February 5, 2020

Poets Speak Loud!, January 27

15th Annual Tom Nattell Memorial & Beret Toss began with the beret toss at the Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park with a successful toss by Mary Panza on here first try. Also in attendance, besides “yours truly,” were Nick Bisanz & Tess Lecuyer. The candle had been lit, the site smudged with sage, the flowers presented & the annual complaint originally uttered by Mary some other cold January, “Hey Tom, the next time you die, could you do it in July.”

Photo by Mary Panza
Then on to McGeary’s for some bourbon, meatloaf & beer. And poetry.

I served as host & Tom’s words were shared throughout the open mic, including selections of the Christopher Columbus Fantasies (1992) & “American Pledge” from 2000 Human Ri(gh)t(e)s (2000). In a true sense Tom Nattell was tonight’s featured poet. The fact that this open mic is held monthly on the last Monday of the month (& has been since January, 2005) is a tribute itself to the spirit that is Tom who got the Albany poetry scene going with a good swift kick in the ass.

First on the sign-up sheet was a welcome regular here Carrie C. who read “A Walk on my Path” combining images of mythological warfare with real forest creatures, then a poem based on a short story of love she wrote when she was younger. Tim Verhaegen is known for his memoir pieces & tonight read 2, “The Circles & Hook Pond” about where he grew up, & “Best Friends at First Sight at a Party.”

Jacky Kirkpatrick hadn’t been here in a while & read a confession with a long title “You Were Right I Didn’t Need my MFA I Just Needed to Fall in Love” (with a wink to my attitude about MFA programs), & the simply titled “Sustenances.”  Joe Krausman, another regular here & everywhere, read a couple of his laconic musings on relationships & aging, “Cheering Someone Up,” & the very useful “How to Have Great Sex at 90.” Speaking of sex, I stepped in with an old poem “To My Penis, on our 45th Birthday.”

A new face & voice here — which is the essence of what Tom Nattell did with the open mics & readings he organized — Conor Meehan read a couple of “J” poems: “Judas” & “Joker.” Joshua Bauscher frequently attends the weekly open mic in Troy, Poetic Vibe, & here tonight did a couple of Slam-style pieces from memory the first about a love never had, then from his book a musical play on sounds beginning with “A Fire tree…” Julie Lomoe took us down memory lane, with a ramble about her best-selling posters of promoting the paintings she exhibited at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, then read her poem about Tom Nattell’s last reading in December 2004 at the Lark St. Bookstore.

Tess Lecuyer who was one of those on the scene at those early QE2 open mics that Tom organized began with a mean sonnet “December Ends,” then one based on an actual conversation “The Widow.” Amanda Pelletier read here in the past at another Tom Nattell Memorial in 2018, & more recently at The Low Beat, tonight reprised her Family Guy piece written to a former lover read just a week ago, then an audience participation piece titled “Share” addressed to her father.

Austin Houston had also been here in the past & who is not from Texas, read a piece about being mistreated at work, then a manifesto about the importance of being himself/his own person. Glenn Cassidy, who will be the featured poet here in February, read “In Men We Trust” on Trump’s impeachment, then a take on Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, but this about what immigrants bring with them when they seek asylum & a new home.

I had begun the night with one a poem about Tom Nattell’s death “Theology 101” & ended with my elegy & memoir “Chasing Tom.” It was the kind of poetry open mic that Tom would have, I’m sure, felt was a success on one of his nights at the QE2. & the generous donations from the poets & audience tonight are going to the Homeless Action Committee.

Poets Speak Loud! happens each last Monday of the month at McGeary’s at Sheridan Square in Albany, NY, sign-up at 7:30PM, plenty of good food & adult beverages efficiently served by Mark & others. Details at AlbanyPoets.com.

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