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.

February 9, 2019

Dead O’ Winter All Genre Wide-Open Mic, February 2


Since moving to Bennington, VT from many years in Chicago, Charlie Rossiter (of 3 Guys from Albany fame) has been, in typical Charlie Rossiter fashion, injecting poetry open mics into the formerly bereft Bennington scene. He is the host of the Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic at the Tap House in Bennington on the 2nd Tuesday of each month; in the Fall he hosts the 100 Thousand Poets for Change open mic & this event in the “dead o’ Winter” at the Bennington Unitarian Universalist church.  Being “wide-open” we heard poetry, story-telling, trumpet tunes, songs, drumming, a Buddhist text, &, of course, a singer-songwriter with a guitar.

I grabbed the empty #1 slot on the sign-up sheet & began with a piece from 1997 for an issue of Chronicles of Disorder titled “The Track of a Sound of a Day: Today & Over the Years - February 2, 1997” in which I mined my diaries for things done on February 2 over the years, then premiered my annual “Birthday Poem” this one an “un-intentional sonnet.”

Kenn Ash is a regular at the 2nd Tuesday open mic at the Tap Room, began with a love song which he sang & played his pocket trumpet, then one titled “My Worst Drug Was You.” You can also find Laura Ellzby each 2nd Tuesday at the Tap Room; tonight she read poems from workshop prompts, “Comparing Contradictory Thoughts,” “To My Beloved” (a litany of similes), “Window Panes,” & ended by singing a song in Spanish about a wasp in love with a Queen bee. Lynn Mazza read from the anthology Poems To Live By In Troubling Times poems by Marge Piercy, James Wright & Mary Oliver.

Proving how eclectic the evening turned out to be, Stephen Have set up his conga drums & played his harmonica & drummed. Since we were scheduled for a break, to mix & chat, he consented to be the background music.

After the break, Bruce Lierman told us a story asking us to “imagine a June night in the mid-West” years ago, out with his girlfriend, an embarrassing moment saved by a smile. Jerry Byrd read from the Chen/Zen text Xin Xin Ming, which perhaps could be summed up in the phrase “mind is Buddha.”

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, took a turn to read a new poem “If You See Something,” then one from his Chicago days “Night Life.” True-to-folk-singer-form, Ben Mackin began with a moment or two of tuning his guitar then sang an original tune titled “Empty Promises.”

If you are anywhere within driving distance to Bennington, VT (it is just 1 hour from my house in Albany) check out the events that Charlie Rossiter organizes to bring poetry to Southern Vermont.

February 5, 2019

A Night of Poetry: Featuring Local Poets & Special Guests, February 1


This event, presented by The Schenectady Trading Company, took place at Electric City Barn, & was coordinated & hosted by Schenectady poet Caroline Bardwell. The readers included Caroline, Sarah Giragosian & Noah Kucij. Caroline gave us some background on The Schenectady Trading Company & on the Electric City Barn, both of which you can find on Facebook. Then she introduced the first reader.

Sarah Giragosian is the author of Queer Fish, winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize (Dream Horse Press, 2017) & has read at a number of local venues, including the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center. She began with poems from Queer Fish, including a couple I hadn’t heard her read previously, “The Apocalypse Comes to Bodega Bay” & “Nursery Web Spider.” She has a new manuscript forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press The Death Spiral,  & read the stunning title poem, then others ranging from the Moon to the Galapagos Islands, ending with a love poem set by the Rio Grande “River Road.”

Noah Kucij has been in & out of the local poetry open mic scene for a number of years & was a featured reader at some local venues, including “Live from the Living Room” some years ago. A Schenectady native so it was not surprising that his poems dealt with his hometown, beginning with a poem, “In Memoriam,” about the now-closed Brandywine Diner, then a related piece “To the Girls Who Poured Coffee.” Although he read some poems on other topics, such as one about a sick puppy (“The Belt”), “Uses for a Brick,” or the striking conjunction of “Epileptic Valentine,” he sandwiched them between selections from a long memoir/descriptive poem about Schenectady titled “That Lights & Hauls the World.”

For the last year Caroline Bardwell has been showing up at local open mics to read her poems, many in traditional forms, as she writes & reads, finding her voice. It was then quite a treat to hear her read more than the 2 or 3 poems normally allotted to open mic readers. Appropriately enough she began with a tanka sequence about poetry that had a repeating, inter-locking line “poems are so much more than…” Then on to some poems from an imminent book of poems & photos On & Off the Trail, including “Summer” from her alliterative series on the 4 seasons, & a melancholy memoir “The Snowy Lean To,” & one I hadn’t heard previously “Cascade.” She ended with a cluster of poems from a series she is titling “An Exhibition of Emotions,” with poems on her Faith, on dance, & a sonnet with Biblical reference, as well as another sonnet titled “Unrequited,” & ended with a rondeau “A Dream Now Dead.”

It was an evening of good poetry in a fascinating new venue. Let’s see what the future brings.