November 19, 2020

Outermost Poetry Contest Reading, November 12

Poet Elaine Cohen & I have been friends for more years than either of us would admit. She grew up in Gloversville, NY & since then has traveled the world. She co-authored with Red Callender, the great jazz bassist, Unfinished Dream: The Musical World of Red Callender (Quartet Books, 1985), as well as a chapbook of poems Solita: A Sojourn in Mexico (2011) & is currently working on a longer collection of poems titled “Coming Down Hudson” that includes memoir poems of her family & of growing up in Gloversville. She has been living on Cape Cod since 2003. In 2014 she was the featured poet at the 3rd Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany.

Back in April Elaine won the annual WOMR (Provincetown, MA) Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest for her poem “Night Train East, 1985.” You can read more about the contest, with a full list of winners & the text of Elaine's poem here:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the reading originally planned for April 16 at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall was delayed until November 12 when it was held via Zoom. In addition to Elaine reading her winning poem, there were readings by other winners, including 2nd place winner Robin Smith Johnson (“Memory Care Unit”), 3rd place winner Wilderness Sarchild (“After the Hurricane”), as well as some of the honorable mentions, including Tom Chilton, Donna O’Connell-Gilmore, Jeremy Faro, Lynn Viti, Lauren Wolk, Chuck Madansky, & Michael Shapiro.

In addition, Wellfleet native Marge Piercy read from her brand new (September 2020) collection of poems On The Way Out, Turn Off The Light (Knopf). The poems she read were personal & retrospective, the poet looking back on a long career that keeps on going.

The MC for the event was Jeannette de Beauvoir, novelist, playwright & WOMR personality.

The deadline for the 8th annual Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest is January 12th, 2021 — full information at the WOMR website.

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, November 11

Jackie Craven continues as our gentle host, here on Zoom, on the 2nd Wednesday open mic.

David Graham started us off with 2 poems of celebrations that he said came out in one fell swoop, available in his book The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books, 2019), “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings,” & “Listening for Your Name.”

Mary Ann Rockwell, who runs poetry programming out of the Saratoga Springs Public Library read a memoir titled “Taboo” about her brother & watching TV on Saturday mornings, & the racism of the Tarzan & Jane programs.

This being Armistice Day/Veterans Day I read a poem for a friend from when I was in training at Fort Knox (who did not make it back from Viet Nam) “John Lees.”

Bog Sharkey read his annual cento formed from lines from 2020 Best American Poetry Anthology, “Cento Forming An Idealized Memory of My mother for the Ocean.”

Susan Kress read “Outing” about forgetting things & writing it down, then a poem about imperfection, “Celadon” (which is a term for pottery denoting both wares glazed in the jade green celadon color, also known as greenware, and a type of transparent glaze, often with small cracks).

Scott Morehouse read a tale titled “The Unexpected but Happy Result of One” about a seance of only one person, the story graced with his usual hysterical flourishes.

Jackie Craven said her piece “Georgian Colonial” was an “architectural poem,” detailed, with images of history & war built in.

I haven’t seen Cathy Clarke at a poetry open mic in many years & was pleased to hear her read her descriptive, meditative poem “How Autumn Ends.”

Susan Jewell used the Zoom screen-sharing feature to show the images from Rattle Magazine that her poems were based on, one titled “The Taste of Color,” the other, a poem that was a winner (!) in the ekphrastic contest, “After the Extinction.”

You can find out more about this monthly series on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, including the Zoom link to find your way there, at the Facebook group page WritersMic.


November 15, 2020

2nd Tuesday Open Mic Out of Bennington, November 10

Vermont is difficult to get to now, & it’s not the distance (only an hour from my house to Charlie Rossiter’s), it is much nicer to just Zoom in — I can even have that 2nd bourbon.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, put me first on the reading list & I reprised my set from Sunday with “When Donald Trump Farts” in the first round; in the second round I lost my internet service briefly but got back in time to read “”

In both rounds Laura Ellzey read from a recent letter from her father, who had moved back to New Orleans, first a description of his first hurricane as a child 1947; then she returned with the second half of the letter describing a recent hurricane coming through.

Julie Lomoe in the first round read a piece titled “The Entrance to Purgatory,” from a poetry workshop, describing a couple during COVID; then the second time around from the same workshop, “The Domestic Rants” a series of prose poems & had to be cut off by Charlie.

Kenn Ash, as he likes to do, started off playing on his pocket trumpet as an introduction to a piece in rhyme “The Delusion of Illusion,” then in round 2 a piece on his death made humorous by the use of big words.

Jim Madigan dialed in from Illinois with a poem inspired by a sign he saw in Chicago “Grand Canyon Medium Rare;” then later an inspiring political piece, “Let Us Prepare” about a BLM sit-in & the street instructions from the young organizers, in “a mighty river of rebellion.”

Bill Thwing was Zooming in from Trump-land in Western PA, so he read a piece in rhyme written after the last election calling us to rise up, with Trump characterized as Darth Vader; for the second round he got out his guitar to sing a Xmas song he wrote.

Tom Nicotera from Connecticut read a poem about healing in a magic house of plants & animals “Smack Dab in the Middle of the Suburbs;” then later one about critters in his backyard “Encroachment.”  

Mark O’Brien from the Capital Region read in the first round a sonnet that was like a prayer, written the day of the election, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me COVID;” his second round piece was an untitled Haibun about baseball during his childhood.

Barbara Sarvis, from right there in Vermont, read a poem written today, “My First Painting” on growing up female in the '60s & '70s using instructions from Cosmopolitan magazine about makeup & how to attract a guy; her second round piece as also recently finished & was about white privilege, “Necessary Transformation 2020,” build on abstract words.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read “Meditations on Frank Lloyd Wright” incorporating quotes from Wright along with his commentary on it ; in the 2nd round he was joined by Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar for a song they planned for a service at the local U-U, with the chorus “we’re living in dark but there’s bright day dawning ahead …” — we all hope so.

Naomi Bindman had been just listening, reluctant to read, but at the end was encouraged by Charlie to join in, & I’m glad she did after hearing her in-progress poem “Collapse” with its meditative images of political unrest. That’s what happens at open mics: we try things out.

& you might try out joining this open mic on Zoom on the 2nd Tuesday of the month — email Charlie at & ask for the link.

November 13, 2020

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 8

Formerly at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, this open mic now can be joined by anyone, anywhere on Zoom. Nancy Klepsch & I are the co-hosts, though it’s a bit more awkward on this platform.

There were only a few of us at first so I read as others found their way in. I began with an older piece, my first Trump poem from 4 years ago, “When Donald Trump Farts,” then a new, shorter piece “”

Bob Sharkey confronted the traffic pattern around Albany’s City Hall, “The Day Alice Green Drove Around the Philip Schulyer Statue” one of the practical advantages of taking down the statue of the Albany slave-owner, then bits & pieces, descriptive note from “Summer 2020.”

Tara Kistler charmed us with the humorous rhymes of “Shakespeare’s Lament” on Evangelicals & the election.

Joel Best read a pandemic poem “Fancy Week” in which each day is pretty much the same, then contemplated “At the End” & swimming to Enlightenment.

Julie Lomoe read 2 humorous pieces from a workshop, “The Theory of Wastebaskets" & the funny list poem “I’d Like a New Sofa.”

Nancy Klepsch read a tender love poem titled simply “Dearest.”

Sally Rhoades got through some technical difficulties to get in eventually (what people will do to be at an open mic!) to read a tribute to Walt Whitman, a memoir of reading his work in college.

There was time left for a free-flowing discussion of reactions to the recent election. I doubt it will change what I do each week -- attending peace vigils, rallies & other demonstrations to bring about the change that I want to see. Democracy thrives on conflict, unity is for dictatorships.

November 10, 2020

Tim Verhaegen’s Zoom Open Mic, November 6

This is one of those rare open mics that didn’t exist before the onslaught of COVID, & came into being when the host, Tim Verhaegen, retired from his long-time employment with State of New York. Tim seems to love having the poets in his living room, so-to-speak.

I was up first with my newest poem “Ancestry.Com,” explaining in poetic terms how it works, while my second-round poem was taken from a phrase from President Trump that I embraced, “Radical-Left Maniac.”

 Jan Tramontano first read a Passover poem “Save Me from Myself” based on a poem by someone else, then later, another that was inspired by a Billy Collins' poem (“At the Window”) about an African violet she nurtured.

Both of Howard Kogan's poems were filled with grim humor, the first, titled “News” was a conversation with his Muse on suicide with the Muse telling him, “poets don’t last forever but Muses do," while the second was a pandemic poem claiming that Mother Nature was doing her best to kill us.

Bob Sharkey was inspired by a collage for his poem “Mouth of the Month” a word/sound play ramble on mouths & history built on Falmouth, native tribes, rivers, then later “Election Night Early” some random thoughts with Tim giving him the first line, “dressed in drag in the dark …” (not sure if that refers to Tim or Bob).

Speaking of Tim, he read “At First Sight” an intensely descriptive piece about meeting a new guy, thinking, “he’s the one,” & in the second round read “Heroes” also intensely descriptive an effusive ode to football players, a game that Tim says keeps him going during the pandemic.

Avery Stempel first read “Middletown” an anywhere USA town filled with Trump flags, then later “The Tao du Magoo” about mushrooms, & squeezed in a longer piece the overly-romanticized “A Dream” of the road in the 1950s.

Sally Rhoades read her brand new poem “The Red Fender” about remembering their childhood with her brother, then, written in April, the philosophical “I Hold Truth on Both On Both Its Sides.”  

Frank Robinson said he had just tweaked “The Way It Used to Be” for tonight (on voting), then “5 Small Words” i.e, the Trump motto “grab them by the pussy.”

Therese Broderick
first read from from Seamus Heaney, “The Cure at Troy” with the famous recently oft-quoted stanza, & later her own recent, post apocalyptic “The Gender Reveal Party.”  

Watch for invitations to this roughly once-a-month open mic on the Poetry Motel Foundation mailing list, or find Tim on Facebook & ask him about it.

November 8, 2020

Caffè Lena, November 4

I’ve reported on the recent poetry events at the historic Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY for a few months but truth-to-be-told you can find the videos of their events, both poetry & music, on the Caffè Lena YouTube channel. So even if you miss it on the first Wednesday of the month, you can enjoy it any time, any where.

Once again this night the lineup included 3 stellar regional poets, well-known to the local poetry community, sure to be be a good night of poetry & it was. The host was “Carolyn” but no last name offered; the founding host of this long-run poetry reading series & open mic is Carol Graser. Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic the reading has been held at the Caffè Lena stage without an audience & no open mic.

The first reader was poet & retired professor at Skidmore College Jay Rogoff, reading from Loving in Truth: New and Selected Poems, published in April by Louisiana State University Press. He read  poems from the previously published sections, as well as “new poems,” including the tender & charming “Penny Poems” for his wife.

I have read with Suzanne Rancourt & she has read in the Poets in the Park series in Albany. She is a veteran of the US Army & the Marines, & runs poetry workshops for veterans & others. She read from her 2019 book Murmurs at the Gate (2019) & from a new manuscript, of intense, often angry, & always engaging poems.

Mike Jurkovic has read throughout the Hudson Valley, organized readings with Calling All Poets, & written extensively on contemporary jazz & rock’n’roll. He has a much more energetic performance style than the other 2 readers, what might be described as “wise-ass hipster snarkiness.” He did a variety of poems, some I’ve heard before (& enjoy hearing again) & he included some pieces from his latest collaboration with Albany guitar-stroker Nick Bisanz, American Mental, not sure where you can get it, but will let you know when I find out.

[Note: I started this Blog back in January 2007 as an archive of the many poetry events occurring in the upstate New York region. Back then it was rare to record the readers, let alone videotape them, & few people even brought cameras & took photos. I envisioned the Blog as a way to preserve at least a part of what is a most-ephemeral of the arts.  Since this event is available in its entirety at Caffe Lena Youtube I've kept my remarks short & encourage anyone who is interested in an hour or so of poetry by these fine poets to click on the link.]

November 2, 2020

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, October 14

Schenectady was the former site of this open mic, but now, with online platforms such as Zoom, it can be anywhere they (or you) want it to be. Jackie Craven maintained order as the host, perhaps from Schenectady, or some other place with a strange name.

Alan Catlin read the title poem from a new chapbook manuscript "Roadside Attraction," but then was interrupted by a  big internet “hiccup;” he came back later to read a couple of high school related poems, one about getting a C+ in Chemistry “The Chemical Composition of Caffeine,” then from a school dream about missing the bus “The Symbol for Pi.”

David Graham read his “one & only pandemic poem,” he said, about a place he misses, the Whitmanesque “Ode to my Public Library,” then on to a tender one about his late mother with dementia “She Says Please.”

Daniel Sennis read recently written poems, “Catchers on the Fly” about a balloon stuck in a tree & his success as a Dad, then a fable, “Captain Democracy,” about organizing the vote.

The first piece Susan Kress read was an older published poem “Relapse” her hair like leaves, then read yesterday’s poem, “Yom Kippur,” a memory of her mother’s honey bread.

I read a couple poems from my growing collection of imitations of Chinese poems, “Peeing in the Yellow River,” one about the thousands of lost poems by Du Fu, another a commentary on poets writing bad imitations of Chinese poems.

Scott Morehouse entertained us with a charming school memory/fantasy as a 7 year old about counseling Marilyn Monroe titled “Stopping Talking to Marilyn.”   

Mary Ann (from the Saratoga Springs Public Library) read a descriptive ekphrastic poem “The Uncovering” & shared a photo of the photo of an Ellis Island quarantine facility about which the poem was written.

Bob Sharkey talked about Bernadette Mayer’s recently re-published work Memory written in July 1971 in which for one month she shot a roll of 35mm film each day & kept a journal, then read his own memory, “July 1971,”  describing his life, his friends, as he worked doing alternative service in Albany Medical Center.

Susan Carol Jewell read her latest rejection in the Rattle ekphrastic challenge for August, “Cracks,” & shows the picture, her poem modeled on a poem by Faith Sharon was not descriptive, it was more ruminative, playing on different kinds of cracks, as was her 2nd piece “My Grandmother’s Cleavage.”

This was the first time I recall seeing Harvey Havel in for one of these online readings since the shut-down, he too shared his screen of his next book of very short fiction The Odd and the Strange, & read one of the pieces, the story “Wife.”

Our host, Jackie Craven, read an older poem to a friend (from 1962) “Postcards I Wish I’d Sent to Elizabeth Before She Went Away…”

You can find about & sign up for the next 2nd Wednesday open mic from their Facebook site, WritersMic.