June 24, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, June 14

Zoom with co-hosts Dan Wilcox & Nancy Klepsch, with the technical assistance of Dan Curley, who started us off with an older poem “The Cinema of the ’70s” about the 1973 Steve McQueen film Papillon & about “sticking it to the Man.”

Katt’s poem harkened back to the end of last year & was about eating an orange in New York in the Winter.

Sally Rhoades has been writing memoir pieces about her family & today read “The House that was Never Built” that was for her mother & father.

I read a poem with a nod to Pride Month “Men Don’t Write Flower Poems” the title a remark made by poet John Montague in one of his poetry workshops, then “A Prayer for Super Heroes” a little piece inspired by my granddaughter Jane.

Jil Hanifan read “Enough” about the pain of living in small towns -- ah, yes.

Julie Lomoe premiered an opt-ed piece submitted to the Albany Times Union about the suspected mental impairment diagnosis of the President “Duty to Warn the Danger of Donald Trump” (her title).

Nancy Klepsch read a poem as a chart “Key Strategies to Surviving the Pandemic…” from her experience based on a list of things to do, then the audience participation piece “Say Your Batterer’s Name.”

Joel Best said that his piece “Willy Nilly” was in his usual stream of consciousness style, while his 2nd piece “Always Down” was more “sentimental.”

Nancy Dunlop read a prose poem about defiance written after a conversation with a neighbor about going to Walmart with her son after the shootings in El Paso & Dayton then a piece titled “The End of the House.”

(Bob Sharkey had also joined the call but had to leave before he got a chance to read — maybe next time.)

Speaking of “next time” we will be meeting again on Zoom on the 2nd Sunday of July (the 12th) @ 2PM for Poetry + Prose. Visit the Facebook group for information https://www.facebook.com/groups/917479018383130/

June 14, 2020

2nd Tuesday Open Mic, June 9

Bennington in my home, on Zoom since we can’t get into the Tap House anyway, with our host for spoken word, music, whatever you want to do with words, Charlie Rossiter. We did 2 rounds.

was first up with an old poem for the Black Lives Matter events all around us, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” for Tamir Rice, then in the 2nd round, a new piece in 2 columns “My Life with Birds.” Julie Lomoe was at this open mic for the first time, mainly because she didn’t have to drive to Bennington & read a couple pieces about her mother, in the first round “My Mother’s Head” about her passing out at a club with the Modern Jazz Quartet, & in a similar vein about going to jazz clubs in Milwaukee with her mother stalking black musicians “Jazz Crazy.”

Laura’s first poem was a splendid description of moss “Shady in the Park,” then later she read a memoir of learning with a friend to ride a unicycle “The Helper.” Charlie, with the accompaniment of his son Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar, performed his poem with the title of a famous blues tune “Sweet Home Chicago,” then in the second round a real-life tale of speeding in New Mexico “Frontier.”

Tom Nicotera, Zooming in from Connecticut, also had real-life tales, “Blues for America” from 2009 at a late-night Motel 6 accompanying himself on harmonica, then in the 2nd round a real-life bird poem “Turkey Love.” Jack Rossiter-Munley did a couple pieces on guitar, the first a mashup of Bob Dylan’s “North Country Blues” & Bruce Springstein’s “Born in the USA” both harkening back to Woody Guthrie, then, as the night's final performer a blues “Make it Rain.”

Can’t say I missed the hour drive to Bennington, except that then I would’ve had time to spend with Charlie & Jack, but it was a pleasant gathering of poets, albeit electronically — no hugs allowed, but at least I didn't have to wear pants.

June 5, 2020

Zooming Around Poetry Events

When I started this Blog in early 2007 my intent, partially, was to use it to document poetry readings & other literary events that I attend. By & large my entries are the only evidence available online of who read & what they read. It was a logical step from my handwritten notebooks I’d been keeping about the readings & open mics since 1987, notebooks that sit un-viewed in my private archive, to typing them up for my Blogspot site. As the banner says, “It's not the truth but it’s pretty darn close.”

Once we entered The Age of Covid-19 some of the poetry open mics started to try out the variety of online options — Zoom, Google Meet, YouTube, etc. I’ve gotten comfortable with Zoom, even hosted my first event on that platform, the annual Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration reading of “Song of Myself” on May 31. It wasn’t the same as being in Washington Park at the Robert Burns statue, but we did have readers from as far away as Florida, Ohio, & Treadwell, NY. I didn’t record it so “… it is gone in the air, you can never capture it again” as Eric Dolphy once said, but then I never record the Walt Whitman reading because you can read it yourself anywhere anytime.  We had about 18 folks in attendance & volunteering to read a section or more to get us through that gran poem once again.

So I’ve actually written Blogs about the online open mics I’ve attended & found it is the same — & different — as being there in person. One problem I had to overcome was how to take my customary photos. But the machine can do it for me, all I had to do was to take a dump, I mean a screen dump. Of course, it was a throw of the dice getting everyone in their own little thumbnails looking good, not picking their nose, whatever. One thing that does make attending online readings very different from in-person events is that I don’t have to wear pants.

However I’ve “been” to other readings that were recorded online, someone else doing the archiving, so I could take the afternoon, or evening, off. One was a memorial to the Irish poet Eavan Boland who died earlier this year. The hour program was organized by Poetry Ireland, on May 27, 8PM their time, a comfortable 3PM here, & included poets in Ireland & the US reading Boland’s poems & talking about their connections with her. Eavan Boland had been in Albany as a guest of the NYS Writers Institute a couple times. I photographed her early on at the NYS Museum on November 20, 1987, before I knew I was building an archive of readings in Albany.

A more recent event was a live reading at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY on the first Wednesday in June, no open mic as they normally do, but 3 engaging, entertaining poets, recorded on YouTube.  The 3 poets were Carol Graser, who is the host of the in-person open mic at Caffè Lena, Philip Memmer from Syracuse, & Barbara Ungar who is no stranger to Caffè Lena. Since you can experience this reading yourself on YouTube, I’ll just summarize each reader’s program.

It was good to hear Carol stretch out here rather than just the 1 poem she does at the open mic. Her reading included the venerable “Tribe” & a generous selection of her persona poems in the voice of inanimate objects, such as “The Ironing Board” & “The Haiku.” Her quiet poems are much more powerful for that quietness, & are filled with the leaps of language that make the listener sit up & notice.

Philip Memmer, like Barbara Ungar, had been scheduled to be featured at Caffè Lena just as everything was shut down during the pandemic. He read mostly from his recent book Pantheon (Lost Horse Press, 2019), poems written in the voice of imaginary gods, such as “The God of Driving Alone,” & “The God of Importance.”

Barbara Ungar read mostly from 2 books, her fabulous abecedarian Save Our Ships (Ashland Poetry Press, 2019) & from a new, limited edition from chapbook from Ethel Press, EDGE, named for the list of Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered species, a theme that is also treated in Save Our Ships.

Check out both recordings of the Eavan Boland Memorial & the Caffè Lena readings in the links provided above.  & look for online open mics to get your of poetry -- until we can meet again in person.