April 18, 2019

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Friday Morning, April 5

Back for another day of readings at this “Listening Festival,” as Sally Rhoades has christened it, in the Estep Auditorium.

Michael Dooley (who is also known as “Woodstock Farley”) got us off to an uproarious start with a tale set in West Texas “Picasso Hanging at the Water Stop Saloon” filled with a cast of characters, drunks, con-men, & general ne’er-do-wells, & a dart contest to see will own a Picasso painting salvaged from a train wreck. Folks here from Texas said that he got it just right.

Dorothy Alexander is one of my favorite writers (& characters) here at Scissortail. She is also the publisher of Village Books Press in Cheyenne, OK, as well as an activist attorney. Her reading today mixed the personal with the cosmic. She began with a memoir/meditation set in the 1940s “Night Sky Epiphany,” then an amusing piece about a junk yard couple “Creation Day.” The poem “When We Invented Time” quoted scientists, philosophers & ancient texts, while “Closing Time” was a tender autobiographical tale of taking care of a young girl & a horse. Somewhere along the line she mentioned the red bud tree, an unofficial running theme these last 2 days.

Chris Murphy read a series of short fiction pieces about Tahlequah, OK, beginning with a grim tale of an angry confrontation on a golf course “Incident at Hole 2.” “At the Trail of Tears Memorial” was about a visit from his parents, as was another story that included a rescue dog with a series of names. I never heard of Tahlequah before, but now I have.

The rest of the morning was another exercise in choices, between Estep & North Lounge readings. The first choice was made easier by my admiration for the work of Jason Poudrier. His 2012 book from Mongrel Empire Press Red Fields: Poems from Iraq ranks among the best literature about military experience, dare I say with such poets as Yusef Komunyakaa. His new poems seem to be infused with that same depth of feeling & insight. He began with a couple poems inspired by the artist Douglas Shaw Elder, who is also an Army veteran, the poems titled “Winter Wheat” & “Subterranean Black.” His poem “But A Shadow in Front of the Sun” was inspired by his young daughter’s question “who created God?” spiraling out from there considering the nature of “creating” & places & things. He continued with poems inspired by is daughter, & when he read “Daughter, Daughter,” with images of her in the stories on immigrants, as child soldiers, the tears flowed from my eyes. Jason is a good & important poet among us.

Continuing on the parent/daughter theme Heather Levy read a moving personal essay titled “The Twenty Year Lie” in which she describes her first time having sex & her conversation about her daughter about it.

Fortunately for my emotions, Alan Gann took a different direction with a series of nature poems illustrated with photos of birds, frogs, his meditations springing from his descriptions. His Haibun “First” was about birding with his father & seeing his first eagle, another poem took on the healing power of nature for those with mental health issues. He ended with a tribute poem to the late Mary Oliver, “One Possible Answer” in which he tries “to inhabit her voice.”

For the 2nd half of the morning I went to North Lounge. Don Stinson read some poems from his book Flatline Horizon (Mongrel Empire Press, 2018), including one about hearing of a truck bombing in Berlin around the same time as the shooting in San Bernardino, then a couple poems from Paris, including one dedicated to Jim Morrison of the Doors “Lizard King.” He also read from a new manuscript tentatively titled “Black Dog” which is a metaphor for depression; also, poems of spiritual exploration “Trinity” & “Download” (in which the Holy Spirit is a megabyte).

I fondly remember the reading Terri L. Cummings did here 2 years ago. Today she read entirely from her new book from Village Books Press, When Distant Hours Call; the copy I got is a “temporary” saddle-stapled one before the ultimate version is ready — same poems, different binding. A couple poems touched on her early time on an archeological dig in Israel, there were love poems to her husband & to chocolate pie, poems about her mother & her family, & tender poems dealing with the death of a son (“Moving On,” “The Long Road,” & “Rescue Dog.”

I had also seen Richard Dixon read the last time I was here. Today’s poems were a chronological series of autobiographical pieces, beginning with his absent father, his mother’s addictions (& other problems), then on to pieces about his sister, going into foster homes, & a stay in a juvenile detention center. The poems “Trial by Fire” & “Unreadable” were about the profound cruelty of his foster father. He ended with a tale of a Country & Western music ballroom in the 1960s “Honky Tonk on a Saturday Night.”

Like I’ve said a couple times, at Scissortail there are always poets I miss because I’m listening to poets someplace else. But fortunately there are events, like lunch, where I did get a chance to talk to some of the poets whose readings I missed. & there was more to come in the afternoon & evening.

April 16, 2019

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Thursday Evening, April 4

The evening reading was held in the Ataloa Theatre in the Hallie Brown Ford Arts Center on the East Central University campus & was by the United States Poet Laureate for 2017 - 2019 Tracy K. Smith.

Ken Hada introduced for the venerable Dr. Darryl Fisher for the opening remarks; the annual writing contest for Oklahoma high school students is named after Dr. Fisher. Then it was fitting that Jennifer Dorsey, who coordinates the undergraduate writing program at ECU, introduced student Taylor Johnson who read an excerpt from her novel.

Steve Benton, Director of the University Honors Program, gave the introduction to Laureate Smith’s reading, an introduction that was based on a close, sensitive reading of her books, not just the glowing, admiring generalizations that often infect such introductions.

In the past I have not always been happy with the choices of the US Poet Laureate, but I was thrilled with the selection of Juan Felipe Herrera & was blown away by the couple of times I saw him in person, at Skidmore College & at the Library of Congress. I described him to to someone as my “Mexican uncle.” I was not familiar with the work of Tracy K. Smith but her reading here at Scissortail made me a fan; she ranks up there with Herrera, perhaps a “black niece I hadn’t met before.” She did not shy away from themes of social justice, such as the poem “It and Company” about America & playing on the word “it.” She read mostly from her latest book Wade in the Water (Graywolf, 2018), including “Declaration” which is an erasure of the Declaration of Independence, also a found poem from letters of slave-holding families “The Greatest Personal Privation,” “The United States Welcomes You,” & the title poem. There was also the tender poem about her willful daughter “4 1/2.” Smith has also worked with the Chinese feminist poet Yi Lei, who sadly died last year; a translation of Yi Lei’s work is forthcoming from Graywolf Press, a collaboration between Smith & Chantai Bi. Her poem “Eternity” is about a visit to China & thinking about past lives. She ended her reading with the last poem in Wade in the Water “Old Story” about how we need new myths.

As the best readings do, this evening opened my eyes to new work I hadn’t been familiar with, as well as a poet, Yi Lei, that I’m looking forward to reading.

April 14, 2019

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Thursday Afternoon, April 4

The afternoon sessions were an exercise in making a choice — 2 time slots, each with 2 sessions each, one in North Lounge, the other in Estep. For example, I read at 2:00PM in North Lounge, while my traveling companion Sally Rhoades read at the same time in Estep Auditorium. So you were always going to miss someone.

I was the first reader at 2:00 in North Lounge & read my series of 5 baseball poems, for which A.P.D. (Albany’s Poetic Disorder) published a brief chapbook, Baseball Poems, which you can still get when you see me at readings, or by mail (email me for information).

The next reader up, Sarah Webb, is from Burnet, Texas, & I recall seeing her read at previous Scissortails. Her poems were about the spiritual journey of following the imagination, as in her opening poem “Directions from Those That Follow the Thread" (i.e., that “leads to Jerusalem”). The poems “Obedient” & “Through Rain & Fog” (what she termed “a whiney one”) were more personal introspection. Others dealt with poetry, such as in “To Borges’ Dream Tigers” & “Why I Carry a Notebook.” And sometimes you have to make the magic happen, as she described in “Sweeping the Rooms” & “How to Catch a God.”

Bill Endres described himself as “a medievalist" who has worked digitizing the 8th century illuminated manuscript St. Chad Gospels, but he recently returned to poetry when he taught an Intro to Poetry course in the fall of 2018. He read a variety of poems, many with a touch of humor & irony. His first piece was a prose poem titled “Of All Things” in which he imagined a perfect job & included angels. Some of his poems were on things: a water bottle, a bowl, a pair of Levi’s; others were about animals: a hummingbird, a chocolate Labrador puppy. His poem “Super Blood Wolf Poem” expressed his disappointment at the actual experience while the name of the Moon was so spectacular.

Lyman Grant was filling-in for the writer on the printed schedule; he said he was reading from a published book of poems, from one to be published later this year, & from recent poems. From Old Men on Tuesday Morning (Alamo Bay Press, 2017) he read about an experience in a cafe “Open Carry.” From his forth-coming book 2018: Found Poems and Weather Reports he read “July 24.” His recent manuscript “Shards” is a collection of short golden shovels, using a range of poets for the lines: William Carlos Williams, Rossetti, Mathew Arnold, Etheridge Knight.

Back across the way to Estep Auditorium for the final afternoon session of the day for 4 more writers.

Paul Austin has become a friend over the years; now living in Oklahoma, he was a New Yorker for a good part of his life. He has a new book out, Notes on Hard Times (Village Books Press, 2019), from which he read a generous selection. He read the grim “Warsaw Ghetto, 1942;” a couple of portraits, “The Jazz Lover” & one for Richard Ray Whitman; poems responding to Samuel Beckett & Delmore Schwartz; & a litany beginning with a quote from Joy Harjo “If They Ask.”

One can always expect Michelle Hartman to be in-your-face, even when she is being humorous, or talking about death, like a poem titled “A Reason for Everything” from a series about folks’ 1st night dead. Most of her reading was from her recent book, Wanton Disarray (Hungry Buzzard Press, 2019), including the poems “Weddings & Death,” “Hope Has No Conscience,” “Behavior Waves” (a love poem), “The First Time” (i.e., a woman undresses a man), & “She Asked What You Are Like.” I bought the book so I could take a little bit of Michelle home with me.

Randy Prus & Cullen Whisenhunt  gave us a rare tandem reading, playing “poem tag” from a year-long collaborative project, much of it political, responding to media coverage, such as one piece titled “This is Now, for Tom Paine & Gil-Scott Heron.” There was also a section on dead dogs, & even a mention of the red bud tree, a sub-theme of the day it seems.

The second of the day’s fill-ins was Jeff Alfier who began with a couple of poems set in Louisiana. He described his poems as “semi-autobiographical at best,” though many were in the (apparent) voice of a persona, often in a work setting, like flash fiction stories of the working class, even a poem titled “Lap Dancer, for Holly who Danced the Longest.”

I love how the folks creating this festival pair up us writers, our themes, images, styles bumping up against each other, as on a crowded dance floor, different styles, over-lapping themes, but always about the human character, our own or that of others.

We broke for dinner, with the reading by US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith set for the evening.

April 10, 2019

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Thursday Morning, April 4

Back in Ada, Oklahoma at East Central University for the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, to which I manage to get to every-other-year. I flew down from Albany with poet Sally Rhoades to the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City & drove the 90 miles or so to Ada on Wednesday. We joined about 20 or so other writers at Polo’s Mexican Restaurant to greet old friends, make new ones, eat, drink, & talk, talk, talk.

The Director of the Festival is Dr. Ken Hada, assisted by other faculty & an army of student volunteers. Ken is a big, warm, teddybear of a man, who came East a few years ago to read at Caffe Lena & at McGeary’s in Albany & is a friend to poets not only to Oklahoma & regional writers but to writers everywhere.

The next morning at ECU there were more old friends gathered around as the book sale table(s) were set up. It’s been 2 years since I was last here so it felt like a family reunion rather than a literary conference. The morning readings were held in the Estep Auditorium, while in the afternoon there were split, competing sessions in Estep & across the way in the North Lounge.

The first reader was Benjamin Myers, a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, whose book Lapse Americana (New York Quarterly Books, 2013) is a particular favorite of mine. He read exclusively from his new book, Black Sunday (Lamar University Press, 2019), a story of the dust bowl told in sonnets by & about the Burns family & other characters in their town. He poems in the persona of Lilly Burns, her daughter Louise, & Lilly’s husband Will, as well as Henry, the town drunk, & The Reverend. The poems were vivid accounts of life during that most difficult time in the history of Oklahoma & country, not to mention the hard-working people who had to try to live through it.

Joey Brown is a poet & prose writer living currently in Missouri whose work I remember fondly from past years here. She read mostly from the manuscript of her new collection of poems titled "Content Subject Change," but began with a moving anaphoric piece repeating “because…” titled “Lanie Thinks About the Reasons for Leaving.” The poems in the new collection are based on memories of old family photographs, without going back to view them. Other poems were “Tattoos” (she keeps a jar of red dirt wherever she is living), “Ways I Am Like a Tumbleweed” (for her husband), & the humorous “Explaining Here to My In-laws.” Sally & I ended up spending some light-hearted time hanging out with Joey throughout the festival.

I’ve also seen Gary Worth Moody here at past festivals. His poems were more directly concerned with nature, in the form of animals, than the previous readers, beginning with a poem incorporating terms from falconry; other animals included a deer & a palomino, & a touching poem “In the Animal Hospital Killing Room.” But to show that the killing is not always human-driven his poem “Through Orphan Dark” was about coyotes & pumas hunting prey.

The second morning session began with the venerable Larry Thomas, former Texas Poet Laureate, affectionately know a “Buffalo,” a warm & imposing presence here each year whose drawl is as capacious as his hugs. His latest collection is from Blue Horse Press, Boiling it Down: The Electronic Poetry Chapbooks of Larry D. Thomas from which he read only one piece, “Placido,” about a deaf, self-taught Mexican artist, during which Larry interjected personal asides, as if we were sitting around talking poetry & life over beers.

Julie Chappell was new to me & I was instantly captivated by her poems from her manuscript “Scorpion Dreams” & her zeal in dealing with the pests. Interestingly enough there was an theme of violence running through the poems she read, including “Execution” of a snake & a turkey, “Black & Blues” & a poem responding to violence in a song.  “The Lottery” was set in 1973, followed by “Bone Fragments,” & another poem about a young man killed in Viet Nam. When I got home & was writing up these notes I saw that she had had a poem published in a collection titled Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapalooza ’94 (Manic D Press, 1995) in which Albany poet Mary Panza also has a poem — we poets are all connected in an intricate web.

Another writer new to me was Chris Ellery who read from his recent poetry collection Canticles of the Body. The work combined images from Christian liturgy with references to the 7 Chakras, as well as other traditions, notably Buddhism. He illustrated his reading with projected images. The poem titled “The Great Vigil of Easter” focused on the heart Chakra. Then he read “The Good Shepherd” a moving piece about Fr. Frans van der Lugt, a Christian missionary who was killed in Syria; despite the fact that the Estep Auditorium is carpeted you could, as they say, hear a pin drop.

I’ve heard Walter Bargen at previous Scissortail festivals & have his book Days Like This are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009). His poems were always seasoned with humor, like his poem “Bucket Music” about catching snakes, even a poem about cattle mutilation, “Udderly Gone,” which expanded into a story about a teacher who was teaching the poem who had contacted him about it. He also read from his new book My Other Mother’s Red Mercedes about an all-too-common theme among today's poets, his mother’s dementia.

At this point, when we broke for lunch, I was already feeling like the long trip here was well worth it. My reading was yet to come in the afternoon.

More information about the festival can be found here: http://ecuscissortail.blogspot.com/

April 2, 2019

Troy Poetry Mission, March 27

The Winter has been tough on this monthly series with storms tending toward mid-week, but with astrological Spring here I was bold enough to venture out to Troy, to Elixir16Troy for what was billed as “2 Poets 1 Night” hosted by R.M. Engelhardt & James H. Duncan. But then it turned out to be 1 poet & 1 host & a bare handful of open mic poets, even without a snowstorm.

R.M. Engelhardt started us off with an invocation, a poem in Robert Service rhyme & meter “Don Quixote.” I followed with 2 short poems reacting to reading the poetry of Paul Pines then “Reading Mary Oliver while Masturbating” appropriating lines from her poems. Gloria Manthos, whom I usually see at Caffè Lena, began with a poem reminiscent of one by Lawrence Ferlinghetti “The Anxiety of Waiting” with its recurring line “I am waiting for…” then a poem about her ancestry, her family, what she termed “a border poem,” “Bloodlines.”

Carol Durant read new stuff, a poem with a bit of neighborhood humor “Tick Tock,” then one titled “Revealed.” Rob was back to read John Milton’s “Sonnet 19,” then a piece on the ones we have lost “A Conversation: Friends & Angels.”

The one present featured poet, Suzanne S. Rancourt, read from her forthcoming book Murmurs at the Gate a long poem titled “The Blue Curl: When Angels Fall” filled with images of blue, the military, death, PSTD, as well as the magical. In “The Woman” she celebrated her own strength & power. “The Execution” was a meditation on the media & what’s real & was inspired by the famous photo from 1968 of the summary execution of Viet Cong General Nguyen Van Lem. Other poems using military images & references (Suzanne served in both the US Army & the Marines) were “The Hunt,” “Re-enlistment: the Global War on Terror,” “On My Way Home,” & “Iron Sight.” Her poem “Courage Grows Strong at the Wound” about dealing with family grief & testing the family tree, while Mediterranean Blue” pondered the nature of humanity; there were others as well. As I said, there had been a second featured poet scheduled who could not make it at the last minute, but Suzanne’s reading was a long as 2 features, so the lack of a second feature, & with only 4 open mic readers the night did not seem so long.

The Troy Poetry Mission happens on the last Wednesday of the month at Elixir16Troy, 45 2nd Street, Troy, NY, listed as 7:30PM in the publicity but doesn’t get going until about 8:00PM, adult beverages are available, but no elevator for those of you who are challenged by stairs.

April 1, 2019

Poets Speak Loud!, March 25

I’d missed this event last month so had to be back tonight for beer, burgers & poetry. Mary Panza, as usual, was the host & keeper of the sign-up sheet.

First up on the first half of the open mic was D. Alexander Holiday, who stated that the themes of what he was about to read were “women & guns;” first from Poems from the Women’s Movement Susan Griffin’s “I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman” (who was known to carry a gun), then from Sapphire “Strange Fruit” in the persona a young woman killed by a shop keeper. Sylvia Barnard’s poems looked back to where she grew up in Western Massachusetts, “Rachel” (the name of her grandmother’s horse), then one about the foundations of former homes “House Spots.” Joe Krausman began with Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love,” then read his own poem “Ode to My Arthritis.”

Brett Petersen was the night’s featured poet. From what I’ve heard of his work at open mics his poems are characteristically rambling stream- of-consciousness, piles of outrageous images with long titles that are often poems in themselves, such as the one titled “When Barak Obama Rises from the Grave only to Die Again,” or the cartoon images of a dystopia childhood in “The Infinite Hands of Unos” which he said was the first of his work to be published, & his most recent poem “How to Get Un-inebriated.” His tour-de-force was a poem with a title so long that I missed half of it, something like “My Clit Aches to Spoon with a Spoon-Sized Pizza…” which was a line in this over-the-top piece that piled outrageous, Dada-inspired images, to the ceiling that then dripped down the wall. He ended with the surprisingly tame “The Burger Song.” Phew!

Back to the open mic I followed that with a tame old poem of longing “Blue,” then my new piece “Reading Mary Oliver while Masturbating.” Julie Lomoe talked about her work-in-progress “Subdural,” then read a couple poems about her mother & her mother’s stroke & death, “My Mother & Senator Joe,” & “My Mother’s Head.” Don Levy has taken to reading his poems from his phone, tonight read one about missing recent open mics due to his arthritis & the weather “Remember Me?” Christa DeMarco read a couple of untitled short poems, one about seeing ants in the shower that made her ponder whether life matters, another on depression.

Matt Mirenberg was here for the first time, said it was only the 2nd reading he’s done & read an invocative piece beginning “luscious lips...” A good start.

Poets Speak Loud! is at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY each last Monday of most months, starts no sooner than 7:30PM, usually around 8:00PM, with a feature (usually) & an open mic. Join us.

Ringing the Changes, March 24

This is the title of Kathleen McCoy’s new book due out in June from Finishing Line Press. On this pleasant Sunday afternoon in Glens Falls she gave an informal reading among friends from the book at the First Baptist Church. Finishing Line Press likes for its authors to drum up pre-orders, upon which they base their eventual print runs, so Kathy used this event to drum up orders & to hold a raffle for a free copy; I had already submitted my pre-order after I got the email about the event.

Kathy explained that the poems in this collection began with poems she was writing for the church for holidays such as Christmas & Lent, then put out tiny bells on the tables we were siting around because, she said, “Bells keep coming back” in her poems. Consequently, at random moments during the afternoon there was the tinkling of bells accenting the conversations as well as the poems.

The poems she read were on verses from the New Testament but went beyond the religious setting to a larger spiritual message. The first she described as “a Lent poem” was in the persona of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who went to Jesus to discuss his teachings (see John 3:8). The next poem was titled “The Woman at the Well,” based on John 4:9, in which Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, & was in the voice of the woman. Kathy also read excerpts from a longer poem titled “Mary at Golgotha” which was based on John 19:25.

The poems, while based on New Testament scriptures, transcended the texts to talk about the larger messages of compassion & the wonder of human interaction. I’m looking forward to having these & the other poems in Ringing the Changes in my hand to read & ponder.

You can find out how to pre-order your copy at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/ringing-the-changes-by-kathleen-mccoy/

March 31, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, March 21

Spring! & poetry once again at the Social Justice Center, with an enthusiastic list of poets on the sign-up sheet, one all the way from Bennington, VT. & speaking of Bennington, the Muse I invoked was the gone poet, Jill Hays, who had lived & run her used-book business out of there.  I had met Jill at the workshops run by the NYS Writers Institute & led by Irish poet (also gone) John Montague; I read Jill’s poem “At Phoenix Park” set at the Dublin Zoo.

Signed up first, with a flourish, was Sue Oringel, to read a memoir piece inspired by a recent hospital stay “Fruit Cocktail.” Joe Krausman used lines by Shakespeare to comment on Sue's poem, then read his old poem “Going to a Double Header Ending in a Tie Game” about a guy marrying a woman with 2-heads. Peter Boudreaux read a death poem titled “Tombstone” “ready to be found.” Tom Corrado read another of his famous screen dumps, a string of lines & images, even lines from 1960s pop tunes. D.A. Holiday read again from Ghost Fishing: an Eco-Justice Anthology this time the poem “Taking Root” by Tara Betts.

Tonight’s featured poet was Tom Bonville whom I have seen at open mics in the area over the years but tonight he had a chance to read more than 2 or 3 poems. He began with a cluster of poems about his family, “Meat” about his grandfather telling him about eating horse meat, “1946, in Europe” a tale of his mother escaping the ravages of Word War II finding her way to America in a pair of shoes taken from a corpse, then another about his mother “Christmas Morning” at 90 years old remembering swimming the Sava river in Europe before the war. The next couple of poems were about his children, “Trout Fishing on 10-Mile Creek,” with his young son, proud of his catch & his curiosity, & one about his daughter “To Be a Child” learning a life lesson when the cat is carried away by a coyote. Then on to a series of poems from issues of Up The River, 2 in the persona of a frustrated wife from the 2018 “Trouble Falling Asleep” & “What to Wear,” then one from the forth-coming UTR 2019 “What If Everyone Got Gold Stars” a childhood memoir of stealing colored stars from the nun’s desk. “The Smoke” was about his father with Parkinson’s hallucinating the house burning down, & he ended with a humorous conversation, recently published in Chronogram, “The Tests.” It was a sometimes funny, sometimes sad or grim, sometimes tender, but always moving mix of poems.

After a break we were back with the rest of the open mic sign-up sheet, & I started it off with a poem from my recent visit to Gloucester “Hey!”  Charlie Rossiter came over for the open mic & to spend the night, & read “If You See Something Say Something” (a poet’s motto). The sign-up pen was black ink but Mark W. O’Brien's magic Irish touch turned it green; he read from “Letters to his Granddaughter” short, weighty pronouncements.

I’ve seen Joel Best read in Troy on occasion but it was his first time here at the SJC & he read the philosophical “Make Circles of Ourselves.” This was not Anthony Bernini’s first time here; he read “A Mirror Fell” about an event in a room full of parents & children, a grand metaphor. Mr. Israel Moses slipped in at the last minute, made it on the list, & read a prophetic piece suitable for his name.

So if the weather continues to get warmer but the River doesn’t rise above its banks we will be back at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM start, for more open mic poets, & a featured poet; your generous donations help pay the poet, supports poetry events in the area, & supports the work of the SJC.

March 27, 2019

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, March 19

It’s a busy week for poetry, as many are here in Albany. Last night Poetic Vibe, tonight back at The Low Beat for Getting Down to Brass Tacks with Ian Macks feauted & an open mic. Our host was el presidente of AlbanyPoets Thom Francis.

& once again I was first on the list with 2 recent pieces, “Hey!” about an encounter with a gull in Gloucester, & a poem incorporating lines from another poet “Reading Mary Oliver while Masturbating.” The elusive Matt Galletta was here to read the metaphorical “The Professor” speaking to a hole in a cave, then the wry “Let it Kill You.” The equally elusive Shane read an untitled unfinished piece about the question of what do we do with our demons. The poet who signs up as Slay the Dragon read the same poems he read last night at Poetic Vibe, but in a reverse order, which worked better, “Vicious Ending” in the persona of Sid Vicious, & “My Name is Gregg & I’m Addicted to Poetry.”

Ian Macks, tonight’s featured poet, is back in town with his poems after a hiatus with AmeriCorps. He began with some poems from a chapbook he produced when he was in his 20s, the poems titled “Dr. Manhattan,” “Cradle,” & “Now This” (brain freeze). His poems were a mix of topics & moods but all sprung from his day-to-day experiences, such as observing others at a bar, or a homeless man, or at Starbucks (titled ironically enough “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). He included a couple of poems written as definitions, “Vulnerability” & “Windswept.” Others included a love poem to his girlfriend, a poem on mortality titled “When Your Car is on Fire…,” “The Drop,” “Keep Walking,” & personal meditations like “What Does It Take to Get You Off,” “Eulogy for the Former Me,” & “Flatiron.” His last poem was a letter to a friend who ended up in jail. We’re glad to have his voice & words back here in Poetry Capital.

Thom Francis took a turn at the mic with a couple of untitled pieces, about his daughter having no fear among strangers, wishing he had that too, then one about connecting to memories via the things in his pockets.  

Coco Flo was visiting from Charlotte, NC & recited 2 pieces from memory, the first about when she was 11-years old, a man who inspired her, the next titled “Invisibility” the super-power she would want, but it reminds her of her father who was invisible.

Nick Bisanz made a rare appearance on a stage without a guitar & reading poetry instead, about the death’s of wrestling heroes in Winter, such as King Kong Bundy, & other wrestling stories. Also making an equally rare appearance was our habitual bartender, Kim Dreizehn, with a rhyming poem about her cat. Last up was Allie who read a love poem “Your Love Sustains” apparently just-written on the backs of a couple Third Thursday fliers I’d just given out.

So come to The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, where you can meet Kim the bartender, Thom Francis el presidente, & whomever else shows up to read — 7:30PM.

March 26, 2019

Poetic Vibe, March 18

Although this exciting venue happens every Monday at the Troy Kitchen, I don’t make it there as much as I would like, so I was glad to there this night for the diverse open mic poets, & for the night’s featured poet, Nancy Klepsch. The host & organizer is the energetic D. Colin. She got us off on the correct poetic foot with a couple of poems, her playground poem (with the wonderful line “we be the best part of the playground”) & some “new shit” about a middle school crush & discovering the poetry of Ntozake Shange. Then on to the open mic.

I was up first & recited Bob Kaufman’s poem/prayer “Believe, Believe,” then my poem/essay in appreciation, with the same title. The poet who signs up as “Slay the Dragon” began with a poem titled “Hi, My Name is Gregg & I’m Addicted to Poetry” a clever, funny piece using terms from addictions & referencing poets, then, on a related note, a poem written New Years Day about Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols “Vicious Ending.”

Poetik began with “Confessions of a Fat Black Girl” from her 2017 book Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being, then on to new shit “Babble from an Emotional Laborer” a rant about being used. Cass read a poem titled “Fragile” about a heart “fragile like a bomb,” then a poem like Poetik’s “Emotional Laborer” with a somewhat preachy message of positive advice, & another of the same ilk on “community.” Hannah Rose brought her young daughter Sage on stage to sing a song about being a Mom.  Allie’s poem was about introspection & responding to others’ negative comments. D. Colin was back with her wonderfully assertive poem about her hair.  

Liv also brought her baby, Levi, on stage & sang “Levi’s Lullaby.” Reality was the final open mic poet with a poem titled “Tender.” To cap off the open mic D. Colin returned with what she calls her “take-aways” from the open mic, lines & phrases that she wrote down from each of the performers.

Nancy Klepsch & I co-host the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic for Poetry + Prose at the Arts Center in Troy & tonight she was the feature poet here. She began with the humorous poem of love & sex “Hey Siri,” then on to one inspired by poems of Warsan Shire “Come to Me,” & one titled “Home from the War.” “Before You Know Gratitude” was a food poem & Nancy dedicated it to the late Chef Jackie Baldwin, which is from her book God Must Be a Boogie Man (recto y verso editions, 2017); also from the book she read “Kvetch,” “Queer Folk,” & “Things that Are Worth $10,000.” Nancy also included a couple of Haibun, “Learning Targets” on school lock-downs, & “Driving in Cars While Black & White.” She ended with “Invocation” for the City of Troy where she is a proud resident.

During the evening Danielle had passed around a clipboard for folks to participate in a group poem/exquisite corpse & at the end of the night she read what we had written, or at least as much of it as she could decipher from folks' handwriting.

Poetic Vibe happens every Monday at the Troy Kitchen on Congress St., Troy, NY, at 7:30PM, with an open mic & a featured reader — & the exquisite corpse — for a donation.

March 13, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, March 10

In spite of the snow on the roads there was a full house, upstairs in Studio A of the Arts Center in Troy, once again for the 2nd Sunday @ 2. Co-hosts were Nancy Klepsch & Me, Dan Wilcox. We started off with a moment of meditative silence for 2 community members who died yesterday, musician Caroline “Mother Judge” Isachsen, & activist Vera “Mike” Michelson, then Nancy got us off on the proper poetry foot by reading “The Company of Woman” by January Gill O’Neil.

& I was first up in the #2 slot (because nobody signed up for #1) & read 2 new poems, a short ditty from an encounter with a gull in Gloucester “Hey!” then, for the 1st time ever, a poem I’d started in October & had to finish once Mary Oliver died in January “Reading Mary Oliver while Masturbating” which incorporates lines from her poems. Rod Wilson returned with a poem about not speaking to God & playing off physics, then one titled “Shoddy Work Shoddy Mind.” Dave DeVries explained that his poem “Midget Racing” was about the small race cars, not small people, racing. Naomi Bindman began with a poem written many years ago titled “March Symphony” about birds, then a new poem-in-progress “Anecdote.”

Carol Durant read 2 poems from her poetry chapbook Whole Phat And Gluten Free Poetry (Troy Book Makers, 2017) the short 4-line political commentary “Empire Motto,” then a poem written for her son. Joe DiBari was here for the 1st time, said he has written a series of time travel novels & introduced his work to us by reading from Beyond Centerfield about the main character waking up as a baseball player in the 1880s. Joel Best has been here many times before, & read a couple of his meditative poems “Blocking” & “The Goddess of Eclipse.” Kendall Hoeft continues to amaze us as she did once again with a piece about hiking Peebles Island & being reminded of her mother-in-law “Bitter Sweet,” then another titled “Mood Swing in B Minor.” Shelly Rafferty read a poem in which she used 4 lines from a poem by Adrienne Rich to write about agonizing over not writing enough.

Tim Verhaegen, who often reads about his family, today said he had “been raised by women song writers” & read 2 Centos composed entirely of lines from their songs. Bob Sharkey’s piece titled “Racist Lessons from My Childhood” was a found work consisting of the descriptions of countries & people from his stamp album, circa 1950s, a shocking look into the past many of us grew up in. Peggy LeGee read an old piece from her past “Monday Morning Alcoholism,” then on to a poem about Blackie, a new cat in her life, read in an imitation of T.S. Eliot. Nancy Klepsch’s 2 pieces were new & to me sounded like love poems, the second was titled “Brooklyn Memories” emulating the work of poet Warsan Shire.

Athina Mizen was here for the first time & said her pieces were “raw” & new, the first an untitled poem on desire, jealous & loyalty, the second was written yesterday in a workshop here at the Arts Center run by Julie Lomoe, titled “Love Letter to You” written to herself. Cheri, who said she was reading in public for the first time began with a piece written during an illness about finding solace in Nature, the second approached dying as the other side of being born & was quite positive. Karen Fabiane who is frequently here began with an older poem “Blue Heron, for Deborah,” then on to a new piece “Belltone.” Julie Lomoe, who reads at other area open mics, said this was actually her first time at the 2nd Sunday, & had come in late & didn’t hear the rules (i.e., 2 poems or 5 minutes of prose), so could be excused for the long, rambling reading of multiple sections from her hybrid work in progress “Subdural.” She was the final reader.

The fact that it was crowded in Studio A says something about how this series has been catching on of late, & we plan to continue each 2nd Sunday @ 2 for Poetry + Prose, here at the Arts Center on River St., Troy, NY — & it’s Free!

March 10, 2019

Amy King - SUNY Adirondack Writers Project, March 6

It seems strange that I have never heard the NYC poet Amy King read, but here she was up in Queensbury, NY at SUNY Adirondack as part of that school’s Writers Project, so I decided to make the trip, perhaps see some North Country friends, & add Amy King’s photos to my collection. The reading was held in the Visual Arts Gallery of Dearlove Hall, where I’ve been for the annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change. She was introduced by sister poet, publisher & professor Nancy White.

Amy began by talking about her current project of a memoir/hybrid form, about her struggles to find a way to do it, an “organizing principle.” She described her fascination with Gertrude Stein’s portraits, her own appropriation of that technique & deciding on an over-riding theme, in a word, “queerness.” As an example she read a draft of a section titled “Context” about her 1st therapist, TV shows, such as The Hulk, The A-Team, Mr. T., as a defense growing up with a mother who was a neurotic hoarder, as well as about her more "normal" grandmother & later becoming gay.

From there she read a mixed-bag of poems, some in manuscript, some from her book The Missing Museum. Her poems were wandering, discursive, often theoretical (or as she described it “theoretically romantic”) as in “The Wind is a Wandering Moon” with its party scene of pick-up lines & dancing, or “Whoever Says the Are Weird are Not Normal” which was a vision of New Jersey, rambling, personal, & just too much thinking. A couple poems involved her dogs, 2 long-haired Chihuahuas. The poem “Understanding the Poem” went on for pages, often clever navel-gazing, which she didn’t seem know how to end.

Her final piece was another draft from the memoir project this section titled “Queer & Present Danger.” Ultimately I didn’t understand her ambivalence & agonizing about the style of her memoir since her poems seemed to be the kind of ruminating about herself & the world around her that she seemed to want to do in her memoir. But then I had to leave before any discussion about this issue, as I was off to meet a friend for coffee & more talk about poetry.

Apparently there are a couple more poets coming in to SUNY Adirondack before the semester ends so if you are in the area perhaps you can check the school's website for the names & dates.

March 9, 2019

Poetry in Science - a Night of Inspiration, March 5

Kate Gillespie (l.), Cara Ocobock (r.)
Kate Gillespie, who identifies herself as a poet & a scientist, raised the issue some months ago of a reading of poems on themes of science. It was originally scheduled for February 12, but a snowstorm intervened & we were re-scheduled to this night. We gathered in a mezzanine at the Albany Pump Station, & the event was part of a series of programs organized by CapSciNY.org

Cara Ocobock served as MC & got us on the correct path with a poem titled “In Geology Hour” by Charles Kellogg Field.

The first of the scheduled readers was Kate Gillespie whose poems personified the essence of poetry + science with not only science themes but also rich use of the terminology & language of science. She began with a poem inspired by the harbor in Baltimore “Harboring” talking about the chemicals & microbiologic life in the water, followed by one titled “Deep Water” with intricate weaving of science terminology. She also read an ekphrastic poem based on a picture of a dried river bed. In “The Misconceptions of Microbes” she wonder what if they, the microbes, were poets? Other poems dealt with the Eukaryotic initiation factor 3 (eIF3) which has the ring of poetry itself & of gene splitting, even one about the molecular nature of glitter. She ended with another piece about microbes “To the Arising Civilizations on my Right Hand.”

Despite this seemingly high bar, each of the following poets had their own, unique take on poetry & science. Matthew Burns said he was not a scientist, & as a poet has not read out much. But his poems were engaging in a more macro-Nature sense, most of them about the Pacific Northwest. He read a couple of meteorological poems, including “In Winter” about driving through the Cascade forest, another titled “Relative Chronology” thinking about Time, another on the lupines “On the Bear Canyon Trail." He ended with an provocative piece titled “5 Practical Uses for Human Bones.”

Carol H. Jewell (l.), Kendall Hoeft (r.)
The following performers, Kendall Hoeft & Carol H. Jewell, are seen frequently on the local poetry scene, & tonight teamed up with Carol reading Kendall poems while Kendall danced around her. The pieces were expressive, loosely based science poems with titles like “The Typology of Water,” & “Triassic Love.” “Hermit Crab” featured Kendall as the crab bursting out of its shell, it’s long arms (if it had them) extended in freedom, & I loved the title of “Father Kaleidoscope.” In the final piece, “After Class,” Kendall invited audience members, some of whom had attended her poetic movement classes at the Arts Center, to join her dancing as Carol read the poem.

That was a perfect time to take a short break to catch our (collective) breaths, grab a beer, etc., then on to the remaining poets on the program, coincidentally Nancy Klepsch & I who are co-hosts of the 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose Open Mic at the Arts Center of the Capital Region.

My science poems ranged from an early piece on sub-atomic particles & Arctic terns “Z0,” to the astronomical “The Transit of Venus” & “Spathe is the Plathe” (on the so-called Great American Eclipse of 2017), to a piece on the reasons stores of used books smell they way they do, “Decomposition.” My last piece was inspired by a 1989 performance by Bern Porter at the QE2 on Central Ave. in Albany, “Physics.” I had a lot of fun.

Nancy Klepsch read a mix of newer pieces & poems from her 2017 book God Must Be a Boogie Man (Recto y Verso Editions) beginning with her funny/loving conversation with “Siri,” then a poem about turning into a cyborg “My Cells.” Her poem “Schroom” came from a workshop with the poet Bernadette Mayer, while one titled “I Am the Algorithm” was inspired by the website Send Me SFMOMA -- if you text them a word, color, emoji, they send back a related artwork image. Her final 2 poems “Rubylith as a Revolutionary” & the list poem “Things that Are Worth $10,000 are both in her book.

We had a good audience, an appropriate mix of people interested in science & those interested in poetry, as well as real scientists & real poets. & I found it a perfect forum to pitch my campaign, contra Channel 13, of “Less S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, math), more C.R.A.P. (creativity, reading, arts, performance).” Visit the CapSciNY.org website & Facebook page about other programs in the area.

March 7, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, February 21

A wonderful mix of poets for February for the open mic & to hear the featured poet Carrie Czwakiel. But first, I invoked the Muse, the gone local poet Brio Burgess, who left us late last year, by reading her poem “Words Upon Reading of Bob Kaufman’s Death” printed in Open Mic: The Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994), a nod to Black History month, & I read Kaufman’s marvelous poem “Believe.”

First up was Tom Bonville to read “An American Poem” a funny narrative about a man busking reading poetry at lunch hour outside in Albany. Douglas Holiday wearing a tee-shirt that proclaimed “Black Authors Matter” read a short piece “Spanish Conversation” by E. Ethelbert Miller then a longer poem by one of his favorite writers Etheridge Knight (1931 - 1991) “Feeling Fucked Up.” Joe Krausman was looking for another poem but found instead one he had forgotten about “An Economist Musing on the Commodities Exchange.” This was Randee Renzi’s first time reading here, although she has read other venues, & she read a new piece, a sexy love poem “He Doesn’t Know.”

Carrie Czwakiel appeared on the poetry scene a few years ago & reads frequently at open mics in the area. Her poems are characteristically personal, working through trauma & strife towards belief in herself & healing. She began with a couple in that vein, “The Ego” about self-doubt, then one written when she was 12 years old “In a Box.” Then on to a couple more recent pieces from attempts at on-line dating services, an in-your-face “Profile Rant” & another rant about establishing sexual boundaries “Understood.” A similarly strongly expressed poem about a break-up with a friend was titled “No More Chalupas,” while a new, untitled poem featured a more gentle, quiet image of nature where she felt safe. Explaining that she was a preacher’s daughter, she donned a pointy witche's hat, talked about speaking up at a family gathering about her pagan beliefs & read “The Wizard’s Throne Room, 2nd Generation Cult” inspired by a piece of raw emerald & by The Wizard of Oz. She ended with 2 poems of healing, “The Poison” with the image of drawing out the venom of a snake-bite, & a poem that certainly capped her reading, about making beauty from what has been damaged, “Kintsugi the Art of Precious Scars” based on the Japanese technique (金継ぎ, "golden joinery”) of fixing broken pottery using gold — a truly fitting image for her work.

After the break I read my “essay/poem” a response to a request to write about your favorite poem by Bob Kaufman, “Believe, Believe” (see my first paragraph above).

I met the next reader, Mike P., at the bar of The Point, who told me that he writes poetry but never has read it out before so I gave him a Third Thursday flyer, & he showed up tonight to read from his notebook, a roiling piece filled with rhymes & the Devil. Certainly not a stranger to poetry open mics Thérèse Broderick read the poem she has been writing this week, the richly imaged “The Hammock Left Outdoors.” Frank Robinson ended the night also with a recent piece, a Valentines poem on the Arctic howl that blew through, twisting into a hopeful political poem.

We like to gather here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each Third Thursday of the month at 7:30PM for an open mic with a local, or regional, or even national poet as a featured reader. Your donations support poetry events in Albany & the work of the Social Justice Center.

February 22, 2019

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, February 19

Again — at The Low Beat, & a heady mix of readers & preachers. Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets was our host, & Kim was our bartender, we needed them both.

I didn’t have to be the first reader since others had already signed up early on the list when I got there. Arsenal was the first up, with a music background of pop hip-hop, but with way more testosterone than talent, dropping lines I guessed from his (not quite) memorized text. More of the same from Joshua RD Dundas, but more articulate, preaching from his published collection, then, as he is wont to do, he removed his shirt to scream at us in his “dark side” persona "Sin Byron;" if he spent as much time working on his writing as much as he apparently does working on is pecs, he might be a dangerous writer.

Sam Maurice has shown up a few times at open mics here in the past & read again “Symphony 23 in Easy Damage Management” & another titled “Vaudeville Octane Re-Mix,” both using chant-like repetition in a string of automatic writing. Christa DeMarco has established herself in the local open mic scene over the last year & began with an untitled piece of word-play on personal & environmental themes, then a piece filled with graphic images of a client’s horrible medical condition culled from her day-job as a home-health aide. I had picked out a couple of recent poems to read, but giving the night so far opted to read excerpts from my 2017 chapbook Inauguration Raga (A.P.D.).

Alyssa Michelle has become a “regular” here with her relationship poems, tonight a couple of carefully wrought pieces, “Humble” a meditation of weakness, & “The Other Side of the Bed” which is a pile of the clothes she is going to wear tomorrow rather than a lover. The last performer, Teddy Boo Bear (I don't make this shit up), did a chaotic, emotional free-style romp repeating the phrase “I Was There…” through the 1960s, & living among junkies, that also broke down into boozy preaching.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks is at The Low Beat, Central Ave., Albany, NY, on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month, 7:30PM — it’s not Church but sometimes preachers show up.

February 20, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, February 10

We were kicked upstairs at the Arts Center, which had the advantage of having lots of available sunlight, besides which the room was not named after a corrupt public official, like the black box theater. Nancy Klepsch & I had a full, 2-page sign-up sheet, with new voices/faces, & readers who had traveled from beyond the Capital Region. Nancy began with a nod to “Black History Month” by reading Lucille Clifton’s poem “Homage to My Hips.”

I filled the #1 slot & read my most recent “Birthday Poem 2019.” Theresa Lux was a poetry virgin & comported herself quite well in her debut with a poem about driving to Boston “Fall Racing Season” & one titled “The Tree.” Dave DeVries read his poem “Verboten” based on a book he read about a love affair with the enemy during the Nazi occupation of France. Naomi Bindman returned with a poem about an apple tree “May Surprise,” then the simply titled “Listen.” Mary Ellen Kelleher had been here in December & returned today with a funny piece of “pillow talk,” then read another titled “Bones.”  Bob Sharkey read “Living in the Light Blue” another of his poems about "East Latham," then a poem by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka “In the Small Houses.”

It was David Fumarole’s first time here & he read from a chilling short story about a hunting accident, “First Shot.” Rod Wilson kept us in the woods with a poem about fishing for brook trout, then one about being interrupted while reading by a “Click Beetle.” Still another first timer today was Reine McGovern who read about the hands of a newborn in a piece titled “Birth of a Savior,” then in a different direction “Ode to Car.”  Mike Conner read an introspective poem about a time of change in his life “Life Makes Sense,” then one on the death of a friend “Together Alone.” Karen Fabiane is one of the “regulars,” far from being her 1st time here, & read a poem I think was titled “Yawn” about an orange cat & a dog, then a relationship piece “I’ll Get You Tomorrow.”

Co-host Nancy Klepsch’s “Poem from the War” had the poetry of Mary Oliver in the background, then read a funny poem about talking to her machine “Siri.” Cheryl Rice made a rare visit to Troy for this Sunday open mic to read 2 poems about betting on race horses, “Ponies” for the late poet Donald Lev, & “Race Track on Birthday” for her father.  Carol Jewell’s poem “For Ms. Bryant” was for & about an high school teacher. Jil Hanifan’s “St Ann” was about the anachronistic iconography of the mother of Mary the Mother of Jesus teaching her daughter to read, often from books which were not invented at the time of the birth of Jesus — oh well, it’s only Art.

Sean Foley was here for the 1st time with a moving memoir in 3 parts “Pancakes” from childhood breakfasts to being inducted into the Marines. Brett Axel’s first piece was about Sonny the Cropseyville auctioneer, then he read “A Boy’s Hands” for his son.

Laura Ellzey came over from not-so-far-away Bennington VT, where she is a regular at Charlie Rossiter’s 2nd Tuesday Spoken Work Open Mic & read a couple narratives with a twist, one titled “The Betrayal,” the other “The Marriage.” Kenn Ash drove over from Bennington with Laura & read a couple of untitled philosophical pieces, personal musings, with a bit of a smirk. Always entertaining, Tim Verhaegen read another of his signature memoirs about his dysfunctional family, this from when he was 10 years old about visiting his older brother.

It was a full slate of writers reading this Sunday @ 2 @ the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY, with new readers, familiar faces & others we haven’t seen in awhile, which always makes this monthly event special, not to mention the scintillating hosts, Nancy Klepsch & me, Dan Wilcox. Come join us to read poetry or prose on the next 2nd Sunday @ 2PM.

February 12, 2019

Know Reading: Nicole Peyrafitte, February 9

We had the Yes! a Reading series, now we have Know Readings — oh, wait, wrong homophone. This series features only one reader to give them time they say to stretch out a bit. That could be deadly with some poets, but certainly not Nicole Peyrafitte who is always dynamic, scintillating & often humorous. Of course, since this was run by the St. Rocco’s group there was the usual futzing around with equipment, running back for a mic stand, etc. But Nicole, & us, weathered it well.

The program was a mix of readings, chants, films & stills of Nicole’s paintings. She began with her 2015 book Bi-Valve (éditions PLAINE Page), entering the space chanting (en français) “Oh! Oh! Oh!Woman of Oô” The book itself is a colorful mix of her paintings & poems, even a recipe “Clams for 2.” Among the poems she read were “Golden Evasion,” “Black Pleasure,” “For & w/ Georgia O’Keefe,” “Vertigo,” & “I weave therefore I am.” She also showed a video of her performance of “Live Painting” at the Galerie Simoncini in Luxembourg, with Pierre Joris doing a live reading from his poem “Cormorant.” The first half ended with a trailer to her film, Mirage, about the work of contemporary artist/poet Basil King.

The Excelsior Pub on Albany’s Phillip’s Street, in the shadow of the Empire State Plaza, is a neighborhood bar with an refreshing list of craft beers, a tasty pub menu & eclectic maps on the walls — the NYC subway, the Adirondacks, anywhere in New York. The host, Douglas Rothschild, talked about the name of the over-arching series, St. Rocco’s for the Dispossessed, citing the Catholic Saint’s unique iconography, that of revealing a unhealed sore on his thigh, the result of the plague, thus the “dispossessed” appellation. St. Rocco (1295 - 1327) is identified as the patron Saint of dogs & bachelors, which some think are the same thing.

After the break Nicole returned to talk about her film titled Things Fall Where They Lie (which is also her mantra), as she explained that her hometown in France, Luchon, is on the same parallel as Albany. In fact when she & Pierre were still living her one of her signature performances was “Bi-Continental Chowder” during which she made a chowder while reciting her poems about Luchon & showing slides of the connections between there & her place her in Albany. Today she read from her field notes for the cast for her film, a cinéma verité, set in the Pyrenees, shot over the course of 7 days, with a theme/mood for each day for the actors to think about & respond. The notes quoted the philosopher Gaston Bachelard (1884 - 1962), author of, among others, The Poetics of Space. Bachelard said, “Hygiene, then, is a poem,” & “the River is speech without punctuation.” She also showed a clip from a video made from their stay in Boise, Idaho of tumbleweeds, & ended with a another chant.

We were far from “dispossessed” here today in this pleasant pub on a Saturday afternoon, with the poetry & images of Nicole Peyrafitte.

February 11, 2019

What People Are Reading #1 - February 11

For years I have carried a book into a bar, coffee shop, bus, subway, my desk at work. At my childhood bar there was a professor at the University who would sit for hours reading medieval texts in French while the postal workers, truck drivers, real estate brokers, pharmacy clerks, you name it, swirled around him; hours later he would stagger home to his wife, kids, before staggering eventually into his grave.

I’ve thought nothing about it for years. In fact, I had lunch today at a bar with a copy of the Beloit Poetry Journal. Once at Ale & Oysters I was reading American Poetry Review with my lunch, the bartender doing a crossword puzzle. He said, “you seem to know poetry; I need a 4-letter word for a Roman poet, ending with “d”. He was pleased when I solved his puzzle with “Ovid.”

Tonight at The Point over a pizza, a glass of wine, I noticed a young woman reading a slightly banged-up book. I had a vision of a sub-set of Blog entries about what I see people reading & got the courage to ask her.

What Megan was reading was a novel Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. “It’s an OK read,” she said, “I like to read at the bar;” she said that she got it to take it with her when she traveled recently.