July 27, 2020

Poetry Open Mic, July 22

Tim Verhaegen has been a welcome staple in the local open mic/reading/community workshop scene for many years, back to the 1990s. The first photo of Tim I’ve been able to find is from an open mic at Border’s Bookstore in July 1996, hosted by Mary Panza, a decidedly thinner & darker haired Tim. Recently retired from government service Tim has attended some Zoom poetry meetings & got the bug — not COVID — to take the leap to organize his first open mic. He set the list as folks arrived & put the order of the poets to his whim, & we went around twice.

Tim assigned me the first slot & I read the recently typed up “Content Advisory,” then in the 2nd round read the elegy “To my Parakeet Berlioz.”

Cheryl Rice began the night’s sub-theme with a new piece still on paper “Mask,” then a melancholy, related piece about finally getting out to a restaurant “Blue Devils” for sushi & a Mai Tai with it’s sad umbrella in the 2nd round.

Therese Broderick read from her chapbook of pandemic poems, in the 1st round “A Shortage of Crumbs,” about missing the open mics, then in the 2nd round, reflecting Cheryl’s theme, with one about finally getting to the Sake Cafe “Zen & the Art of Eating Inside a Restaurant for the First Time in 4 Months.”

Frank Robinson did a political parody based on the words of Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan, memorably “how many years must a turd persist before it is flushed to the sea…” then in the 2nd round an anniversary love poem to Therese, his wife — ahh!

Howard Kogan was here from his home in Massachusetts to read about attending a poetry reading in a strange place “Die,” then in the 2nd round about waking up dead “One Morning.”

Bob Sharkey jumped into the issue of statues of former slave owners with “The Day Alice Green Drove Around the Philip Schyluer Statue” in front of Albany’s City Hall, then on the 2nd go around a strange poem from a prompt from a Bernadette Mayer workshop, “The Officer’s Hat” a memoir of piccolo player in a band & a hand job on a train.

Jan Tramontano was here from Florida, one of the pandemic hot-spots, to read the one COVID poem she has completed, “Il Nato,” about getting out a little, then in the 2nd round a descriptive piece about ex-Marine at “Paradise Nails.”

Mike Jurkovic is just down the River but didn’t have to drive to read a very new poem about pot smokers on the street “True Blue Sea,” then later one titled “Shamed Angels” referencing a magazine cover of Linda Ronstandt.

Kristen Day’s first round poem was an old piece about a trio in a nut house “Normal, Crazy, & St. Peter’s Girl Friend,” then in the 2nd round her hysterical, profane rant about rage at your ornery printer.

The sound of Peggy LeGee’s reading was a bit broken up but she was able to get through “Mommy’s Too Sick & Daddy’s Too Drunk,” then had better luck with a transition poem “A Little Girl Lost, A Little Boy Gone,” both poems in rhyme.

Our host, Tim Verhaegen, only read in the first round, a piece about breaking up from a 5-year relationship & what was wrong on both sides, “Boredom.”

This was Tim’s first foray, to my knowledge, in hosting an open mic anywhere, in any format & it worked quite well. There may very well be others in the future, stay tuned on social media — & keep writing.

July 16, 2020

Poetry/Spoken Word, July 14

Bennington, Vermont has been better off, as far as the poetry scene goes, since Charlie Rossiter got there & began this open mic series at The Tap House. Then along came corona & COVID-19. Since then Charlie has persisted on Zoom with his wide-open mic. & I have enjoyed being there without driving for an hour.

The host tonight, as before, as now was Charlie Rossiter, & did the 2-round thing.

I was first on the list & read a couple of older pieces, beginning with a variation on a poem by Rumi “The Phrasing Must Change,” then on the second round an even older piece just published in Laura Boss’ journal Lips (#51/52), the astronomical exploration of “The Transit of Venus.”

Barbara Sarvis, who had just hung around last month listening, tonight read a a rap piece written last week about the rules of growing up in the 50s & 60s “Like a Lady,” then later something from a workshop using “If…,” on the pandemic like a bird & illusions, & said she wants to do a painting about it.

Laura Ellzey sang songs in both rounds, in number 1 the 1972 hit “Summer Breeze” by Seals & Croft, then the dogs barked, then in the 2nd round Winnie the Pooh’s “A Little Black Rain Cloud.”

Jack Rossiter-Munley, who was downstairs then upstairs, played an instrumental "St. James Infirmary," then returned in the second round to back up Charlie.

Charlie Rossiter read his walk down the nostalgia road “Ode to the Old TV” & the old TV shows he used to watch on it, then in the second round, with Jack on guitar, a piece written back in Chicago “Alley Cat” for Walter & the boys alley catin’.

Tom Nicotera’s poem “Reading at Dawn” was a reaction to the book The Many Faces of Christ by Philip Jenkins & on hearing the cry of a crow, then it was a different critter in the second round “Grasshopper for Breakfast” a poem on fear & instinct.

Kenn Ash mixed up humor, rhyme & his pocket trumpet a piece about being short, then another on his muted trumpet “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” parody about missing the toilet last night; in the second round another funny rhyme on “Room Effect,” or the problem of “why did I come in here anyway?”

If you are interested in joining this monthly Zoom poetry meeting email Charlie at charliemrossiter@gmail.com for more information.

July 15, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, July 12

A 2nd Sunday open mic that wasn’t supposed to happen — Back 11 years ago when Nancy Klepsch & I began this partnership hosting a monthly open mic (for poetry & prose) at the Arts Center in Troy, Nancy proposed that we take July & August off (she teaches in a public school system so this pattern is hard-wired for her), I had no objection & that’s the way it was. Until this June at our Zoom gathering Nancy proposed doing the open mic in July; again, I had no objection. Then a week or so later she called to say that she & her partner Lauren were going camping & would I mind hosting the event. Again I had no objection, indeed that’s the great thing about having co-hosts, we can fill in for each other as the need arises. So here we were — & a good thing too: a third of the readers who dialed in were from out-of-state.

& the first of those was Charlie Rossiter from Bennington, Vermont who read “One Chilly August Morning Something Happened” (at Mimi’s Minnesota cottage), & “Ode to the Old TV” & the old TV shows from back then. Charlie hosts a Zoom gathering on the 2nd Tuesday of each month that pre-COVID he did from The Tap House in Bennington.

Sally Rhoades began with a political piece “White Men Walking,” then an excerpt from her memoir written for a class about her father “Planting Beans.”

Howard Kogan was a beloved regular when we used to gather at the Arts Center but tonight dialed in from Ashland, Massachuesett & began with “Slip Rock” about out cowboys out west, & “My Mother’s Pandemic” her germophobia vindicated by the current pandemic.

Jil Hanifan’s short, surreal poem “Nimble Finger Peg” was drawn from the Irish tradition of songs like “the Bonnie Swan” where ghostly harpers use body parts of the dead to make a harp, then read the less-macabre but related “In the Beginning String.”

Ken Hada was online from Oklahoma but has read in Albany & Saratoga in the past on visits to the East; “Woodpecker” took us from the sound & image of the bird on a path to the metaphysical & philosophical, & “Living with Gravity” was equally philosophical about living graciously. Ken directs the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival each year at East Central University in Ada, OK, & has a weekly podcast The Sunday Poems with Ken Hada.

Dan Curley read “The Free Sale” a touching family tale from his book 2019 book Conditional Future Perfect (Wolfson Press).

I read 2 poems from the exhibit of the work of Ruby Silvious pre-shutdown at the Albany Institute of History & Art “The Tone of Ruby’s Images” (from a workshop run by Therese Broderick) & “Museum Goers” otherwise known as “The Wrist-Band Poem.”

Joel Best commented on Jil’s poem saying his own work tends to be surrealistic, read “Blind Love” with its free flowing random connections, a good example.

Julie Lomoe read from her work in progress “Sub-Dural,” a combination of prose & poems, this excerpt titled “Celebrating Life & Death the Unitarian Way” a descriptive essay from February when we could still attend wakes & funerals.

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose formerly (& perhaps in the future) at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, 10 months of the year, not usually in July & August, but who knows. Find it on Facebook.

July 12, 2020

2nd Wednesday Poetry, July 8

Good to be “back” in Schenectady, even better that I could do it from my home in Albany, even better to see that Jackie Craven is continuing this community open mic using Zoom. This was actually the 2nd Zoom event I was on this day, earlier I had attended a Zoom shiva for the mother of my friend Dina.

Here tonight, Alan Catlin was the first reader, beginning with a poem from The Secret Garden, “How We Live Now After Georgia O’Keefe,” then from Lessons of Darkness a couple of the very noir poems based on very noir films, including the “Murdered by the Numbers.”

Susan Jewell read from her on-going project of ekphrastic poems rejected by Rattle magazine “The Crossing,” & another submitted to another ekphrastic magazine “Odysseus Arrives from the Land of the Phoenicians.”

I began with a poem written at a workshop led by Therese Broderick on the art of Ruby Silvious “The Tone of Ruby’s Image,” then a pandemic-themed piece “Easter Sunday,” & one inspired by my granddaughter Jane “A Prayer for Super Heroes.”

Scott Morehouse lead us on an hysterical a-historic trip in 1953 with Eleanor Roosevelt giving Mr. Peanut a ride in her car, smoking & sharing a root beer at Woolworth’s, with Scott even doing a passable imitation of Mrs. Roosevelt’s unforgettable voice.

Sarah Giragosian, who will be reading in Poets in the Park on July 25 read from her new book The Death Spiral “Thumbnails of America” where the country is addressed as a person as in Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” then an eco-poem on climate justice “To the Source.”

Jackie Craven read what she described as “an old dog from 2012 … a complete flop,” a poem titled “Disgeographica” but recently published in Chautauqua — just keep sending those poems out, someone someday will want them.

Kathleen McCoy dialed in a little late, was not going to read, but fortunately was convinced that we wanted to hear her work, so read “Kindred Spirits” about a sculpture in Cork, Ireland honoring the native people of the USA for their support of the Irish during the Famine, then a descriptive piece “Back in Ohio.”

This open mic, now on Zoom, continues the 2nd Wednesday open mic formerly at C.R.E.A.T.E. community space on State St. in Schenectady, & maybe someday we’ll be back there. In the meantime find them on Facebook in a group called WritersMic.

July 9, 2020

Gloucester Writers Center Open Mic, July 6

Gloucester, as many of you know, is my 2nd favorite place in the world to be, & I haven’t been back there since the beginning of February. The Gloucester Writers Center has a regular open mic on the first Monday of each month, which I have attended a few times over the years. Like many venues, they have gone to an online meeting on Zoom so I decided to tune in this month. It turned out to be a guys’ night out. Roger Davis served as the GWC host, & the other attendee was Robert Guttman, & they wondered what this guy from Albany was doing there. We had great fun.

We began just gabbing, getting to know each other, me explaining my long-time connection to Gloucester. Roger is a former middle-school teacher of math & science (but he had been an English major in college) & returned to poetry after retiring from teaching. Bob is a polo/horse enthusiast & boat-builder. Both have are involved in the Gloucester writing community centered around the Gloucester Writers Center.

I shared my poems from my late January visit/writing retreat on Wonson Cove in East Gloucester, “Hanging Over the Edge,” Helicopters of Peace,” & the magical experience of “6 of Cups.”

I was in a writing workshop with Roger Davis at the Dogtown Writers Festival in September, & have heard him read at a GWC open mic in the past. He is partial to rhyme, said his poems happen that way. The poems he read had the common theme of water, a deep metaphor, he said. When he read “Beyond the Tide” he was able to put the text on the screen, which I found more distracting than just hearing it, the poem “Hints” was a meditation on water in the sea & in the sky inspired by a walk with his wife, while his last piece, “Scintillations”, was a free verse meditation on the light on the water & the presence of God.

I’ve also seen Bob Guttman at past GWC open mics. He is a raconteur with plenty of stories that Roger encouraged him to write down to preserve the history. The piece that he read had strong elements of storytelling, what he said was his “signature piece,” titled “Ode to Mom” written for the dedication of his mother’s tombstone, she had been a code-breaker in World War II, the piece incorporating her phrases of advice from her long life.

I was about to say “if you are in Gloucester on the first Monday of the month…” but for the foreseeable future you can find this open mic through the Gloucester Writers Center website — if if you like what they do — I do — send them a donation.

July 6, 2020

Stay Home Session: Poetry Night at Caffè Lena, July 1

One of Caffè Lena’s responses to the restrictions on large gatherings of folks, this the monthly poetry night on the first Wednesday of the month, hosted by Carol Graser, held on YouTube. You can also find their music events on YouTube, including this year’s SPAC/Friehofer’s Jazz Festival which I enjoyed as it was happening in the comfort of my home & cheap drinks.

Tonight’s reading was a trio of poets who make this region such a hotbed of vibrant, engaged poetry, Joseph Bruchac, D. Colin, & Bunkong Tuon.

BK read first, primarily from his most recent book The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press, 2019), focusing on his daughter, his wife, & his own response to becoming a father. His poems are part story, part personal questioning, part meditation on existence. BK’s grand theme is family, this book the latest in that exploration. He also read briefly from his other 2 books, And So I Was Blessed (NYQ Books, 2017) & Gruel (NYQ Books 2015). Gruel deals with his early years as a refuge from Cambodia, while And So I Was Blessed contains poems about returning to Southeast Asia as a tourist. He also included a recent poem beginning “America you were brave once… “ saying he loves America so he must criticize it.

D. Colin, who has the amazing task of hosting Poetic Vibe open mic & reading every Monday, (formerly at the Troy Kitchen, now on Zoom), said she was trying tonight her best to balance the positive & the grim. She began with “Magpie” a “fairly new” piece about trying to protect her plants, her self, from racism. From her book Said the Swing to the Hoop (Empress Bohemia Press, 2019) a poem in tribute to her mother & the lessons she taught “The girl dream,” as well as the powerful anthem/manifesto “for every Black Woman who has been called angry.” From Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press, 2015) she put together into one piece the first 3 poems in the book paying tribute to her family in Haiti. & with careful hope she read her poem, “For the Days Ahead” written on the window of the Arts Center in Troy.

Joseph Bruchac is a familiar figure here at Caffè Lena & throughout the region, & he began as he does with a greeting in “the old language“ (Abenaki) then some notes on his flute, & on to a poem he had just scribbled for Danielle about his own time in Haiti, “Travel Trivia.” He said he was mostly reading new poems, some were “a little raw.” There was a poem for a new anthology of native writers to a young poet who stood up to protect the Missouri River, also one titled “My Grandfather’s Hoe,” another titled “We Remember” (but titled in Abenaki), another to 2 Abenaki rebels, “Tracks Not Left Behind.” The poem “What the Eagle Says to Us” carried the message that a new day will begin, we are not alone. He ended with a piece about walking across Lake Champlain on snow shoes.

You can watch the entire program (& hear poems I didn't tell you about) here.

While this was a stellar evening of local essential poets, I do miss the open mic with its variety & the unexpected unknown — maybe someday again soon — in person.