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.]


August 2, 2020

Poets in the Park 2020, July 25

For over 30 years we have celebrated Poets in the Park on Saturdays in July. The series was started by Tom Nattell, & I have been hosting it since 2005. This year I waited as long as I could before scheduling a reading, paying attention to New York State’s rules & guidelines for gatherings under the cloud of COVID-19. Finally it was announce that outdoor arts events could be scheduled for gatherings of 50 or less, & I breathed a sigh of relief — this is a poetry event so we have never had 50 people here. I decided that even if we couldn’t have a full schedule we could have at least one reading.

I had heard Austin Houston read at open mics, particularly at Poets Speak Loud, & felt he needed a venue to stretch out in & read more than 1 or 2 poems. He started his reading with what he called "an introductory poem," a philosophical statement of resistance, a theme & mode that ran through the work he read this evening, on what he described as “the COVID journey.” The poems included “Corona Madness” & “Pandemic” about hoarding & people exposing themselves to the virus, with a plea to be patient, then on to a couple of pointed, political screeds, “Corporate Greed,” & a piece about Trump’s playing “pretend” & his power addiction. “Drive-by” was a sad, descriptive poem about the recent flurry of shootings in the city of Albany. Back to the COVID theme, he pleaded with us “Don’t Be a Karen,” then ended on a quiet note with “Meanwhile” about the mundane details of daily life “while chaos reigns.” Hopefully we can get can back to open mics in the not-too-distant future & hear more of Austin’s work there.

Sarah Giragosian
has also read at area open mics, & at poetry festivals, as well as being featured at a number of venues, including the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center. I knew that her new book The Death Spiral was forth-coming from Black Lawrence Press so I scheduled her to help promote it, &, fortuitously, she had received copies just this week. Most of her reading was from the book, beginning with the first poem in it, “Family History” a graphic tale of her great-grandmother’s surviving the Armenian Genocide, then on to an eco-poem “Mammoth Resurrected” questioning the cloning of extinct species. Referencing Austin’s work, she said that she too had written "Trump revenge poems" & read “Boldface, Pants on Fire” & a related fantasy, “The Second Moon Colony Will Not Fail." The poem “The Fourth Anniversary” was about celebrating with her wife, but haunted by a bad dream. The title poem of the book “Death Spiral,” Sarah explained, was about & described a dangerous courting ritual of the American Bald Eagle & was a metaphor for the politics of our time. She concluded with a poem from her first book, Queer Fish (Dream Horse Press, 2017) that she called “a queer bestiary” (an affirmation of homosexuality in all animal species), a tale of the long-eared hedgehog “The Queer Creatures that Rise at Dusk.” If you don’t have either of Sarah’s books, why not?

Perhaps next year we can return to a full schedule of Poets in the Park events, with the grace of face masks, social distancing, & perhaps a dose of vaccine.

May the Muse be with you.