December 28, 2021

Next Year’s Words: A New Paltz Reading Forum, December 15

This was the 3rd program of the 8th season of this series, & now on Zoom, which made it possible for me to attend, as well as the other 2 featured poets, Lee Gould & Andy Eaton, as well as their family & fans from across the country, up to about 30 folks here. The host is Susan Chute, who read a poem to get us started, by Philip Metras about re-visioning words. 

Susan’s intros are elaborate, full of the deep research she had done on each of us, appropriating text from the poets to introduce them — I’d only sent here a brief, standard bio yet she quoted from poems I had not sent her, made me wonder who she was talking about.


Lee Gould  was the first featured poet, & she indeed has a venerable CV as editor of Embajadoras Press & its multi-lingual journal La Presa which boasts “Poetry, fiction, memoir, essay, and works that creatively blur those lines from all three North American Countries.” Her reading began with a cluster of “old” poems, then moved on to newer work, about herself, her memories as a child, about her experiences in the riches of her later life. Her poem titled “Game Changer,” was about her first (!) broken ankle was mix of English & Spanish, a mini-lesson on the Spanish terms for sprains, for breaks. She also waxed philosophical in a poem about an orange tree, “The Mountain,” & turned a poem, “The Magician’s Wife,” about a woman with cancer into a circus act of cutting a woman in half. I realized later that I had seen Lee Gould read previously, apparently at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock in 2006, & perhaps elsewhere.


The first open mic poet of the night was Ken Shute, the cousin of our host, who read on sleep with images from dreams. Then back to the next featured poet.


Andy Eaton, similarly to Lee Gould, is a trans-national but he is also trans-continental, dividing his time between Northern Ireland & Charlottesville, Virginia, where he works as a schoolteacher. He described his reading tonight as “yesterday, today & tomorrow.” He started with poems about his grandfather with memories of pencil’s with his grandfather’s name on them, & of his grandfather’s experiences in World War II, including time in a POW camp. A poem titled “Gods” considered what is real for him having grown up in an evangelical world, while the more entertaining “Paddywacker,” slang for a night-stick, examined other slang/metaphoric words for what it could also mean. His style was often quietly pensive, as in the poem “January,” about being with his cousin & finding sand sharks.

Continuing the open mic, Ken Holland read a piece titled “Flight” about hearing semis as if they were migratory animals, thinking of migrants who are often transported across the border in such trucks.


Susan Chute read a poem in a Japanese form that Kimiko Hahn frequently writes in (zuihitsu?), Susan’s poem titled “Getting Ready” in multiple parts, piling up images, interweaving thoughts of death with memories.  


I was the final featured poet & I had prepared a list of poems on a variety of themes, beginning with “One Poem” which I chose for this reading’s open mic, then a couple of shorter piece to make space for a couple of longer pieces, “Spathe is the Plathe,” & “The Pussy Pantoum.” I tried to read “When Donald Trump Farts” but had to stop because my internet signal was breaking up the reading (was that the work of the NSA? Donald Trump's new security team?). I ended with shorter poems again, “Easter Sunday 2020” & “Writing Crows.” I think I chased some folks away.

There were 2 more open mic poets to get to. Manuela Thiess read an untitled piece about words she was thinking about while getting dressed.


John Forbis told us he was a monk, prays 4 times a day, & the text in the Office is often from the Psalms, his poem, “In Wisdom You Have Made them All,” ended with the last lines from Psalm 104.


This series, endorsed by the Wallkill Valley Writers & the SUNY-New Paltz Department of English, formerly met at The Jewish Congregation of New Paltz Community Center, & is now on Zoom. You can find more information about it & a link to attend at https://www.facebook.com/NPNextYearsWords/

December 23, 2021

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington, December 14

This reading remains on Zoom because it makes it possible for performers from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, even from relatively nearby New York to attend. The host is Charlie Rossiter who keeps us here by having 2 rounds of 1 piece each.

I was first in both rounds, began with poem from a visit to University of California at Berkeley that looks back to a poem by Allen Ginsberg, my poem titled “My Sather Gate Illumination,” then in Round 2 on to a philosophical response to a comment in a bar, “My Lucky Hat.”


Kenn Ash reprised the piece he read in Troy last Sunday (see my Blog) “A Xmas Farewell” in rhyme, a character wallowing in his memories, then a suicide. In his 2nd round read an anaphoric list of the big & small “I Am From.” 


Jim Madigan said his first poem “echoes Kenn’s,” with sad images from everywhere, titled “Unhearing Universe.” Later in the 2nd round he read a descriptive piece titled “On Spittle Beach,” on the West coast of Ireland, knocked down by the breeze.


Sally Rhoades read a pandemic poem, “I Haven’t Had to Change Time Zones,” looking back, a meditative review of finding herself, & memories of her mother. The 2nd time around she read from a poem-a-day project written to a prompt: “little known during her life,” a family memory triggered by a postcard about Aunt Grace, & her siblings, including  Aunt Polly, who has appeared in lots of Sally’s writing.


Our host, Charlie Rossiter, said he was going back through old stuff & found poems in WordPerfect, read one about being with his grandmother on a bus sitting with a black lady (& also started a discussion of WordPerfect & the changing world of word processing). His 2nd round poem was written in Bennington, “One Chilly August Morning Something Happened” a memory of Minnesota, loons, bacon, Scrabble, … don’t let the details get in the way of the poem.


Bill Thwing read about the Halloween onslaught in a suburban neighborhood, “Luzerne Street Never Rests.” In the 2nd round he played his guitar & sang his song “Riding on a Hurricane” written last year, on political themes & news stories.


Last month Tom Nicotera read a poem titled “Thanksgiving Poem at Great Pond” & today he read “Thanksgiving at Great Pond Revisited at Sunset,“ a descriptive piece & ultimately a meditation on God. For the 2nd round he read Robert Bly’s “Starting a Poem” with its metaphor of words as relatives invading your life. 


Tim Verhaegen also read a piece he had read this past Sunday in Troy at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic, “A Boy Walks on the Train Tracks Alone as a Freshman in College.” Then in the 2nd round a gay relationship poem, 2 men on a date, “It’s a Miracle,” that they got past sex, actually exchanged names & went on a date.


Ah, the great variety of a poetry open mic. This one happens of Zoom on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM EST, if you are already on Charlie’s list he will send the Zoom link a few days prior; if you’re not his list, send him an email & tell him you want to read, charliemrossiter@gmail.com.




December 22, 2021

Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, December 12

The poets were back among the mushrooms on a Sunday afternoon. Nancy Klepsch & I are the hosts of this monthly writers open mic, now at Collar City Mushrooms in Troy, NY

Everyone had signed up for the open mic but #1was still open so I took it & read a poem not by me but instead by Enid Dame (1943 - 2003), her “Holiday Poem” from 1996, which I always read as “the Muse” at the Third Thursday Open Mics each December until they were shut down by the pandemic. Ray read next, said all his poems were untitled, the 1st about preparing for the moment, the here & now, then a political piece -- channel surfing, sitcoms, Judge Judy, etc.


Kelly has been coming here since the beginning, today read a sad but defiant piece about a  relationship, titled “Paint Dries” (“… & I walk away”). The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, Avery Stempel, draws poets here because he is a poet too, read a couple of “vignettes,” “A Glimpse” (of peace), & “Early Morning Close Call” (while driving). Tim Verhaegen also likes coming here, read “Death of a Friendship,” then a look back “A Boy Walks on the Train Tracks Alone as a Freshman in College.”

Laura Ellzey made the drive over from not-so-far-away Vermont & read her poem “The Tormenting Storm”/“La Tormenta” about an overheard conversation, with a tornado metaphor, in 2 versions, one in English, the other in Spanish. Kenn Ash also came over from Vermont & performed “A Christmas Farewell” a character wallowing in memories & sadness.


Kate Crofton has also found a home here among the mushrooms & poets, began with memories of her grandma “Inheritance,” then had us laughing at her funny — & angry — piece titled “Vagina Diner.” My co-host Nancy Klepsch began with a poem from her book God Must Be a Boogie Man (Recto y Verso Editions, 2017) the untitled last poem in the book, then a recent tribute poem to the poet Bernadette Mayer “A Dozen Blue Eggs for Bernadette.”


Julie Lomoe began with a rambling introduction about her paintings that she exhibited at the original Woodstock Music Festival that will be on exhibit this Summer in Bethel, NY, then read a poem that had nothing to do with that about a dying cat, & ended with the much more amusing parody of a Xmas standard, “It’s The Most Over-Hyped Time fo the Year.” Thom Francis, otherwise known as el presidente of AlbanyPoets.com read a short piece titled “Family Tree” (it is made of twigs, bottles, etc.), then one about memories engendered by the contents of his pockets.


Nancy & I are so thankful to be able to continue this open mic at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 Second Ave., Troy, NY, 2nd Sunday @ 2 — join us to find out why so many poets keep coming back.


December 20, 2021

Book Launch: Judith Prest & Jan Tramontano, December 10

Judith Prest & Jan Tramontano are 2 long-time Albany-area writers, well-known to the local writing community. They have frequented local open mics & featured at many of the popular venues, such as Arthur’s Market, the Third Thursday Poetry Night, Poets in the Park, the Book House & others. Professor Java’s, itself once a hotbed of poetry & guitar-slingers when it was at an another location further down Wolf Rd., was a good space for this joint book launch with a side room gallery with paintings by local artists.

During 2021 both poets had books published by Finishing Line Press out of Georgetown, Kentucky. Judith Prest’s book is titled Geography of Loss from which she read exclusively. She began with the first poem in the book, “Loss,” from which the book takes its title. To be expected there were poems about her mother & her father, but she also introduced her great Aunt Carrie Mae Arnold, who died in the Allentown Asylum. Interestingly enough in Judith’s introduction to the poems about her Aunt she mentioned an exhibit at the New York State Museum of suitcases from patients at a New York asylum, the suitcases containing the personal items of these people that were left behind. The exhibit had been put together by another area poet, Darby Penney, who sadly died earlier this year — another loss.


Jan Tramontano’s book The Me I Was With You shares more than a publisher with Judith, it is also a “book of loss,” & the cover art is by Judith Prest. Likewise, the losses include the poet’s parents, but also her first love, as well as herself, “the me I was with you.” But art is not reporting, it is also a work of the imagination, as in “At Paradise Nails” where she makes up stories about the people around her as she is getting a manicure. She managed to slip in another poem not included in the collection, one beginning “Picture an old-fashioned couple…” You can also find a discussion of other poems by Jan, including others in the book from my recent Blog about her reading at Caffè Lena earlier this month. 


You can find both of these books at www.finishinglinepress.com. Professor Java’s is located at 145 Wolf Rd. (in the Wolf Road Shoppers Park), Albany, NY



December 19, 2021

Writers Mic, December 8

This monthly open mic is still on Zoom, which definitely has its advantage — I always have a chair, & can get a drink when I want. Our host is Jackie Craven, who may or may not be “here,” wherever that may be.


I volunteered to read first, because most people don’t like to be first (but I do, that way I  can pay better attention to the other readers); I read a mix of old & new poems, “Falling Asleep in Patchouli” about the aftermath of a visit by wandering poets, “Easter Sunday 2020” a COVID-19 poem, & “Stump Poem #23” from a series of poems written on the stumps of Albany trees that have been cut down.


Alan Catlin began with an ekphrastic poem inspired by a painting of the Hudson River, then a poem written for Poetry Sundays at the UU in Schenectady in the early 2000s “Love in a Time of War.”


David Graham, from the North Country, read “Elegy for my Father” who died in 2007, then a poem titled “Identity Crises” about the results of doing an internet search on what is his common name, ponders “poor David Graham.“


Kathleen Herold also dialed in from the North Country & read “Expired Eggs” about walking with a child at the beach & crows.


Scott Morehouse interjected his customary humor into the evening reading (& singing) about a  woman listening to Guy Lombardo on Near Years Eve, waiting for the arrival of the sexy ghost of New Year’s past, then a short, satirical news story about the state of Texas banning vasectomies.


Sarah Chaviano read a story inspired by memories of growing on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, with characters Magda, Hector & Maria & Uncle Raymond’s pet store.

 

Susan Carroll Jewell frequently reads her poems the she had submitted to the Rattle magazine ekphrastic contest & tonight announced she had won the contest for October - ! -, shared the image & poem “Grief” that had been chosen by the artist. Persistence (& good poetry) pays off.


Mary Ann Rockwell, who is “that poetry pusher” at the Saratoga Springs Public Library read 2 cat poems, first the “less silly one” about a cat sleeping “The Longer She Lies,” then one about what cats can’t stand & the things they don’t care about, titled “Idiosyncratic.”


Jackie Craven, our patient host, read last, what she described as “a poem-in-progress,” titled “To Float a House” filled with a great mix of what Robert Bly called “leaping images.”


This gathering of poets is held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month on Zoom, you can find out how to get the link at the Facebook group page Writers Mic.


 

December 18, 2021

Invocation of the Muse, December 6


Still no liquor license, minimal chairs, a most-unwelcoming environment. Nick suggested getting beers from the nearby convenience stores — but he never did. But the poetry by the open mic poets made it worthwhile to stand about.


Featured reader Richard Lovrich & entourage

Our host was R.M. Engelhardt in a Western style “Duster,” read a poem titled “The Next Bohemians” by someone else, I think. The #1 slot on the sign-up sheet was blank when I arrived so I took it, read a couple poems about a brief fling shrouded in mist, “First Date” (her words), & “Glitter from the Gutter.” When I got up to read I was able to lower the mic but Rob seemed to have trouble with the mic stand & someone who seemed to be working the sound, such as it was, replaced the mic stand which solved whatever problem there was.

Maurice was next reading from a chapbook-in-progress, pieces that sounded like free-form, automatic writing. Melissa Anderson recently moved to Albany, read a piece titled “The Salt Tides, or Work Song” about the “tower of salt” next to where she works, then a piece on being a person whose job is craft work & who does craft on her own time.


Rob then introduced tonight’s featured reader, Richard Lovrich, local writer, dressed like an aging rock star or space ship commander. He read pieces from his book Have a Very Bad Day (Troy Book Makers, 2021), which he describes as “nearly 300 dark, fortuitously funny, very short stories about unfortunate events and predominately awful people.” He seemed to read for an awful long time. In my notes I describe the pieces as “very short, snarky, sociological vignettes, 2 to 3 paragraphs each … like the opening lines of stories that never get finished.” He was accompanied to the reading by a lady friend & a small dog.


Rob read after the feature, a couple of Goth poems, a new one titled “Are There Ghosts at Funerals?” then a funny vignette “Caffeinated Necromancer.”  Shannon Grant, following that theme by chance, I think, read a short ghost story. John D. read two related surrealistic fantasies, “Walking Indoors” &, with lobsters like perhaps Hans Arp or Salvador Dali, “Walking Outdoors.”


Katie Leach was the last poet to read, a piece titled “Matriarch” a memory of a birthday party for an old woman.

Invocation of the Muse takes place on the first Monday of the month at The Fuze Box, 12 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30 sign-up, 8:00 start. Booze would help.

December 16, 2021

Writers Institute - End of Season

The New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany (NY) runs a full series each semester of lectures by visiting writers, panel discussions, a film series & film festival, a book fair in the Fall semester, and an annual literary journal, Trolley. There are frequently more than one event each week. A grueling schedule that I don’t even attempt to get to all of them. But I manage to make it to a few each semester. Oh, they’re Free!


October 25 — Andrea Catharina Mosterman, Spaces of Enslavement: A History of Slavery and Resistance in Dutch New York (2021)


The author began with reading an excerpt of her book, then on to a Q&A with Writers Institute Director, Paul Grondahl. The book tells the story of free blacks & slaves from the 1620’s to the 1820’s, with the author researching settlements & homes in Albany County, Kings County & Manhattan, finding names of the folks who lived there. This is part of the research currently going on to show that slavery was not just an issue in the South but going on right here in the Capital Region. The book is available in the Albany Public Library system & I’ve added it to the list of book I want/need to read.



October 28 — Phil Klay, Missionaries (2020)


The author had 2 appearances on this date on the UAlbany campus, an afternoon “Craft Talk” & a “Reading/Q&A” later in the evening, both with Professor Alexander Dawson


Klay had spent 13 months (2007 - 2008) with the US Marines in Iraq, subsequently published a short story collection, Redeployment (2014) inspired by his military experience. Missionaries is his first novel & explores the the US’s involvement in Columbia’s civil wars. It was one of President Obama’s “Favorite Books of 2020.” He said it took him 6 years to research & write, that he wanted to explore the complexity of modern warfare.


In the evening session he read from the opening, & closing, chapters of the novel, described it has having a number of characters “negotiating ethical/spiritual minefields, some are better at it than others” — sounds like what we see in the newspapers each week. I bought the book & it is still waiting on my table for me to get to it.




November 30 — Making Sense of Memory: a Conversation between Russell Banks, and William Kennedy


Paul Grondahl described this event as “two writers who never forgot where they came from.” I have most of William Kennedy’s books, & am a great fan of Russell Banks’ historical novel, Cloudsplitter (1999), about the abolitionist John Brown & his family. Tonight, Banks read from his new novel Foregone (2021), the story of an old man, who as a youth was a Viet Nam War draft evader, turned filmmaker, at the end of his life confronting his memories, “exploring the power & the fallibility of memory,” as Banks described it in conversation with Kennedy. 


Kennedy had prepared some remarks that he read from on his reactions to the novel, but not until he realized he had left his reading glasses home. A member of the audience offered to let him borrow her pair of “cheaters” which Grondahl retrieved & delivered to Kennedy, as caught in the accompanying photo. 


One amusing anecdote from Banks’ own life was a time when he as was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when the writer Jack Kerouac, near the end of his life, & an entourage came to visit & stay at Banks’ house, “one of the worst weeks of my life,” as he described it. That prompted Kennedy to ask about his life “in the novel,” to which Banks’ replied that a theme (but not the point of the novel) is “the function of the imagination in the making of our own life’s story.”


As another Albany poet described it later, “I could have stat there all night listening to them talk until the Sun came up.”

 



December 4 — Fundraiser for The RED Bookshelf


The RED Bookshelf is an Albany non-profit community literacy program that provides free children’s books on bright red bookshelves throughout Albany to ensure that all children have access to the benefits of book ownership, regardless of income level. 


On this night the New York State Writers Institute held a fundraiser for The RED (Read Each Day) Bookshelf at The Albany Distilling Company Bar and Bottle Shop, a cavernous, industrial building at 75 Livingston Ave., Albany, NY. The event featured live music from the rock/punk band Doctor Baker that included UAlbany English professor and Writers Institute Fellow Ed Schwarzschild and UAlbany art professor Danny Goodwin


There were also poetry performances during the band’s breaks by Khalel Hamlin, “Literary Innovator” from The RED Bookshelf, whose spoken word piece incorporated the names of children’s books, that he joyfully held up as he mentioned each book; local poet Poetic Visions who performed a couple of his classic pieces familiar to us who attend open mics & area Slams, including involving the audience in his word-play on the word “Poet;” and poet & professor & Writers Institute advisor Sarah Giragosian who quieted us down with a few introspective love poems.


The audience included, as expected, professors, staff & students from UAlbany, William Kennedy holding forth for friends, family & admirers, & other benefactors of the Writers Institute, a number of writers & poets from the broader literary community, as well as a flock of kids playing hide & seek in an adjoining concrete room. There were cupcakes, pizza, local brews, &, of course, conversations everywhere.


The Writers Institute is not just professors & writers stoking each others’ egos, but some of the best contemporary writers of fiction, non-fiction (political, sociological, social justice, history, etc.) & poets sharing their work in readings & discussions with, yes, professors, but as working writers & thinkers & activists. Did I mention these readings/discussions are free? They are.


If you are not on the mailing list, why? http://nyswritersinstitute.org/


December 10, 2021

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, December 1

It was a magical night, perhaps because the date is a palindrome — 12/1/21 — but more likely because of the reading by the featured poet Jan Tramontano, & the fabulous string of open mic poets. The host of this monthly event, Carol Graser, started us off with a poem by Tiffany Midge from Sing! Poetry from the Indigenous Americas (University of Arizona Press, 2011). Caffè Lena is live streaming the feature poets at its Poetry Open Mic, so the featured poets go first. You can find the live stream here:  https://youtu.be/JinT2is3RDk

Jan Tramontano read mostly from her recent Finishing Line Press book The Me I Was With You. She began with excerpts from the 5-part poem “The Art of Losing,” reading the sections titled “Cake Plates,” “Garage Sale,” & “Artful Losing.” Then on to a couple of poems set in a nursing home, “Solar Eclipse Totality” & “Daily Ritual.” Next she read a couple of newer poems, one about the recent birth of twin grandchildren (a boy & a girl), another from a workshop using the word “innocence” titled “Early Days.” Jan as well as writing poems writes novels & read a short passage about a suicide bomber from her novel What Love Becomes (Adelaide Books, 2019) then read the related poem, “At the Marketplace,” from her self-published Floating Island (2005). Back to her poems, she read from Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press, 2012) based on letters her grandfather wrote home to his family in the mid 20th Century, then a new poem remembering a trip to Italy “Gelato,” & she ended with a poem looking forward, with hope, “The Lilac Outside My Window,” from The Me I Was With You. A wonderfully constructed reading, so glad I was there.


Since Jan got to Caffè Lena before me she signed me up for the open mic & I was on first once again, I read a couple of old poems, “Freckles” & the seasonal love poem to my mother “Christmas Eve, 1945.” Rachel Baum has recently found her poetic voice, tonight read 2 poems on leaving/saying goodbye (& both with bathrooms) in them, "Diners" & "The Destination."  Effie Redman read from a notebook a grim descriptive piece from 2015 about having graduated from college & being homeless. Amanda Blodgett began with a COVID-19 poem, “The Invisible Disease,” about craving a hug, a smile, then read one titled “Butterfly,” using the imagery to write about recovering  from an abusive relationship in college. 


Monique Hedley said it was her 1st time here at Caffè Lena & read the self-affirming “Challenge Accepted.” In her comments on her poems Jan mentioned a writers club that she has been participating in, & the next reader, Marcella Hammer, leads that group; she read an hysterical piece about running “The Fart Museum” & I laughed so hard I …. well, you know.


Leslie Sittner read the descriptive “Flits of Fancy, or Bluebirds in Paradise” eating red berries, then a heart-breaking piece, “Growing Good Roots,” originally written as “a relief poem” about her daughter’s 

success, read tonight in a different context, her daughter recently died in an accident. Mary Ann Rockwell has been described as “that poetry pusher” at the Saratoga Springs Public Library read a new poem, “Under the Sun & the Female Gaze,” that she described as “a sloppy pantoum,” then a list (poem) of advice “Instructions To …”

Jeffrey Stubits has come back to Caffè Lena (he will be the featured poet in March), he read “Beneath the Menora” quirky gifts for writers, & “6:30AM Eastern Time” when great poems are written, but perhaps someplace else. Alex Bell read the very short “Memento Mori” about the dead living in our writing, & the burning “Presence of Desire.” Kirstin read what she described as “lonely pandemic poems” titled “Slow the F Down” & “Silence.” Sophie read a poem about looking to the future “Life’s Limbo” & another about being in between love.


Sharon read a grim portrait of her joyless, fading mother ”The Demanding Woman” but that is now her license to dream. I don’t see Cecile Krause out enough at open mics, tonight she read 2 poems about traveling, “Genesis in the Holland Tunnel” & “Portland Train.” Another poet who has been long absent from the open mics, Jodi Frank, read an intriguing science poem “Bio Film.” Judith Prest was back to Caffè Lena to read a poem in homage to native people of the Pacific North West & to a deceased friend, a poem that was also a history of the abuse of these people “There’s A Poem in This Place.”


Leslie Neustadt read a letter-poem to a penpal friend in a distant land, on death & dying & then the rejoicing of Spring. A regular to this open mic Jeannine Laverty read “Vacancy” about a conversation with an old friend. Rodney Parrott is also a regular here & should know the rules by now, read 4 sections from a long poem, not sure how that fits with Carol’s rule of “2 short poems.” Ishan Sumer has read previously in this open mic, tonight his 2 poems were “Half Dog in the Blanket,” & a disgruntled poem “The Luxury of Small Miseries.” Sierra, who also is in the afore-mentioned writers club, read a piece in rhyme about the last time she saw her mother before she died. Our host, Carol Graser, noted some of the repeating themes & said she was reading “another down poem” to end the night, “That Winter.”


A long night of poetry, starting with Jan Tramontano’s work, then on through a grand parade of poets from here on the edge of the Adirondacks, & from all directions around. It happens each 1st Wednesday of the month at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, starts promptly at 7:00PM with a featured poet.


December 2, 2021

New Years Words: a New Paltz Readers ForumNovember 17

I’d missed the first event in this series last month but was able to Zoom in on this one (since I will be one of the featured readers in December I figured I’d better be there). Poets Susan Chute & Lucia Cherciu introduced the program, with Tim Brennan handling the open mic portion. There was a good showing of about 50 attendees. The 3 featured readers each read for about 20 minutes each, interspersed by the open mic. 

Susan Chute who introduced each of the featured readers in exuberant details began by quoting T.S. Eliot from “Little Gidding” then introduced the first featured reader.


Shayla Lawz read from her recently published book of poems Speculations, n. (Google Books). It is a fractured text which she read through without pause, about death & violence, but includes love poems, poems on angst, breakups, the world ending & beginning beyond speculation, “today I want to be starlight.”

She was followed by an open mic poet, Jay Klokker who read a memoir piece in many short parts titled “Moon Light Saving Time.”


The 2nd featured poet was Sean Singer who read from his book, Today in the Taxi (forthcoming from Tupelo Press), in that genre of poems by taxi drivers in NYC, each poem beginning “today in the taxi...” with different fares, different characters — jazz (Mingus, Ellington), references to Kafka, Jewish commentators, philosophers & Jewish lore, even The Lord makes an appearance. 

In the category of apples not falling far from the tree, open mic poet Madeleine Cherciu read “Cats” a short, fun rhyme. Ken Holland followed with a poem titled “Fire & Faith,” on the Notre Dame fire.


The final featured poet, Claire Hero, said she has been writing not poems but fiction/non-fiction hybrids. She read a piece titled “Jeanie in Pieces” about a feral child, a grim portrait of her family in 1970, compares herself to/haunted by Jeanie, combines the facts, poet’s musing, images, self-amputation, then the poet’s own story, the history/meaning of words.

Then on to finish off the Open Mic. Ken Chute, our host’s cousin, read about a young person helping an older person brush their teeth. Robin Weir read a piece written after Hurricane Ida & the floods in NJ people where people died in cars. I had been uncertain what to read but Ken Holland’s poem inspired me to read my own take on the Notre Dame fire, a poem titled “Tourism.”


This series, endorsed by the Wallkill Vallery Writers & the SUNY-New Paltz Department of English, continues monthly & you can find a link to the series & the Zoom link at https://www.facebook.com/NPNextYearsWords/


November 22, 2021

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


Nancy Klepsch & I & a full open mic list of poets were back among the mushrooms once again. There were so many poets (19 on the sign-up sheets) we almost had to ask Avery, the proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, to put out cots for us, but not quite. 


1st on the list was Sally Rhoades, who was here for her 1st time, but a veteran of the local open mic scene; for those of us who have been to open mics where Sally has read in the past few years, or who are friends on Facebook, we are familiar with her beloved Aunt Polly, a long, loving & tender relationship, & Sally’s 1st poem was a history of Aunt Polly & Sally’s memories of her, then a poem some of us have heard at open mics, “Riding Shotgun,” from a few years back when Aunt Polly was 94 — I never met Aunt Polly but certainly feel I know her — blessings & peace.

Bob Sharkey began by mentioning the annual Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Contest which is now open for submissions at dibiasepoetry.com  -- do it now before the rush -- then Bob read a short vignette “An American Werewolf in London” — ah whoo! Tara Kisler read a piece titled “The Idiot Box” about TV, of course, but also about Donald Trump. Carol Jewell’s first piece, “Work in Progress," was fittingly short, then on to a poem about the penises of various animals, “The Natural World.” Avery Stempel, our host here at Collar City Mushrooms, has been, as many of us know, renovating for the last 15 years, an old VW bus & today he read about taking it out for the 1st time “Into the Sunset,” then a piece inspired by a painting by John Zoccoli whose are is currently on display here, “Portals & Doors.” 


My partner in poetry in 3 Guys from AlbanyCharlie Rossiter, made it over from Vermont, the first of a bunch of Vermonters creating an Interzone between New York State & Vermont, with his son Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar, began with a Rossiter classic “Reading Black Snake Solos Listening to Haydn” from his early collection Evening Stones (Ye Olde Font Shoppe, 1999), then a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf “Oak Ridge Cemetery.”

My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read a piece on aging & love, then a mythical praise chant “Holy Crone Holy Spider.” Naomi Bindman is another Vermonter on the Interzone (but then I am a New Yorker on the Interzone), read a seasonal/tree poem “Tending,” then one for Nancy, responding to her Facebook post about an influential teacher, “Ruminations on Teacher Magic.” Vermonter Bridget Elder’s poems were about poems, the 1st about needing for poems to be pulled out of her, then a short, recycled/revised piece. Kelly W. has become a regular here, also read a poem about a John Zoccoli painting from the workshop here last night, “By a Thread.”


Joel Best read another of his “impressionistic” pieces (his word) titled “June 1996.” I followed with a litany recalling my Elders “The Communion of Saints.” Vermonter Laura Ellzey read a piece I like a lot on the joys of knitting, in both English & Spanish. Yet another Vermonter, Kenn Ash, read a piece I’d heard him read this past week on the 2nd Tuesday Zoom from Bennington, “The Nag,” even more funny knowing the punchline this time. 


Therese Broderick’s poem was about problems with her lawn mower “Extension Cord,” then on to a tender tale of married bliss “Why I Get Out of Bed.” Jil Hanifan postulated in her poem that the “Origin of the Universe” is us, then riffed on an overheard remark, “Our Topic was Wheat.” Kate Crofton who found her way here by way of The Holy Local open mic read a poem about gardening advice from her mother “Growing Leggy” that becomes a metaphor for her own self & her journey of discovery.

Nathan Smith was also here for the 1st time, read 2 sad poems, the 1st a break-up poem, like a letter to “you,” titled “Dying Alone, A Love Poem,” then one literally titled “Sad Poem.” Tim Verhaegen finished off the afternoon with 2 pieces in true Tim-Verhaegen fashion, the 1st “1990 Afternoon at The Pines” a near-sociological study of “the guys” at this section of the beach at Fire Island, the 2nd piece tied in yesterday’s ekphrastic poetry workshop here at Collar City Mushrooms on the paintings of John Zoccoli with one of Joni Mitchell’s (a favorite of Tim’s) songs.

It was quite an afternoon of poetry here in Troy on the banks of the mighty Hudson among the mushrooms & John Zoccoli’s paintings. Check out Collar City Mushrooms in-person, or online, & join us, as the title says, on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2:00pm — poetry, prose, even a stray guitar sometimes.

 

November 17, 2021

Writers Mic, November 10

Jackie Craven, our host here at Writers Mic, has developed a stable (& a stable) of reliable readers for this open mic on Zoom on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.

Once again I was 1st on the list, tonight with a couple of political poems with anti-war seasoning on the eve of Veterans/Armistice Day, “Marching Against the War” which uses military-style marching cadences that were used in past peace marches, then an erotic commentary on “Patriotism.”


Sarah Chaviano seemed to follow my lead, at least as far as erotic/humor goes with a prose memoir about adjusting the rabbit ears for better TV reception & an ad for bras, “Lift & Separate.” 

David Graham followed the anti-war theme with his favorite anti-war “At the Un-national Monunment at the Canadian Border” by William Stafford (1914 - 1993), then one of his own, an old poem set in Wisconsin about “the 54th best small town in America,” “Ode to Baraboo.”  


Scott Morehouse had another hilarious tale for us to laugh at, set in the mythological town of Swiss Gasser, Wisconsin (again), with a wedding, a gay political candidate, a man with a duck (not a turkey), titled “Echos of Thanksgiving.”


Jackie Craven read a poem set to come out in the on-line literary magazine Fatal Flaw, a poem about time getting all scrambled up.   


Susan Jewell shared an image of a painting “Rossetta Stone” from the Rattle ekphrastic contest, read her poem in the form of a “duplex,” a form invented by the poet Jericho Brown, “Duplex Rossetta Stone,” that sounded to me like a love poem, then showed another image, that of Maya Angelou, Susan’s poem based on it was titled “The Poet Breaks into Blossom.”


Nathan Smith was new to this gathering, said he found it as a Facebook event & on the Albany Poets website, he read a poem like a letter to a gone love “Broken,” the a more up-beat poem written today, about letting yourself cry & walk with confidence.


I like to think that a good poetry open mic is one that has a number of “regulars” who show up, & that has new poets show up to read as well. Writers Mic seems to be doing that. Do what Nathan did, find it on Facebook, or on AlbanyPoets.com.

 

November 16, 2021

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington, November 9

With our host, Charlie Rossiter, this open mic thrives & continues on Zoom, perhaps an example of the yin & yang of experience, any experience, even this COVID-19 pandemic.


I am blessed (or cursed) by a tradition of being “first” on many open mic lists. Historically, this goes back to the late 1980s flowering of the poetry open mic scene in Albany (NY) when there was a reluctance by poets to be Number 1 on the sign-up sheet. I would arrive a little late (but before the reading had started), see that no one had signed up #1 & sign-up. Later I realized, as other poets have told me that they realized too, that when they read early on, then they could relax for the rest of the evening rather than perseverating about what they were going to read, how they would be received, etc., & listen attentively to the other poets. So, again tonight, I was first on this Zoom list, read a poem combining/conflating Halloween & Election Day “This is Not Trick or Treat,” then in the 2nd round a tale from an Old Songs Festival from years past, “Who Lost a Bra … “


Jim Madigan, one of the long-distance Zoomers, in the 1st round read an eco-poem about the ivory billed woodpecker, “Extinction;” later read a poem published in Verse Virtual, “The Father of Hansel & Grettel”


Kenn Ash, who lives somewhere close by, read a poem like a letter to a nagger who turned out to be … (I don’t want to be a spoiler); in the 2nd round he played his trumpet for us.


Barbara Sarvis read in only the 1st round, but it was a joy, a short picture book for children titled The Long Journey about Monarch butterflies going to their Winter home.


Bill Thwing read about his Uncle Billy, an eco-poem in rhyme, about teaching frogs to sing; then in the 2nd round sang & played on his guitar a 1 minute song, “Thank You,” that was put together by kids in a church group.


Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read an old poem in his 1st round about hanging out in DC, “Between Jobs One of the Good Days” then on the 2nd go-around a list poem, “Things to Know About Bear.”


I think this is the first time that Sheryll Bedingfield joined us from Connecticut, & in the 1st round she read a ghost story, “I Dreamed My Husband Returned,” in the 2nd round a letter, “Dear Mother,” remembering funny stories of her & singing together.


Tom Nicotera was also Zooming in from Connecticut, a regular here, in his 1st round read a dream poem from 2016 about getting older, “Not Enough to End the Drought,” that contains lines from a John Prine song; then in the 2nd round one titled “Thanksgiving Poem at Great Pond,” geese & honks between rival flocks then give thanks.


Poor Mark W. O’Brien had problems with his country internet connection, muted, frozen, but persevered to read “The Old Write There (for Paul Amidon)” about cutting up an old school desk for fire wood; in round 2, a strange fragment he found in his notebooks “Fragmented Childhood.”


This pleasant gathering of poets is open to poets who can Zoom in on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, at 7:00PM, from anywhere in the world. Send an email to Charlie Rossiter at charliemrossiter@gmail.com to ask for the link — tell him Dan sent you.