July 18, 2021

Writers Mic, July 14

The usual host, Jackie Craven, was back, Daniel Sennis had filled in for her for a few months. This is one of those Zoom open mic responses to the pandemic that will continue on Zoom rather than going back to an in-person event.

First up to read was Alan Catlin who began with a poem titled “The Purifier” an ultra-descriptive piece about an annual yard sale, “not even a little bit exaggerated,” he said, then a response to watching a documentary about the nuclear power plant melt-down at Chernobyl the real & surreal.  

Scott Morehouse gave a theatrical reading of his story titled “Literary Possibilities” about a literary book club at which a woman reads from her steamy romance novel, a wild ride as usual from Scott. 

I read 3 poems on art-related themes, the 1st titled “Reading Memoir In the Laundromat” responding to a book by Patricia Hampl, the 2nd imitating Alan Catlin’s poems “Arts Festival, DelRay Beach” & the 3rd about a painting by Helen Stein a the Cape Ann Museum “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes.”

Susan Jewell’s 1st poem was about the unexpected, “The Herd by the Side of the Road Listening to Yeats,” then another unexpected mixing, this of Leonardo da Vinci & the rock star Neil Sedaka, “My Vitruvian Man.”

Sarah Chaviano read a prose piece titled “Who Am I?” from when she first got diagnosed with kidney disease, then “The Mud & the Lotus” inspired by a post from Plum Village.

Jackie Craven finished out the night with some short prose blocks in which times of the day are personas, like some she read recently at Caffè Lena, “Minutes Run Amok, 5AM,” & “8AM on the Bus,” anything can be a persona if you can imagine it.

You can find the Zoom link for this monthly open mic at the Facebook page WritersMic, held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. 

July 16, 2021

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington, July 13

Back (so to speak) in Bennington (Vermont, that is) for this Zoom open mic, which, according to Charlie Rossiter, will stay on Zoom, since he has been getting more attendees than his in-person, pre-pandemic event had. 

I had signed on early so headed up the list, doing 2 rounds, 1 piece each round. In the 1st round I read a poem about a cryptic entry on my bar tab that looked like I was being prescribed gin, “RX-Gin,” then in the 2nd round a poem about being in a strip club in Riverside California in 1969, “Summer in California,” which prompted Julie Lomoe to ask if I had missed Woodstock, generating a conversation on who was there. You can find photos of the paintings that Julie exhibited at the Woodstock festival on her website.

Speaking of paintings, Barbara Sarvis, read first her brief poem “In the Watchtower,” linked to her painting (reproduced here), then in the second round read her artists statement for her painting used as the cover art for the latest issue of Adanna Literary Journal on the theme of “Women & Politics.” 

Kenn Ash in his 1st round sang “A Drinking Song” from Sigmund Romberg’s operetta The Student Prince; for the 2nd round he played George Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the trumpet.

Speaking of drinking, Sally Rhoades’ 1st round piece was from her ongoing family memoir, this about her father & bar term for a cheap guy, “Small Beer;” her second round piece was titled “That was the End of the Happiness” about being abused & sexually assaulted.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, was joined in his 1st round by his son, Jack Rossiter Munley, on guitar to sing a Chicago song inspired by a open mic character named Big Walter who talked about going out “alley cattin’;” in the 2nd round he read some “one-liners” & other short stuff he kept from his poetic notebooks, including quotes from others, even haiku.

Jim Madigan could only stay for the 1st round & read a poem titled “Vampire,” which could only be characterized as a descriptive movie-themed, eco-poem.

Naomi Bindman read from her memoir in both rounds, in the 1st, “Old Sammy,” a chapter about the family dog, then, picking up the theme of Woodstock in the 2nd round, another chapter from her memoir, this about when her daughter, Ellen, was an extra in the 2009 comedy-drama Taking Woodstock directed by Ang Lee.

Julie Lomoe read a 1st draft of a brand new piece about her dog Sirius “Black Dog at the Top of the Stair;” then in her 2nd round another happy dog poem, “Quartet of the Elders,” that she had also shared at the recent 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic.

Speaking of poems I’ve heard read previously, Tom Nicotera read his marvelously witty “Why I Keep My Mullein” which is hung together with a rhyme scheme based on “mullein;” & he had another flower poem “Deconstruction Site Sunflower” in the 2nd round. 

Laura Ellzey was comfortably reclining to read a poem about poems, “Where Did This come From?”, then for the 2nd round also had a memoir piece, “The Helper,” about learning to ride a unicycle with her friend & with the help of a tree branch.

If you would like to join this open mic that happens on the 2nd Tuesday of each month & you are not already on Charlie’s list, email him at charliemrossiter@gmail.com & ask for the link. Tell him you read it here on DWx.

July 15, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, July 11

Now this open mic is an open mic. Nancy Klepsch may have to open the door, but anyone can knock. 2 poems or a short prose piece less than 5 minutes, no “second round.”

I went first, just because, & read a couple old poems “The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas” inspired by reading the Lotus Sutra, then a poem dedicated to Sally Rhoades who once described the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, OK as “The Listening Festival.”

Joel Best began with a poem written this week on faith & belief with images of everyday & of Summer flowers, then a birthday poem in which he thinks back to August 1977, seeing fireflies & feeling his mortality.

Kate Gillsepie was having problems connecting but managed to get in with a couple of short, colorful poems that were written on Martha’s Vineyard.

Our host, Nancy Klepsch, began with a list poem “What I would say,” then one pondering urban land along the River, even with its trash, titled “Everything is Sacred.” 

Julie Lomoe also had a hard time getting in in spite of “a brand new jazzy computer,” but ended up using her husband, Robb’s, computer, read a piece written last night, “Quartet of Elders,” a gathering with her pets, & herself & Robb.

2nd Sunday @ 2 had been at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy at their request for a number of years until the corona virus pandemic shut it down, since then we have persisted on Zoom. We had hoped to return to The Arts Center but they have informed us that they will not be open on Sundays due to funding issues. Nancy is actively exploring other venues in Troy where we can meet in-person & we hope to have an answer soon. Stay tuned.

July 13, 2021

Tim’s “Open mic”, July 8

Well, I’m not so sure what Tim Verhaegen calls this, if anything, this somewhat random Zoom gathering, I mean, is an open mic that’s by invitation an “open mic”? Isn't more an “invitational mic?” Whatever. I’ve been privileged by being invited again now so here I was. Tim likes to do the 2 rounds thing so we each read 1 poem, then the 2nd poem described below was read in the next round.

I was up first (I like to get it out of the way so I can relax & listen), & read a bar/death poem “Dinner at the Bar,” then a piece that has been selected for an exhibit at the Arts Society of Kingston, “Writing Crows,” in which an artist will create a visual arts piece inspired by the poem.

Sally Rhoades has found that writing a poem-a-day from prompts has been useful in expanding her story of her family, read today “Rarely You Were Right” about her wedding, then another from the poem-a-day, “A Cache of Pencilled Scrawls,” reacting to an artist friend who didn’t like her casual drawings.

Bob Sharkey read a dream poem, “Roomie,” about a dead friend from college at a party with grandchildren & dead parents, then a Cento, one of Bob’s ongoing gifts to the world of poetry, what he described as “a quilt of other people’s work,” from the 2019 Best American Poetry, “What Happens Will Go Down in History as Fable” playing on the color blue.

Avery Stempel took a break from cultivating fungi to read a couple of very different poems, “Chit Chat" in rhyme about saying goodbye, then a poem titled “Apophenia’s Shell” using the mathematical Fibonacci sequence, which, although named after a thirteenth century Italian mathematician, actually looks back to much earlier Sanskrit poetry — I’ll let you look up “apophenia”.

Frank Robinson, who is a numismatist (you can look that up too while you're at it), read a catalog entry describing an ancient coin as a poem, then a Valentine poem, based on the great American novel Moby Dick, love as the great quest to fulfill a missing part in one’s life. 

The next reader was new to this open mic & his Zoom caption identified him as “George Grace, Real estate” read first a poem titled “Writing Poetry” with images of birds, then, later, a more abstract, philosophical piece in rhyme “From Suffering to Joy.” 

Our host, Tim Verhaegen, ended each round, in the first with a funny, descriptive critique of the music, dancing, the people “In My Own Way at the Gay Bar;” those of us who have heard Tim read in the past are familiar edgy stories of his late feisty mother, Tim said that he “dreams of her almost every night,” her contradictions, but still, as the poem is titled, “I Love Her.”

So as William Shakespeare wrote in another context, no matter what you call this Zoom gathering of poets & their poems it was just that: poets sharing their poems & great fun at it was.

Let me know if you are interested & I can pass your name on to Tim.


July 11, 2021

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, July 7

A great night of poetry, 3 poets whose work I’ve heard & like a lot, as this venue transitions back to its pre-pandemic format — more on that below. Carol Graser was our host once again. There were about 12 in attendance in-person & many others online for the live stream.

First up was Jackie Craven who hosts Writers Mic open mic on Zoom on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. She introduced her reading by saying that she likes “to write about the impossible,” then read a selection from her book of poems Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2018), based on her mother’s Surrealist paintings. She then turned to some new poems, including some from a series in which the times of the day (e.g., 8:45) are personas who narrate their dilemmas. In fact most of what she read tonight were persona poems, in which the narrators where often objects, or even concepts/ideas. She also included a piece from her award-winning chapbook of fabulist fiction Our Lives Became Unmanageable (Omnidawn), then ended with a poem titled “To My Tongue.” You can find samples of her work at her website jackiecraven.com.

The poet in the middle was Ian Macks, who had frequented the open mic scene in Albany & Troy in the pre-corona virus day. He has book from Bottlecap Press titled A Loss and Gain of Comfort, but tonight read from a new book out soon from recto y verso editions Identity Crisis. That title pretty much sums up the themes of much of what he read tonight. There were personal poems leavened with his fervent & fertile imagination, that also reflected & commented on his experience of being a young black man in an urban setting, including a poem for Ahmaud Arbery (“Vein Popping Inconvenience”), another on the Black Lives Matter protests (“Milk”), & another about being stopped by the Feds while on his way to work. But there was tenderness too, particularly in “A Mother’s Love,” & of course a poem titled “Quarantined.”

I had read with Richard Levine in the past in a program of readings by poets who were military veterans at the Bright Hills Literary Center in Treadwell NY & had featured him at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, a friend & a poet whose work I admire. His Selected Poems is available from FutureCycle Press. Tonight he read primarily from a forth-coming book, & began with a couple of pandemic poems. His poems ranged from a poem for his grandfather (“Immigrant”), to a poem from his experience in Viet Nam (“From the Wild”), to one for a new granddaughter (“Restoration”). He also included an elegy that recently won the 2021 Poetry Award from the Connecticut Poetry Society “Is! - in memoriam, Joe Hayman.” 

You can see the entire reading here at the Caffè Lena YouTube site. Carol announced that on August 4, 2021 for the 1st Wednesday poetry night, there will be a live open mic, then on the 1st Wednesday in September the poetry night will return to its pre-corona virus pandemic format of featured readers & an open mic for community poets. Check the Caffè Lena website for details. 

Stay negative & keep writing.


July 7, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2, June 13

Nancy Klepsch was back on with full steam, a very good thing, because I showed up late & missed a lot (my son Jack was in town to visit his mother & stopped by for a while). 

Susan Jewell was the first I got to hear & she read 2 poems from her attempts to win the big prize from the ongoing Rattle ekphrastic contest, poems titled “There You Are” & “Witness.”  

Bob Sharkey’s prose piece titled “Monaural” was a trip down memory lane inspired by his 50th college reunion with memory of the records he used to play on a little record-player.

If I heard this right, Julie Lomoe said she was going to read a summary of a short story a pandemic era piece about being kicked out of a Zumba class, then, asking for a little more time, a minute or so & spent it rambling. 

I was able to sneak onto the list to read 2 poems “Stardust is Us” & the more recent “Backyard Sutra.”

Sydney Allen was next with what she called “flashbacks,” one titled “Help for Rhonda” after the beach boys song, then an untitled piece also flashing back.

Anthony Farley was the last reader & read a prose response to the motto of the nation Jamaica “Out of Many One People” pointing out the irony in the historic killing off of the native Arawak (Taino) people.

This monthly series started out at the Arts Center on River St. in Troy but, like everyone else, went on Zoom in early 2020. For now, it is still on Zoom, but check the Facebook page, 2nd Sunday @ 2 for any changes. Speaking of Zoom, there are still some poets out there, after a year & a half, who just don’t seem to get it, supposedly smart people otherwise, but clueless & annoying when they sit in front of their computer screen. But let's face it, we will always, like God or our Guardian Angel, have Zoom with us now.


June 24, 2021

Writers Mic, June 9

Our stand-in (& stand-up) host was once again the poet/humorist/satirist Daniel Sennis, on Zoom. If you don’t know his work check out O Conman! My Conman! - Sick Rhymes for Sick Times (Shires Press, 2020).

David Graham was first on the list & read 2 poems titled “Summons,” the 1st by Robert Francis, a poet important to David, on friendship, then his own a parallel poem, from his book The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books, 2019).

Alan Catlin said he was reading the most recent 2 poems that got accepted for publication, “The Only Memento” a simple pack of matches bringing back memories of a wedding, then “Unable to Sleep in the Heat,” intensely descriptive, as the best poetry often (usually?) is. 

Sarah Chaviano said her short story “Bonnie & Clyde” was based on a song, & in this episode the couple go to a pawn shop to get a new pair of nylons. 

I read 3 pieces, one on death, “Stardust is Us,” then “Backyard Sutra,” & one based on the names of local streets “In the Neighborhood.” 

Scott Morehouse read another of his humorous, outrageous stories, this titled “Disco Fever” filled with “juicy” gossip about neighbors Bonnie & Jack, sex & cocaine & Studio 54. 

Daniel Sennis read a couple pieces from O Conman! My Conman! a relationship piece, “Fortune’s Jewel,” in rhymes, then more rhymes “There is No Sleep for the WIC Kid.”

Sarah asked to read again & her piece, “Washington Heights,” was memories of that NYC neighborhood, images of tossing sneakers to the wires, Spanish TV, Liberace.

Like most open mics, you never know what you might hear & this night, even with only a few readers, the variety was exhilarating. You can find the Zoom link on the Facebook page Writers Mic, add your voice to the stew.

June 17, 2021

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington, June 8

This open mic series keeps chugging along out of Bennington, Vermont, formerly in a brew pub where it was only able to draw a few poets (in actuality this is not surprising since Vermont is the 2nd least populated state in the country, Wyoming is the least populated).  But with Zoom it has doubled its open mic sign-up sheet with more than half the poets reading this night Zooming from states other than Vermont.

Tom Nicotera, was 1st on the list, with his first round poem “Love Mechanic,” about waiting for his car to be fixed, pondering having someone fix his love life, then later in the 2nd round a memoir poem about fishing with his father “Dreaming of Fish.”  

Kenn Ash ended up in different spots on the list in the two rounds, in the 1st round here after Tom (in the 2nd round he was after Tim Verhaegen) with a grim wise-guy piece he called “The Great Awakening,” in rhyme about crushing the skull of a bird who lands on his window sill.

I followed Kenn in the 1st round with a new faux Chinese poem “Backyard Sutra,” then in the 2nd round when I followed Tom Nicotera with a pastiche (the 2nd I’ve done) of William Carlos Williams' signature poem “this is just to say,” this one addressed to my daughter Madeleine.

Tim Verhaegen went hi-tech & shared his poems on the screen, but I’m so used to just listening I was distracted by the text on the screen & didn’t take good notes. In his 1st round a poem reacting to a workshop critique session what’s “gay”/“not gay” in his poem, then in the 2nd round a piece about a spider & a child “Saving the Child” (not a “gay” poem).

Bill Thwing, not in Vermont, read the 1st time around what he termed “a very, very innocuous poem,” about a light show titled “Living Waters Change Fast,” then as he began his 2nd round we could hear some thwanging from his guitar & he responded to Tim’s spider poem with a song about a spider that grows to an enormous size.

Laura Ellzey, who is one of the readers actually in Vermont, read “My Blue Heron” a poem in rhyme, then in her 2nd round sang beautifully in Spanish “Me Olvidé De Vivir” a song by Julio Iglesias.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter’s 1st round poem was titled “Lakeside Inn in Union Pier Michigan” a descriptive piece about a place he used to go to out that way, then later a poem he wrote based on 20 different translations of a Chinese poem about a fishhawk.

Jim Madigan who was Zooming in from the Chicago suburb of Oak Park (where Charlie once lived), recalled the horrific shooting in Orlando, FL in 2016 in a poem titled “Silver Disco Ball,” then in the 2nd round a political piece on surveillance “Unified Spy Agency,” a take off on the children’s game “I spy with my little eye…”  

The final reader was Bridget Elder, who had actually attended the open mic when it was in the brew pub pre-pandemic, in both rounds read from a series of memoir pieces about her deceased mother.

So, no matter where you are on the planet, you can join this open mic from Bennington, Vermont, USA on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. If you are not yet on Charlie’s preferred list you can email him at charliemrossiter@gmail.com & request the link. Hope to see you there/here.

May 31, 2021

2nd Tuesday Open Mic Out of Bennington, May 11

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, likes to go around twice (so to speak), one poem/song, whatever, each time, but he can be a little lax & some folks do take advantage — but not as bad as some I’ve been to recently.

Ken Ash, a local, was first on the list with a piece he styled as “staring at the consequences of reality” but then & on & on. In the second round he played his trumpet, improvising to a back-up sound machine.

Mark O’Brien read, in his 1st round, a Haibun from his favorite time period, 1963, about black & white TV. & in his 2nd round I do believe he read something titled “Brooklyn” but now I’m not sure, he’s such a country boy.

Jim Madigan, from Charlie’s old stomping grounds outside Chicago, read a piece titled "The Narrows” about walking a trail on the Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah. His 2nd-round piece, “Invasion of the Moths,” mixed images from belly buttons to grain, the fun things you can do with poetry.

Another local, Laura Ellzey, read the first 1st sonnet she ever wrote, humorously titled “Does this Qualify?” (to be a sonnet); she has a lovely singing voice so in the 2nd round sang in Spanish “Siempre mi mente,” a song by the late Mexican singer, Juan Gabriel (1950 - 2016).

I read next, a newer piece responding, after a fashion, to Red Pines marvelous travelogue Finding Them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), a poem written on my back porch, “on the Reading Terrace.” Then in the 2nd round a baseball poem mixing in some Chicago & Chinese references “Dusty Baker.”

Elaine Frankonis has become a regular here on Zoom Bennington, read a tender piece on her Mother’s last days “While Words Fail.”  In her 2nd round she read from a series of 3x5 cards reactions scribbled “At the Louvre.” 

In the 1st round our host Charlie Rossiter read a piece about heading into New Mexico on I40 “American West.” He stayed on the New Mexico travel theme in his 2nd round with “On the Streets of Tucumcari” with his son Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar. 

Bill Thwing is another regular from elsewhere, tonight struggled with a bad internet connection but managed to get through “Dance of Death.”  He had better luck on his 2nd round where he accompanied himself on guitar with 9 Haiku for his 9 grandchildren. 

Charlie’s long-time friend Tom Nicotera read about a mouse in his kitchen “Have a Heart,” then in the 2nd round a much larger critter, a bear turning over trashcans in his back yard, & he lives in the suburbs of Hartford!.

I think this was Alan Casline’s first time here at the Bennington open mic, in person or on Zoom, & in both rounds he read from a book of spontaneous poems, a la Jack Kerouac. 

The final reader, Barbara Sarvis, a Vermont local regular here, read from the 1st children book she wrote Too Many Feathers, about sharing & recycling, & in the 2nd round a very short piece, “Fire Twin Separation.” & that was it for this 2nd Tuesday.

If you want to attend this open mic held on Zoom on the 2nd Tuesday of each month & you are not already on Charlie’s list of favorites, send him an email at charliemrossiter@gmail.com & you too can join us.

May 30, 2021

2nd Sunday @2: Poetry + Prose, May 9

Nancy Klepsch & I have been the co-hosts of this open mic, formerly at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, since it started “many” years ago. It was easier to trade back & forth hosting when we were meeting in person.  This Mothers’ Day I filled in for Nancy, who was there, but needed some down time.

I put myself first on the list to save everyone the embarrassment of turning it down & read a new piece, “on the Reading Terrace,” then an older, sad piece for Mothers’ Day, “Whose Mom is That?”

Sally Rhoades read a couple of memoir pieces on the Mothers’ Day theme, a poem from using prompts “Setting the Table” family memories, & “Mother’s Inspiration,” another memory, & passing it on to her daughters.

Nancy Klepsch made her way through a complex piece titled “If Everything was Made into Kombucha” that includes a reference to a Philip Glass piece “Gee-Whiz, a song for Ellen” that Glass performed with Laurie Anderson. 

Continuing the theme of tea, Kendall Hoeft read a poem about sipping tea & sherry titled “Tasseography” (fortune-telling by interpreting patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments), then on to an ekphrastic piece “Around We Go” based on William Blake’s detailed reproduction of the ancient Greek sculpture group “Laocoön” reinterpreted as Jehovah & his sons Satan & Adam.

Cheryl A.Rice, whom I had just seen on Calling All Poets on Friday night (see my Blog), joined us here with an untitled love poem, sleeping & dreaming in bed. Ahh!

Bob Sharkey shared a character portrait of a train rider (or worker?), a piece he called “The Man Besides the Tracks.” 

Julie Lomoe ended the afternoon by bringing us back to the theme of the day, with a memoir piece I’ve heard & enjoyed before, titled “My Mother’s Head,” about her passing out due to a sub-dural hematoma (Julie’s favorite theme) at a club appearance by the Modern Jazz Quartet & waking to seeing the musicians, in their dark suits, ties, & white shirts, thinking they were the undertakers — I love this image, especially as a fan of the MJQ.

Check out the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Facebook page to stay in touch. For now it remains on Zoom, but perhaps we’ll be back in person before too long.


May 28, 2021

Calling All Poets!, May 7

I tried to join this event on Zoom a number of months ago & it was such a cluster fuck of Zoom idiots -- leaving their mic open, asking questions of the open mic host, talking to others in their home or apartment -- that I just left without waiting for the featured poets & the open mic. In the ensuing months things have gotten (marginally) better, but still some folks, no matter how old they are, or no matter what professional positions they have held in their lives just never learn. One of those characters was here again this night leaving his mic on, & walking around with his tablet without turning off the video.

But I was here to see & hear the 3 featured poets whose work I enjoy, Lucia Cherciu, Roberta Gould, & Cheryl Rice. The host for the featured poets was Mike Jurkovic; the open mic host was Jim Eve.

Lucia Cherciu is the 2021 Poet Laureate of Dutchess County. She began with a poem in Romanian dedicated to her Mother, then on to a couple poems in English from her book Edible Flowers (Main St. Rag, 2015), “Savings” (for her father), & “In This World Maybe for Your Soul.” Then poems from Train Ride to Bucharest (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), “Linden Tree,” “Love Song to Masks,” & “Blue Wrapping Paper.” I think I need to get one, or both of those books.

I have 4 or 5 of Roberta Gould’s books but have no idea which ones she read from. She sometimes mentioned that she was reading a poem from one of her books, such as a poem she said was “#10 of a series on Kandinsky,” but never mentioned the titles of the books they came from. Other poems seemed to be more recent but I can’t be sure, she tends to ramble. But I did like one about flies fucking (“Double”), & a persona poem titled “The Tyrant Dreams.” I think they record these readings & post the video on the CAPS website, so you don’t have to rely on me to create this memory.

Cheryl A. Rice was a lot easier to follow. After a couple of openers she read from her series of poems inspired by the Ziegfield Follies, poems that I’ve been enjoying hearing for years, poetic bits of history inspired by her own obsession, which is always the best kind. Then on to a couple poems from from a chapbook-in-progress titled “Tiger Butter” (based on the adolescent soft-porn trick with the Land o’ Lakes butter carton). But I think I like best her rebuttal to the ongoing mythical Beats “On the Road with Kuan-yin” & her new piece “Remember the Gold Fish Will Be Dead by Morning.” 

I’ve run a monthly poetry series for over 20 years, with an open mic with one rule: one poem. That’s not difficult to understand — one poem, & if it’s too long I cut them off. It can be one poem with a couple short parts, but no epics, no special dispensation for Haiku, keep it a page or 2 I tell them at the beginning. That’s my role has the host, the moderator, the MC, to set the rules & enforce them. I haven’t resorted to a timer with a loud alarm or a air-horn —not yet, anyway — as some have, but I’ve been sorely tempted.

Not so this bunch. There were 13 on the open mic list, according to the host, who said the limit was 1 poem, no more than 3 minutes. Somehow the first reader thought that meant 3 poems; “they are short” she said, somehow confusing “1 poem” with “3 poems.” The next reader, following suit, read 2 poems. The host blithely ignored this arrogance & did not respond by reminding the rest of the readers that the limit was 1 poem. Is that so hard? One Poem! ONE FUCKING POEM!

I left. If it had been an in-person reading I would have slammed the door — twice!

May 15, 2021

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, May 5

Back in the pre-pandemic days the Caffè Lena Poetry Night on the first Wednesday of the month included an open mic, in addition to a couple of featured poets. It was well-attended & was grand gathering of community poets. With the coming of COVID-19 & the attendant restrictions there has been no open mic, &, up to a couple months ago, no audience, the featured poets reading to an empty house. Currently, limited audiences are permitted. I have frequently tuned in to the pandemic-era readings which are live-broadcast on Youtube. This night I made my first trip to Saratoga Springs in over a year, had dinner at the social-distance Harvey’s, then to actually sit in Caffè Lena.

As I waited to be checked in, who was right in front of me, but the formerly-local poet Jan Tramontano & her husband Ron, who were in town from their current home in Florida. They made for wonderfully genial companions as we shared a table together.

The reason (actually 3) that I made the trip was for tonight’s featured poets, Will Nixon, Mary Cuffe Perez, & Mary Kathryn Jablonski, fine regional poets who help make this area in upstate New York the vibrant poetry scene that it is.

Will Nixon read first, & began with poems from My Mother as a Ruffed Grouse (FootHills Publishing, 2008), tales of childhood, often humorous, with his brother, & baseball; also, a sex tale from a time he lived in New York City, & one of Rip Van Winkle in the Catskills (“Insomnia”). He ended with a poem from Love in the City of Grudges (FootHills Publishing, 2010), set in Hoboken, NJ, titled “Sunday Afternoon the River Smelled Like Engines.”

Mary Cuffe Perez read a combination of published poems, poems from a manuscript-in-progress, & recent poems. The poems from her chapbook Poems in November (Finishing Line Press, 2019) set the tone of straight-forward little vignettes, which in the book are untitled & flow together as one narrative. She also read from her unpublished manuscript “Why Meringue Fails,” about the “little failures” like meringue, her hair, a chicken & about  her aunt, & her mother’s simple cooking. Her new poems included horses, November (again), cooking & deer hunting. She ended with the childhood memory, “A Night Before Hay.”

I published Mary Kathryn Jablonski’s book To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008) so you can guess I like her work, & many of those poems were included in her 2019 book from Dos Madres Press Sugar Maker Moon. Tonight she read mostly new poems, but began with her side of a collaboration with Will Nixon, & “Lacus Veris” from Sugar Maker Moon. She has been working with great success in collaboration with film-maker Laura Frare on video poems & read the text of one of those, with her bird whistling. Other poems were about her family, her brothers & a goat from the farm where she grew up. Her final piece was the intensely emotional “Five Easy Pieces” about the dying of her brother but touched with gentle humor.

The best thing about these pandemic-era readings at Caffè Lena is that you don’t have to take my word for it on my Blog about what happened, you can watch & listen to the actual performances on the Caffè Lena YouTube channel. Otherwise you can tune in live, or, now, actually attend live performance on the first Monday of the month in Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, & maybe even get a hug from your favorite poet.

May 11, 2021

Antarctic Artists and Writers Collective Event, April 29

I was invited to this Zoom Webinar by Professor Leigh Ann Christain (better known to us local poets as Annie Christain). I had recently seen the movie Concrete Cowboy (available on Netflix) & one of the panelists was Greg Neri, author of the YA novel Ghetto Cowboy upon which the movie was based. As often happens with such events, I had little idea what I would be seeing & hearing but was easily drawn into the fascinating stories & images the 3 writers presented. The other panelists were Susan Fox Rogers & William L. Fox.

Trish Suchy from AAWC gave a brief introduction to the organization & its programs that brings artists from all genres — writing, photography, music, performance art, etc. — to the Antarctic for inspiration, exploration, & collaboration. The participants are from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program (AAWP). SUNY Cobleskill is a partner in this effort & is where Professor Christain, who served as the chair of the panel, teaches.

Greg Neri read poems that were inspired by his visit to Antartica & the photos he took there. He said he did little writing while there & based his poems largely on the images he had taken & on his memories. He was charming -- intellectual, warm & poetic.

Susan Fox Rogers is the editor of the anthology Antarctica: Life on the Ice (2007); she a writer, teacher & birder. She described the “extraordinary silence” of the continent, & commented on how “ugly” it is. She said that as she went to each settlement she would ask "where you sleep, what do you eat, & where do you pee?" Sound about right to me.

Science writer & art critic William L. Fox read from an essay titled “Building on Ice,” full of facts & figures about Antartica, commenting upon the “immense contradictions” of the place, the kind of things I like hearing in "travel literature," not that I want to plan a vacation there.

You can find full biographies of the panelists on the AAWC website which also contains information about their programs & about their members. I’ll leave the travel to Antartica to others, it gets cold enough here in Albany, where I also know I have warm places to pee.

May 6, 2021

2nd Annual Earth Day Reading, April 22

This event was organized by the Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library (FFAPL), & moderated by Alexis Bhagat, Executive Director of FFAPL. It was held on Zoom & live-streamed on the Capital Region Earth Day Youtube Channel.

Lex began the program with a moving statement acknowledging the land on which we live & the nations of this land. The program was divided into 5 parts with readings by local officials, scholars, activists & poets.

The first section was titled A Reading for the Land and the City. The readers included the Honorable Kathy Sheehan, Mayor of Albany, Melanie Metzger from the Albany Public Library, Lauren Moore NYS Librarian, Atmospheric Scientist Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, & Preem Cabey from AVillage. Selections were read from the works of others & their own writings.

The second section was titled A Reading for the River and the Waters. The readers included local, regional & national poets, including myself, Ramona Cearly from Riverkeeper.org, Susan Pedo, & Ken Hada (director the the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at ECU, Ada, OK). 

The next section was A Reading for the People & the Animals & included poets Lucyna Prostko, Matthew Burns, Tiffany Higgins & Gretchen Primack.

A Reading for the Wind and the Air was the fourth section, with readings by Jill Szwed, poet Allie Middleton, local activist Luke Forbes, & novelist & activist Pippa Bartolotti.

The final section was titled A Reading for the Future & included appropriately enough students from the Albany High Leo Club, Christian Simmons, Egypt Snipe & Rashid Ford. The final performer was rapper Jayohcee from the Akwesasne Nation & a song he wrote while in Standing Rock.

An excellent source for eco-poems is Ghost Fishing, An Eco-Justice Anthology, edited by Melissa Tuckey, from the University of Georgia Press.

As the sign on my lawn says, “Everyday is Earth Day.”

April 29, 2021

16th Annual Favorite Poem Project, April 18

For nigh on these many years the folks up in Rensselaerville at Conkling Hall & at the Rensselaerville Library have been holding this event during April & this year you didn’t have to drive up into the mountains to participate, or attend, you could Zoom in from anywhere. & many did. There were some invited local poets to read original work, & others from the community (& elsewhere) invited to read their favorite poems.

The program was introduced by John Arrighi from the Friends of Conkling Hall & by Heidi Carle from the Rensselaerville Library. Linda Miller served as the host/moderator & shared one of her own poems in the lineup.

A good poem to start this off with was Mark Nepo’s “Way Under the Way,” in his guru mode, read by Philomena Moriarty. Mark W. O’Brien read a poem by Seamus Heaney & one of his own. Sarah Nelson sang one of her poems, accompanying herself on the ukulele. She was followed by another poem done up as a song, “For Emily” (Dickinson, that is) done by Charlie Rossiter accompanied on guitar by Jack Rossiter-Munley.

I read an urban poem about meeting poets on the street titled simply “Poem.” Phyllis Hillinger introduced some humor with her piece “Masked Benefits.” Mimi Moriarty’s “Instructions for Spring Cleaning” was also humorous, albeit grim. Linda Miller read one of her poems & one by Ross Gay.

Robert A. Miller read one of his own poems titled “Midnight.” Tom Bonville’s (pictured with Tom Corrado) poem about fishing with his granddaughter was built on memories of fishing with his father & grandfather. Tom Corrado (pictured with Tom Bonville) based his poem “The Mathematician’s Daughter” on the 2005 movie Proof. In addition to reading her own poem “I Remember the Property in Snow,” a pantoum, Dianne Sefcik also read a poem by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski (1945 - 2021).

Zoom-ing in from the Bronx, Annie Lanzillotto read a poem set in Italy about a little black cat & gender identity. While I’ve seen Didi Corrado at many poetry events & social gatherings this was the first time I’ve heard her read one of her own poems, a moving piece on family titled “Winter.” Marea Gordett read her poem “Vanished” about extinct birds. Tony Fallon (pictured) was one of the few rhymers today with his poem “Easter Sunday 2020.”

Ellen Rook (pictured) who does live in the area was attending from Maine, read her poem “thrush morning.” Dennis Winslow read the famous poem by British poet William Ernest Henley (1849 - 1903) titled “Invictus” about facing adversity. Mike Maggio attended from Virginia to read a poem about his brother “Elegy in D Minor.” Claire North was in Vermont & read 2 poems, one titled “Lorica for Uncertainty’s Invasions,” playing on the term lorica, meaning a piece of body armor, but also a prayer, from the Irish monastic tradition, for protection.

Jane Mendelson read from what was listed on the program as Happily Jane and the Pooka by Angie McDonough. Philippa Dunne (pictured) recited 2 poems from memory by one of my favorite Chinese poets, Han Shan (Cold Mountain). Susan Oringel read one of her pandemic poems “In the Beginning.” And Mary Ann Ronconi brought the program to a close with her poem aptly titled “This is Spring.”

And so, with the help of Zoom & some dedicated volunteers the 16th Annual Favorite Poem Project was able to take place in spite (or because of) the pandemic ban on massed gatherings. Perhaps next year next year I’ll have to take the long drive up the mountain, but then if I do perhaps there will be a few hugs, instead of just waving on the computer screen. 

April 25, 2021

Writers Mic, April 14

The 2nd Wednesday open mic, formerly out of Schenectady & hosted by Jackie Craven, now with a new host making his debut tonight, the poet Daniel Sennis, with a cluster of familiar faces here for the open mic. 

I decided I could go first & paid tribute to the recently gone poet & editor of the poetry journal lips, Laura Boss, by reading her poem “My Lover Says I Don’t Pay Enough Attention to Him” from her 1995 collection, Reports from the Front (Cross-Cultural Communications), then read my own poem “The Transit of Venus” that Laura had published in her most recent issue of lips (which she had started in 1981).

David Graham dedicated his first piece to our host, as a teacher, reading the poem “At the Desk” by the German writer, Theodor Storm (1817 - 1888), as translated by Robert Bly, then David’s own poem “The Weight of an Envelope” based on a kids’s comment that he had known his Mom a very long time.

Scott Morehouse read a humorous piece “Theatrical Tidbit 1921” about a fictional show that closed at intermission, perhaps titled “Too Many Nannies” — one can always count on Scott to make us smile, even laugh.

Susan Jewell read what she couldn’t read the last time, “Becoming Galvanized,” a memoir of her father, an ekphrastic piece based on the image of the sun in the bucket.

Mary Ann began with a piece by Denise Duhamel “Wednesday April 29, 1992” then one of her own “The Judge & Her Jury” in which her mother reads her Diary.

Our new host, Daniel Sennis, brought the evening to a close with the latest revision of his poem “Gender Orthodoxy is Booty” a piece in rhyme set at a garage sale, followed by the recently written, descriptive “This Spring Day.”

It’s fortunate that this series, taking place now on Zoom, on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, has found a new host to keep it going. Find out more about it, along with the Zoom link, at the Writers Mic Facebook page.