August 28, 2019
Another Summer night at the Social Justice Center for poetry. The featured poet was Perry Nicholas & an open mic for the rest of the folks there. But first I invoked the Muse, tonight the gone poet Colette Inez (1931 - 2018). I read her poem “Service for Two, I Shall Dine with Myself.”
With only a handful of poets in the house, the “only rule” was cancelled & the open mic poets were allowed 2 poems. Tom Bonville was first on the list & he read a short, tender piece “Shadows of Love,” then “The Day After” set in Walmart.
This was Joe Krausman’s birthday (he has been telling folks he is "39" but I realized that perhaps he is dyslexic...) & he celebrated by reading poems about death, “The Great Chain of Being,” & “Bacon & Eggs,” that with the eggs sunnyside up makes makes a happy face.
Don Levy was also able to get here tonight & read off his phone a recent new poem “I Heard the Black Mermaid Singing,” then read from an anthology Muriel Rukeyser’s apocalyptic “Nuns in the Wind.”
I read a new Summer poem “Shopping for White Underpants,” & a Haiku mixing the Buddha & a martini.
Third Thursday Poetry Night happens each month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, starting about 7:30PM, depending on when the tour bus arrives, & your donation supports the work of the Poetry Motel Foundation & that of the Social Justice Center. Bring a poem for the open mic.
August 23, 2019
My last Blog was about a poetry event in an unusual venue (the Albany Pump Station) with not your usual collaborators (scientists), this event, literally next door at The Olde English Pub, was a collaboration with Historic Cherry Hill. We were gathered in the Pub’s shady garden under the shadow of the 787 off ramp to Clinton Ave.
Our co-host was the Cherry Hill Executive Director Deborah Emmons-Andarawis, who noted that the Pub was the 2nd oldest standing house in Albany. She introduced the readers of historic selections, the first being Tony Pallone, who read poems by Rensselaer Van Rensselaer (1802 - 1850), including a love poem, one in Spanish, & “An Emblem” about a river in Columbia.
Mary introduced Thom Francis who read poems about his family, “I Want to Go Home,” then a memoir of an early apartment they lived in. His poem “Family Tree” said it was not a tree, but a pile of sticks & lawn-clippings, & he ended with a poem about his grandfather in a nursing home “Easter Visit.” I was next & my 2 poems of the past were “Therese’s Balcony” mixing an imagined past & a fantasy, then one about the early days of the Albany poetry scene “Where Were the Professors.”
Mary was back to read a poem about growing up in South Troy at 13 years old, contrasted with the very different life her daughter has now, at 13.
& then this wonderful reading that included writers of the historic past of Albany, & writers of the present Albany reading poems about the past, was now in the Past itself.
Be sure to check out the exhibits & programs at Historic Cherry Hill in Albany — five generations, one household, 1787 - 1963. & for all your current poetry needs go to AlbanyPoets.com
August 21, 2019
Back in March I was one of the readers in this series of lectures, readings & other events sponsored by CapSciNY which is a non-profit organization that aims to advance the public understanding of science in the New York Capital Region. Their mission is to promote interactions between scientists and non-scientists, to foster science-based public policy and scientifically literate policy makers, and to nurture diversity within the scientific community.
Charlie Rossiter read a handful of poems with titles such as “The Poet Thinks About Science,” & “Looking for Leonids,” & an old favorite of mine that he performed with the 3 Guys from Albany “Natural History” about seeing the fossil Lucy’s bones in the Museum.
Laura Ellzey, a relatively new writer of poetry, began with a hand-out of a math-poem, "Poetry Entered in..." calculating the percentage of her life spent writing poetry. Other poems dealt with math & music, of the physics of playing the piano, & of the physiology of her dog’s shoulder.
Marshall Witten read philosophical pieces on delving into the nature of “Reality” (in blank verse) & the Hubble telescope (a sonnet, perhaps).
Frank S. Robinson was also philosophical, ranging on a variety of topics from evolution to free will, industry, even a piece titled “Death & Life.” But he ended with poems from from his 2014 collection Love Poems to his wife.
Eli Sands is a founding member of CapSci & is a member of the executive board. He introduced his work with a poem about deep learning, “Deep Me,” then on to others including love, again, & pieces from a collection about his computer.
Ian brought us home with 2 related, humorous poems in rhyme (science, like poetry, isn’t always serious) about the endocrine system, “I Love You from the Bottom of my Heart.” It’s always good for a performer to leave the audience laughing.
For future CapSci events check out their Facebook page or their website.
(I apologize for not having more photos of this event, but I had a problem with my camera which prevented it from focusing; I hope to have it repaired, but in the meantime will be using other equipment.)
August 20, 2019
I’ve been a fan of “rock opera” ever since The Who’s Tommy came out in 1969. I still have the 2 LP set that my friends & I played over & over again. I’m not sure it’s ever been surpassed. This night at The Low Beat I had the pleasure of experiencing another fine piece in this genre, although a much more modest production, The Front Desk by poet & bass player Pat Irish. When Pat was living in Albany a few years back I had heard him read selections at open mics & even saw a performance at Pauly’s Hotel.
As stated in the program, “The Front Desk is a story about events taking place at & around the front desk of a hotel. There are 24 songs in all with each song representing an hour of the day.” Some of the titles of the vignettes are “Front Desk Agent,” “Check Outs & Check Ins,” “Room Service,” “Famous Guests,” & “Leave the Keys.” It was over & done in less than an hour. While I didn’t attentively follow the schedule of vignettes I did notice a couple of bar patrons checking their programs to see where they were.
The text predominates with the music adding a background or a musical commentary, & while the text could easily stand alone as a poetry chapbook, the music without the words would not survive as just a music CD. It may not be Tommy, but I would certainly buy a CD of the entire music & poetry piece.
August 18, 2019
I’ve yet to get over to the Albany Barn to see the Cap City Slam (formerly Nitty Gritty Slam) so I seized this welcome opportunity to see the folks — all women tonight — in action. It was held in the back room of the Savoy Taproom, scene of many a fine jazz performance back when it was Justin’s. As if in a nod to that history the backdrops were large murals of Miles & Mingus. Amani O+ served as host & M/C. Some of the performers I was familiar with, others were new to me, a welcome mix of old & new.
poetik uses humor & wordplay to comment on race & body image, beginning with a familiar poem beginning “I’m trying to be a different kind of poet…” Then on to a couple poems from her 2017 collection Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being, both with good doses of humor, “fat Black girl: an aesthetic,” & a food poem “i dream of brunch.”
Ginari (not sure of the spelling) was introduced as being from DC, did a piece about attempting suicide then moving on to make her choices in her life. Sydney’s first piece was a tribute to the mothers & other women in her life, then on to “An Ode to Social Workers & Service Providers Who Wonder How to Get Up Tomorrow,” & “Sex Talk, Different Kind,” & then the first poem she wrote, only 1 year ago.
Liv McKee is a well-known performer on the scene who writes not only Slam pieces but other poems as well. She read a mix of them tonight, including one about the death — & life — of her grandmother, a breakup rant, even Haiku. There was a poem about Blue Whales fucking & one about her first kiss, with a girl, & one on sex workers.
Amani O+ ended the night with a mixed bag of her own poems, one titled “Brilliance” a poem for poets with new age music from her poem, & a dance song “Grit,” but much more interesting was a favorite “Plantanos & Collard Greens” explaining her mixed heritage, with audience participation, ending with an improvisation song on “Savoy.”
It was a lot of fun, reminding me to get over to the Albany Barn on the 1st Wednesday of the month. Check out their Facebook Page for more information.
August 12, 2019
|New table top memorializing |
Mother Judge & Sarge Blotto
Sylvia Barnard was first up with a revised version of her poem about the historic St. Bene’t’s in Cambridge, UK, mixing memoir & history, then a poem about why she is not interested in going to a “Writers Colony.” Francesca Sidoti made a most rare appearance at an open mic with an Italian sonnet about her daughter, then an English sonnet “Deities' Child” for a friend’s son who committed suicide. D. Alexander Holiday continued our education with 2 poems from The Collected Poems of June Jordan, “Richard Wright Was Wrong” & “The Bombing of Baghdad.”
Tom Bonville’s wry poem “Immigration Policy” was a funny tale of trying to rid his house of stink bugs. Don Levy repeated, welcomely, recent poems he’s read out before, “I Heard the Black Mermaid Singing” & “Me & My Cane.” I shared a couple of brand-new pieces, “Purple Prose Poem” & “Prussian Blue,” then added the short ditty “Alcoholism.”
A rich Summer-time session of Poets Speak Loud! which takes place most last Mondays of the year at McGeary’s on Sheridan Square in Albany, 7:30PM, a featured poet & an open mic.
August 11, 2019
The season finale of Poets in the Park 2019 was a reading by 2 more outstanding poets, Christian Ortega & Dianne Sefcik. The weather this evening was beautiful once again with an attentive audience of local poets & lovers of poetry.
It was a most successful season of Poets in the Park, 6 fabulous poets, beautiful weather that left us outside, & supportive & attentive audiences, continuing on for the next 30 years!
August 7, 2019
I never heard of Kauneoga Lake but here I was by surprise with fellow poet & traveler Sally Rhoades at the Fat Girl Cafe. Although Paul Austin, a Boston native, spent many years as an actor in New York City, I met him in Oklahoma, with his wife the novelist Rilla Askew, at the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival. At this year’s Scissortail I heard him read from his new book Notes on Hard Times (Village Books Press, 2019), but when Sally said that he would be reading this night down in Sullivan County I eagerly agreed to go along. The 2 hour plus trip was worth it.
The long drive was worth it for the ride through places in New York State I had never been to, & for the charming, lake-side community restaurant, with its deck over the water, the casual, friendly service & the excellent food. It was good to be with friends that we usually only see in Oklahoma — & the poetry was out-standing too.
The 2nd of the 3 Poets in the Park this year was a reading by 2 of the winners of the 2019 Stephen A. Dibiase Poetry Contest, Ken Holland & Mary Kathryn Jablonski. Although the day had been oppressively hot & humid & threatened thunderstorms, the Sun was already behind the trees by the time we started & a breeze ruffled the banners on the Poet’s Pole; the thunderstorms stayed off to the North.
There was one more evening of Poets in the Park coming up, which you can read about soon, right here.
August 2, 2019
I’ve got the new keys & we were back in the Social Justice Center for the open mic & our featured poet, Dan Curley. It was a hot & steamy night with only a handful of poets for the open mic, so I granted license to read 2 poems. But first I invoked the Muse, still working on my backlog of gone famous poets, tonight it was John Ashbery (1927 - 2017) & I read his poem “The Ice-Cream Wars” from Houseboat Days (1977). I also quoted him on poetry & writing,
I don't look on poetry as closed works. I feel they're going on all the time in my head and I occasionally snip off a length.On to the open mic. Resident classicist Sylvia Barnard was first & read from Open Mic: The Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994), “Gallows Hill,” then her “best classics poem” titled “Helen” (read in honor of our featured poet, also a classicist). Alan Catlin was next to read from a new chapbook of political poems at the publisher “Detainee Refugee Camp USA” & “The Room in Which the Detainees’ Belongings Are Stored;” he said that the poems were topical but both written over 30 years ago.
Bob Sharkey has been doing a workshop with poet Bernadette Mayer for 3 years & read an untitled piece in the manner of John Ashbery, a running list of details about garbage, then “Imagining Companion” similarly perplexing. Joe Krausman read — surprise! — 2 poems about growing old, “Ode to Arthritis” & needing a “medi-lover,” then another of the same ilk. I concluded the open mic with my latest addition to my series “True Stories of the Trump Era” “What Makes America Great #33” about what happened at last month’s Third Thursday, the kindness of the neighbors at Lazeez, then “Buttons Not Bombs” to match my tee-shirt that said “Boobs Not Bombs.”
Every third Thursday we are at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30PM for an open mic for poets, with a featured poet from near or far — your donation helps support poetry events & the work of the Social Justice Center.