September 22, 2019

Anything Goes All-Genre Open Mic, September 10

This is a re-branding of the former Poetry/Spoken Word open mic held on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Tap House in Bennington, VT (yes, Vermont — it’s only an hour away from my house in Albany, about as much time as it takes me to get to Kingston). The host is poet Charlie Rossiter. But tonight I was the guest host while Charlie was doing a reading out in the wilds of Western New York.

The event is held in the backroom of the Tap House, with round tables & metal chairs dragged in from outside, but this night the room was nearly filled with pallets of boxes of promotional material, and the loud sound of an exhaust fan in an attempt to vent the strong smell of solvent. Fortunately the mythical “Tour Bus” never arrived so there was only a bare handful of folks on the sign up list in the little space left to us. One fellow with a guitar case had arrived earlier but apparently the accommodations were not to his liking & he left.

First up was a poet, Bridget Elder, who read a piece inspired by a New York Times obit, but richly imagined in a series of vignettes “Adios to the Professor.”

As the event is titled “All genre” our next person on the list was a stand-up comic (makes me wonder: if the comedian is in a wheelchair are they still a “stand-up comic”?) who was here for the first time, Walt Klinger, whose routine took us from standing in line at the bank, to the doctor’s office, to the ER. I went next with a poem “The Day God Invented Wine.”

Laura Ellzey, who is a regular here & has a fine singing voice, said she had recently found the sheet music for a song she had sung in high school & so sang for us Randall Thompson’s setting of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Kenn, another regular, brought his pocket trumpet to play, & sing, a blues piece that drew in a couple of folks from the bar.

Laura had also brought a poem & suggested we could go around again, but she was the only taker, reading an engaging piece titled “Transparent Girl Displaced,” inspired by Jacqueline Woodson’s novel Brown Girl Dreaming.

The Tap House is at 309 County St., Bennington, VT (across from Bennington Pottery); the signup for the open mic on the 2nd Tuesday of the month is at 7:00PM, with a 7:15 start, 2 songs or 5 minute time limit, all acoustic, no amplification, “Anything Goes” -- & so it did!

September 19, 2019

Poetic Vibe, September 9

Inspite of the fact that this poetry open mic series takes place each & every Monday, I don’t get here as often as you might expect. I am awed by D. Colin’s tenacity & energy to put this together week after week, creating a venue unique not only in this busy poetry region, but in most places I’ve come across. But here I was this night.

Host D. Colin got us started with a poem she wrote last week for Edson Thevenin (the Troy man shot & killed by police in 2016) with the phrase “the trees stand…” contrasted with the stark silhouettes of black bodies shot.

Taking us is a different direction Alysha Kennedy gave us a performance to recorded music of Praise Dancing. Which I had to follow & read from “What Makes America Great” #33, then the shorter, sillier “To the Consternation…” of the MFA student. Cierra Bailey brought us some humor with an upbeat anaphoric poem “Being a Poet…”  John Gilroy read a love poem oddly titled “Clown School,” then a piece like an argument “Ain’t Shit.” I shuddered with dread when Joshua RA Dundee took the stage — rightly so: he threw himself across the stage with a shouting rant, &, as expected, took off his shirt & put on sunglasses to proclaim from his book. The performer who signed up as “The Poetic Barber” did a couple of rap pieces, the first a come-on to make love, then from his phone a similar piece to “tighten up.”  

John’s 2 pieces were literary references, the first about “us” & “you” & Borges’ Tower of Babel, then “The Wall” referencing Friedrich Nietzsche.  Poetik began with a list of “my love is like…,” then the amusing “Lesson from Riding with My Parents,” & “Street Affirmations.” Khadafy said he was doing “old shit,” hip hop rhymes with plenty of drug references, & a love/breakup poem to a “Spanish chick.” Truth had been to D. Colin’s workshop & read a piece written to the prompt “what is your body telling you.” & D. Colin herself ended the open mic portion with she calls her “take-aways,” a cento of lines she picked up from tonight’s open mic poets.

Tonight’s featured poet, Laura Evelyn, had been part of the Cap City Slam Showcase back in August at the Savoy Taproom.  She began with a tender piece she did then about her Spanish-speaking immigrant grandmother, then a social justice piece from growing up in New Jersey, & a poem about visiting a family member dying of cancer. Some of her pieces had titles, such as “A Prayer” & “Abstract” (a richly imagined love poem about the chemicals in our body brought out by love), but many did not (or she did not say the title), such as her last piece, written today, about family gossip. Good poems without a lot of posing.

During the reading D. Colin passes around a clipboard & asks the audience members, performers or not, to write a line, using the “exquisite corpse” method of folding the sheet so that each person sees only the line written immediately before them. At the end she reads (when she can decipher the handwriting) the resulting group poem. By now she must have quite a collection of them.

Poetic Vibe is on each & every Monday at the Troy Kitchen, Congress St., Troy, NY, 7:30PM, an open mic & most times a featured poet, which your generous contributions help to support.

September 16, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, September 18

The start of our 10th year! — Time flies when you are having fun. Today we, Nancy Klepsch & I, & 13 other readers, were upstairs at the Arts Center.

& I read first, 2 recent poems, the Summertime piece “Shopping for White Underpants” & “Purple Prose Poem.” Kate Laity read a piece published on the Punk Noir Magazine website “The Romance of the Battered Underwood” a meditation inspired by the notice of the auctioning of Mark E. Smith’s (of the band The Fall) old typewriter. Bob Sharkey’s piece “Summertime” was a wander through a visit from his granddaughter. Dan Curley, who had brought the libations today (Thanks!) began back with “The Trojan War” playing with the end of the lines, then one on windows (& more, of course) “Six Over One.”  Kate Gillespie read a prose tale titled “Ground in Water” a meditation on the power of the ocean, in the surf during a hurricane watch.  

Dianne Sefcik’s piece “Legacy” was about paying tribute, her next piece was inspired by Rebecca Ellison & was a litany “If all there was …” Carol Jewell’s poem titled “In a Gloved Hand” was a memoir of a Russian friend, then an untitled piece about the cotton candy sky. Joel Best said he wrote “Martian Shoes” on an old typewriter, his second piece was a memory “Lie Still.” Dave DeVries also read a bit of memoir, “Study Hall” about lusting after a girl in high school.

Julie Lomoe’s prose meanderings were about yellow-jackets in her garden, & about a sunny Sunday afternoon. Mary Panza’s 2 pieces were memoirs of growing up in South Troy, “Parked Cars” & “She Asked How to Walk in High Heels” leading to a conversation with her daughter. Jil Hanifan began with a school poem “Mentoring,” then on to a true urban story of a drunk doing his laundry “Mad Lark Laundry.”

Sally Rhoades’ poem “Between Hope & Despair” was a series of questions, then on to a descriptive piece of a beach in Northern Cyprus. Nancy Klepsch read her 50-year Pride poem, then the Melville-inspired “Queequeg.” Thom Francis finished up the day with a poem about his daughter Molly’s 1st day at 1st grade — there it starts.

So there we were, now into 10 years of 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, at the Arts Center in Troy, free! & open to writers in any genre. Bring something to read.

September 6, 2019

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, September 4

It’s many months since I’ve been able to get to this long-running poetry event in the historic Caffè Lena. Tonight the featured reader was a poet I’ve known since the early days of the Readings Against the End of the World & whose work I gladly follow, Suzanne S. Rancourt. But first a bit of the open mic, introduced by our poetic host Carol Graser.

First up was a duo, Sue & Doug McKenzie, with Sue reading a marvelous descriptive piece about rooftops based on the current show at the Hyde Collection “From the Rooftops: John Sloan and the Art of a New Urban Space” while Doug provided musical punctuation on his guitar. D. Alexander Holiday began with memories of the late Toni Morrison, then read 2 poems both with the lines “If I were an artist…” one by him, the other by someone else, & finished with the last lines from Morrison’s Beloved. Brett Petersen began with a piece of local interest, “The Entity I Saw in the Woods at Sacandaga,” then a bit of more characteristic automatic writing “Shedding a Tear for De-coherence.”

Leslie Sittner’s poems both had a touch of humor, “Glass Mushroom” on lust, & “The Full Buck Moon.” This was Joyce Rubin’s first time here, although she has apparently published a book of poems, & she read about “Different Gardens” then one from a workshop prompt “A Nursery Rhyme for Adults” based on “Jack & Jill.”

Suzanne Rancourt read exclusively from her new book from Unsolicited Press, Murmurs at the Gate. She began with the harrowing poem “The Execution” about a famous photo from the ‘60s of a general administering street justice in Viet Nam. Then a couple poems of childhood memories “Fathers Gone” & “Survivability,’ but most were about violence, as in “Gates of Ur,” even the final poem “The Smell of Blood.” She read 8 in all, with her connecting commentaries. After the first poem she instructed the audience on how to listen & to not applaud (which I reluctantly consented to), but ironically urged us to question authority (so then perhaps should I have clapped?).

After the break, Carol Graser was back to reference Brett Petersen’s poem & read “Back at the Great Sacandaga Lake.” Alex Gilmore was a new face/voice to me, he read the aptly titled “The Love Affair” & a portrait of perhaps a poet &/or lover “The Illusionist.” Jeffrey Stubits has a unique voice & style of reading, & tonight he said he read a couple assignments from a class (with poet D. Colin), “Assembled Poetry” from poets’ post-it notes, & a ballad “Unnamed Baby.”

Amanda Blodgett read a piece about a painter & a poet “The Two Artists,” then one about her childhood memory of her grandfather “The Unforgettable Voice.” Effie Redman is one my favorite Caffè Lena open mic-ers & read a bold piece about an encounter on a bus “Don’t Look.” Jackie Craven, who hosts the open mic in Schenectady on the 2nd Wednesday of the month read the intriguing “The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion,” then a poem titled “Undersea Calder Mobile 1969” a series of images connecting her back to her parents.

I have seen Frank Desiderio read often with his sister the poet Mimi Moriarty, but tonight he was on his own & read 2 very descriptive pieces, “Exiled to Lake George for Good Behavior” from his laminated copy of the poem, & “My Driveway is a Wide Place.” Malcolm Willison read the beginning & ending poems from his forth-coming book about Elizabeth Bishop’s former house in Key West, Florida (where Malcolm & Martha Winter), A House of Her Own, the “Prologue” & the “Coda.” Rodney Parrott read from his philosophical pondering “Universal Loss of the Universe” a piece about handshakes being the sound of “OM.”  I read 2 pieces I wrote in an exercise with Melissa Tuckey at the Kateri Peace Conference last month, “The Meadow” & “The Meadow: Prose Poem,” on the place where we go to listen.

Carol introduced Mary Ann Rockwell as a librarian, who coordinates the program here at Caffè Lena just before the open mic, who read “The Moon Rises” by Federico Garcia Lorca. The final poet, Austen Morehouse, was the youngest to read here tonight, a brave piece about her dog & its healing presence when she struggled with her own demons.

The Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic happens each 1st Wednesday of the month at the historic venue at 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY, $5.00, free to students, sign-up at 7:00PM, readings start at 7:30P.

September 4, 2019

Getting Down to Brass Tacks, September 3

A new month & a new round of poetry open mics & readings, the first Tuesdays means this open mic at The Low Beat. Our host was the el presidente of the ever-expanding AlbanyPoets, Thom Francis.

Just because I was there I ended up as #1 on the list & read a poem I have been known to read in Saratoga Springs in August, tonight as a tribute to the gone equine philanthropist “…An the Mary Lou Whitney You Rode In On,” then pondered a Summer-time necessity “Shopping for White Underpants,” & a Haiku that contained both the Buddha & a martini.

Reed, who regularly summarizes movie or TV series, tonight took us into the 1st season of Full House, delving into season 19 in detail, complete with dialogue.

Joan Geitz was here for the 1st time, although she has been to other open mic venues, & read a poem about somebody taking control, then to one titled “Reaching Out” with the message that making connections is the path to love.

Christa De Marco has not been around for most of the Summer read her poems from her phone, the first a soliloquy about sex, then “A Conversation on Elohim” essentially with herself about the nature & the name of “God” finally naming herself, finding a new name for her new god.

As so often happens, an open mic with topics ranging far & wide. Getting Down to Brass Tacks happens each 1st & 3rd Tuesdays, 7:30PM, at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY. If nothing else, come & keep Kim the bartender company.