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.

November 26, 2019

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 21

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.

Our featured poet Lucyna Prostko began with poems from her book Infinite Beginnings (Bright Hill Press, 2009) the opening poem “Homecoming,” then “This Bread” about her grandfather in a concentration camp, then one for her husband “Ode to Provider,” & “The Metaphor” with a quote from Virginia Woolf’s diary. Then on to some newer poems “Layers of the Dream” about her immigrant history, calling forth her ancestors, & a poem about a story her mother told her “My Mother the Thief,” & “In the Cellar,” & one about watching a family of “Grouse” crossing her yard thinking of the story of her life. The poem “My Father the Sculptor” mixed images of him in his last years with missing him, then ending with another bird poem “Flight” (an osprey) or perhaps an ars poetica. Her poems are built on images pulled from the things of life, what she sees, remembers, vivid & thoughtful.

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

Brass Tacks, November 19

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.

While all this was going on 2 young women came in & when I got a chance asked if they wanted to read. Although reluctant at first, Sue said she would (her friend Linda declined). Sue did fine, read 2 poems, the first on depression titled “15 Minutes,” the other titled “Caretaker.”

& that, as they say, was that.

Getting down to Brass Tacks is an open mic run by 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

Community of Writers, November 17

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.

First up were Jim & Carol McCord reading from their book Two Lenses — Four Europes (Shanti Arts LLC, 2019), an exquisite book of poems & photographs of England, France, Greece & Spain. As Jim & Carol alternated reading poems written by Jim, they also projected the related photos which in the book are on facing pages to the poems, then added a couple poems not in the book.  While many of the poems commented on or directly related to the photos, many were on themes barely suggested by the photo, but that the photo, or the poem, suggested.  The book can easily be read/looked at as armchair tours of each of the 4 countries, or dipped into at random.

Sylvie Briber is a 4th generation Schenectadian who currently lives in an historical home in the Stockade section of the city. She has researched the history of the house & its residents & written about it in her book The Inscription in the Window, a fat, spiral-bound, self-published book of tales. She read 3 pieces from the book, “Thru the Window,” “Train Whistles” about a drawing from 1831 of the first train connecting Albany & Schenectady that ran right behind her house, & “The Portrait in the Parlor” about the woman who wrote with a diamond on a window in the house.

Caroline Bardwell has been active in the local poetry scene & recently opened The Schenectady Trading Company on Union Street. She also published this year On and Off the Trail: A Collection of Poetry and Photography (Troy Book Makers), a lovely collection of black & white photos & Nature poetry. She read a mix of poems today, some from the book, including “At Dusk: Wolves” & “First Snow Day.” She also read a variety of other poems, including one of her seasonal exercises in alliteration, & another exercise in sound, “Electric City Pride” (rhyming on “Schenectady”).

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.”

Shena McAuliffe was, for me, the big surprise of the event. She read from her debut novel titled The Good Echo (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) which won the Big Moose Prize & the Balcones Fiction Prize. She read from the opening section of the novel which begins in the voice of a 12-year old boy who has died from an infection from a root canal done by his father, a dentist. The novel eventually goes on in the voice of the boy’s mother & notes kept by the father. She said it was inspired by a true story. The section, Prologue, that she read from, is a story told in rich, realistic detail, musical, & poetic. I don’t usually buy novels, hoping to find the book at the library, knowing chances are I will only read it once. But, as I said to her after the reading, I heard more poetry in her short reading of prose than I sometimes hear in some poetry open mics, & so I bought the book.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski had read yesterday at the HVWG reading at the Albany Public Library. Today’s reading she said was of “snow poems,” most from her latest book, Sugar Maker Moon (Dos Madres Press, 2019), but not all. She began with a collaboration with Philip X. Levine, an exquisite corpse titled “When I Think.” The poems from her book were “First Snow,” “Star Bride Triolet,” “Fever 2,” & “Snow Globe.” She ended with a couple poems not in the book, “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

HVWG Poetry Contest Winners Reading, November 16

& 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.

The first up was Deyva Arthur who began with her poem “The Sandpiper’s Eggs” which won an honorable mention. There is a surprising photo on her Facebook page of sandpiper eggs deposited in a crack in a tennis court. The other poems were titled “Grandma Rocks Baby,” the ironic “Thank God for Capitalism,” & “Night Drive.” Although I knew of Deyva both as a writer & an activist (& a Facebook friend) this was the first time I can recall hearing her poems, & I hope to hear more from her.

I know the next reader, Mary Kathryn Jablonski, much better, having published her chapbook To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met back in 2008 (A.P.D.); she is also a visual artist & collaborates with film-maker Laura Frare on video poems. Her latest book is Sugar Maker Moon from Dos Madres Press. She read 4 ekphrastic poems, beginning with “On Having Borrowed a Diebenkorn from the University Museum” which won an honorable mention. She also read “The Woodland Path,” “Postcard Divorced of Meaning,” & one inspired by reading Sy Montgomery’s book The Soul of an Octopus; interestingly enough, 2 other readers reference Mary Kathryn’s poem in their remarks on their poems.

The third Honorable Mention read was by Margaret McGowan, whom I thought I’d never heard of before, but that’s because when she was reading at the open mics here in the 1990s she was Margaret Smalec. Her honored poem was titled “Hush,” about walking to escape the tensions & pressures around her. The poem “Passage” was about where she was “from” while “Ancestors” took a different, made-up approach. “More” was inspired by a poem she had read, & one about a flood “Hoping that Would Sleep.”  Another new/old poet who I hope to see at an open mic soon.

Karen Schoemer’s 3rd prize poem was about her daughter in the hospital “Happy Clown.” Her other poems also referenced her daughter, “Stopping by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on a Saturday Afternoon,” the pantoum “The Night Hospital,” & the villanelle beginning “What if the wind…” Karen has read at a number of the poetry venues in the area, including at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center.

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.

Back to the reading, with G.E. Reed (whom I know as Guy Reed) who won 2nd place with his poem “Apples” about his daughter, which he read last. He read a couple poems from his collaborative chapbook with Cheryl A. Rice Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), from which they read in this Summer’s Poets in the Park, today the poems “Born Late” & “Why I Don’t Write Like Frank O’Hara.” He also read “Seeing the Starry Night” & a 3 stanza pantoum about a train “Ghosts.” He pointed out that this is the first contest he entered as “G.E. Reed” & hopes that winning 2nd place was a good omen.

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

November 18, 2019

2nd Wednesday Poets, November 13

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 first featured poet of the night was Mike Jurkovic who read mostly from a CD project he is working on with Albany musician Nick Bisanz, the CD titled American Mental. The poems are a grim view of dystopian Americana, based on real events & characters in the pseudonomous town of Shitlorn, cultural anthropology through the eyes of a cynic. “Marty is 81” is about a conversation while getting an oil change, “Can Man” was another portrait about an urban gleaner, “Cloud Land” was a commentary on Trump & “Wonderland Parade” was about the takeover of small-town America by retail chain stores. There was also a poem for his wife Emily, “Rude Impact,” another in the voice of a candy machine in an old theater, many others. He ended with a look back at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, NY “The Ir-reverseable Future.” It seemed very grim, but then we do live here. I’m looking forward to hearing the music with the poetry on the CD.

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

Poetic Vibe, November 11

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.

Harvey Havel read first, an excerpt from his independently published novella The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill, about the central character’s encounter with frat boys. L-Majesty used his empath powers to invoke his friends in “Friendsgiving,” then a poem about yearning “Instructions on Becoming Your Own Haunted House.” I had a hard time hearing the titles of Allie’s poems, but enjoyed them none-the-less, one about love & sex, the other mixing insomnia with angst & disillusion. Elizag memorialized the shooting at the AME church in Charlestown, explaining why she went to a family party instead of boycotting the 4th of July.

Jade began with a piece from the past from being at a Nitty Gritty Slam at The Low Beat, then a performance/re-enactment of being at a Citizens Action rally. John’s first poem was a description of a still life titled simply “The Painting Poem,” then one titled “An Inauspicious Day” about taking a sobriety test while on LSD. Jeannine read poems neatly written in a large notebook, 2 pieces about relationships gone bad, “It Wasn’t What I Wanted” about a trip to England gone bad, & “The Time Has Come” in which she looks forward.

Crystal read a post-coital poem titled “Unsigned Contract.” El said she had “new shit” written yesterday, about being in the basement at her job “A Fairy Tale for Those Who Believe in Monsters,” & one from a book of poems she had been reading. Hannah mumbled her way through the lyrics of a couple songs that she usually does with accompaniment, which may have helped.

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

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 10

Photo by Nancy Klepsch
We were upstairs in the dance studio of the Arts Center, with a wonderful mix of poets & prose writers to spend a Sunday afternoon, with Nancy Klepsch & I as the co-hosts.

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.

Dan Curley had with him copies of his just-released book Conditional Future Perfect (Wolfson Press) & read the long title poem, a love poem for his wife, with plenty of examples of the conditional future perfect. Peggy LeGee — & her voice — was back with a Halloween piece “The Cat from Hell.” Nancy Klepsch read 2 pieces on themes drawn from Herman Melville, the first, “Fish,” a rant about an ex- who still hates her, then a piece based on Chapter 10, “A Bosom Friend,” from Moby Dick, from which she also read an excerpt of the chapter.

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

[Getting Down to] Brass Tacks, November 5

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.

R.M. Engelhardt, the featured poet, was joined on the stage by Jim Washburn’s musical accompaniment, while Rob lit a candle borrowed from the bar for what he called “trance poetry.” Then on to a performance of Jim Morrison’s “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 Mick 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

Poets Speak Loud!, October 28

& tonight we/they sure did, in the back room of McGeary’s with our host Mary Panza keeping order.

First up was a new name & voice, Dave Treacy, with a couple poems, the first in rhyme, “My Friend Setting Sun,” the second untitled, both with short phrases, read slowly. Mark W. O’Brien read one of his Haibun, this not in his book, “In Between,” about his teenage jobs & an encounter in his blue suede cowboy boots with a dog who won’t let go. Sylvia Barnard read a just-written poem about the Grandma Moses Room at the Bennington Museum, then, from her book Trees, “Down by the Riverside.” If you hadn’t heard, Julie Lomoe survived a sub-dural hematoma last year at this time & tonight read her latest poem just written last night after midnight about “Halloween Lights.” Carrie C. also read some recent poems, “I Banish Thee” on alcohol addiction, & “I’m Tired” (on all the pressures on her). Don Levy read his poems from his phone, the poem about a couple of women with their Trump 2020 banner “At the Church Fair,” & “At the Clark” about people taking pictures of the paintings at the museum.

The featured poet, Christopher Burton, who easily lived up to the name of this series, once read here at McGeary’s in the open mic, so it was enlightening to hear him read a variety of pieces. His first was a litany of labels of America’s dark history from Manifest Destiny to Jim Crow  without the details that would turn the list into poetry. Others, all untitled as far as I could tell, ranged from wondering about the future, to a screaming rant on changes in laws relating to bail, & more gently to a love poem & one on the joys of beauty & love for what he said were his "Muslim Sufi friends." Another piece was a memoir of his 12-year old self causing trouble, then on to the metaphor of America as a sex-abused child. Most pieces were read from pages or his phone, but a couple were done from memory, or free-styled, it was hard to tell which. It helps to get your message across, whether or not it is a good poem, when you are loud & big, no subtlety here.

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.”   

Joe Krausman, needing light from Mary Panza, brought us all home with a hilarious poem about metaphor & a poet at a baseball game, “Kill the Umpire,” then one in tribute to a former teacher at the Iowa creative writing program.

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

Stephen A. DiBiase Kick-Off Reading, October 27

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.

The first of the 2 special featured poets was Alan Casline who read from his hefty collection Summergreen (FootHills Publishing, 2019) the poems “Summergreen Vacation,” “Ode to a Slug,” “Amusement” (of slipping a poem into a conversation), “Avonomics,” “A Moment,” & “Mountain Song.” In between he also read one of the international entries to the 2019 DiBiase contest, “Dancing Tiger” by Fabiyas M V, Orumanayur, Kerala, India.

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.

The other featured poet, Dineen Carta, was back in town for a visit & said she was pleased to be here to read among friends. She read from both her 1st book, Loving the Ache: A Woman’s Journey (2015) & from the new Rumi’s Granddaughter (2019). Many of the poems don’t have actual titles, with the first line serving as a title. Like the poems of Rumi many in both books are short, with short lines, like prayers, bits of spiritual comments, advice, exclamations of love, of wonder, along a spiritual path often filled with pain & loss as much as with joy. In the new book there is a section at the back of mostly blank pages with a single line at the top as if the poet were challenging the reader to write our own poems to finish out her book.

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

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, October 26

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.

Lisa Mottolo is a writer from Schenectady who somehow has apparently avoided the myriad open mics in the area. She began with a piece titled “Fever Dreams” a descriptive narrative about attending a strip club. The other pieces, poetry &/or prose (impossible to know if there were line-breaks or where they were), ranged in topics from artist-friends, the color red, & a couple of eco-poems (“Bits of Green Remaining” & “The Birds Were Fools”). She ended where she began with “Fever Dream, Part 2” this time about an assault at the strip club.

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.

The final poet of the evening, Joe Elliot, had come up from NYC, but indicated he had hung out on Lark St. at some time in the past. He did a long set with clever poems filled with hipster-cynical humor, filled with “I”. There was a clever, descriptive piece about his shopping bag “The Two Fridas,” “Thank God for Laminated Books” which was either the title of the poem or a descriptive intro, even one poem he introduced by saying “this has a title but I don’t care for it so let’s go…” His last piece was a very long, repetitive poem titled “My Uncle’s Basement” in which there were multiple versions of the sighting & deaths of Osama bin Laden, funny in their juxtapositions, locations & methods of his death that were like a string of Saturday Night Live skits, one after the other, until I felt like saying “OK, I get it already,” & even the poet himself at one point commented “my god, that’s so stupid.”

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.