December 22, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 13

Back to 2nd Sunday, but still not in the black box at the Arts Center in Troy. As the folks gathered we talked about food under COVID. Nancy Klepsch & I were the hosts, taking turns.

Speaking of COVID, I began with my poem from September “Words in the Time of COVID-19: Saxophone” that responded to a Blog by Carolee Bennett (, then to a newer piece “My Last Poem” (I hope it’s not).

Sally Rhoades read her most recent poem “First Light” about on waking, then one written at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Oklahoma “I can’t hear you…” 

Bob Sharkey read another of his re-writes of Chinese fortune cookies “Fortunes for a Zoom Reading,” then a section from May Gaitskill’s “This is Pleasure,” commenting that one thing he misses a lot is walking the streets of NYC.

Joel Best read his recently finished piece, “Off Season,” on the change of seasons, with walking & lost prayers.

My co-host Nancy Klepsch read a pandemic piece, “You Know My Mother was from Corona,” with images of remembrance, then one titled “Unfortunate Daughter.” 

Tim Verhaegen’s poem might have been titled “City Slicker,” I wasn’t sure, it was about taking a drive to Cooperstown, describing things looking "like a bad still life."

Tara Kistler wanted to be last & she was! with a short piece titled “Pygmalion,” you can guess what it was about.

You can find it on Zoom each 2nd Sunday @ 2, check it out on Facebook for the link.


December 14, 2020

2nd Tuesday: Bennington Spoken Word, December 8

An interesting thing about this Zoom open mic, hosted by Charlie Rossiter in Bennington, VT, & also one of the characteristics of Zoom readings, is that most of the participants were not from Vermont at all, but from other states being New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania & Illinois. While I look forward to going back to in-person open mics, particularly the one I ran on the third Thursday at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY, I do enjoy seeing & hearing these other poets from elsewhere.

As he likes to do, Charlie had us read 1 poem, then go around again for a 2nd poem.

I began with a holiday theme, “Christmas Eve 1945,” then in the 2nd round another of my imitations inspired by Chinese poets, “Swordsman.”

Mark W. O’Brien, also beaming in from upstate New York, read a funny piece about dreaming that he was Charlie Brown, & later read his “Lenten Confession” (“Spontaneous Poem 31”). 

Barbara Sarvis was the one who inspired Mark to read his confession poem in the 2nd round because in the 1st round she read a confession poem that she described as little things that she has stuck together; in her 2nd round she read the satirical mockery “You’ll Burn.”

Kenn Ash began with a short poem about leaving some things behind to wish us a merry Xmas, & played a short version of Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” on his pocket trumpet; the 2nd time around he read a personal manifesto proclaiming “I stand with the oppressed.”

Tom Nicotera read about seeing “The Great Horn (Owl) in the Backyard” (in Connecticut) while he was doing the dishes; later returned with the Emily Dickinson poem “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” (her birthday coming on December 10).

Bill Thwing, joining us from Pennsylvania, read a haiku series in 6 parts about losing power; back around again he brought out his guitar to play/sing a Thanksgiving Poem of sorts, “Everything Comes from the Ground” [& as poet Gerrit Lansing famously wrote, “Everything goes underground with glee…”].

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, in his first round read a road poem about going to the beach in the Fall, “The Last Swim;” like Bill before him, on his 2nd he round sang a song, “Stuff It Xmas Style,” accompanied on guitar by Jack Rossiter-Munley, a holiday tune about big box stores & Santa Claus. 

Laura Elzey, one of the Vermonters here, read a poem about poetry & feelings “Where Did This Come From?” then next time around read a bilingual piece in Spanish & English “I’m Going to Knit” about how peaceful she feels knitting.  

While this was Sally Rhoades’ 1st time Zooming in here, she had made the trip over from Guilderland, NY on occasion to read when the readings were being held at the Tap House in Bennington; tonight she read an angry letter to President Trump about the election “Sour Grapes;” later she read a pensive poem about her womanhood “I Carry the Heavy Burden.” 

Jim Madigan was the poet from Illinois & he read a letter he had to sent to his congressman “A Wish for Leonard” (to free the native activist Leonard Peltier); he finished up with a road poem about going to Sandy’s Cafe for breakfast “Marango.” 

If this sounds like fun (& it was!), you can email Charlie for the Zoom link for the next 2nd Tuesday Open Mic out of Bennington at — tell him “Dan sent me.”  

December 13, 2020

Poetic Vibe, November 30

What Mondays Are Made Of - so says the FB page & so it is, with our host D. Colin. She likes to begin these events with a poem of her own, this night she read two short ones, the first a praise poem for a friend’s birthday, then one about wanting a lemon tree for her yard so she could make lemonade from her own lemons.

Then on to the sign-up list, Aiysha Simon read “All You See is Tip” an extended metaphor about what’s hidden beneath a relationship.

I haven’t read here in a couple months, although I have tuned in a number of times, read a Thanksgiving poem “The Birds’ Poem of Thanks” from my 2011 chapbook Poeming the Prompt, then my most recent poem “”

Fatima read a long essay titled “From Days to Days,” dealing with colonialism, the Earth, playing on the etymology of words like “base” & “paradise.” 

Marie Kathleen read a couple of poems from college, “Time Capsule” written early in the quarantine, & “Simple” how a term she saw as negative she now sees as positive. 

Mojavi popped up, read 2 short love poems apparently without titles, “If I could write the sky …” & “I want you to become intoxicated by the essence of me…”

John began with an untitled piece on what this poem is “not”, then one titled “The Wall” filled with images of bees. 

D’Naia began with “Rainy Days” about how we should embrace them even though/because they are messy, then a ranting response to someone who I guess had the initials “ABW” which was the title.

Danielle takes lines she likes from the open mic & at the end turns them into an instant cento,  creating a soup, a gumbo, of the words of the open mic poets.

Tonight’s featured poet was Greg Wilder who signs up as “Slay the Dragon.” He has been out & about in the open mic poetry scene reading not only here at Poetic Vibe, but also at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s, at Brass Tacks at The Low Beat, & at the Social Justice Center where I had hoped to schedule him this year, but COVID-19 changed all that. His reading tonight centered around his recently self-published book Slay the Dragon Presents … Pink Cloud Poetry: Poems from Early Recovery, with a few others not in the book thrown in. He began with “A Universal Monster” using elements from 1930’s black & white horror movies & TV shows, using Zoom’s screen sharing to show images, a story of a drug overdose & a broken arm. Other poems from the book included “Forecast” addressed to a “sexy weather girl,” also one he said he had not read out before “A Drowning Man,” & one of my favorites “Addicted to Poetry” set like being at an AA meeting. The pieces not from the book included another favorite of mine, a love poem to Emily Dickinson filled with humorous sexual wordplay, wordplay being one of Greg’s most used tools in his poetry tool box, & a new poem finished just his morning a pandemic poem titled “The Virus” with TV graphics, like his first piece, & panic buying, Zombies, just like the real thing.

You can find Greg’s book on Amazon at but also perhaps elsewhere if you’re willing to look.

Poetic Vibe is every Monday — find it through Facebook at 

November 19, 2020

Outermost Poetry Contest Reading, November 12

Poet Elaine Cohen & I have been friends for more years than either of us would admit. She grew up in Gloversville, NY & since then has traveled the world. She co-authored with Red Callender, the great jazz bassist, Unfinished Dream: The Musical World of Red Callender (Quartet Books, 1985), as well as a chapbook of poems Solita: A Sojourn in Mexico (2011) & is currently working on a longer collection of poems titled “Coming Down Hudson” that includes memoir poems of her family & of growing up in Gloversville. She has been living on Cape Cod since 2003. In 2014 she was the featured poet at the 3rd Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany.

Back in April Elaine won the annual WOMR (Provincetown, MA) Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest for her poem “Night Train East, 1985.” You can read more about the contest, with a full list of winners & the text of Elaine's poem here:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the reading originally planned for April 16 at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall was delayed until November 12 when it was held via Zoom. In addition to Elaine reading her winning poem, there were readings by other winners, including 2nd place winner Robin Smith Johnson (“Memory Care Unit”), 3rd place winner Wilderness Sarchild (“After the Hurricane”), as well as some of the honorable mentions, including Tom Chilton, Donna O’Connell-Gilmore, Jeremy Faro, Lynn Viti, Lauren Wolk, Chuck Madansky, & Michael Shapiro.

In addition, Wellfleet native Marge Piercy read from her brand new (September 2020) collection of poems On The Way Out, Turn Off The Light (Knopf). The poems she read were personal & retrospective, the poet looking back on a long career that keeps on going.

The MC for the event was Jeannette de Beauvoir, novelist, playwright & WOMR personality.

The deadline for the 8th annual Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest is January 12th, 2021 — full information at the WOMR website.

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, November 11

Jackie Craven continues as our gentle host, here on Zoom, on the 2nd Wednesday open mic.

David Graham started us off with 2 poems of celebrations that he said came out in one fell swoop, available in his book The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books, 2019), “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings,” & “Listening for Your Name.”

Mary Ann Rockwell, who runs poetry programming out of the Saratoga Springs Public Library read a memoir titled “Taboo” about her brother & watching TV on Saturday mornings, & the racism of the Tarzan & Jane programs.

This being Armistice Day/Veterans Day I read a poem for a friend from when I was in training at Fort Knox (who did not make it back from Viet Nam) “John Lees.”

Bog Sharkey read his annual cento formed from lines from 2020 Best American Poetry Anthology, “Cento Forming An Idealized Memory of My mother for the Ocean.”

Susan Kress read “Outing” about forgetting things & writing it down, then a poem about imperfection, “Celadon” (which is a term for pottery denoting both wares glazed in the jade green celadon color, also known as greenware, and a type of transparent glaze, often with small cracks).

Scott Morehouse read a tale titled “The Unexpected but Happy Result of One” about a seance of only one person, the story graced with his usual hysterical flourishes.

Jackie Craven said her piece “Georgian Colonial” was an “architectural poem,” detailed, with images of history & war built in.

I haven’t seen Cathy Clarke at a poetry open mic in many years & was pleased to hear her read her descriptive, meditative poem “How Autumn Ends.”

Susan Jewell used the Zoom screen-sharing feature to show the images from Rattle Magazine that her poems were based on, one titled “The Taste of Color,” the other, a poem that was a winner (!) in the ekphrastic contest, “After the Extinction.”

You can find out more about this monthly series on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, including the Zoom link to find your way there, at the Facebook group page WritersMic.


November 15, 2020

2nd Tuesday Open Mic Out of Bennington, November 10

Vermont is difficult to get to now, & it’s not the distance (only an hour from my house to Charlie Rossiter’s), it is much nicer to just Zoom in — I can even have that 2nd bourbon.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, put me first on the reading list & I reprised my set from Sunday with “When Donald Trump Farts” in the first round; in the second round I lost my internet service briefly but got back in time to read “”

In both rounds Laura Ellzey read from a recent letter from her father, who had moved back to New Orleans, first a description of his first hurricane as a child 1947; then she returned with the second half of the letter describing a recent hurricane coming through.

Julie Lomoe in the first round read a piece titled “The Entrance to Purgatory,” from a poetry workshop, describing a couple during COVID; then the second time around from the same workshop, “The Domestic Rants” a series of prose poems & had to be cut off by Charlie.

Kenn Ash, as he likes to do, started off playing on his pocket trumpet as an introduction to a piece in rhyme “The Delusion of Illusion,” then in round 2 a piece on his death made humorous by the use of big words.

Jim Madigan dialed in from Illinois with a poem inspired by a sign he saw in Chicago “Grand Canyon Medium Rare;” then later an inspiring political piece, “Let Us Prepare” about a BLM sit-in & the street instructions from the young organizers, in “a mighty river of rebellion.”

Bill Thwing was Zooming in from Trump-land in Western PA, so he read a piece in rhyme written after the last election calling us to rise up, with Trump characterized as Darth Vader; for the second round he got out his guitar to sing a Xmas song he wrote.

Tom Nicotera from Connecticut read a poem about healing in a magic house of plants & animals “Smack Dab in the Middle of the Suburbs;” then later one about critters in his backyard “Encroachment.”  

Mark O’Brien from the Capital Region read in the first round a sonnet that was like a prayer, written the day of the election, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me COVID;” his second round piece was an untitled Haibun about baseball during his childhood.

Barbara Sarvis, from right there in Vermont, read a poem written today, “My First Painting” on growing up female in the '60s & '70s using instructions from Cosmopolitan magazine about makeup & how to attract a guy; her second round piece as also recently finished & was about white privilege, “Necessary Transformation 2020,” build on abstract words.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read “Meditations on Frank Lloyd Wright” incorporating quotes from Wright along with his commentary on it ; in the 2nd round he was joined by Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar for a song they planned for a service at the local U-U, with the chorus “we’re living in dark but there’s bright day dawning ahead …” — we all hope so.

Naomi Bindman had been just listening, reluctant to read, but at the end was encouraged by Charlie to join in, & I’m glad she did after hearing her in-progress poem “Collapse” with its meditative images of political unrest. That’s what happens at open mics: we try things out.

& you might try out joining this open mic on Zoom on the 2nd Tuesday of the month — email Charlie at & ask for the link.

November 13, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 8

Formerly at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, this open mic now can be joined by anyone, anywhere on Zoom. Nancy Klepsch & I are the co-hosts, though it’s a bit more awkward on this platform.

There were only a few of us at first so I read as others found their way in. I began with an older piece, my first Trump poem from 4 years ago, “When Donald Trump Farts,” then a new, shorter piece “”

Bob Sharkey confronted the traffic pattern around Albany’s City Hall, “The Day Alice Green Drove Around the Philip Schulyer Statue” one of the practical advantages of taking down the statue of the Albany slave-owner, then bits & pieces, descriptive note from “Summer 2020.”

Tara Kistler charmed us with the humorous rhymes of “Shakespeare’s Lament” on Evangelicals & the election.

Joel Best read a pandemic poem “Fancy Week” in which each day is pretty much the same, then contemplated “At the End” & swimming to Enlightenment.

Julie Lomoe read 2 humorous pieces from a workshop, “The Theory of Wastebaskets" & the funny list poem “I’d Like a New Sofa.”

Nancy Klepsch read a tender love poem titled simply “Dearest.”

Sally Rhoades got through some technical difficulties to get in eventually (what people will do to be at an open mic!) to read a tribute to Walt Whitman, a memoir of reading his work in college.

There was time left for a free-flowing discussion of reactions to the recent election. I doubt it will change what I do each week -- attending peace vigils, rallies & other demonstrations to bring about the change that I want to see. Democracy thrives on conflict, unity is for dictatorships.

November 10, 2020

Tim Verhaegen’s Zoom Open Mic, November 6

This is one of those rare open mics that didn’t exist before the onslaught of COVID, & came into being when the host, Tim Verhaegen, retired from his long-time employment with State of New York. Tim seems to love having the poets in his living room, so-to-speak.

I was up first with my newest poem “Ancestry.Com,” explaining in poetic terms how it works, while my second-round poem was taken from a phrase from President Trump that I embraced, “Radical-Left Maniac.”

 Jan Tramontano first read a Passover poem “Save Me from Myself” based on a poem by someone else, then later, another that was inspired by a Billy Collins' poem (“At the Window”) about an African violet she nurtured.

Both of Howard Kogan's poems were filled with grim humor, the first, titled “News” was a conversation with his Muse on suicide with the Muse telling him, “poets don’t last forever but Muses do," while the second was a pandemic poem claiming that Mother Nature was doing her best to kill us.

Bob Sharkey was inspired by a collage for his poem “Mouth of the Month” a word/sound play ramble on mouths & history built on Falmouth, native tribes, rivers, then later “Election Night Early” some random thoughts with Tim giving him the first line, “dressed in drag in the dark …” (not sure if that refers to Tim or Bob).

Speaking of Tim, he read “At First Sight” an intensely descriptive piece about meeting a new guy, thinking, “he’s the one,” & in the second round read “Heroes” also intensely descriptive an effusive ode to football players, a game that Tim says keeps him going during the pandemic.

Avery Stempel first read “Middletown” an anywhere USA town filled with Trump flags, then later “The Tao du Magoo” about mushrooms, & squeezed in a longer piece the overly-romanticized “A Dream” of the road in the 1950s.

Sally Rhoades read her brand new poem “The Red Fender” about remembering their childhood with her brother, then, written in April, the philosophical “I Hold Truth on Both On Both Its Sides.”  

Frank Robinson said he had just tweaked “The Way It Used to Be” for tonight (on voting), then “5 Small Words” i.e, the Trump motto “grab them by the pussy.”

Therese Broderick
first read from from Seamus Heaney, “The Cure at Troy” with the famous recently oft-quoted stanza, & later her own recent, post apocalyptic “The Gender Reveal Party.”  

Watch for invitations to this roughly once-a-month open mic on the Poetry Motel Foundation mailing list, or find Tim on Facebook & ask him about it.

November 8, 2020

Caffè Lena, November 4

I’ve reported on the recent poetry events at the historic Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY for a few months but truth-to-be-told you can find the videos of their events, both poetry & music, on the Caffè Lena YouTube channel. So even if you miss it on the first Wednesday of the month, you can enjoy it any time, any where.

Once again this night the lineup included 3 stellar regional poets, well-known to the local poetry community, sure to be be a good night of poetry & it was. The host was “Carolyn” but no last name offered; the founding host of this long-run poetry reading series & open mic is Carol Graser. Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic the reading has been held at the Caffè Lena stage without an audience & no open mic.

The first reader was poet & retired professor at Skidmore College Jay Rogoff, reading from Loving in Truth: New and Selected Poems, published in April by Louisiana State University Press. He read  poems from the previously published sections, as well as “new poems,” including the tender & charming “Penny Poems” for his wife.

I have read with Suzanne Rancourt & she has read in the Poets in the Park series in Albany. She is a veteran of the US Army & the Marines, & runs poetry workshops for veterans & others. She read from her 2019 book Murmurs at the Gate (2019) & from a new manuscript, of intense, often angry, & always engaging poems.

Mike Jurkovic has read throughout the Hudson Valley, organized readings with Calling All Poets, & written extensively on contemporary jazz & rock’n’roll. He has a much more energetic performance style than the other 2 readers, what might be described as “wise-ass hipster snarkiness.” He did a variety of poems, some I’ve heard before (& enjoy hearing again) & he included some pieces from his latest collaboration with Albany guitar-stroker Nick Bisanz, American Mental, not sure where you can get it, but will let you know when I find out.

[Note: I started this Blog back in January 2007 as an archive of the many poetry events occurring in the upstate New York region. Back then it was rare to record the readers, let alone videotape them, & few people even brought cameras & took photos. I envisioned the Blog as a way to preserve at least a part of what is a most-ephemeral of the arts.  Since this event is available in its entirety at Caffe Lena Youtube I've kept my remarks short & encourage anyone who is interested in an hour or so of poetry by these fine poets to click on the link.]

November 2, 2020

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, October 14

Schenectady was the former site of this open mic, but now, with online platforms such as Zoom, it can be anywhere they (or you) want it to be. Jackie Craven maintained order as the host, perhaps from Schenectady, or some other place with a strange name.

Alan Catlin read the title poem from a new chapbook manuscript "Roadside Attraction," but then was interrupted by a  big internet “hiccup;” he came back later to read a couple of high school related poems, one about getting a C+ in Chemistry “The Chemical Composition of Caffeine,” then from a school dream about missing the bus “The Symbol for Pi.”

David Graham read his “one & only pandemic poem,” he said, about a place he misses, the Whitmanesque “Ode to my Public Library,” then on to a tender one about his late mother with dementia “She Says Please.”

Daniel Sennis read recently written poems, “Catchers on the Fly” about a balloon stuck in a tree & his success as a Dad, then a fable, “Captain Democracy,” about organizing the vote.

The first piece Susan Kress read was an older published poem “Relapse” her hair like leaves, then read yesterday’s poem, “Yom Kippur,” a memory of her mother’s honey bread.

I read a couple poems from my growing collection of imitations of Chinese poems, “Peeing in the Yellow River,” one about the thousands of lost poems by Du Fu, another a commentary on poets writing bad imitations of Chinese poems.

Scott Morehouse entertained us with a charming school memory/fantasy as a 7 year old about counseling Marilyn Monroe titled “Stopping Talking to Marilyn.”   

Mary Ann (from the Saratoga Springs Public Library) read a descriptive ekphrastic poem “The Uncovering” & shared a photo of the photo of an Ellis Island quarantine facility about which the poem was written.

Bob Sharkey talked about Bernadette Mayer’s recently re-published work Memory written in July 1971 in which for one month she shot a roll of 35mm film each day & kept a journal, then read his own memory, “July 1971,”  describing his life, his friends, as he worked doing alternative service in Albany Medical Center.

Susan Carol Jewell read her latest rejection in the Rattle ekphrastic challenge for August, “Cracks,” & shows the picture, her poem modeled on a poem by Faith Sharon was not descriptive, it was more ruminative, playing on different kinds of cracks, as was her 2nd piece “My Grandmother’s Cleavage.”

This was the first time I recall seeing Harvey Havel in for one of these online readings since the shut-down, he too shared his screen of his next book of very short fiction The Odd and the Strange, & read one of the pieces, the story “Wife.”

Our host, Jackie Craven, read an older poem to a friend (from 1962) “Postcards I Wish I’d Sent to Elizabeth Before She Went Away…”

You can find about & sign up for the next 2nd Wednesday open mic from their Facebook site, WritersMic.


October 26, 2020

2nd Tuesday Bennington, October 13

 Back to Bennington without even leaving home, our host in his own home Charlie Rossiter. As is the custom here we did 2 rounds, 1 piece in each.

Charlie put me on 1st, & I read a new piece in the first round the political, bragging poem “Radical-Left Maniac.” Barbara Sarvis took advantage of the Zoom technology & used the screen-sharing feature to display Edward Hopper’s painting “Office in a Small City” while she read her ekphrastic poem that was actually about 2 paintings.

Charlie Rossiter
read “The Night I Slept in the Leaves” a study of "doing something out of the ordinary" from his book from FootHills Publishing The Night we Danced with the Raelettes. Mark Ó Brien read one of his “spontaneous sonnets” about believing in Satan & belief in general, if you can believe that.

Julie Lomoe’s first round piece was written as a possible op-ed for the Albany Times Union, a personal memoir about the local company Regeneron, recently in the news as the source of an experimental drug used to treat President Trump’s bout of COVID-19.  Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar, did some nice picking as he covered a Bruce Springsteen piece.

In the second round, I read for the season a pastiche of the opening section of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Lane” my tribute to baseball “October Land” from my chapbook Baseball Poems (A.P.D., 2019). Barbara Sarvis followed with the family memoir of her Italian aunts titled “Sunday at Aunt Rose’s.”

In his 2nd round Charlie was accompanied by Jack on guitar & they did Charlie’s version/re-write of a song by Willie Dixon (that Bo Diddly covered) “You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover” but in Charlie’s version the tag line is “you can’t judge a neighbor by looking at his color.” Mark’s second piece was pulled from his Blog Telluricvoices & was about his older brother’s tree-fort, & on death.

Julie Lomoe read a poem written last weekend, yet another memoir piece about her sub-dural hematoma, “Halloween Lights” that she recently read at the 2nd Sunday open mic in Troy.

There was a brief discussion about writing, about painting & the art/work of selling paintings. & then we all drove home, or at least left Zoom until the next event.


October 15, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2 - Zoom, October 11

I got in in late & Tim Verhaegen was reading another of his engaging family memoirs.  Julie Lomoe was up next (with her serious dog in the room) with her a poem about putting up “Halloween Lights” in her garden.

Kate Gillespie was able to share her screen to show an erasure-poem in various colors on a text from a scientific journal & you can find it with a further link at  Sally Rhoades’ family-memoir piece “Sally Ann” was really about her Aunt Polly, the title what Aunt Polly calls her.

One of the great things about Zoom is that someone such as Howard Kogan who would have to drive for hours to be here can join us from his living room, today he read a poem about NBC’s Lester Holt & “The Evening News.” Joel Best also had a poem about watching the evening news his titled “The Last Thing to Write.”  Daniel Sennis began with a poem about his 6-year old “Grasping Einstein,” then started to read “Catchers on the Fly” but the screen froze up; he was able to get that taken care of & returned at the end of the open mic to finish the poem, about a family effort to free the kid’s balloon caught in a tree.

Bob Sharkey’s poem “Gamma Delta” was composed of phrases with words beginning with G & D, then, as he does each year Bob reads the year’s Best American Poems Anthology, then writes a cento using lines from poems he likes, this year’s result was “Cento: Forming an Idea of my Mother at the Ocean.” I followed next with a recent piece using a phrase from President Trump “Radical-Left Maniac,” that’s me, & a version of a Han Shan poem from my series "Cold Flat" a piece titled "Topless Dancer. Our host, Nancy Klepsch, celebrated her garden with a piece titled “I’m a Garden at this Table,” then from a new anthology of writing about music What But the Music her memoir of growing up with rock’n’roll “Musical Prayers.”

So this open mic, formerly at the Arts Center of the Capital District  in Troy, continues on Zoom each 2nd Sunday @ 2PM — you can find the link on the 2nd Sunday Facebook page. Join us on the next 2nd Sunday.

October 12, 2020

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, October 7

On this first Wednesday night there was no Carol Graser, the usual host, & the woman who did the introductions did not introduce herself so I can’t tell you who she is. Tonight’s card was 3 different Regional poets, all of whom who have read here at Caffè Lena previously & at other venues in the area.

Andy Clausen, Social Justice Center, Albany, NY
October 17, 2013

If you didn’t know what the poetry of Andy Clausen is like his 1st poem would be a good place to start: long, rolling lines in rambling rants, incessant dropping of names of writers of the Beat Generation he has rubbed shoulders with, as well as other writers he has come across, including his girl-friend, with a litany of social issues as a substitute for ideas & images, in a grand, sonorous voice, ending with the inexplicable proclamation “I Am Jean Valjean.” That was pretty much it, as the half-dozen other poems he read were generally shorter & of the same ilk, including one by Pamela Twining (“In the Blood”?) which was indistinguishable from Clausen’s work.

Sarah Giragosian, Poets in the Park
July 25, 2020

Sarah Giragosian was featured this year at Albany’s Poets in the Park,  & I've heard her read elsewhere in the poetry community, but I’m always willing to hear her work again. She read primarily from her latest book The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), including the stunning title poem, & a cluster of others, then from her 2017 book Queer Fish (Dream Horse Press), winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, what she endearingly calls a “queer bestiary,” 3 poems of the sea & its creatures.

Jordan Smith, at Caffe Lena, June 3, 2015
Jordan Smith
, who like both Sarah & Andy, has read from the stage of Caffè Lena in the past, read from his new book, Little Black Train (3 Mile Harbor Press, 2020), winner of the Three Mile Harbor Poetry Prize. The title of the book is from an American bluegrass fiddle tune & you can find versions by Woody Guthrie & the Carter Family on YouTube, & the poem of that title is from a poem about impatiently waiting at a traffic light in Waterford. His reading included the poems from the “Eight Hats” sequence in the book which is based on paintings by Walter Hatke, one of whose paintings is used as the cover art of the book. There is lots of beguiling nostalgia & memoir & story-telling, as in much of Jordan Smith’s poetry in general.

Something I noticed by the end of the hour was that while the guys, Andy Clausen & Jordan Smith, sat while they read, Sarah Giragosian stood to read. I don’t know what it means, other than that she is much younger than the guys. Also, since all 3 poets have read at other local venues, I decided to use photos from other times/other places rather than taking a screen-print from the broadcast.

Known for its well-attended monthly open mic with Carol Graser as the host, this series is surviving as a live performance from the stage of Caffè Lena with just performers & staff in attendance each 1st Wednesday of the month, just like the open mic, but with just 3 featured local & regional poets. You can find the performances available, along with the Caffè Lena folk music performances, on Caffe Lena on YourTube; you can also make a contribution to support Caffè Lena & their performers. Some day I hope to return to Caffè Lena to hear the fine, unknown (& occasionally famous) poets who read their 1 or 2 poems in the open mic each 1st Wednesday of the month. 


October 8, 2020

Calling All Poets Reading, October 2

CAPS does this regular first Friday reading/open mic & a cluster of others, formerly in various locations in the mid-Hudson area now everywhere on Zoom. I was pleased to join them this night as a pinch-hit featured poet, along with poet Susan Chute, & a panoply of open mic poets. Greg Correll served as the technical guy while Mike Jurkovic was the host. I got there around 7:00, as the invitation has said, but it was a slow entry of open mic readers until about 7:30.

The featured poets went before the open mic, with Susan Chute the first feature, “poet, librarian, book-binder…” She is also the coordinator of a poetry series called “Words” for which I signed up for information & will pass it on to those of you on my list when I get notices. She described her reading as being “poems from the outside, then some from the inside, then poems of solace…” Her poems included one on the death of George Floyd, another on racism titled “If We Shadows Have Offended.” There were also a couple on COVID-19, “Wild Creatures Seen in Habitat,” & “Inquiry in 12 Unanswered Lines” written a while ago but with last lines like today’s news, a poem about recovering from a broken elbow incorporating song lyrics, & one titled “While” about waiting. The final section, the “solace” poems, included the gratitude poem “Not a Lover,” “Thread Like Elements” (referencing Mid-Summer’s Night Dream) & her goodnight poem “Compline.”

The program I prepared began with poems written in Gloucester pre-pandemic, then a couple of more recent poems written in the time of COVID-19. Most of the poems I read were from my ongoing project of poems inspired by Chinese poets, ancient & contemporary, that I call “Peeing in the Yellow River.” These include poems written during my trip to China in 2004, a selection of poems based on translations of the poems of Han-Shan, “Cold Flat, & some recent imitations. I ended with a new political piece inspired by a Trump insult “Radical-Left Maniac.”

On to the open mic with John Martucci up first reading a selection of Haiku. Then Don Krieger reading poems of a different culture, a COVID-19 poem from the Jewish text “Legend of the Golden Calf” as well as “In the Beginning” on Lot’s wife, in between one titled “Sunday Morning Surgery.” Gary Siegel had some compelling titles for his poems, “Soft & Dark Sublime,” “Life is Such a Bohr” invoking Neils Bohr, & a conversation with a spider “Predator’s Dream.” Ken Holland liked the reference to Neils Bohr read the very short “MC Squared,” then a longer piece on Death “When Sleeping Dogs Lie.”

Addison Goodson
had some good advice, “Laugh ’til It Kills You,” then another poem titled “A Wave.” Dan Brown read “Just After” a COVID poem on the gifts of living in Upstate NY, then a piece inspired by the  anniversary of the 16th Street church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 “Passage.” Tim Brennan said he was reading a poem inspired by the work of poet Lyn Hejinian, & perhaps there was another run together or it was the same poem continuing, then another discursive piece was titled “A Palace for the Poor.” Penny Brodie read a piece that had been published in High Rock Review #4 & that was dedicated to poet William Stafford, followed by a Stafford poem “A Conversation.”

Roger Aplon, editor & publisher of the poetry zine Waymark: Voices of the Valley read a grim piece in 3 voices dedicated to the spirit of Senator John McCain “They Came,” then one titled “See No Evil Hear No Evil the Monkeys” another political piece, on the lack of vision. Jim Eve who is one of the originators of CAPS read some Haiku. Thomas Festa had 3 poems for us, “Lines for a Shredding Editor Written On a Stolen Letterhead,” “Field Trip” about a hiking trip with his son who hates poetry, & a love poem “You of All.” Guy Reed began with Ada Limon’s prose poem “The Quiet Machine,” then his own “Head in the Stars,” & his take on these readings “Zoom Existence.”

Joann Deiudicibus also read a poem by someone else, this “The Gift” by Ocean Vuong,” then one titled “Book of Hours.” Our host, Mike Jurkovic, read about an encounter with a psychic “Where The Light Sneaks In,” then “Longhand” about re-writing his poems during an MFA graduation ceremony. Ron Bremner read what he called “a nonce sonnet” on the seasons, then from Nightmares, his book of horror poems “Nightmare #44” & #55 (with apologies to Robert Frost). Greg Correll, who is also vitally instrumental in bringing us this event read a poem from 2012 “The Best Gifts to Give Your Child” written as his youngest daughter went off to college.

This particular reading & open mic from CAPS takes place on the first Friday of each month, but there are other poetry events each month that you can find out about from the Calling All Poets website, or on Facebook.

September 24, 2020

Amesbury Poetry Reading, September 22

Albany poet, Therese Broderick, invited me on Facebook to this Zoom event from Amesbury, Massachusetts, hosted by the current Amesbury Poet Laureate, Ellie O’Leary. Who knew that this little town would have/need a Poet Laureate — a couple past Laureates were also in attendance at this event.

Lewis Turco, NYS Writers Institute, 10/20/93
Therese Broderick, appearing as “Frank Robinson” in the accompanying screen print, read from a chapbook-in-progress, “Terzanelle - Poems Inspired by Tai Chi." She explained that this poetic form reminds her of movements in her Tai Chi practice & even demonstrated a series of such. She said that the form was invented by American poet & scholar of poetic forms Lewis Turco, that the Terzanelle is a 19-line form that is a combination of the Villanelle (5 3-line stanzas, 6th stanza 4 lines) with the Terza Rima invented by Dante Alighieri for the creation of the Divine Comedy (here is a glossary that contains information on poetic forms; this will give you information on the Terzanelle

Therese began by reading Turco’s poem “Passing the Time” about why he writes, then on to Terzanelles from her chapbook, on a variety of topics, “The Thorn Shrub,” “Drifters” (boats), a spinning  girl at a party next door “Dizzy,” a squashed caterpillar “Casual Kill.” Also her variation she called a “flash Terzanelle” in 4 small parts about a wind turbine. Others included “Lady Bug” (about her Bell’s Palsy), “400 Centuries Ago” that ponders the hairdressers of the past, “Relics” (about saving things from giving birth, her memories), “Taking My Fill of August,” & her most recent “Elegy for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” She said that she doesn’t always stick to the strict 19-line limitation, creating her own expanding, flowing form with more emphasis on the Terza Rima rather than the Villanelle, much like the movements in Tai Chi.

Her reading was followed by a Q&A session in which she talked more about the form & her open-ended variation. (As Turco created a unique form from 2 traditional forms & baptized it “Terzanelle” I would like to propose that Therese Broderick’s variation on Turco’s creation be re-named the “Theresezanelle,” it seems only right.

Then on to a brief open mic. The first poet, identified only as Harris, read an imaginative fantasy “The Day After My Death” based on a Billy Collins poem.
Peter Bryant read his own Terzanelle a poem about the tides, then another about hydroelectric dams, a political piece.

Lainie Senechal, a former Amesbury Poet Laureate, read a love poem to Autumn titled “The Nature of the Situation,” then another about Autumn, the light getting less outside, but the spirit finding more light.

There is an ongoing monthly open mic on the 4th Tuesday of the month originating from Amesbury on Zoom. Look for more information on the Facebook page

September 22, 2020

3rd Saturday Coffeehouse, September 19

I was invited by Charlie Rossiter & the 3rd Saturday Ambiance Committee to a reading by Paul Seline with an open mic. This is a group that Charlie was in when he lived in Oak Park, IL, outside Chicago, & ran a regular monthly open mic. It was a re-union of sorts & a celebration of Paul Seline’s book.

But first a round of the open mic. Jim Madigan was first up with an Autumn poem inspired by biking through the park “Red Tree.”  

Diane Scott’s poem was a for Labor Day & the work of women, based on the famous quote from the early 20th Century labor organizer by Rose Schneiderman about having both bread & roses.

Marilyn Myles’ tender poem “My Father’s Hands” was both a memory & portrait & about where he is now & what he’d done.

To honor Rosh Hashanah I read my poem from 2004, written in Gloucester, MA, “Tashlich."

Mary Ellen Munley read a tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with quotes from her from her years of wisdom & activism.  

Charlie Rossiter called son Jack down to accompany him on the guitar for a poem for Emily Dickinson with the great chorus “…put your white dress on… & we gonna write poems tonight.”

Mary Rose Lambke read a poem from a trip to Ireland for her 80th birthday about & treasuring elders.

Jack Rossiter-Munley returned to his room to perform solo performing a song that I probably hadn’t heard in 50 years (or more!) about a motorcyclist & “Highway 101” (not the '80s country group).

The featured poet was Paul Seline who read selections from his recently published first book, A Writer's Life: Essays and Poems. Paul taught English and writing to high school students for 32 years. He is now retired and lives in Oak Park, IL where he enjoys focusing on his own writing. His work has been described as “Poignant and funny, this collection of essays and poems shows how, given the right perspective, ordinary life can be extraordinary." He alternated reading the poems with his wife Sue Piha to save his voice & to honor her role in helping to produce the book. The poems they read were a couple of gardening pieces, “Big Max” a memoir of trying to grow giant pumpkins with his son, & one about battling a rabbit “Gardening Points of View.” “Karl & That’s with a K” was a hilarious take on the “kn” sound/not sound, while “A Basic Christmas” was a memoir of sharing cookies sent from home when Paul was in basic training.

Back around again, as Charlie is wont to do, for those who could stay & had another poem, Jim Madigan read a memoir of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the Moon “From Above.”

Diane Scott read an imagined memoir based on an old photo of her mother with some unidentified guy.

Marilyn Myles read a piece titled “Evolution” on the unfairness of it all, on slavery, war, sexual violence, drugs, & all that.

I haven’t written many poems inspired by COVID-19 but read a recent piece titled “Words in the Time of COVID-19: Saxophone” inspired by a friend’s Blog post on the pandemic.

Mary Ellen Munley used her time to remember fondly when these poets used to meet in person in Oak Park at the coffeehouse.

Charlie Rossiter’s 2nd round poem was also a memoir, this of a road trip with Jack & staying at a friend’s cottage in Minnesota.

Mary Rose Lambke had a COVID-19 confession (not at her best best living alone during the pandemic) about eating a pint of ice cream.

Jack Rossiter-Munley had another guitar tune, “You’re Not Alone,” the title song of an album by Mavis Staple.

Our featured reader(s) brought us home with Paul reading about favorite things besides gardening “My Journal is Built like a Canoe” & Sue reading a series of writing tips “How to Catch a Poem.”

This was once a regular in-person event on the 3rd Saturday of the month, but, alas, is no more, but I was pleased to be invited in to this group of poet friends for their reunion & to celebrate Paul Seline’s book A Writer's Life: Essays and Poems, which can be found on

September 16, 2020

2nd Wednesday, September 9

Jackie Craven has kept this open mic alive since the closing of Arthur’s Market & now since the closing of everything. & since we all are creatures of habit, many of the poets showing up “here” on Zoom are the same ones who used to show up at C.R.E.A.T.E. space on State St. in Schenectady, only now we don’t have to drive, or take the bus, or even wear pants.

First on the sign-up list was Alan Catlin with 3 short poems from the recently published The Blue Hotel (, the first from the book’s section "Mahler in New York," a grim Summer night, then from the section "Crane Dreams" the noir-ish title poem “The Blue Hotel,” & the last poem in book “Wallace Stevens in Albany” — I think you can find the book on Amazon.

David Graham said he had 2 poems to read, one old, one new, the old one “Self Portrait as Lucky Man” liking the way he looked, then a “Swirl” of images of good signs.

I also had an old poem, “Support the Bottom,” a social justice theme, then a new piece “Words in the Time of COVID-19: Saxophone” which had started out as a comment on a Blog post by Carolee Bennett.

One can expect some laughter when Scott Morehouse reads & tonight it took the form of hysterical free association & word play in a memoir piece titled “Disassembling September.”  

Bob Sharkey’s first poem, “Our Neighbors Return,” was a fable of a herd of elephants walking around his neighborhood leaving piles of dung, then, staying in the silly mood, a piece he read last night “Fortunes for Tim’s Zoom Reading” in his continuing series of poems built on re-writes of fortunes from Chinese cookies.

Susan Jewell read her latest rejection in the ongoing Rattle ekphrastic contest & was able to put up images of the paintings the was writing about, the first of 2 circles, her poem descriptive of the holes staying together; her 2nd poem received an honorable mention from Iron Horse Literary Magazine, the image of a woman looking into a clothes washer seeing a boat on the water, the poem titled  “Odysseus Arrives from the Land of the Phoenicians.”

Susan Kress said her 2-part poem, “Groundhog & Groundhog Redux,” was about watching the “wild beasts,” the first part pondering what it is doing, then the 2nd part on the act of writing about it.

Our host Jackie Craven didn’t read tonight, said her poems are so dark & she was having too much fun so she decided to skip reading, but we hope to hear some of her fine poetry at future 2nd Tuesdays.

This reading continues on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, currently on Zoom. You can find out more by checking in to the Facebook page Writer’s Mic

September 15, 2020

2nd Tuesday Bennington Open Mic, September 8

An easy virtual ride to Bennington to Charlie Rossiter’s monthly open mic "for anything" — but haven’t seen any nude fire-eaters yet.  Charlie does the one poem round followed by a second round, which has its own technical problems in Zoom with the mics unmuted & everyone talking at once. As I liked to say when I ran an open mic, “I’m the host — you’re not!”

So I ended up first once again, with a couple of old poems for the workers of the world, in the first round “Joe the Bartender” published in Misfit magazine; in the 2nd round a memoir of my 1969 cross-country trip “Summer in California” at strip club in Riverside, CA.

Bill was here from “Trump country” in Western PA, with 6 haiku written in a notebook his grandson scribbles in; for his 2nd round he played a song on guitar from 1977 about God looking down on his creation (& the Zoom-Inspired interjection “can you hear my guitar?”).

Barbara Sarvis is a regular here, tonight just did the first round reading a piece written last year about listening to “The Sounds of the Night” with her grandma.

Mark O’Brien joined this open mic for the first time tonight, in the 1st round read the first of a series of  “spontaneous sonnets” this about accepting what is; in the 2nd round a piece borrowed from Bob Dylan, but the flag is the Trump flag.

What followed was a confusion of Kens, Kenn Ash signed in after Charlie had set the list with another Ken (with 1 “n”) so when Charlie said “Ken” Kenn didn’t hear it was only 1 “n” & jumped in to read a piece titled “Missing Link”; then for 2nd go-around, a piece in funny rhyme “The Journey of a Leaf.”

Ken Holland was the 1 “n” Ken who had gotten there/here first, read a piece full of lasagna that smelled like women in “Uncle John’s Car” on Memorial Day; later, read “Take a Knee” with references to old black & white movies, the black taken away.

Charlie Rossiter’s poem titled “The End of the World” was about a spot on the campus of Bennington College that reminded him of his college days; for the second round, as he frequently does, he commandeered his son, Jack Rossiter-Munley to accompany him on guitar, tonight for “Euro-trash,” a piece that was performed by 3 Guys from Albany a few times.

The aforementioned Jack Rossiter-Munley performed on his own in the first round playing Woody Guthrie’s “Union Burying Ground” one of the lesser known pieces by Woody.

Tom Nicotera from out in Connecticut read in the first round a dream poem “The Library in Heaven” where everyone is always happy; then on the 2nd time around a short one inspired by being at the edge of a wildlife refuge.

Naomi Bindman from nearby North Bennington read an old poem “In Praise of my Daughter’s Navel” (while pregnant) that I first heard her read back in 2012 at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic at the Arts Center in Troy; then 2nd time around she read an angry “Rebuttal” defiant of the misogyny of rap, using their internal rhymes.   

Julie Lomoe was only able to read in the first round & shared her piece “I’d Like a New Sofa,” inspired by Rachel Zucker’s “I’d like a New Flashlight.”

This open mic, formerly at the Tap House in Bennington, VT, is now accessible to folks world-wide on Zoom each 2nd Tuesday. Contact Charlie via email if you’d like to get the link.

September 13, 2020

R.I.P. The Low Beat

That is, “Rest in Punk.” It was sad to read in the Albany Times Union of the closing of The Low Beat, another victim of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. The Low Beat, & its owner Howard Glassman, has been a supporter of the local poetry scene since the days when Howard owned Valentines on New Scotland Avenue, another victim of corporate developers over local artists.

Thom Francis, el presidente of, et al. had been coordinating Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentines for a number of years & moved over to Central Ave. when Howard had to close & then opened The Low Beat at 335 Central Ave.  The first event at the new venue was Nitty Gritty Slam #64 on February 18, 2014.

It continued as an open mic & Slam venue on the first & third Tuesdays, then when the Slammers found another venue AlbanyPoets resurrected the series as (Getting Down to) Brass Tacks, which students of slang will appreciate the synonym. The first Brass Tacks was on March 29, 2018, which featured members of the first team from Albany ever to compete at the National Poetry Slam. 

Brass Tacks was primarily an open mic venue that drew a mix of local poets, young explorers reading their angst-ridden notebooks, old fart poets getting drunk & obnoxious, even obsessive stand-up comics & commentators on pop media. The Low Beat also served as one of the venues in the annual Albany WordFest for a number of years. Brass Tacks succumbed to COVID-19, like everything else, on February 18, 2020, the last event was hosted by musician Nick Bisanz, who had been in rock bands such as The Last Conspirators playing on the very stage.

I have missed/will continue to miss Kim the bartender, the old beer smell perfume, the colored lights & sounds, & the array of poets & bar characters who continued to draw me to this inimitable venue, something that online & Zoom events cannot replicate.

You can find more of my reports about poetry at The Low Beat by exploring this Blog.

September 7, 2020

Tim’s Zoom Open Mic, September 3

Reveling in his recent retirement from New York State service, Tim Verhaegen continues his well-attended Zoom poetry open mic, with folks attending from as far away as Northern Massachusetts (Howard Kogan) & Florida (Jan Tramontano).  He likes to do 2 rounds, which has become a popular format in  cyberspace.

Tim asked me to to go first & I began with a tribute to the workers of the beleaguered US Postal Service, “Going Postal.” For my 2nd poem I read “At the Silarian Cafe” which got me 3rd place in the New York State Fair Poetry Contest some years ago.

Howard Kogan
’s “Poetry Contest,” about being a judge for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, was a list of what’s in (etymology, piercings, Zombies, etc. ) & what’s out (sports, lust, falling in love, among others).  He read for his 2nd piece a poem on love & hate & old movies “I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Jan Tramontano dealt with the lack of poetry venues down in Florida by Zooming in tonight, & read a poem titled “Hibiscus” (is that her husband Ron as the gardener?), then for the 2nd round “November Blues” responding to a study of the life habits of the longest living, & a reflection on her own life.    

Bob Sharkey’s 1st poem was written just for this event “Fortunes for Tim’s Zoom Readings” one of his fascinating re-writes of Chinese fortune-cookie fortunes (how much Chinese food does he eat anyways?).  His second poem was one of that growing genre of “COVID-19” poems, & inspired by a drawing by Kristen Day, “Aching for a Walk to the Far Side of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

In the 1st round Cheryl Rice read a poem titled “Amelia Earhart” then later “Peaches” with nostalgic  images from a trip to Georgia.

Our host, Tim Verhaegen, who has written a lot about his family read a descriptive piece about the red neck population in East Hampton & about his mother, while his second piece was also a memoir, this based on his experiences as a 20 year old gay man some time ago.   

Therese Broderick received her inspiration for her poem “Taking My fill of August” by looking out her window at her back yard.  She opted not to read a 2nd piece in the next round but did remind us of her Facebook event every Tuesday in which she guides folks through the intricacies of writing a terzanelle (don’t ask me, follow her on Facebook & Twitter to find out).

Sharing the screen with Therese was her husband Frank Robinson who began with a fable about wanting nothing “Negative Capability,” then in the 2nd round returned to the same theme with a poem based on the Book of Ecclesiastes, which famously begins “Sheer futility: everything is futile.”

Jill Crammond’s poem in the 1st round, titled “Obituary for All That Scares Me” was set off by a hair in her mole.  Her 2nd poem was in that aforementioned COVID-19 genre, remembering the the lake & the woods, written when she couldn’t see he mother.  

Karen Fabiane struggled with technical difficulties, including a text that was messed up, a light behind her that shown directly into the camera, but mostly with bad sound making her readings garbled & nearly inaudible, but then sometimes that happened too at the in-person poetry open mics in the old days.

Follow Tim on Facebook to find out when he will have his next Thursday open mic & Zoom in from anywhere on the planet.

September 3, 2020

Nick Bisanz Music, Thursdays

 Nick Bisanz has become my Thursday fix in these days (or rather nights) of COVID-19. Each Thursday night at 7:45 the local musician & onetime poetry critic shows up on Facebook (Nick Bisanz Music) to play rock/pop etc. covers in his living room, usually with fellow local musician Geo Doody. Of late the electronic music rapper poet etc. Algorythm has been a guest, also poet/masseuse Mary Panza was a guest with a set of favorite poems, & even me — DWx — recently with my rock’n’roll themed poems. Most recently the guest was a newly bearded Steve Nover, on bongos, shakers & assorted percussion, even joining in on vocals. Of late techy Thom Francis has been working the sound & camera, which has improved their ratings over Thursday night TV, such as The Wall

Sometimes I get there a tad late, since Tim Verhaegen has a popular Zoom open mic on some random Thursdays that starts at 7:00 but is usually over before 8:00PM. I don’t always know what Nick & Geo are playing, whose songs they’re covering — I’m still stuck in the punk hell of CBGBs, the QE2, cassettes, etc. — &, to be honest, sometimes even when it’s a song I know sometimes can’t recognize it in Nick/Geo’s version. Though they do a good version of “Maggie’s Farm.” 

It’s permanently on my calendar. It’s informal, alcoholic, profane & mostly in tune. & you don’t have to wear pants, you can get drunk on your own, cheap booze & not have to drive home.

August 24, 2020

Poetic Vibe, August 17

Our weekly host, D. Colin, started this night of imagination with a poem from an event at The Mount, Edith Wharton's Home in Lenox, MA in which she imagines a sculpture to be made of stone built in words.

L-Majesty said he had 2 brand new poems, a provocative piece based on a Kardi D song “Her Pussy Speaks,” another titled “Sell Out” about the “secret treasures" (the people) of the Bronx.

I followed with one new, one old, the new one about the dangers of listening to poetry, “Content Advisory,” then an old one about my family & in defense to the US Postal Service “Going Postal.”

Sevana’s poem titled “Empty” was about emptying her mind, looking for happiness, then she read a piece from her unfinished memories of her grandmother, the smells, sounds, things her grandmother gave her, now carried with her.

D.Colin read a stunning poem about her boyfriend Robert written from a prompt from poet Patricia Smith mixing death & images of the living titled “Loved by a Lion,” then something from a bad relationship before Robert.

Truth ("made in truth") gave us a couple of songs in rap rhymes, one titled “I’m Only Human.”

John, a late sign-up, began with a poem about rodents then another odd piece “Walking Outdoors 1: the Lobster Poem” both filled with surrealistic images in odd order.

Josh Maxson said both pieces he read were “old,”  “A Poet’s Lament” which was about writer’s block, & the “Fading Back to Blind” full of soft images of evening.

Danielle has a wonderful tradition of “take aways” in which she gathers lines from poems just read in the open mic, a cento of sorts that depends upon our host paying close attention to each reader, which is a great compliment to each of us who read.

You can find Poetic Vibe each Monday night through its Facebook group page,

August 17, 2020

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, August 12

Jackie Craven has continued with this open mic, formerly in Schenectady, now on cyberspace via Zoom, & continues to get the hardcore of Schenectady poets, plus.

I was first up on the list with mostly new poems, starting with what one sometimes hears these days at open mics “Content Advisory,” then one about a dead parakeet “To Berlioz,” & a descriptive piece  “The Altar.”

Bob Sharkey’s poem “Imaginary Companion” was about picturing himself with his granddaughters when he is in his 80s, then read what he found in an a history textbook from the 1950s about “good masters,” why we didn’t know how bad Robert E. Lee actually was.

Susan Jewell read her June entry to the ongoing Rattle Magazine ekphrastic contest on an abstract landscape, then a piece titled “That Summer I became Rose Colored” based on a piece by poet Miller Oberman.

David Graham tuned in with an old memory of his father’s dementia “A Winter Drive With Dad,” then one titled “21st Century Song” about “suits” in cars.

Alan Catlin said he had a couple of Black Lives Matter poems, although not written with that in mind, but the sound was badly broken up; he tried again later with better sound, the first piece about a racist cop ranting at the TV at the bar in Albany when Alan was tending bar, then the other titled “The Fix” about the Amadou Diallo trial in Albany years ago, cops still killing black men.

Scott Morehouse had us laughing again (although we were politely muted) with a piece titled “Howard & the Hermit” set in Idaho where the Anglophone Lord of the Manor wants to hire a “hermit” to live on his property & gets a woman for the job.

Daniel Sennis who has a book of poems available through Northshire Books & other booksellers titled O Conman! My Conman! Sick Rhymes for Sick Times read “On Your Throne of Thesauri” & “Master of Allusion” both full of satiric word-play & rhyme, as is his wont (haven’t gotten my copy of the book yet but I suspect these poems are in it).  

Jackie Craven closed out the night with the surrealistic play of an absurdist poem of pure nonsense (as she said) “Someone Should Do Something about the Clock at City Hall” & I agree, I think.

Jackie usually sends out a notice by email which I bounce to the Poetry Motel Foundation Google list & if you are on it you will get it; she also posts on her Facebook group WritersMic, a public group which you can join — 2nd Wednesday of each month, at 7:30PM on a computer near you.

August 11, 2020

Tim’s Zoom Open Mic, August 6

Tim Verhaegen is reveling in his new-found love of Zoom with this 2nd poetry open mic he’s organized, this time experimenting with a featured poet, Avery Stempel. Tim's format was an initial round, followed by the featured poet, followed by a 2nd round (which I missed, on my way to still another online event).

I was first up & since this day was the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan by the United States, ushering in the Atomic Age with the 1st ever war-time use of the atomic bomb, I read Tom Nattell’s chant-poem “Hiroshima.”

Mike Jurkovic read an equally dark screed set in the current time “Totem America.”

Jan Tramontano, beaming in from Florida stayed on theme with “Life on Planet Insanity” a political rant about being in Florida, about wealth, prejudice, ignorance & the need to be “staying away from the dumbbells.”

Bob Sharkey continued on the theme with a poem about the slowing down & the lies.

Howard Kogan read his poem “Diplomacy” about poets Issa, Du Fu, & Li Bai trying to get together for dinner & french fries, being diplomatic about it all.

Tim Verhaegen said that his twin brother Todd died last month but that he, Tim, hadn’t seen him for years, & read a poem about the dysfunction of their family, with a list of Todd’s issues & problems, I sensed his way of confronting the loss of his brother.

Cheryl Rice said that she is resisting writing plague poems then read what I think was titled “Feejee” (Fiji, or any phonetic version).

Jill Crammond has been brought out of the suburban hinterlands by the magic of Zoom & read what I dare say was a “religious poem” titled “Self Portrait as an Artifact.”

Carolee Bennett also Zoom-ed in from the ‘burbs with a commentary on the times that are so crazy “No-one Believes in Madness Anymore.”

Avery Stemple, the featured poet, once ran his own open mic in a bagel shop in Troy, & would also pop up at other open mics throughout the area. This night he read a varied selection, starting with his piece about smiles, in the guise of a motivational speaker, “From Me to You.” He talked about doing a poem a day during the pandemic & read a selection from the series, day #120 (July 25), #137 (August 1) about things that need to be done around the house, day #122, day #133 (on change & losing friends). Then to a piece from his Chakra series, “An Unfolding.” Then back to the pandemic series, eventually ending with an affirmation #132 stating that no one who writes is alone.

At this point, as I was about to leave for yet another online event, Nick Bisanz’s Facebook house concerts covering rock tunes from various eras, & Tim was discussing going into a second round of poems, bearded Don Levy popped up, but seemed to have difficulty navigating Zoom. I haven’t seem Don at an open mic since venues were shut down & hope he gets it figured out so he join us all in cyberspace soon.  & I'll be back too.

August 9, 2020

Poetry Night at Caffè Lena, August 5

As with (nearly) everything there are the pluses & minuses to this COVID-19 pandemic, poetry readings/open mics no exception. For example, I miss the personal contacts, the informal, private chatting at in-person open mics, but on the other hand, folks who have moved & no longer living local to the reading can attend Zoom open mics & share their work. The Poetry Night at Caffè Lena has been continuing with a splendid array of local writers actually reading on the stage of Caffè Lena, but the various & fascinating poets in the open mic are no longer there, & then again the reading runs just about an hour (during which time I don’t have to wear shoes, or even pants), but I don’t have a reason to come to Saratoga Springs (not sure whether that is a plus or minus). 

Carol Graser is still our host & keeps the reading going very fast, which is streamed & recorded on YouTube, which I under stand is better for sound quality than Zoom

First up this night was Marilyn McCabe who is a Caffè Lena favorite who has a string of books I admire. She began with poems from her new chapbook Being Many Seeds, which won the 2020 Grayson Books chapbook contest. Each poem is included in several forms, the original, & manipulations of the texts such as erasures, that address our relationship to the Earth. Also each poem includes a quote from a special favorite of mine who has informed my thinking, the French Jesuit philosopher/theologian & paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955) — you can bet I’ve bought this chapbook. Science continued as a theme in her reading, including a poem about sitting in a traffic jam & thinking about Schrodinger’s cat, a poem titled “On a Night of Weary Walking,” & an old piece she began with singing a snippet of “Deep River.” 

Elizabeth K Gordon, known on the Slam circuit as Elizag, showed off her new haircut, then launched into the celebratory “On Receiving My First Social Security Check,” then on to a poem about visiting Celia in hospice, what she doesn’t remember & the music she does remember. She read a couple pieces from her still-current collection, Love Cohoes (2014), “The Clotheslines of Cohoes” (inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s “America”), & “This Yes” in her invented form the “cohonna.” She ended with 3 new ones, “Milk for the Tear-Gassed Eyes,” “Guinness to Fertilize Xmas Trees,” &, looking forward, “When We Come Together Again.” 

I often refer to D. Alexander Holiday as my racial consciousness Jiminy Cricket & he certainly was that tonight with the works that he read from other black writers & from his own body of work. He began with Dudley Randall’s (1914 - 2000) chilling “Ballad of Birmingham“ all-to-poignant for today. Then on to

his own work, “We Are Gathered Here Today” from his 2003 book Letters to Osama, “Rest In Peace” (for Amadou Diallo) from I Use To Fall Down (2001), & “The Apologia” from Kith & Kin: A Klannish Klownish Tragik Komedy (2017). He included to my delight his performance of Dudley Randall’s dialogue “Booker T. and W.E.B.” then ended with an add-on, also done from memory, “On Seeing Two Brown Boys in a Catholic Church” by Frank Horne (1899 - 1974). 

I do miss the open mic poets, but with only 3 poets who kept to their time this reading, while giving us some marvelous poetry, it was also mercifully short. 

[I forgot to “take pictures” this night — even with online readings I try to take screen shots. But I wandered through “the world’s largest collection of photos of unknown poets” to find photos I’d taken of each of this night’s poets when they’ve read at Caffè Lena in the past.]