May 21, 2020

Trio House Press Reading, May 17

Trio House Press, based in Florida, has published over 20 volumes of poetry since its founding in 2011. This reading, held on Zoom, was by 3 poets whose work Trio House has published, Bradford Tice (What the Night Remembered), Artess Bethany White (My Afmerica), & Michele Battiste (Waiting for the Wreck to Burn). The reading MC was Tamara Madison, another Trio House poet (Threed, This Road Not Damascus), who introduced Tayve Neese, the Co-founder & Co-executive Editor.

First poet up was Bradford Tice who read mostly new poems. One poem that seemed to be an earlier work was a tender, discursive “Elegy for Judy Garland.” Some of his new poems were from a new manuscript exploring BDSM culture, one poem titled “Our Affairs,” another, “Tailed,” brought in James Bond as a character. Another new piece was an exploration of the conditional mood, an assignment from a poet friend, titled “Certain Conditions Apply.”

The poems of Artess Bethany White dealt with history & race, such as her first poem, “A Meditation on the Toppling of the Confederate Silent Sam Statue.” Her reading included poems from My Afmerica, such as “Plantation Wedding,” “An American War in Spain,” & “Mississippi June.” Whereas Tice’s poems were exlusively discursive, White’s were more rhythmic, using slant rhymes, & the musical play of words. She ended with a “new/new” poem which she said she was editing before this reading, a ghazal dedicated to the recently murdered Ahmaud Arbery.

I’ve been an admirer of the poetry of Michele Battiste ever since she first came to open mics in the Albany, NY area years ago, & I’ve featured her at poetry events that I organize. She also read primarily from her Trio House book, the stunning Waiting for the Wreck to Burn, winner of the 2018 Louise Bogan Award, including the opening poem “Ruination,” & others to introduce the town of Ruination, another she said she had not read out before today “When the Light Falters,” then to add some cynical humor to the grim the wonderful “Almost Adulterer’s Guide to Menu Planning.” For her finale she brought out a piece from a new series of “augury poems,” tossing out to the audience to select from a couple of options, the most votes for “The Torch Singers.” The series is set in another made-up town, this called “Elsewhere” (sounds like Pennsylvania or Alabama), the auguries like Tarot Cards, with a poem then a description of the meaning of the “card.” I’ll buy the book!

This reading is part of an online series by Trio House Press to spotlight some of their authors, check their Facebook page for the next events.

May 19, 2020

Zoom Poetic Gathering, May 15

Charlie Rossiter usually has an open mic — poetry/spoken word, music, whatever — at the Tap House in Bennington on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, but this special invitation Zoom event was held instead, but on a Friday, in our homes. All those reading are regulars at the 2nd Tuesday, or others like myself, or Tom Nicotera from Connecticut, who had shown up on occasion. We went around few times.

Kenn Ash opened it up with a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” played on his pocket trumpet; later, again an old blues on the trumpet; & at the very end, a poem about cats waking up. Bill who was joining us from the wilds of Pennsylvania also played a blues, on his guitar, from 1979; later he read what he called “a third-place poem” a string of haiku “Fishing with Theo” (his son). Tom Nicotera read a collaborative piece he’d written with Charlie, “Coming Home from O’Hare on the El One Night;” then a political piece titled “The Gun is the Shaman” accompanying himself on the bodhran; & later the descriptive “Driving thru Kansas.”

My poems were all new pieces, “Adrift with Guy DeBord & Thich Nhat Hanh;” later “Prayer for Super Heroes” (inspired by my granddaughter Jane); & my poem-joke, “April 30: Poem in your Pocket Day.” Anthony Bernini, from Troy, NY, read a piece inspired by the artist Lori Lawrence “Chihuahua Wild Life;" later, a pandemic poem, on death, “Winnowing.” Jack Rossiter-Munley played his mandolin & sang a tune inspired by the series Mrs. America about dealing with Phyllis Schlafly; later, he sang a Woody Guthrie tune, again with his mandolin.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter read a tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti “Poets Arise!” a cento of lines from Ferlinghetti’s poems; later, accompanied by Jack on conga drum, performed his “Manhattan Blue,” a classic from numerous performances by 3 Guys from Albany. During the first round Laura Ellzey brought in her dog while Anthony Bernini read his poem but then she missed the first round when she retreated to the basement as a powerful, fast-moving storm came through, but when she returned she paid tribute to Jim Henson, who had died 30 years ago on this date, by singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green;” later, read a Spring poem titled “A Bit off the Beaten Path.”

A most pleasant poetry salon, informal, friends sharing work from their various homes in the Northeast.

May 18, 2020

An Afternoon with the Author Elisa Albert, May 14

Since 2014 the Albany Public Library Foundation (now the Friends and Foundation of Albany Public Library) have named & honored one or more Literary Legends each year. Last year I had the great thrill & honored to be named a Literary Legend, along with poet Lyn Lifshin & novelist Peter Golden. This year the FFAPL has named fiction writer Elisa Albert as the 2020 Literary Legend. The celebration has traditionally included a “Meet the Author” event in the Spring & a grand fund-raising Gala in the Fall. But since 2020 is also “the Year of Covid-19” things are a little bit different.

On May 14 FFAPL held a stay-at-home online version of the Meet the Author event, with a reading & talk by Elisa Albert, in conversation with her friend & former student, local author, Jay Deitcher. Elisa is originally from Los Angeles but now lives in Albany, teaches at the College of St. Rose & is a Visiting Writer at Bennington College. Her most recently published novel is After Birth (2015), with 3 others previously, & a string of short stories & non-fiction, & she has been working on a new novel. The whole megillah is on her website here.

It was a lively discussion, mostly with Jay, about the importance of the non-writing community in her life, on her “soft spot” for Hudson, but also “a lot of unfulfilled potential” in Albany, on her novel Afterbirth (one of the main characters is not based on the late Maggie Estep), on her constant grappling with what it means to be Jewish, on the need for mentors/elders in her life (or, as Elisa called them, “lighthouses”).

She went on to read the beginning of a story published by The Literary Review as a chapbook titled Assholes, about a relationship (with a baby in it, again), & as you would expect from the title, a shit-load of profanities.

It was a pleasant literary afternoon, one in which I could enjoy my happy hour drink while “in the Library,” so to speak. I’m looking forward to meeting in person our new Literary Legend, Elisa Albert, & celebrating with her, her friends & colleagues, & others who make up our rich literary community at the Gala in the Fall.

May 15, 2020

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, May 13

Schenectady open mic, tonight on Zoom for the 1st time with the usual host Jackie Craven, & it went well. Folks seem to be getting used to this & finding their way around.

Bob Sharkey read “Wedded Poem” which acknowledged & celebrated his wife & his 50th wedding anniversary, which became a topic of informal conversation throughout the reading (see my remarks at the end). I followed with on of my pre-pandemic poem from my writing vacation/retreat in Gloucester in January, “Hanging Over the Edge.” Catherine Norr who hasn’t been in the area for a while shared a poem about finding the site of the former family home in Kansas City at “The Corner of 4th & Vine.”

Margaret Bryant’s poem “The Sun’s Journey” was an end-of-year meditation on a lifetime of seasons. Margo Mensing read a recently written poem titled “Nothing is There” with the memorable ending “we refuse to materialize.” Scott Morehouse, who appears on the screen as “Pierre Oliver,” took us back to his childhood with a piece titled “Child Star,” imagining himself as Little Lulu’s co-star, Tubby, then becoming a star on his own.

Susan Kress read a covid-19 poem, “Motherhood,” about her shopper when she took up online-shopping for groceries. I had my own co-starring role in Alan Catlin’s poem “May Day Dream Poem” going to a baseball game in Japan, which you can find on the 2nd Wednesday Poetry Facebook Group. Our host Jackie Craven ended the evening’s poetry with the intriguing fantasy “I Renounce My Life as a Philodendron.”

Throughout the night Bob Sharkey’s poem elicited remarks about their either recently past, or upcoming 50th wedding anniversaries from Margaret Bryant, Susan Kress & Alan Catlin. Scott Morehouse said this would have been his 50th anniversary if he had stayed married. & later I realized that back in November I would’ve celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary to my first wife. I guess we all married young.

We’ll probably be back on Zoom next month for the 2nd Wednesday Poetry Night, perhaps 7:00PM, check the Facebook Group mentioned above for information.

May 13, 2020

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

2nd time for us, usually at the Arts Center, on Zoom & a nice showing of readers & listeners. Nancy Klepsch & I, Dan Wilcox, bounced back & forth as hosts, with Jil Hanifan thankfully handling the logistics. Even some Vermonters on the list.

Kenn Ash got us off to a start with humor, “Ode to the TV Horses” with funny rhymes, & a poem imagining the end of the shutdown. Laura also entertained us with rhyme & word-play with “Cat Food Soup,” then a topical piece “Annihilated.” Dan Curley added to the day’s informal theme of life with covid-19 with 2 poems from his “pandemic series” “I Went to the Big Box Store” & “Yard Work.”

Cheryl Rice avoided the hour drive from Kingston (& the necessity to wear pants) by joining the Zoom meeting & began with a piece on mortality “Peacock” (dead on the sidewalk) & “Mask.” Bob Sharkey began with a reading of the poem “Fever” by recently-gone Eavan Boland, then another in his series of re-writes of fortune cookies this on the topic-de-jour “Pandemic Fortune.” Kate Gillespie began appropriately enough with an introduction poem with the recurring line “ask me a question,” then one on theme titled “A Cold in the Time of Corona.”

Both of Jil Hanifan’s poems were, as she said, “plague poems,” the first about the virus in Korea “Contact Tracing,” then what sounded personal “The Old Professor & the Pandemic.” Sally Rhoades was also on topic with a poem about the peacefulness of her street now “No School Busses,” then an autobiographical poem for her daughters “Letting Go a Little Bit of My Youth” about deciding not to return to nursing now. I skirted the topic-de-jour entirely with a poem from my week in January in Gloucester “The 6 of Cups” & my Poem-in-Your-Pocket entry, a poem/joke “April 30.”

Nancy Klepsch ended the list with a poem she proudly discovered had been published in Fence Magazine that began with a quote from Virginia Woolf & was about losses & being a writer titled “All the Nine Herbs are Listening.”

So the 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose will continue even though we have been sent to our rooms, but not at the Arts Center which remains closed, but on Zoom. Check out the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Facebook page for a link when the next 2nd Sunday gets close.

May 7, 2020

Poetic Vibe, May 4

Poetic Vibe is one of the first (& few) regular venues (Weekly!) that jumped on the Zoom flying saucer to take us into whatever you call this strange event happening in my house when I should be driving to Troy. D. Colin is our Captain Mama to get us there/here. She started us off with a poem using words others provided at a workshop as a way to set the stage for the open mic, no featured poet tonight but often there is.

Adam Wise was first up with a poem for his mother, just written today. Luis Pabon (aka L-Majesty) read a piece titled “No Man’s Reality” about when your partner is no longer interested, & a one for fathers with sons “Fathers, Protect Your Sons.” I read 2 recent poems, “Easter Sunday” (“social distancing sucks!”) & a poem/joke for April 30 Poem-in-your-Pocket Day.

D. Colin hit one of those Zoom moments when folks who had signed up didn’t seem to be there/here, so read a couple of her own poems, the first from August about the sight of tree while driving brings to mind black bodies shot, then a poem titled “Dragon Breath.” Analysis called in from Baltimore with a rhapsodic word-play love poem with Scots images “Laura Dreams of Lochs.” Truth read from what he called his “constant stream of notes.”

Marie Kathleen Hefferman’s poem “Woman” came out of a line from the poet Anne Sexton, then read a descriptive autobiographical piece “Who Am I?” Rio Riera Arbogast read a descriptive love poem to Spring. Amani, whose video image had shown her strolling through the city streets, read “The Scent” which had been written on a plane going to Cuba in 2016, then had another of those Zoom moments, this where she was interrupted by a phone call. Tarishi Shuler’s poem “Everyday” was for the mothers.

One of the fascinatingly attentive things that Danielle does each Poetic Vibe is to create a found poem, or what she calls the take-away, from each of the poets who read, essentially a cento built with the lines she hears.

Then a last-minute surprise before we hung up, a tender, very short poem on family by a poet who was only described (& could be heard as) “a young person.” Anyone can walk through the door, real or virtual, maybe he'll be back someday.

You can find Poetic Vibe through their Facebook page & sign-in to Zoom to read or just to listen.

How to Zoom While Sitting Down

Zoom readings have changed the rules on conducting, & being at open mics, sometimes for the better, sometimes not, & sometimes just the same-old/same-old in a different format. I’ve been assembling some pointers for those just getting into this not-so-brave new world & offer these pointers based on my experience.

Don’t get there too early. In the pre-coronavirus days you could get to the bar, or coffee house, or gallery early, find a friend or two, hang out, gossip, it was part of what we did. On Zoom if you get there early it’s like getting early to a meeting at work & everyone is there & you have this group conversation that you’d rather not. Plus, on Zoom, most of the conversation ends up being about the difficulties folks had getting signed on, figuring out what they have to do, etc., & it’s all one big group-fuck conversation -- you can’t pick out that one person you really want to talk to & go off in the corner & flirt. In the category of “same-old/same-old,” one person at a recent reading who had problems getting on Zoom, & was much discussed by the organizers & I don't think ever got on, is also a person who has had perennial problems with sending out emails about his events with incomplete or wrong information — it ain’t the vehicle, it’s the nut who holds the wheel.  Of course you could get on Zoom early then mute the audio & video (see the next item) & go watch some TV until it is time for the reading to start -- sort of like hanging out at the bar watching a ball game before the reading.

Use the mute audio & the mute video button. They are along the bottom margin of the Zoom window, if you don’t see it move your pointer to the margin & it will appear. Mute your audio otherwise it is like the Tower of Babel, & mute your video if you need to pick you nose or step away to get a drink. Other useful tools along that margin include the chat function — you can send a message to everyone (why?), or to just the host (to let them know you want to sign up for the open mic), or to anyone else who has dialed in, many folks use this to comment on the poem.

Adjust your video.  Move your computer to move your camera so that your image is in the middle of the screen; I've seen poets reading so that the top of their head is all we see at the bottom of the screen — what you see is what others see so adjust the computer camera accordingly.

Play with the Virtual background. When you are signed in to Zoom you will see at the top left corner of your screen “,” if you click on it there is a drop-down menu, click “Preferences.” You can do lots of things with the next drop-down menu “Settings.” Play around with it. You can even improve, “Touch up,” your appearance (under the “Video” option on the Settings menu). One choice is the Virtual background; there are pre-loaded backgrounds, so if your room is messy or you don’t want people to see where you are speaking from, choose a virtual background. You can also add photos from your own photo files to put you on a beach or a street corner, or, my favorite, in a bathroom. Click on the “+” sign, then select a photo from your own files. Have fun with it, even take some photos that you can use later.  Or you can just leave up your messy room with the cat puking on your desk as the background, it's up to you.

Read poems from your screen. Have your poems ready on your computer rather than loose pages strewn on your desk so that when you read you are looking straight ahead; others can’t see the text they just see you looking at your screen while you read, not the top of your head when you bend down to read the page.

Feel free to fuck-off.  Unlike in-person events where it’s rude to spend time on your phone checking emails, perusing Facebook, reading, even talking on the phone while the featured poet drones on & on, with Zoom, using the audio/video mute function, you can still be present, but folks won’t see or hear you while you talk on your cellphone, surf the internet, delete your emails, etc. You can even turn down (or mute) your computers audio so you don’t even have to hear them.  & if you fall asleep, no one can hear or see you snoring.

That said, if we were back at the Social Justice Center on the third Thursday for the open mic & you fell asleep, I wouldn't mind (in fact have done it few times) nudging you awake, it would be nice to have you there in person, awake or asleep.  Someday I hope.

May 6, 2020

Calling All Poets, May 1

CAPS is a monthly series in New Paltz, which I’ve missed for more months than I dare to admit to, but tonight I could save the hour drive down, hour back, by just staying home, pouring my own drinks & I didn’t even have to wear pants — a result of being sent to my room by covid-19, & Zoom.

Mike Jurkovic was the host, while Greg Correll handled the vital logistics, assisting folks to sign in. The sign-up sheet was to use the Zoom Chat function to let Mike know if you were interested in reading.

The reading began with the 2 featured poets. First up was Annie La Barge, who prior to this ran the open mic at the Kingston UU. She read a series of poems about her time since an accident some years ago that left her with a brain injury, beginning with what she remembers of the accident itself & the after effects, like a series of notes patients are sometimes encouraged to keep. Other poems were about the resulting confusions, up to now on mistakes & the joy of cats, ending with a poem about helping a woman in a nursing home by reading to her.

The second featured poet was Irene O’Garden who began as many of us do with “Morning Coffee” complete with a coffee mug for show-&-tell. She also read a series of recent poems about surviving during this time of being shutdown, “Shaving the Parmesan,” another coffee poem, one on a practice of letting go, one titled “Aries in Shock,” & even “Zoom Dinner Party.” She did a piece from her 2013 book Glad to Be Human, then ended with a long piece titled “The Tell of Israel” that was more liked unedited notes.

Then on to the open mic & even here I ended up first, & since it was May Day, the International Workers’ Day, I read my tribute to postal workers “Going Postal.” Fred Poole read a cluster of mostly short, enigmatic poems about memories of the past. Richard Levine began by muting himself, but when that got sorted out read a poem on hand washing. David Brown read a poem about his twin who died at birth “The Gift.”

Joann Deiudicibus read an adoring hagiography on the poet Anne Sexton. Cornelia De Dona said it was her first time to a CAPS open mic, her piece was titled “Riding the Virtual Covid-19 Bullet Train.” Ken Holland began with a poem titled “Bodies on Consignment” then read one to his mother “Sorry.” Sandra Panman, who also said this was her first time here (wherever “here” is on Zoom), read 3 poems, one titled “Tiger Lillies in July” which was for her late husband.

There were more poets, at one time there were 25 of us on the Zoom group screen, but I got interrupted by a phone call & had to leave, slipping out the backdoor one might say, but it was no drive home.

You can find the Calling All Poets Series on Facebook where they will list future such readings & open mics, one held on the first Friday, but others throughout the month.