gates” by W. Luther Jett.

Susan Kress
There was also a category of Commended Poems. The poets present to read were Karen Fabiane, “Collars & Cuffs;” Thomas Bonville, “The Smoke;” & Danielle Colin, “Broke just like that.” Other Finalists who read were Roberta Gould, “Longevity: A Scientific Perspective;” Mimi Moriarty, “In the Dark;” Susan Kress, “Call Back;” & I had the distinct honor of being asked to read Howard Kogan’s “Imagination” with it’s fitting final line, “You say, Please, enough is enough! And the poem ends."

Keep your eye out for the announcement later this year about the 2020 contest & enter -- one poem, any style, any length, published or unpublished, & it's free to enter.

June 11, 2019

Time & Space Limited - Gretchen Primack & Randall Horton, June 7

Time & Space Limited is a not-for-profit arts organization serving the City of Hudson & the Hudson River Valley Region with original theater productions and performances, music, art exhibitions, multi-media productions, independent and documentary films, Live HD Simulcasts, youth projects, and special events. Might I also add poetry readings, which brought me there this night. The poetry events are coordinated by poet Karen Schoemer, who also manages the mini bookstore in the cafe space.

Gretchen Primack read exclusively from her new book of poems Visiting Days (Willow Books, 2019) which she described as mostly persona poems in dramatic monologues by imagined characters set in an imaginary prison, but based on her own experience of teaching in New York State Prisons. The poems are short, only a few spilling over to a 2nd page. While “imagined” the stories & the characters are all too real & have their sources in the lives of real men (& women - a couple poems she read were about women visiting the incarcerated).

Randall Horton, who knows from personal experience what it is to be incarcerated, served as editor for Gretchen’s book. He studied at UAlbany, was once featured in Poets in the Park, & has read in the NYS Writers Institute series. His books include The Definition of Place (Main Street Rag, 2006), The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street (Main Street Rag, 2009), others, including Hook: A Memoir (Augury Books, 2015). Tonight he read from 3 sections of a new manuscript “#289128 Property of the State,” of the Department of Corrections, Maryland. The pieces were a cascade of the language of incarceration, often like notes in broken phrases, riffing off other writers who had been incarcerated, such as the late South African writer/activist Dennis Brutus, made all the more poignant based on his having been there.

The reading was followed by a short Q&A, which Randall characterized as “approaching the same topic from a different point of view.”

It was an intense, moving & eye-opening reading from both poets. I don’t know what other readings are being planned in this important art space, but I hope there are others in the future as a venue to draw in poets & others who love good writing. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

June 10, 2019

Gloucester Writers Center - Open Mic, June 3

I hadn’t been back to Cape Ann since my residency at the Gloucester Writers Center in February so I took a break from my schedule in Albany to come over for a few days & timed it so I could go to the monthly open mic at the GWC. As always, it was a varied mix of genres & styles from the mostly aging writers in this active writers community. The host/MC was Amanda Cook, with a timer (!) & her ukulele as the alarm — it’s subtle & it works.

I read a couple poems from my Scissortail chapbook Baseball Poems (A.P.D., 2019), here in the room where I spent a week in February. Virginia McKinnin writes about the World War II generation in the veterans’ writers project, tonight read a piece about her husband & the invasion of Saipan “One Sailor’s Story.”

A wonderful surprise was author Stacie Madin from Ohio who said she was writing a young adult novel about a young woman & her mother set in Rocky Neck — except the author had never been here to Rocky Neck, had only researched it online & decided to visit; when she found out about tonight’s open mic she extended her visit; she read from the beginning of the novel & made lots of friends in the audience.

Joe Mezio began with a quote from the writer Edward Hoagland then read a personal essay weaving together the politics of the 1960s & the current “disharmony.” Shep Abbon read from a chapbook a piece on 9/11, then a blues song read as a poem, & “a little ditty” titled “A Gloucester Legend” his take on the story of James Merry. Lise Breen said that this was her 2nd time at an open mic, read an historical account about illegal slave trade on Cape Ann 1841. Our host & time-keeper Amanda Cook read “A Pastoral Letter” which was her reactions to Charles Olson’s Maximus letters, containing her personal recollections & family history.

Don Kipp read a cluster of little pieces, mostly by him but a few by others: the metaphorical “A Worm,” a piece on Annisquam, “Fears,” “Water Song,” including Langston Hughes. Mary Ellen LaBianca began with a poem about a daughter leaving home “Women at the Bus,” then “At Giza the Sphinx,” & “Conversation Overheard in the Next Yard over a Very Tall Fence.” Bob Guttman concluded the night with “Memorial Weekend Salute…” referencing veteran writers, & suicides.

The Gloucester Writers Center sponsors this monthly open mic on the 1st Monday of the month at 126 East Main St., Gloucester, MA at 7:30PM. For information about the GWC, its program, & to donate visit their website.

May 31, 2019

Brass Tacks, May 21

It was a relatively quiet night at The Low Beat with only 3 of us signed up for the open mic. Thom Francis, el presidente, was back to host.

Some of the readers (not me) had shown up early to pace & wait, perhaps mentally preparing their material as they would on the other Tuesday’s stand-up comedy night here.

Reed Gungrass began with a ramble about his reactions to the film Natural Treasure: a Book of Secrets (2007), then on to comments about weapons, & to other movies he’s seen.

Zahin’s commentary was about the 2014 movie Ride Along, which he seemed to enjoy so much that he said at least 3 times “here is my favorite part” before describing his next favorite scene.

I hadn’t seen either of these movies, so I read “Prophylactic” & “The Job” from my 2011 chapbook Poeming the Prompt.

& that was that for this Tuesday. Brass Tacks is gotten down to at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, starts at 7:30PM — bring poems.

May 27, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, May 16

I am glad that I was able to schedule poet & dancer Kendall Hoeft here before she left the area to move with her husband to San Francisco. “Comet Kendall” burst upon the scene barely a year ago, a high-energy performer who not only frequented the open mics in Troy, Albany & Schenectady, but also led dance classes at the Arts Center, & like all comets will leave just as quickly. I just hope that it’s not another 72 years before we see her again.

My Muse for the night was  in many ways a mentor, or Elder, to me, the poet & peace activist Jay Wenk, who left us last May 29. He was an active member of Veterans For Peace & liked to say he was sent to Germany in World War II to fight the fascists & “I’m still fighting them now.” I read his chilling litany of military veterans who have committed suicide the title poem from his chapbook Thank You For Your Service (Post Traumatic Press,  2017) -- Jay Wenk, Presente.

Before we get to the featured poet, first a bit of the open mic. Alan Catlin read a new poem just published in The Poeming Pigeon, a poem on baseball “The Baseball Player Stephen Crane” (who was a catcher). Following that, Joe Krausman read a "2 Part Invention: Poetry as Sex, & Poetry as Babies" his characteristic musical wordplay on the human condition. Tom Bonville came back to the open mic to read “Later” reflecting on the emotions inspired by a wake. Desmond Gonzalez hasn’t been here in a while read 2 poems about Life, “Where Light Used to Be” & one about getting up, getting out.

Kendall Hoeft started off by wondering if, when she settled in California, that maybe she would find a home in Albany, CA to start up “AlbanyPoets West.” She said that this was her 1st time doing a feature like this with this much time. Her first poem was in 6 parts, “Forgive Us” an intense, meditative piece if one can put those 2 adjectives together. Then on to “Friendship Like Bees,” “Bloom Cactus Bloom” about empathy, & a love poem read out for the first time “High & Dry.” “Shelter” was another multiple part poem with 5 short scenes. She move on to poems about her family, beginning with 2 contentious pieces about her mother-in-law, “Bitter Sweet” & “Feathered Lady,” then a portrait of her mother “Hidden Ladies,” & a tender piece imagining bathing her father in his old age, imagining him bathing her as a baby, in 3 parts overlapping & each a poem in its own right. “Migration of a Hollow Swan” was another in short multiple parts, a Spring poem, & she ended with a work-in-progress begun in D. Colin’s workshop at the Troy Library, what she called her ars poetica. Her work is richly imaged — & imagined — & energetically performed, & now “Comet Kendall” is off to share her work & her energy to the left coast. We wish her well.

After the short break, I read a new poem “The Grim Reaper” about the ones we have lost recently (& realized later that I hadn’t turned on the sound system after the break, but my little recorder still picked up the words). Karen Fabiane is a regular here, read the provocative title poem from her first book Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011). Frank S. Robinson made an “announcement” of the “Dan Wilcox Imitation Open Mic” held at Catfish Corners in Greene County, on the 3rd Tuesday after the 2nd Monday … & on, leaving us in hysterics. Bob Sharkey was the last reader for the night & as always pulled his poem from his pocket, tried "to keep the silliness going," with “Dreaming the Draft” with a cast of folks from his old job at the Department of Social Services.

Each third Thursday we gather at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, at 7:30PM for an open mic with a featured reader from here, or maybe there. Bring a poem & a dollar or 3 to support poetry events & the work of the SJC.

May 18, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 12

Our regular monthly open mic, since it falls on the 2nd Sunday, each May puts us here on Mothers’ Day — for all you Mothas out there! Nancy Klepsch & I are your tag-team hosts. I had signed up as #4 thinking to leave space to others up front but nobody did, & Kendall Hoeft signed up right after me in #5. Since Kendall, who has been a regular here for the last year, is leaving the area at the end of May for San Francisco Nancy proposed that Kendall read first, a great idea.

Dan Wilcox, Nancy Klepsch & Kendall Hoeft
Kendall began by saying that this was her “favorite open mic” — ahh, shucks! Then she read 2 poems “What Holds Him” & “How to Resurrect the Sky.” I followed with 2 Mothers’ Day pieces, Julia Ward Howe’s 1870 “Mothers Day Proclamation” calling for a general congress of women to work for peace, then my own notebook jotting about a homeless woman in Washington Park “Whose Mom is That?”

Rene McGovern had been here previously late last year, read a poem based on an abstract for a research project with a title much too long to catch, then one simply titled “Mother.” Tim Verhaegen has regaled us many times in the past with outrageous & humorous stories of his family, today it was about his mother, part portrait, part cultural anthropology. Both Nancy & I forgot to cite “the rules,” i.e., 2 poems or 5 minutes of prose at the beginning of the open mic, & while most readers, including folks new to this venue, instinctively followed the pattern set by others, Karen Fabiane who reads here regularly managed to squeeze in 3 poems: “From Her Bed,” “Walking, Easter,” & “Scratching.”

Speaking of new readers, Johnine M. Simpson’s 2 poems were a sonnet about death “The Process,” & one written today for her mother “An Alphabet of Love.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch finished off the afternoon, continuing the informal theme of the day, a one-line “Mothers Day Poem,” then the sexy & funny “My Clit Thinks for Me” (sort of a new take on the Italian saying, “when the little head gets hard, the big head gets soft”).

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose is at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY most months of the year except for July & August & it is Free!

Spoken Word, May 11

This is a seasonal series at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, & tonight the featured poets were Alison Koffler, Day Wise, & Me (another D.W.). The founder & host of the series is Annie LaBarge who interlaces the limited open mic with the featured poets. There was a 3 minute limit on each reader in the open mic, many of whom complied, some notably did not.

First up was Craig, who was also handling the book sales for the poets; his poem “Porch Setting” was a memoir of world travels & of Guan Yin (aka Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara), one who hears the sounds of the world. Betty MacDonald’s poem “I Forgive My Father” didn’t stop there but extended forgiveness back & back & back in time. Susan Hoover squeezed in 3 short poems, “Take My Word,” “Pipe Dreams” & “Lune.”

The first of the featured poets was Alison Koffler who, with her husband Dayl Wise, are 2 of my favorite poets with whom it is so much fun to read. She began with a couple of poems from a trip to Ireland last year, “Hall of the Red Earl” & “An Offering” a description of the Irish countryside. “The Standpoint of Water” is based on a New York Times article about the dangers of coal ash in floods & the title comes from a quote by Donald Trump. Her final poems were a trio about animals, the first about an Ethiopian monkey at the Bronx Zoo “The Gelada,” then 2 about training dogs “Back Chaining” & “The Mirror Test.”

Back to the open mic, Guy Reed read 2 poems about poets, “Wearing Bright Red on Easter Sunday” about the death of Jim Harrison, & “Poetry Whisperer” about Franz Wright. Nina Jecker Byrne began with a poem about avoiding old age “Hiding,” then, on this eve of Mother’s day, read “My Mother’s Closet.” Our host, Annie LaBarge continued that theme with a series of questions “For Mom.”

The night’s 2nd featured reader was Dayl Wise began with poems for his mother, the marvelous memoir in 6-parts “Mother’s Pantry” filled with iconic details of the White Rock girl, Aunt Jemima, the Morton Salt girl, even his Mom’s birthday custard rhubarb pie, & the dreaded lima beans. Then on to poems inspired by his service in Viet Nam, “Ode to the P38” (a pocket-sized can opener), “Ode to Boots,” “Multiple Choice,” “From Photo Black & White,” “Road Kill,” & one from Sound Off: Warrior Writers NJ (Post Traumatic Press, 2017) “Nine Outside the Wire.”

We took a break to buy & exchange books, then on to the last segment. The venerable Bobbie Katz read a couple poems based on paintings “At the Shore” & a pantoum “The Rock Boat Exhibition.” Ann Braybrook's poem “Looks Like You’ve Reached the End” was based on the tagline at the end of an internet search. Davida stretched the limits of the open mic with not only 3 of her own poems, “I Don’t Know What I’m Baking…”, a “mini haiku” (whatever that is), & one based on the Iroquois peacemaker story, but also a poem by Gary Siegel who didn’t get a chance to read.

Photo by Dayl Wise
The final featured poet was — golly! — me. I began by invoking the Muse, 2 gone poets, Harry Staley & Paul Pines in my poem “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz.” Then on to a poem from my latest chapbook Baseball Poems (A.P.D.) “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson” for my daughter Anna Wilcox. From my series of True Stories of the Trump Era “What Makes America Great #14” & from my earlier chapbook Coyote (A.P.D.) poem #4. I ended with a poem using more of the late Mary Oliver’s lines than my own “Reading Mary Oliver While Masturbating.” I had such a good time being a co-feature with Alison & Dayl, what you might call 3 Poets from Somewhere.

This regular series at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills on Sawkill Road in Kingston, NY takes a break until the Fall. Check back in the Fall to see who is reading later this year.

May 13, 2019

Brass Tacks, May 7

There was a substitute host tonight at The Low Beat, local rocker Nick Bisanz, who by way of introduction read the lyrics to a couple of British rockers, “Evidently Chickentown” by John Cooper Clarke (Nick read the Brit version where “bloody” replaces “fucking” as it appears on Clarke’s website), then Lemmy Kilmister’s lyrics (from Motörhead) to “Love Me Like a Reptile.”

I had arrived before Nick got there so I took over making sure there was a sign-up for the rest of us, which put me up next; I read “What Makes America Great #17” about the #MarchForOurLives rally, & from my new chapbook Baseball Poems “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Shane began with a piece titled “Sad Thoughts,” then on to a description of an encounter between a hawk & a mouse.

Lindsay said that this was her first time reading out (i.e., a virgin, to us) & began with what she described as “an evil poem” “Predator,” then on to an untitled piece, but also with a dark vibe, vulgar, violent images. As Nick commented when Lindsay left the stage, “What a début!Shannon Shoemaker has not been around in a while & is always a welcome sight & tonight had new ink for us: “They Don’t Write Fairy Tales for Girls Like Me” & the brand-new “Where Does the Poetry Go?” always wonderfully in your face, & yet whistful.

The last 2 on the list were more in the spectrum of stand-up performers (which is also a regular event her at The Low Beat). Reed did a manic stand-up routine based on the TV series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Zahin acted out a short version of “How the Grinch Stole Xmas,” a bit out of season.

Brass Tacks is a regular open mic here at The Low Beat on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, 7:30PM, brought to you by albanypoets.com. Bring some poems, sign-up — even if you have never done this before.

A Night of Poetry: Featuring Local Poets & Special Guests, May 3

This new series at the Electric City Barn, run by Caroline Bardwell, is different each time. The featured poet tonight was Suzanne S. Rancourt, who decided to re-arrange the furniture to fit the intimate crowd & make it more of a workshop, or discussion.

Suzanne began with a reading from her newest book Murmurs at the Gate (Unsolicited Press, 2019), the poems “Venom Sweet Venom,” “Biddie’s Baby Doll” (a grim tale from her days working as a social worker), “Crooked Nose,” & “Impressive Education: Mrs. F. the librarian.” In between we talked process, about incorporating the challenges of our life into our writing. Suzanne then went on to poems from 2 newer manuscripts she has been working on, one poem titled “Photography in Geneva,” another (from “Songs of the Hummingbirds”) “What Are You Thinking.” The conversations continued, on into stories of working in prisons, with both men & women inmates.

Suzanne encouraged us to read something responding to her work & Doug Holiday read Richard Wright’s “Between the World & Me.” I followed with my poem about an alternative existence “Oklahoma Sunday,” & Doug returned with a “Poem for Little Bro (for Cody)” from his collection Kith & Kin.

It was a night of “not just poetry” but the kind of connection between poets/human beings, sharing thoughts & experiences in response to the art & conversations of others.

A Night of Poetry continues on the 1st Friday of each month at the Electric City Barn, 400 Craig St., Schenectady, NY. Check the listing on albanypoets.com.

May 12, 2019

Poets Speak Loud!, April 29

Always a night to party, albeit early in the evening, this open mic had as its featured reader photographer & peace-activist Connie Frisbee Houde. But first our host, Mary Panza, got us into the open mic.

Sylvia Barnard can frequently be found here on the 1st Monday, & tonight began with a poem written today in rhyme looking back to her childhood school & to the Doane Stuart School where she currently volunteers, then her poem “The Broken Pot” on aging. Doug Holiday let us in a rare sing-a-long with classic American folk poems, “Down in the Valley” & “Rye Whiskey.” Joe Krausman read a brief biography of a surgeon “Suit Yourself” & a poem on aging “Power Failure. A.C. Everson began with a poem on breaths, then on to another adventure in aging.

Connie Frisbee Houde is a photographer who is best known for her work documenting the people of Afghanistan, & tonight presented beautiful portraits of Afghanis as she talked about the poetry of the women of that war-torn country. The poems she read were from The Sky is A Nest of Swallows:  From Behind the Burqa, The Voices of Afghan Women, A collection of Poems and Essays by Afghan Women Writers (2012 Belleville Books Press) & Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women’s Poetry, edited by Said Bahodine Majrouh, translated by Marjolijn De Jager (2003, Other Press). Also from I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) translated by Eliza Griswold with photographs by Seamus Murphy. At one point Connie donned a burqa to add a living visual to the words she read.

Continuing on with the open mic Don Levy read a new poem he had written at work “Ode to CVS,” a place he knows well. I followed to read “What Really Happened” my alternative view to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, then a new poem responding to the fire at Notre Dame “Tourism.” Christa De Marco read 2 untitled pieces, the first about putting down a dog, the second, written just last night, with flowers & women. Sally Rhoades began with a quote on love by Rumi (as Connie had begun with a reference to Rumi), then read “Planting Tomatoes” a poem of childhood memories, then one about her daughter’s birth, for her birthday, “Just After Midnight in Catalonia.”

Tim Verhaegen read an intricate piece, part memoir of his time as a roommate of Steve Clark, part history of the early poetry scene, part tribute to Mary Panza “I Was in Love with Mary Panza.”

Frank Houde, Connie’s husband, joined the open mic list to pay tender tribute to his wife, her work & her person. Nick Bisanz ended the night with the lyrics of British punk rocker John Cooper Clarke playing off the ubiquitous, pejorative British adjective “bloody.”

Quite a night of world poetry. Usually here at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany on the last Monday, you won’t find Poets Speak Loud! here in May because that is Memorial Day, but come back some other last Monday at 7:30PM for an open mic & a featured poet — check AlbanyPoets.com for details.

May 9, 2019

An Afternoon of Poetry, April 27

Linda Miller

For the last 14 years the Rensselaerville (NY) Library has sponsored a reading during April as part of the Favorite Poem Project, which had been started by Robert Pinsky in 1997 during his tenure as the US Poet Laureate. We were welcomed on this Saturday afternoon by the Library Director, Kim Graff, as we awaited the arrival of the MC, Claire North. In the meantime, Linda Miller, the coordinator of the event filled in until Claire arrived later, & talked about the history of the Favorite Poem Project here.

The readers were:
The Logans read James Wright
  • Diane Sefcik — poems by Joy Harjo, Sandy Cameron & Adrienne Rich, & later her own pantoum
  • Patricia Britten — her own one page comic, a dragon fantasy.
  • Tom Bonville — William Stafford
  • Linda Miller — Marie Howe
  • Paulette Rider — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • The Logans (Nora & Bill) — James Wright
  • John Haynes — Grace Paley
  • Dan Wilcox — Bob Kaufman
  • Virginia — her own poems
  • Netta Dickerson — Mary Oliver
  • Claire North — her own poems
The folks who read are exemplary of how wide-spread poetry is in our culture, despite the moaning of academics & other cultural pundits. Many of the readers had a deep understanding of the life work of the poets they read, & even when they were drawn to a poet by a quote on, say, Facebook, they had made the effort to track the entire poem. A few of the poets have actually ventured off the mountain down to the big, bad city to seek out open mic venues, but those that haven’t it was gratifying to think of them curled up the home fires with a book of poetry & a cup of hot chocolate, or glass of bourbon.

May 8, 2019

Book House Book-Signing: Dawn Marar, April 25

This was a book-signing & reading by poet Dawn Marar at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany from her 2018 book Efflorescence (Finishing Line Press) to benefit a project by Women Against War to benefit RISSE (Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus), a family-based center in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany NY.

Although Dawn has done other readings since the book was published about a year ago, many folks in the audience seemed not to be familiar with it & the proceeds were going to support RISSE, so it was gratifying to see such community support. Of course I’ve heard her read from this book on at least 3 occasions, & you can find accounts of those readings on this Blog.

The room was quite full with community folks & activists for what was a short reading, but one that kept extending as some folks arrived late. Many of the poems are about her travels in the Middle East & her examining the “foreign” cultures & politics from her her point of view as an American, albeit a sensitive, compassionate poet.

She also shared some new poems, notably one responding to native American culture. You can get her book directly from Finishing Line Press or from the Albany independent bookstore, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

WordFest 2019 — Invitational Slam, April 19

The next-to-last event (& the last I was at) was the Invitational Slam held at Troy Kitchen, the site of the weekly Poetic Vibe open mic, on Congress St. in Troy, NY. The host was Mojavi who had been an integral part of the Albany poetry scene from the early days at Soul Kitchen (hmm, seems like a theme here…) at Clayton’s Caribbean Restaurant, then on to be a member Nitty Gritty Slam Team.

Like all good Slams it started with the “sacrificial poet,” someone not in the contest to perform for the judges to practice, or as they like to say, “calibrate” their scores. Tonight’s sacrifice was the incredible D. Colin who, as always, set a high bar.

The field of contenders started off with 7 performers from 2 Slam teams, the UAlbany team & the CapCity Slam (formerly Nitty Gritty Slam). Alex from the UAlbany team was first, followed by Poetik from CapCity, then Andrew from UAlbany, Sidney from CapCity, Kat, then Eve, both from UAlbany, & Liv from CapCity. Body image/pride-in-self was the dominant theme, along with, of course, love & longing.

Thom Francis from AlbanyPoets served as time-keeper & compiler of the scores. When the numbers were crunched the 4 remaining performers, & their pieces they next performed, were Liv (a litany of Slam poets), Eve (a take on the pledged of allegiance), Andrew (hip-hop rhyme on violence on the street), & Poetik (with some rare & welcome humor on trying to be a different kind of poet).

Slam Master Mojavi with Eve & Poetik
Usually the second round settles out to the 2 top contenders, who then duke it out for the championship. However tonight, there was a 3-way tie at the top, Andrew, Poetik, & Eve. Andrew did a stream-of-consciousness piece, then Poetik talked of her love living “on the spectrum...,” but it was Eve from the UAlbany team who took home the win with a piece that began “I love being a black woman…” taking us back to the dominant theme of the 1st round. 

& when the final votes were counted, the winner of this year’s WordFest Invitational Slam was Eve of the UAlbany tema with an impressive 29.6 (out of a possible 30) from the judges. 

You can catch the CapCity Slam at the Albany Barn, 56 2nd St., Albany, NY on the first Wednesdays of the month, with an open mic starting at 7:00PM.

[Although WordFest 2019 continued on Saturday, April 20 with a book fair at the Troy Farmers Market, I had some peace-work to do & wasn’t able to be there, but my books were. One copy was sold. So this post is the last of my coverage of WordFest 2019. But there are ots more Blogs to come on other poetry events in the area.]