May 31, 2019
It was a relatively quiet night at The Low Beat with only 3 of us signed up for the open mic. Thom Francis, el presidente, was back to host.
Some of the readers (not me) had shown up early to pace & wait, perhaps mentally preparing their material as they would on the other Tuesday’s stand-up comedy night here.
Reed Gungrass began with a ramble about his reactions to the film Natural Treasure: a Book of Secrets (2007), then on to comments about weapons, & to other movies he’s seen.
Zahin’s commentary was about the 2014 movie Ride Along, which he seemed to enjoy so much that he said at least 3 times “here is my favorite part” before describing his next favorite scene.
I hadn’t seen either of these movies, so I read “Prophylactic” & “The Job” from my 2011 chapbook Poeming the Prompt.
& that was that for this Tuesday. Brass Tacks is gotten down to at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, starts at 7:30PM — bring poems.
May 27, 2019
I am glad that I was able to schedule poet & dancer Kendall Hoeft here before she left the area to move with her husband to San Francisco. “Comet Kendall” burst upon the scene barely a year ago, a high-energy performer who not only frequented the open mics in Troy, Albany & Schenectady, but also led dance classes at the Arts Center, & like all comets will leave just as quickly. I just hope that it’s not another 72 years before we see her again.
My Muse for the night was in many ways a mentor, or Elder, to me, the poet & peace activist Jay Wenk, who left us last May 29. He was an active member of Veterans For Peace & liked to say he was sent to Germany in World War II to fight the fascists & “I’m still fighting them now.” I read his chilling litany of military veterans who have committed suicide the title poem from his chapbook Thank You For Your Service (Post Traumatic Press, 2017) -- Jay Wenk, Presente.
Before we get to the featured poet, first a bit of the open mic. Alan Catlin read a new poem just published in The Poeming Pigeon, a poem on baseball “The Baseball Player Stephen Crane” (who was a catcher). Following that, Joe Krausman read a "2 Part Invention: Poetry as Sex, & Poetry as Babies" his characteristic musical wordplay on the human condition. Tom Bonville came back to the open mic to read “Later” reflecting on the emotions inspired by a wake. Desmond Gonzalez hasn’t been here in a while read 2 poems about Life, “Where Light Used to Be” & one about getting up, getting out.
After the short break, I read a new poem “The Grim Reaper” about the ones we have lost recently (& realized later that I hadn’t turned on the sound system after the break, but my little recorder still picked up the words). Karen Fabiane is a regular here, read the provocative title poem from her first book Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011). Frank S. Robinson made an “announcement” of the “Dan Wilcox Imitation Open Mic” held at Catfish Corners in Greene County, on the 3rd Tuesday after the 2nd Monday … & on, leaving us in hysterics. Bob Sharkey was the last reader for the night & as always pulled his poem from his pocket, tried "to keep the silliness going," with “Dreaming the Draft” with a cast of folks from his old job at the Department of Social Services.
Each third Thursday we gather at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, at 7:30PM for an open mic with a featured reader from here, or maybe there. Bring a poem & a dollar or 3 to support poetry events & the work of the SJC.
May 18, 2019
Our regular monthly open mic, since it falls on the 2nd Sunday, each May puts us here on Mothers’ Day — for all you Mothas out there! Nancy Klepsch & I are your tag-team hosts. I had signed up as #4 thinking to leave space to others up front but nobody did, & Kendall Hoeft signed up right after me in #5. Since Kendall, who has been a regular here for the last year, is leaving the area at the end of May for San Francisco Nancy proposed that Kendall read first, a great idea.
|Dan Wilcox, Nancy Klepsch & Kendall Hoeft|
Rene McGovern had been here previously late last year, read a poem based on an abstract for a research project with a title much too long to catch, then one simply titled “Mother.” Tim Verhaegen has regaled us many times in the past with outrageous & humorous stories of his family, today it was about his mother, part portrait, part cultural anthropology. Both Nancy & I forgot to cite “the rules,” i.e., 2 poems or 5 minutes of prose at the beginning of the open mic, & while most readers, including folks new to this venue, instinctively followed the pattern set by others, Karen Fabiane who reads here regularly managed to squeeze in 3 poems: “From Her Bed,” “Walking, Easter,” & “Scratching.”
Speaking of new readers, Johnine M. Simpson’s 2 poems were a sonnet about death “The Process,” & one written today for her mother “An Alphabet of Love.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch finished off the afternoon, continuing the informal theme of the day, a one-line “Mothers Day Poem,” then the sexy & funny “My Clit Thinks for Me” (sort of a new take on the Italian saying, “when the little head gets hard, the big head gets soft”).
2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose is at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY most months of the year except for July & August & it is Free!
This is a seasonal series at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, & tonight the featured poets were Alison Koffler, Day Wise, & Me (another D.W.). The founder & host of the series is Annie LaBarge who interlaces the limited open mic with the featured poets. There was a 3 minute limit on each reader in the open mic, many of whom complied, some notably did not.
First up was Craig, who was also handling the book sales for the poets; his poem “Porch Setting” was a memoir of world travels & of Guan Yin (aka Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara), one who hears the sounds of the world. Betty MacDonald’s poem “I Forgive My Father” didn’t stop there but extended forgiveness back & back & back in time. Susan Hoover squeezed in 3 short poems, “Take My Word,” “Pipe Dreams” & “Lune.”
Back to the open mic, Guy Reed read 2 poems about poets, “Wearing Bright Red on Easter Sunday” about the death of Jim Harrison, & “Poetry Whisperer” about Franz Wright. Nina Jecker Byrne began with a poem about avoiding old age “Hiding,” then, on this eve of Mother’s day, read “My Mother’s Closet.” Our host, Annie LaBarge continued that theme with a series of questions “For Mom.”
We took a break to buy & exchange books, then on to the last segment. The venerable Bobbie Katz read a couple poems based on paintings “At the Shore” & a pantoum “The Rock Boat Exhibition.” Ann Braybrook's poem “Looks Like You’ve Reached the End” was based on the tagline at the end of an internet search. Davida stretched the limits of the open mic with not only 3 of her own poems, “I Don’t Know What I’m Baking…”, a “mini haiku” (whatever that is), & one based on the Iroquois peacemaker story, but also a poem by Gary Siegel who didn’t get a chance to read.
|Photo by Dayl Wise|
This regular series at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills on Sawkill Road in Kingston, NY takes a break until the Fall. Check back in the Fall to see who is reading later this year.
May 13, 2019
I had arrived before Nick got there so I took over making sure there was a sign-up for the rest of us, which put me up next; I read “What Makes America Great #17” about the #MarchForOurLives rally, & from my new chapbook Baseball Poems “Waiting for Jacqueline Robinson.” Shane began with a piece titled “Sad Thoughts,” then on to a description of an encounter between a hawk & a mouse.
The last 2 on the list were more in the spectrum of stand-up performers (which is also a regular event her at The Low Beat). Reed did a manic stand-up routine based on the TV series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Zahin acted out a short version of “How the Grinch Stole Xmas,” a bit out of season.
Brass Tacks is a regular open mic here at The Low Beat on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month, 7:30PM, brought to you by albanypoets.com. Bring some poems, sign-up — even if you have never done this before.
This new series at the Electric City Barn, run by Caroline Bardwell, is different each time. The featured poet tonight was Suzanne S. Rancourt, who decided to re-arrange the furniture to fit the intimate crowd & make it more of a workshop, or discussion.
Suzanne encouraged us to read something responding to her work & Doug Holiday read Richard Wright’s “Between the World & Me.” I followed with my poem about an alternative existence “Oklahoma Sunday,” & Doug returned with a “Poem for Little Bro (for Cody)” from his collection Kith & Kin.
It was a night of “not just poetry” but the kind of connection between poets/human beings, sharing thoughts & experiences in response to the art & conversations of others.
A Night of Poetry continues on the 1st Friday of each month at the Electric City Barn, 400 Craig St., Schenectady, NY. Check the listing on albanypoets.com.
May 12, 2019
Always a night to party, albeit early in the evening, this open mic had as its featured reader photographer & peace-activist Connie Frisbee Houde. But first our host, Mary Panza, got us into the open mic.
Sylvia Barnard can frequently be found here on the 1st Monday, & tonight began with a poem written today in rhyme looking back to her childhood school & to the Doane Stuart School where she currently volunteers, then her poem “The Broken Pot” on aging. Doug Holiday let us in a rare sing-a-long with classic American folk poems, “Down in the Valley” & “Rye Whiskey.” Joe Krausman read a brief biography of a surgeon “Suit Yourself” & a poem on aging “Power Failure. A.C. Everson began with a poem on breaths, then on to another adventure in aging.
Continuing on with the open mic Don Levy read a new poem he had written at work “Ode to CVS,” a place he knows well. I followed to read “What Really Happened” my alternative view to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, then a new poem responding to the fire at Notre Dame “Tourism.” Christa De Marco read 2 untitled pieces, the first about putting down a dog, the second, written just last night, with flowers & women. Sally Rhoades began with a quote on love by Rumi (as Connie had begun with a reference to Rumi), then read “Planting Tomatoes” a poem of childhood memories, then one about her daughter’s birth, for her birthday, “Just After Midnight in Catalonia.”
Tim Verhaegen read an intricate piece, part memoir of his time as a roommate of Steve Clark, part history of the early poetry scene, part tribute to Mary Panza “I Was in Love with Mary Panza.”
Quite a night of world poetry. Usually here at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany on the last Monday, you won’t find Poets Speak Loud! here in May because that is Memorial Day, but come back some other last Monday at 7:30PM for an open mic & a featured poet — check AlbanyPoets.com for details.
May 9, 2019
For the last 14 years the Rensselaerville (NY) Library has sponsored a reading during April as part of the Favorite Poem Project, which had been started by Robert Pinsky in 1997 during his tenure as the US Poet Laureate. We were welcomed on this Saturday afternoon by the Library Director, Kim Graff, as we awaited the arrival of the MC, Claire North. In the meantime, Linda Miller, the coordinator of the event filled in until Claire arrived later, & talked about the history of the Favorite Poem Project here.
The readers were:
|The Logans read James Wright|
- Diane Sefcik — poems by Joy Harjo, Sandy Cameron & Adrienne Rich, & later her own pantoum
- Patricia Britten — her own one page comic, a dragon fantasy.
- Tom Bonville — William Stafford
- Linda Miller — Marie Howe
- Paulette Rider — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- The Logans (Nora & Bill) — James Wright
- John Haynes — Grace Paley
- Dan Wilcox — Bob Kaufman
- Virginia — her own poems
- Netta Dickerson — Mary Oliver
- Claire North — her own poems
May 8, 2019
This was a book-signing & reading by poet Dawn Marar at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany from her 2018 book Efflorescence (Finishing Line Press) to benefit a project by Women Against War to benefit RISSE (Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus), a family-based center in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany NY.
The room was quite full with community folks & activists for what was a short reading, but one that kept extending as some folks arrived late. Many of the poems are about her travels in the Middle East & her examining the “foreign” cultures & politics from her her point of view as an American, albeit a sensitive, compassionate poet.
She also shared some new poems, notably one responding to native American culture. You can get her book directly from Finishing Line Press or from the Albany independent bookstore, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.
The next-to-last event (& the last I was at) was the Invitational Slam held at Troy Kitchen, the site of the weekly Poetic Vibe open mic, on Congress St. in Troy, NY. The host was Mojavi who had been an integral part of the Albany poetry scene from the early days at Soul Kitchen (hmm, seems like a theme here…) at Clayton’s Caribbean Restaurant, then on to be a member Nitty Gritty Slam Team.
Like all good Slams it started with the “sacrificial poet,” someone not in the contest to perform for the judges to practice, or as they like to say, “calibrate” their scores. Tonight’s sacrifice was the incredible D. Colin who, as always, set a high bar.
The field of contenders started off with 7 performers from 2 Slam teams, the UAlbany team & the CapCity Slam (formerly Nitty Gritty Slam). Alex from the UAlbany team was first, followed by Poetik from CapCity, then Andrew from UAlbany, Sidney from CapCity, Kat, then Eve, both from UAlbany, & Liv from CapCity. Body image/pride-in-self was the dominant theme, along with, of course, love & longing.
Thom Francis from AlbanyPoets served as time-keeper & compiler of the scores. When the numbers were crunched the 4 remaining performers, & their pieces they next performed, were Liv (a litany of Slam poets), Eve (a take on the pledged of allegiance), Andrew (hip-hop rhyme on violence on the street), & Poetik (with some rare & welcome humor on trying to be a different kind of poet).
|Slam Master Mojavi with Eve & Poetik|
& when the final votes were counted, the winner of this year’s WordFest Invitational Slam was Eve of the UAlbany tema with an impressive 29.6 (out of a possible 30) from the judges.
You can catch the CapCity Slam at the Albany Barn, 56 2nd St., Albany, NY on the first Wednesdays of the month, with an open mic starting at 7:00PM.
[Although WordFest 2019 continued on Saturday, April 20 with a book fair at the Troy Farmers Market, I had some peace-work to do & wasn’t able to be there, but my books were. One copy was sold. So this post is the last of my coverage of WordFest 2019. But there are ots more Blogs to come on other poetry events in the area.]
May 4, 2019
Since the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center happens during the third week of the month it has from the earliest days of WordFest been folded into the festivities, even when it was the “official un-official start of WordFest” when WordFest was just a weekend long. Tonight’s feature was Caroline Bardwell, & we had 9 people on the open mic list. But first I invoked the Muse, tonight’s gone poet Ken Denberg, former publisher, with his wife Darby Penney, of Snail’s Pace Review; I read his poem “Blueberry Pie.”
Then on to the first half of the open mic, with Alan Catlin up first with a poem from his ongoing collection of poems on film noir “Hollyweird,” this poem titled “Murder by the Numbers.” Doug Holiday came to recite a Biblical/Easter poem by Countee Cullen, then read from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry “Don’t Read That Poem” by Louis Rodriquez about a reading by poet Patricia Smith. Joe Krausman’s poem was based a newspaper story of a woman who gets a job as an embalmer. Bob Sharkey read a poem based on over heard conversations & on the news “They Say…”
After the break we finished off the open mic list, with me starting if off with a new poem from my recent trip to Ada, Oklahoma “Red Bud.” This was the first time here for Shamyla Bhatti who read a dream-like poem “Dilated Spheres.” Tom Bonville came back from his feature here last month to read a baseball poem about learning baseball from his father & the model of Mickie Mantle & Willie Mays. Sally Rhoades also read a memoir of Oklahoma & the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival “Even Dancing We Keep Talking.” Joan Geitz signed up at the last minute & read a poem written a few years ago, memories of past pets “Companionship.”
Even when it is not National Poetry Month we come to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30PM for an open mic with a reading by a featured poet in the middle. Bring a poem & read.
May 1, 2019
Mary Cuffe Perez was once a featured poet in the Third Thursday series I run back in 2000 when it was at Café Web on Madison Ave. Tonight she read from a chapbook in-progress titled “Why Meringue Fails” pieces of memoir about using her mother’s cookbook “Fannie Farmer,” her aunt’s young male companions “Greenwood,” & “Surprising Grace.” In answer to the question “what inspires you?” she answered “every little thing.”
You can find Up The River, Issue 7 on the AlbanyPoets website.