December 26, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 19

The end of another decade & the night of the annual holiday visit from Sanity Clause to the Social Justice Center. Tonight’s featured poet was Rebecca Schumejda, but before the start of the open mic Sanity invoked the night’s muse, the gone poet Enid Dame, with the annual reading of her “Holiday Poem.” Throughout the reading Sanity Clause had a gift of poetry for each of tonight’s readers.

The first open mic reader was Alan Catlin who struggled with deciding which poem to read, between noir & silly, so went with silly an ekphrastic poem about Super Awesome Things cards, “Smoking Monkies” bringing to mind Ronald Reagan.

Photo by BK
D. Alexander Holiday read from the anthology Hauling Up the Morning, poems & art by political prisoners & prisoners of war in the U.S., the poem by Ray Luc Levasseur about his grandmother “Mamere.” Bunkong Tuon (known affectionately as BK) has a new book out from Shabda Press of Pasadena, CA The Doctor Will Fix It filled with poems about his daughter, & read “Moon in Khmer," then gave me his copy of the book.

Photo by Hasan Atalay
After a series of male poets, Sanity Clause was most pleased that there was a woman next, Sally Rhoades, & she read her poem about growing up poor & the kindness of a friend’s family “Remembering Susan Sherwin’s Mother” (& she dedicated her reading to Doug Holiday). Tom Bonville’s “Birthday Candles” was a combination ode & memoir of birthdays in his family.

Photo by BK
Rebecca Schumejda began with poems from Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012), one for her daughter who accompanied her here tonight “First Steps,” then “Sober on a Snowy Day.” Her book Our One-Way Street (NYQ Books, 2017) was just that, poems about where she lived & her neighbors in Kingston, NY & she read the poems “The Best Christmas Card Ever” & “How to Work on Cars.” Then on to sections from her new book-length poem Something Like Forgiveness (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019) an emotional & at times grim story but masterfully written.

After a short break for Sanity Clause to get donations & Rebecca to sell her books, we finished off the open mic. I read my annual Xmas poem “Christmas Eve 1945,” published on Spillwords Press website on Christmas Eve. Joe Krausman read a poem about the variety of Season’s Greetings & sending out cards to remind others that you are still alive.

Photo by D. Alexander Holiday
Lance Le Grys had been here last month for the first time & I guess he wasn’t frightened off, so was back to read a poem about vultures titled “Cathartes Aura” (turkey vultures) & talked about his book Views from an Outbuilding (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019). He was followed by his daughter Alex Le Grys who read a portrait of an old man (or was it only imagined?) titled “Brown.”

Each poet who read walked away from Sanity Clause’s lap with a poetry book or zine, & even Sanity Clause actually came away with poetry books in return, including a copy of the New Directions anthology Black Mountain Poems from Alan Catlin, BK’s The Doctor Will Fix It, & Lance Le Grys a copy of his book Views from an Outbuilding. 'Tis the season to exchange poetry.

A note on tonight’s photos which were provided by poets in the audience, BK, D. Alexander Holiday, & Sally Rhoades (or Hasan Atalay).

Please join us in 2020, "the Year of Seeing Clearly," on the third Thursday of each month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY 7:30PM for a reading by a local, regional or national poet & an open mic for the rest of us. Your donation helps pay the featured poet, supports other poetry events in the area, & supports the work of the Social Justice Center.

December 22, 2019

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 15

Well, this was actually the 3rd Sunday — Nancy & I decided we didn’t want to compete with the Holiday Hordes for Troy’s Victorian Stroll last week — & we still ended up with a full house of poets including new voices & some long-absent voices.

First up was “poetry virgin” Katt Losee with a long, harrowing chronology about being caught in a hurricane. I followed with a reading of Enid Dame’s moving & perceptive “Holiday Poem,” a seasonal tradition with me. Bob Sharkey’s poem “Roomy” was a dream about ghosts at a party, while “Wedded Poem” was about the beauty & contradictions of marriage. Dave DeVries read his eco-poem honoring Greta Thunberg “Turn Back the Clock.” Carol Jewell read the recently-gone Lyn Lifshin’s poem “Like a Dark Lantern” then another of her own shining pantoum’s “Buddha 3.” Joel Best read a poem about an old photo from his collection “Oklahoma 33” then “Distant Thunder” a dream of the ocean.

The most colorful outfit of the day was worn by Peggy LeGee — or as she preferred to be called this day, Traney Clause — who channeled Jim Morrison & the Doors with her poem “The End of the End.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read an intricate prose/poem hybrid, a music memoir, about having faith in a dream. She was followed by another Nancy, Nancy Dunlop, whose piece was also a memoir, titled “Florida,” about learning about death through the death of one of aunt’s horses. Jil Hanifan read the quietly philosophical poem “Turning a Wheel,” then from her book their agonizing speed (The Troy Book Makers, 2011) the Wintery “Snow Whales.

Harvey Havel read an excerpt from his latest novel The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill. Karen Fabiane read 2 new poems “Hey All You People Standing Around” & the perhaps hopeful “Good News is Coming.” Sally Rhoades read the elegy “My Mother” then an amusing piece about looking for her glasses while on a plane to Oklahoma “I Put It in a Place So I Wouldn’t Forget It.” Kate Gillespie ended the day (& this year at the Arts Center) with a childhood memoir about driving around looking at Xmas lights, “It’s Xmas Time in New Jersey.”

This was the last 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose of the year & of the decade — we are in the midst of our 10th year doing this. We hope to see you back at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY in 2020, the Year of Seeing Clearly.

December 16, 2019

Poetic Vibe, December 9

Troy weekly open mic with our host the energetic D. Colin. Tonight, a long list of open mic poets, including some I hadn’t seen in a lonnngg time, but I didn’t know that until I got to the Troy Kitchen. But the draw tonight for me was to see the featured poet, Kwesi Akosa. He had read a couple times in the past in the open mic at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center; I had liked the little I heard & wanted to hear a bigger chunk of his work.

D. Colin started us off with 2 poems, the one about a professor who said not to write poems about poems, then her rebellious response “Why I Write.” I was first on the sign-up sheet (it was nearly empty when I got there but quickly filled up as the night when on) & read for the season Enid Dame’s “Holiday Poem.” Lyfe read a quick piece titled “Recognize” & was off before I could get his picture. But I got lots of other pictures.

Roseena Muir read a couple of relationship poems, including a jewell-like 3-liner about hearing the lover’s footsteps. Isa Polly read from his book of poems (but didn’t give us the title) an historical piece on slavery & the meaning of freedom, then another piece “for the ladies.” Joshua Bauscher did a free-style in hip-hop rhymes about why artists do what they do: to make the dreams beautiful. Lilly Perry read from her phone the wistfully nostalgic & sexy piece titled “Do I Miss You or Just Want to Fuck You One Last Time?”

One of my favorite poets who hasn’t appeared on the scene is some time is Bless & here he was tonight with a weaving, intricate piece paying homage to soul food, the gathering at the table, & the wish to bring soul food back to what it was, even if isn't all that healthy. Poetik is frequently here & tonight & began wondering when did you last feel the presence of goodness, & then on to a tribute piece. Liv read a new poem, complaint in blunt sexual language about a lover.

I don’t think I’ve see or heard Jeannine Trimboli previously (although we are Facebook friends); she read from a spiral notebook a poem titled “I Release You,” then one about speaking honestly “My Unconscious Saved Me.” Dre Love began with a long intro that was a stand-up routine about being a lesbian, then read the sexually explicit “Deep” with lots of hoots & hollers from the audience, & a new piece written today about a pick-up wondering “what’s your name?” Another poet from the past, Algor, returned to the stage with an aphoristic, positive poem pondering “What is Love?” then on to a piece mixing autobiography & metaphysics about being a poet on the scene.

Krystyn Knockwood was also new to me, read from her phone personal pieces, the first about a friend “I Let You In,” then one about being free & herself again after a relationship (perhaps with the friend in her first piece). Truth performed a combination of spoken word & song titled “Mold.” Slay the Dragon read what he said was an early poem “Hot Girl at a Drug Party,” then one from his job “Clinician’s Lament.” Hannah banged on the stage for accompaniment & mumbled her way through something called “Hurt Me.”

To cap off the open mic Danielle read what she calls her “Take Aways,” lines from the open mic performers, she does pay attention.

Tonight’s featured poet, Kwesi Akosa, had turned up a few times a couple years back at the Third Thursday Poetry Night when he lived in Albany. He was introduced tonight as now living in Connecticut. His reading was a mix of old & new work. When he arrived he gave out copies of his book Journey to the Back of a Black Man’s Mind (Akosa Enterprises, 2008), mostly prose essays & stories, with a few poems tucked into the last 10 pages, & included half a dozen of them in his performance. He did his poems from memory, but kept his set list on his phone. There was the portrait “Mr. King’s Room,” the response to 9/11 & a tribute to Gil-Scott Heron “The Wise Man,” & a portrait of a crack user. “The Projects” was a look back to the ‘70s, & a couple poems came from his experience working with mental health patients, “Devolution,” & “My Brother’s Keeper.” He described the poem “The Slave Ship Jesus” as a communal poem, proud to black, to be African. For his finale he played bongos, backing up a poet with the handle (perhaps) “The Deep Thinker” whose free-style piece began “I am…” through the history of African & American blacks, right down to specific references this very night here at Poetic Vibe.

Danielle brought the night to a close with a reading of the Group Poem, at least what she could decipher, from the clipboard that had been circulated during the reading, a fascinating exercise of the group anonymous creative process, with its roots in the early 20th century Dadaists. I understand that a collection of past group poems is in the works to be published & I will be one of the first line to get it when it comes out.

Poetic Vibe happens each & every Monday night at The Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress St., Troy, NY, 7:30PM, often a featured poet, always an open mic, & always fun.

December 8, 2019

Poets Speak Loud!, November 25

Always a “must-go-to” on my list, this night even more so with the featured poet Mary Kathryn Jablonski. & this was the last of the 2019 season since the last Monday of December falls in the midst of the holiday season on the eve of New Year’s Eve. Tonight as always the host was Mary Panza.

First on the sign-up sheet was Sylvia Barnard with a poem from a workshop at church on the poetry of T.S. Eliot, an eco-poem titled “The Chorus of the Earth,” then the 3rd version of a poem she has read at open mics previously “Grandma Moses.” Tess Lecuyer read 2 haiku, one for a rainy Fall day, another with a title “Mum’s Just Want to Have Fun!” & then “November Sonnet.” Julie Lomoe’s poem about depression was titled “11 Ways of Looking at November” with a look to Wallace Stevens.

Marilyn Zembo Day made a rare, & welcome, appearance & read a moving, intricate piece on the coming of Winter & her son’s addiction, “Yesterday the Day After This Morning.” Kristen Day read a favorite poem of many of us in the audience, a hilarious conversation with her Grandmother “Four Fucking Dollars,” then, at the request of tonight’s featured poet, sang for us the spiritual “I Wish I Knew How to Be Free.” Don Levy followed with a tale about “A Call from the Doctor.” I read 2 old poems, “What Happens in Autumn” & “What the Deer Sees” (I tend to read poems that I’ve just written, but have a truckload of older ones that should see the light of day again once in a while).

Mary Kathryn Jablonski has a new book of poems Sugar Maker Moon out from Dos Madres Press but tonight read poems not in the book. She began with a tale tale told to her on a massage table “First Kiss,” “World of Two” about a yellow tabby cat, then a memoir of her mother, & the provocatively titled “Marriage & Death.” Back to another childhood memory this of the barn & fields where she grew up “Minor Mischief,” then a poem about collecting postcards “Postcard Divorced of Meaning,” & “Octopus Bride” based on her reading Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. Her final poem, “Fortune,” similar to Bob Sharkey’s take on Chinese Fortune cookies, was based on them also, but in couplets with the actual fortune & her response/reaction, funny, & sometimes unsettling.

It was good to see Ian Macks back at open mics here, but upsetting to hear his poem “The Black Problem” about racism he experienced on the job at Whole Foods & at a vegan restaurant he called “Skinhead & Mustache.” D. Alexander Holiday read a poem titled “Nigger Lips” by Martin Espada on the same issue, then read from local poet Victorio Reyes’ book The Rebirth of Krazy Horse the poem “For Dna, Emily and Thora.” Joe Krausman read his much-published poem “The Passionate Accountant to His Love,” based of course on Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” then the more ethnic “My Son the Meshuggenah.” Carrie C. read a couple of her older poems, “Isolation” on PTSD, & “Hard & Forceful Punishment” like being tortured by the weight of stones.  Tim Verhaegen read a memoir of a young friend who died years ago, “Squinting through the Darkness.”  

Glenn Cassidy read 2 memoir pieces, the first about Thanksgiving Day 40 years ago “Revenge of the Shrimp Cocktail,” then a tale of his high school math teacher (Mary Panza announced that Glenn would be the featured poet here at Poets Speak Loud! in February 2020). Tom Riley read a rhyming poem “My Grey November Cloud,” then one titled simply “Dragonflies.”

Since there will be no Poets Speak Loud! in December, Joan Geitz had at the distinction of being “the last reader here of the decade,” & read a poem from 31 years ago, like a prayer for the future, “I Want to be Free Again.” & thus this decade of poetry at McGeary’s ends.

Poets Speak Loud! will be back at McGeary's Irish Pub on Sheridan Square in Albany, NY on the last Monday of January, 2020 (January 27) with the Annual Tom Nattell Memorial Open Mic with your guest host, Me! at 7:30PM — preceded by the ceremonial beret toss in Tom’s honor at the Robert Burns statue in Washington Park. Watch for information on & on social media.

December 3, 2019

Book Launch & Reading - Mark W. O’Brien, November 24

This event was held at the Voorheesville Public Library & Mark began his reading by saying that it was in this very room that he “came out” as a poet many years ago.  Today he was promoting his new book from FootHills Publishing My Childhood Appropriated. The book is a collection of childhood memoirs written as Haibun, a prose tale followed by a haiku. Mark also has a Blog, 36 Views of Ononta’kahrhon, in which he posts photos & asks other poets to write Haibun based on the images.

He read a selection of pieces from the book beginning with the title piece, then “Shunpiker,” one about his mother “She Lived Vicariously,” the hilarious tale “Peedy My Best Friend,” & “All of My Lies are True.”

Musician & poet Tom Corrado joined Mark to “noodle” a bit on his stand-up bass, then accompanied Mark’s reading of poems from his white binder, one about escaping to the woods, then more childhood memoirs “Riddle Me This,” “Chain Saw Prankster,” “Back of the Fence,” “Boys Will be Boys,” & “Kofax versus Gibson.”  A stroll down Mark's memory  lane.

You can get Mark’s book from or from the poet himself the next time you see him at a reading or open mic.

December 1, 2019

St. Rocco’s Reading for the Dis-possessed, November 23

A movable feast, this iteration of St. Rocco’s was crammed in to Urban Aftermath, a used book store with a graveyard for office supplies & a child’s treasure box of abandoned toys, on Hamilton St. in Albany, but then if you have a poetry reading it should be in a small place so that it looks crowded, while the same 15 or 20 people in the Times Union Center would look like no one showed up.

The reading was introduced by a rambling Douglas (“don’t call me Doug”) Rothschild, who was then interrupted by a phone call on a laundromat issue (of course, this being a series named after the patron saint of laundromats).  Alexis Bhagat introduced the individual readers, a poet & 2 novelists.

First up was local poet Ellen Rook. She began with a dream poem beginning “My dreams are like student poetry…” then to a poem addressing Persephone, & one responding to an X.J. Kennedy poem (& the famous Duchamp painting) “Nudes Descending a Staircase No. 2.” A more grim poem was titled “Necrology for Your Post-Apocalyptic Life” that used text from a police report about her brother-in-law’s murder. Others were the ironic “Immigrant Prayer,” a neighborhood poem “Center Square Oblivion,” followed by an imaginative take on the language of an eye diagnosis, & a poem about her brother “Things That Are Strange about Kevin.” She ended, in a way back where she began, with the poem “Unreliable” which she described as “kind of a disclaimer” filled with things & images in great detail, the opposite of “student poetry” & what made her reading so enjoyable.

The St. Rocco series is known for bringing in out-of-town writers. Such were the 2 remaining readers who each read from a novel-in-progress.

Bethany Ides read from her laptop an excerpt of what she described as “may or may not be a novel” (my notes don’t include a title). It was a dreamlike fantasy, apparently set in a hospital with a woman character Donna & a male character Donne, & filled with dialogue & clever, or attempts at clever, banter, sort of like an intellectual TV sit-com script.

Marianne Shaneen’s novel-in-progress Homing was more appealing, a work of what is now called “speculative fiction” (i.e., academic science-fiction). She said the novel includes writing from the point of view of non-human-persons, including not only animals, but also plants, even a stone. However the Prologue section she read from did not include any of that, instead was narrated by a woman on a plane, wondering about “aircraft/animal conflict” that brings down aircraft, & a recollection of seeing a whale in the Gowanus Canal in New York City, a pondering “I” describing what she sees, reporting on history.

The best way to find out where/when the next St. Rocco’s reading will be is to find them on Facebook where you can sign up to get their emails; also, when they send me an email about an event, I will bounce it to the Poetry Motel Foundation email list.