April 30, 2019
This monthly series at The Low Beat occurs on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, thus conveniently folded into the week of WordFest. Thom Francis, el presidente of AlbanyPoets, the organizers of WordFest served as host. It was a pleasant mix of open mic poets & a visiting featured poet from New Haven, CT.
The open mic started with me, reading poems on poetry, “Anne Sexton,” “Peacocks in the Driveway,” & a poem beginning “This poem is to You…” Shane followed with 2 untitled poems, one set in Nature.
Back to the open mic, Alyssa Michelle read a poem on mortality titled “Tomorrow” then “Letter to my Exes.” Thom read a piece about his mother “I Want to Go Home,” then one titled “Tar Walls.”
Olga Tenney said she has been writing in a poetry workshop, then found WordFest through the newspaper & the internet; she read a pantoum (“My Husband”), a villanelle about her cat Pedro, & a sad piece about a granddaughter who died of heroin overdose at 29. Rose was new here as well & was inspired to read a community love poem “The Witness.”
Even when it is not WordFest or National Poetry Month, Brass Tacks is an open mic at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, 7:30PM, each 1st & 3rd Tuesday. Come & sign-up.
This night of WordFest had 2! competing events, the usual Monday Poetic Vibe at the Troy Kitchen in Troy, & a Night of Features organized by Brian Dorn & Havey Havel at the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany, with Mary Panza as the host. I was late getting to the HRCH & missed the first reader Danielle Pouliot, but got there for the rest. For the record, Danielle had read at last year’s WordFest A Night of Features which you can read about on my Blog.
L-Majesty (Luis Pabon) began with a poem from his new book Strange Fruit, then on to some new pieces, the instructive “Notes to a Young Slam Poet,” “Black Diamonds in the Ice Castles” (black men & meth), “The Greatest Love of All” (that which returns you to yourself), & “Remembering Love.” Always a tender & exuberant reader.
|Luis, Danielle, Mary, Avery & Karen|
Speaking of too much, Avery Stempel gave us an over-dose of preachy, motivational pieces that over-whelmed his more reflective pieces, such as “Sunday After Sunset,” & one about a dream of 1950s cars on the road. His performance of his pieces were energetic, interwoven with song lyrics & sanskrit chants, but it seemed he never met a cliché he wouldn’t repeat. Less is more.
More WordFest events each night this week, taking us up to Saturday morning’s WordFest Book Fair at the Troy Farmer’s Market.
April 29, 2019
While the Readings Against the End of the World have ended the WordFest 2019 continues. The genius of this event is to fold in the already ongoing events that fit into this week, filling in the unique events as needed.
Nancy Klepsch & I have have been hosting the 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose Open Mic at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy for 8 (!) years. This day we were the next event on the grand WordFest schedule, 8 readers on the sign-up list. & I was first, so read my new poems from the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, “The Listening Festival” & “The Red Bud” an Oklahoma tree.
My co-host Nancy Klepsch read 2 related pieces, “Onion Soup” was about the death of her cousin’s step-son, a Marine who was among the 3 killed in Afghanistan on April 8, & a piece titled “Home From the War.
Sally Rhoades who had also attended the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival read her Oklahoma poems, “Red Bud” & “We’re All Sitting with You Rilla” responding to Rilla Askew’s reading of an account of her being kidnapped & raped as a young woman. Kate Gillespie ended the afternoon reading from her ongoing series of science poems a work-in-progress “Molecular Molecules.”
The 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose takes place at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy each month (except July & August), & WordFest continued the rest of this week — stay tuned.
April 26, 2019
The local community poets came out in force for the opening session which started about 5:15PM on Friday night, poets who with varying regularity come out to various open mics & readings through out the year, including Alan Catlin, Nancy Klepsch, Darby Penney, Don Levy, Todd Fabozzi, Tess Lecuyer, L-Majesty, Sue Oringel, Dan Vollweiler, Christopher Burton, Peter Monaco, Matt Galletta, Charlie Rossiter, Anthony Bernini, Mary Panza, Karen Schoemer, R.M. Engelhardt, Greg W., Douglas Holiday, Therese Broderick, Frank Robinson, Julie Lomoe & Robb Smith. There was even a new voice in the mix, Kassandra Milligan.
The next day the Friends of the Albany Public Library was honoring the writer James Lansdun at their annual Author’s Lunch, so I stopped in at the RAEW to catch a few readers — Cheryl Rice, Wisteria Andrews, & Brian Dorn (“22 Reasons Why Some People Don’t Go to Dorn’s Space” notably not in rhyme).
Afternoon gaps in the schedule were filled by Jil Hanifan (a Mary Poppins fantasy), Sally Rhoades, & even I got a second chance at the mic to read recent poems inspired by my trip to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, OK.
The 24-hours that began with local poets turned out to end with local poets as well, & Karen Fabiane got the honor to be the last. That wasn’t how it was planned. There was supposed to be a group of “celebrities” from New York City to fill the last 2 hours. It didn’t happen. We just did it ourselves.
But this was only the beginning of what was to be 9 days of daily poetry events in the Capital Region. Stay tuned & I’ll take you through it.
The Grand Finale of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival were 3 back-to-back readings in the Estep Auditorium, with time in between to buy those book you’d been thinking about all festival.
Up The River Issue 7 published by AlbanyPoets.
We all needed a short break, a poetic palate cleanser so to speak, before returning to Estep for 4 more writers.
As it always is, Scissortail was exhilarating, exhausting, emotional & just plain fun, literary & otherwise. There were more than 50 speakers/readers at the event, with 19 here for the first time. There were 19 separate sessions, some, as I’ve said, competing with each other happening at the same time, & at least 100 books for sale. Of the sessions I attended, by my rough count I listened to about 1000 minutes of poetry & prose, in 2 1/2 days. Highly recommended to anyone who loves good writing, whatever the genre. Did I mention that the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival is free?
Thank you Ken Hada & all the staff, & those unnamed who introduced each author, & the student volunteers at East Central University, who make my visit, & that of all the others who attend, such a pleasure & inspiration. See you again!
April 22, 2019
The evening reading & recognition of Undergraduate Writers was held in Estep auditorium. Alan Berecka had served as judge of the multi-genre contest. In response to what he had read he read his own funny poem titled “Hard Drive” about an old college notebook he found that was full of, as he put it, “whiney poetry.”
From there we gathered at The Grandview on Ada’s Main St., a spacious, open community center, with jazz music, beer, wine, snacks, a student open mic & more conversation with poets. I was pleased to have some time to talk with Susan Sturman about Imogen Holst & the classical music biz in general. Returning to my hotel room I realized I was so over-whelmed by these 2 days of incredible poetry, prose, even music, that I couldn’t bring myself to read, even from the stack of books I’d purchased, not even my own poems.
There was one more morning of Scissortail left.
April 21, 2019
Lunch was expanding tables at the Blue Moon with lively conversations crossing over each other & the best fried green tomatoes I've had, a chance to talk to some of the poets I'd missed earlier. Then back to the ECU campus for one last test of our abilities to make choices, North Lounge or Estep.
All that was left of this day was the evening reading & performance & a party. Check back soon for that.
April 18, 2019
Back for another day of readings at this “Listening Festival,” as Sally Rhoades has christened it, in the Estep Auditorium.
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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).
Back across the way to Estep Auditorium for the final afternoon session of the day for 4 more writers.
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
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 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.
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/