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

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 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.