Each last Monday in January we celebrate the life & work & poetry of Albany poet & activist Tom Nattell, who left us in 2005, with an open mic (no featured reader) at McGeary’s Irish bar in Albany. But prior to that there are always a few hardy souls (it being January in the Northeast) who gather at the Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park for the annual Memorial Beret Toss at the site where Tom ran the Poets in the Park program each July since 1989 — & it continues to this day under my direction.
The open mic with Dan Wilcox (i.e., me) & Charlie Rossiter (3 Guys from Albany) performing along with the voice of Tom for their signature opening to their performances. Then I read, as I do each year, my short elegy “Theology 101.”
Douglas Holiday talked about his early days in the Albany poetry scene, then read, not his own poem, but a poem by Hilton Obenzinger “The X of 1492,” an anti-Columbus, anti-imperialist screed. That reminded me of Tom’s Christopher Columbus Fantasies from 1992 SO I read one. A.C. Everson talked about her piñata days at the QE2 open mic that Tom ran, lamented not finding her Tom poem, but read instead “1st Day” written New Year’s Day.
|Photo by Mark W. O'Brien|
Charlie Rossiter, who runs a monthly open mic in Bennington, read a poem “On Reading My Brother’s Facebook Post” pondering his childhood & the mentality of Trump supporters, then a poem in the manner of Kenneth Patchen about legs on a plane “If You See Something.” Avery paid tribute to Tom by reading from one of Tom’s chapbooks, Pell Mell - Words for Voice & Consideration (BOOG Literature,1992) “Save It” & “The Richard Nixon Library Fantasy.” Tess Lecuyer came out of the woods to join us tonight & read “A Love Sonnet to January.” Mary Ann Murray, who had also read at the QE2 in the early days, read a poem she had sent me a couple years ago, “A Note to Tom” then one from memory “Candle Power.” & I read another poem I’d written after Tom’s death “Chasing Tom.”
We gave Tom the last word tonight by performing a piece from The 3 Guys from Albany’s recording Tom’s environmental manifesto “CO2” with his own voice leading us on. A grand tribute to one who made all this poetry happen, his joy & activism rippling on to a generation of poets who never met him.
The rest of the year Poets Speak Loud! continues on the last Monday of the month at McGeary’s Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, 7:30 PM, with a featured poet & a wild open mic for the rest of us.