November 26, 2019
Another stellar night of poetry at the Social Justice Center, including some new voices/faces, & our featured poet Lucyna Prostko. But first I invoked our night’s Muse the gone poet Lucie Brock-Broido (1956 - 2018) by reading her poem “Father, In Drawer." Then on to the open mic.
I had seen Rakeem Carter perform just Tuesday night, & also 2 weeks ago, at The Low Beat & tonight he continued his re-mix of Edgar Allen Poe & the musical The Streets of Soul Train, mixing in celebrity names & movie titles. As soon as he read he was out the door. D. Alexander Holiday updated us on his DNA status, then read from Wole Soyinka’s anthology Poems from Black Africa, a poem for Yao.
Lance LeGrys was here for the first time & read a poem about a boy rescued from a fire-tower near where he lived “The Top of the Tour,” the clue-less adventures of youth. Bryan Whittle was also here for the first time & did a musical, metrical piece about his credentials to be a poet as a middle-class white guy doing what he should, who wants to play the blues.
After the break I read one of my 2 poems inspired by Lucie Brock-Broido, “Reading by Candlelight.” This was followed by Don Levy who read about getting older & “A Call from the Doctor.” Sarah Giragosian is a former-feature here & tonight read a new poem titled “To the Source,” an eco-poem. Bob Sharkey was the night’s final reader & read a poem titled “Our Beloved Neighbors” about the change in the demographics in East Latham & a herd of elephants moving in, another eco-poem of sorts.
The Third Thursday Poetry Night is a monthly open mic with a featured poet at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY, 7:30PM — your donation helps to pay the featured reader, support poetry events in the area, & the work of the SJC. Bring a poem & sign up.
November 25, 2019
Earlier in the day I got a message from Nick B. wondering if I was coming to this event at The Low Beat this night, that he was to be the guest host for Thom Francis but couldn’t make it himself, & asked me to be the substitute substitute host. Of course I said “yes” (otherwise there might not have been this Blog). I arrived earlier than I would have if I was just going to be another open mic reader but there were already most of what would be my sign-up list there. We hung out for a while but when I realized that the mythical tour bus had gotten lost I started the open mic.
Since the person in the #1 slot was here for the first time I decided I would be merciful & opened up by reading a couple of older poems “Veranda DelRay” & “Well-Laid Stones.”
Brandon Garcia was here for the first time & read an untitled love poem in hip-hop rhyme. Speaking of which Rakeem L. Carter reprised his reading from the last Brass Tacks 2 weeks ago with from “the Streets of Soul Train” a mash-up of Poe, Jimi Hendrix & other song titles.
& that, as they say, was that.
Getting down to Brass Tacks is an open mic run by AlbanyPoets.com at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at 7:30PM — not only do you not know who might show up to read to read, but you don’t know who might show up to be the host. Be there & find out.
November 24, 2019
It was a busy weekend for readings, one yesterday at the Albany Public Library, one today at the Schenectady County Public Library. Community of Writers series began as recurring programs sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild in various locations, usually libraries, in the Capital District. This one in Schenectady is currently the only annual event, & is coordinated by poet Alan Catlin who was also the host. There were 7 readers in a variety of genres.
Faith Green rarely reads out so it was good to hear a chunk of her work here today. She is the president of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. She said there was no theme to her reading, just random poems, the first a genealogy of sorts “I’m From,” then others with titles like “Shadows & Dreams,” “Blind Love,” “The Art of Disappearing,” “Named” (for Vincent Van Gogh), & “Ageless.” Faith had worked as a teacher in a prison & read from that experience the poem “Incarcerated Teens.” She ended with “Astral Proportions” & one that explained why “I Hate Mushrooms.”
These Past Few Days of Freezing Rain” one Mary Kathryn’s video poems, a collaboration with film-maker Laura Frare, & ended with a piece about the Russian space dog “Laika.” It’s always good to hear Mary Kathryn read, even when it is 2 days in a row.
For more information about the Hudson Valley Writers Guild visit their website.
November 21, 2019
& annual members’ meeting held at the Albany Public Library, Washington Ave. branch. When I saw the list of winners & “Honorable Mentions” I was pleased to see the names of poets with whose work I was familiar, others who I knew by name but was not familiar with their work, even one whose name was new to me — & found out I had heard her work many years ago.
The reading, & meeting, was moderated by HVWG president Faith Green. Each reader read their honored poem & 3 or 4 others, giving us a brief look at their work.
At this point there was a short break to peruse the book-swap table & buy raffle tickets, then the drawing for the 3 prizes. I won a HVWG tote bag with an eclectic bunch of books — a novel, poetry, some non-fiction, including a wonderful translation of the Tao Te Ching by Prof. Victor Mair, who my daughter Madeleine studied under at UPenn.
The final reader was the 1st place winner Paul Lamar. Although I knew his name from various arts & literary contexts, including a series of workshops & talks on Albany history, I had never met him or heard his poetry. He said his reading was about “people who were important to me,” including his mother whom he wrote about in the winning poem “Eulogy.” Others were a friend from 4th grade, “My Luck,” a time of discovery about who he really was, in a similar vein “An Apology to my Clarinet Teacher,” & a couple of poems referencing time spent with his granddaughter “Opus 90, Early Morning” (with a nod to Brahms), & “The Arborist." Perhaps we can coax him out to an open mic sometime.
In addition to the marvelous reading there was a brief meeting, with a membership report, treasurer’s report, & an appeal for folks to join the Board to keep the Guild’s work going. For more information about the Guild visit the website www.hvwg.org.
November 18, 2019
Back to Schenectady for poetry at C.R.E.A.T.E. space, tonight with 2 featured poets from the mid-Hudson area, Mike Jurkovic & Ken Holland. Our host, Jackie Craven, got us off to a seasonal start with a poem by Brian Fanelli, “Raking Leaves.”
Alan Catlin began the open mic with 2 poems from a manuscript titled Asylum Garden After Van Gogh that has just been accepted by Dos Madres Press, “Remains Unsuitable for Viewing (after Charles Simic)” & “This is Not Art” based on war zone photographs. I followed with a poem I didn’t include in my reading this past Monday “Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial,” &, to bring a bit of levity back into the room, “Opinions.”
Susan Kress read the poem “Annunciations,” about being in Italy, remembering an earlier trip there & her mother pregnant. Susan Carol Jewell announced that, once again, she did not win the Rattle Magazine ekphrastic poetry contest, & then read 2 poems based on the same photograph, “The Case for Keeping Closed,” & a longer version from a different perspective “A Sound Case.”
The other featured poet, Ken Holland, also read some poems about his confrontation with Americana, like & not like Mike Jurkovic’s. He began with a couple of childhood memoirs, “Son What Are You Afraid Of?” at a carnival, then “Iron & Air” about his grandparents & being poor, & one about his father in 1968 “Uprising.” There was a look back at a building being torn down, “Boom Times at the Shake Shanty” & a tender piece about his mother buying shoes “Mother Knows,” as well as a couple of poems inspired by weather, the impressionistic “Soundings of Rain,” & a shape poem “A High Storm Coming.” A couple of new poems were “I Sing the Body Blue” & “Bodies on Consignment,” & others. He ended with a poem about comfortable middle-class rebelling “A Bourgeois Revolution.”
The style of both poets was generally discursive story-telling, but Mike’s were aggressive, in-your-face while Ken’s were more quietly ironic, a good pairing & look at the past & the present.
After a short break there were 2 poets left on the sign-up, beginning with our host Jackie Craven, who read a poem she has been working on for a long time, feels it is now finished, about her sister “Her Tree Begins to Shed Words.”
Scot Morehouse’s work is always amusing, sometimes outrageous, a good way to end the night, he read a piece on TV human-interest stories “Happy Talk,” then the hilarious poem in rhyme “Bad Ideas for Poems” reminders that every poet needs to have on their desk.
2nd Wednesday Poets happens at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, 137 State St., Schenectady, NY, at 7:30PM on, well, you know, the 2nd Wednesday of most months. Bring a couple poems for the open mic, your donation helps support the space.
November 16, 2019
This vibrant series happens every Monday, which just happened to fall on Veterans’ Day/Armistice Day, & I was pleased to be invited to be the featured poet on a day that has such meaning for me. But before that there was the open mic, & before that our host, D. Colin, started us off with an old poem she recently found in an old notebook, an anaphoric list (“His love is like …”) filled with rich images of missing her love. When we started there were only 3 readers signed up for the open mic, but the list was quickly added to for an eclectic night of poetry & song.
D. Colin brought us back with a well-articulated reading of her poem “Soutien” (i.e., bra), a funny & tender memoir about breasts from her new book Said the Swing to the Hoop (Empress Bohemia Books, 2019) then on to the night’s “take-aways,” random words, phrases, lines from the readings by the open mic poets.
Then on to the night’s featured poet, me, Dan Wilcox. It being the holiday it was, I read a series of anti-war poems, beginning with the oldest of the pieces, “Richard Nixon Must Die,” then on to “A.J. Muste,” “John Lees,” “Buttons Not Bombs,” & “If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow.”
But the night wasn’t quite over. D. Colin brought up a last-minute addition to the list who free-styled with music background a piece he called “Human.” As she does at each Poetic Vibe open mic, our host had passed around a clipboard for the audience to compose a group poem, each participant writing one line based only on the previous writer’s line (cf. the Surrealist’s exercise, the exquisite corpse), & so at the end she read — what she could decipher — the collective voice of the audience, poets & audience alike. Someday a collection of these chance encounters on paper will make a fascinating anthology. I’m waiting anxiously.
So, if your Mondays are beret of poetry, find your way to The Troy Kitchen on Congress Street, Troy, NY, for Poetic Vibe — 7:00 PM sign-up, 7:30 start, always an open mic, often a featured poet. There is food & drinks available for purchase, & sometimes even books for sale by the poets.
November 12, 2019
|Photo by Nancy Klepsch|
I was up first with a couple poems from the poetry workshop at the Dogtown Writers Festival back in September, “Horizon” & a trip down memory lane on “The Porch.” Bob Sharkey dug his poems out of his back pocket & read a dream poem “Have You Had?" then one from his series of Chinese fortune cookie variations ”Postcard Fortunes.” Dave DeVries was dressed for the Veterans Day/Armistice Day weekend in his Army beret & spit-shined boots to read “My Old Black Boots,” then an amusing piece on the names of towns “Not There.”
Dianne Sefcik read a piece written in response to the “Dear Herman” contest Nancy & I had run for the Melville House in Lansingburgh, but not submitted, “Dear Herman: At Sea” (but she was one of the four winners with the piece she did submit). Joel Best began with a flashback to childhood, “The Night Before the Night it Ended,” then what sounded like a love poem.
Karen Fabiane’s 2 poems were pieces of free-association about listening, “What I Hear Loose in the Walls” about the heat coming up, & “From the 3rd Floor” after the gallery downstairs is closed. Rene McGovern was back again & read about the joy of being a senior student in literature at the community college, then one for her sister & for Alice Walker “Sisters, the Phone Calls.”
This truly open mic (for poetry + prose) is held on the 2nd Sunday of most months at the Art Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY, 2:00PM — Free! [Please note that if you are reading this soon after it is posted, the next reading will be on Sunday, December 15, not the usual 2nd Sunday. Bring a couple poems or 5 minutes of prose.
November 10, 2019
It was a rare Brass Tacks open mic with a featured poet, even more rare considering who the feature was, R.M. Engelhardt, making a rare appearance in Albany. The host was el presidente of AlbanyPoets Thom Francis, who divided up the open mic list around Engelhardt’s reading.
Jim Washburn started us off musically with a “sound mash” of words & sounds from a keyboard-based sound machine. Mark W. O’Brien was here for the first time, as challenged recently by Bob Sharkey that poets entering the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest should go to a reading that they have not been to previously; he read “Peedy, My Best Friend,” an Haibun from his new book My Childhood Appropriated (FootHills Publishing). Tom Bonville was also here as a result of the challenge & read “A Procedure” a medical process written up in the language of sex.
Whisky, Mystics and Men,” along with directed audience participation (“Dada Da”), then on to read 6 poems from his new book Darklands: Poems (Whisky City Press/Lulu), generalities, abstractions & New Age faux-mysticism. Then to a couple poems not in the book, notably a dream poem titled “Into the Ether” about the gone-poet Paul Weinman. He ended with what I took to be the “title poem” of the book, but have noticed when I went to the book that there are 2 poems in the book titled "Darklands," it was one of them I am sure. A few words on the book — it is 90+ pages of what could be a 30-page book: all the poems are double or triple spaced, most poems consist of single to 3-word lines, for example the poem titled “Man” runs for 3 pages of double-spaced lines consisting of a single word. Engelhardt is a master of the cliché (or as the Fugs once famously sang, “It’s an old cliché but it’s an old cliché”).
Returning to the open mic, I read an old piece on the Albany Police Department based on a song from Nick Jagger’s film Performance “Memo from a Rich Man;” I chose my next poem based on a misunderstanding of Rob’s “trance poetry,” I thought he had said “trans-poetry” & so read my poem “A Traney’s Story.” Rakeem Carter described what he did as “from the streets of the Soul Train Musical," but to me it was incomprehensible hip-hop rhymes — but, hey, this is an open mic. The last name on the list was Harris Mueller, but he had apparently left for his own personal reasons, & that was that.
Brass Tacks happens as an open mic on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month here at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM — bring poems, bring friends, pad the list, no one knows where the line-breaks are, etc., etc. …
November 7, 2019
& tonight we/they sure did, in the back room of McGeary’s with our host Mary Panza keeping order.
Then on to the rest of the open mic, with Tom Riley who needs to be here more often, with a poem about guys getting older “PSA,” the an unfinished piece about hands battling each other, suffering cuts, damages. Douglas Holiday read OPP (other people’s poems) with Etheridge Knight’s poem about a breakup “Feeling Fucked Up,” then, referencing his own poem “If I Were An Artist,” a poem by another poet. Joan Geitz read a couple poems based in Cairo, NY, the first titled “A Ghost Town,” the next about a neighbor who helps out others, then a poem about a random smile just written at the recent Lark Fest.
Glenn Cassidy came back with a piece done from memory about things & dreams contained in a “Satchel,” then one written 10 years ago titled “The Call of the Wild” about the former Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford who recently announced his intention to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in the 2020 election. Sally Rhoades read a descriptive piece “October in New York,” then one in tribute to her beloved Aunt Polly “Riding Shotgun.” My poem was an old Halloween piece written for a prompt & based on Alan Catlin’s Killer Cocktails “Zombie Gourd.”
Poets Speak Loud! happens on the last Monday of most months at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, starting about 8:00PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.
November 3, 2019
To kick-off the submission period for the 5th Annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest organizer/poet Bob Sharkey put together a Sunday afternoon reading at the William K. Sanford Town Library in Loudonville. There were a couple of featured poets, readings by a variety of local poets, & a reading of select poems by international poets from this past year’s contest. Bob Sharkey was our affable host. He began with a poem by Maria Castro Dominguez from the Canary Islands, “Tambococha Puff.”
I led off the open mic list with a poem about the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral “Tourism.” Mark W. O’Brien read the Haibun “Shunpiker” from his new collection My Childhood Appropriated (FootHills Publishing, 2019). A new voice Shari Falkenheimer read a piece in rhyme about Spring & Judgment Day. Dianne Sefcik read the poem “Anasazi Valley” from her marvelous little book of photos & poems Utah: February 2019.
Back to the open mic, Bob read another international entry a stirring poem by Siddhi Kamble, from Mumbai, India, titled “Rise.” Mary Kathryn Jablonski read the ever-changing poem “Mare Frigoris” from her latest book, Sugar Maker Moon (Dos Madres Press, 2019). Joe Krausman read his poem “A Man on a Wire” (not for Philippe Petit, but for Bill Clinton). Dave DeVries, who hosts an open mic right here at the Colonie Town Library on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, read the quiet “Listen to Silence’s Psalm.” Cathy Smith read her evocative poem “Rhapsody in Blue at the Egg in Albany.” Betty Zerbst read “Cemetery” about planting bulbs for the Spring blooming.
Although the open mic list was finished, Bob opened it up to anyone who wanted to read another poem, & Shari read a lighter piece “One Leg Up,” & Betty ended the afternoon with an annual poem in memory to a child lost at birth.
As I write this, the official announcement of the 5th Annual Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest has gone out, deadline is January 15, 2020. You can find the complete rules, such as they are, here at the Hudson Valley Writers Guild website. It’s free — good luck!
November 2, 2019
The setting for this movable feast this date was the Local 217, a bar on Delaware Ave. in Albany. The host, Douglas Rothschild welcomed us in the back room, then introduced poet Kenny J.P. Garcia to introduce the night’s poets.
The event was billed as having 3 readers, but one, Sandra Simonds, didn’t make the trip. However, gentlemanly Doug Rothschild read some of her poems, one titled “Night in the Insane Asylum of Plants,” like punk notebook entries, which mixed well with the background chatter & music from the bar, & a piece that sounded like a spin-off of Ginsberg “I Am a Terrible American.” The night suffered from not having Sandra here to read more & talk about her poems, she would've added a lot.
It seems like this reading series, true to its patron saint, keeps getting dispossessed from one location to another. Look for it in a coffee shop, bar or laundromat somewhere in Albany (or elsewhere). Find its FaceBook page for details.