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 She also read from her unpublished manuscript “Why Meringue Fails,” about the “little failures” like meringue, her hair, a chicken & about  her aunt, & her mother’s simple cooking.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.


April 23, 2021

Open Mic out of Bennington, April 13

Charlie Rossiter is our head-phoned host, Zoom-ing in from Bennington Vermont.


First on the virtual sign-up list was Bill Thwing out in Western PA, who read from Poems of the Masters anthology edited by Red Pine, & his own haiku. In the 2nd round he took out his guitar to perform a recently written song, leftovers from the Trump era, titled “Riding on a Hurricane.”


I reprised a poem by the recently gone Laura Boss titled “My Lover is Typing” from her book Reports from the Front (Cross-Cultural Communications, 1995), that I had read at the open mic on Sunday,  then later read “The Transit of Venus” which had recently appeared in lips 51/52, a poetry journal that Laura Boss had edited since 1981.


Mark O’Brien read, in both rounds, from his Blog spontaneous sonnets, in round 1 “69” on Flaubert, like an ad, & in round 2 #71 “an Easter poem,” he said, but actually about Holy Thursday.  


Barbara Sarvis was the first Vermonter of the night & in the 1st round she read a children’s book she had written & illustrated, Pesto & Caesar, about the joys of eating healthy food, then in the 2nd round she read a piece titled “Objects of Intolerance” about keeping an Aunt Jemima doll. 



Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read as a tribute to Laura Boss, one of his poems Laura had published, & one I’ve heard many times with the 3 Guys from Albany, “The Ex,” then in a nod to the special Lyn Lifshin (1942 - 2019) issue of lips, a memoir of a literary magazine he helped run, a piece titled “The Madonna Who Ignored Submission Guidelines.”


Jim Madigan was another far-flung attendee, joining us from Oak Park, IL, & began with “Fire Season,” then in round 2 a memoir of seeing “The Clash in Cleveland” but inspired by  a poem by David St. John. 


Naomi Bindman read memoir pieces in both rounds, in the first round segments about her daughter, her mother, holding bodies, filled with the little details of experience, then in the second round a memoir about a dog from her childhood “Old Sammy” as well as “Stardust” about a memorial service for a daughter.


Joel Best’s first was titled “Madcap” in his signature style of linking random images, thoughts, but in the 2nd round his poem “A Distant Thursday” was more focused, about being at the ocean with the whales & gulls.


Sally Rhoades' 2 poems were both responses to the work of Oklahoma writers, in the first round her “Girl on the Bridge” was after Dorothy Alexander’s tender memoir  poem about taking in a young girl, while the 2nd poem, “We’re All Sitting with You Rilla,” was after about novelist Rilla Askew’s chilling story of a rape when she was young, that I also heard at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, OK.


Tom Nicotera took a trip down memory lane recalling the the sanitized version of life on TV, that was all about to change, “Safe & Sound with Ozzie & Harriet,” then on his 2nd time around a piece about a hawk at the window of an office window.


Kenn Ash managed to squeeze in 2 pieces in each round, first with the rhyming “No Deposit No Return,” & “Distance,” then later a 2-parter, again in rhyme, & again time about eating away, with the 2nd part to a recorded rhythm, while he played his trumpet.


Elaine Frankonis read “a double” Haibun titled “A Fables Coat-tail” a story of a fancy Egyptian coat, & on her 2nd round a piece about the end of Winter & the need for seeds, “Nether Season.” 


This open mic, on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, does much better with attendance on Zoom than it did formerly in person at the brewery, because I doubt that folks like Jim Madigan would drive in from Illinois, & even relatively-nearby New Yorkers & folks in far-flung parts of Vermont would rather not drive when they can sit home in their jammies. Contact Charlie at charliemrossiter@gmail.com for a Zoom link if you want to join us.


 

April 18, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2 — Poetry + Prose, April 11


Almost warm enough to bring the poetry outside, but then it is April, the month of showers. Our host Nancy Klepsch was in Troy but the rest of us were elsewhere, a good turnout of 10 listeners/readers.


I began the open mic with reading a poem by the recently gone Laura Boss titled “My Lover is Typing” tender & funny, from her book Reports from the Front (Cross-Cultural Communications, 1995).


Kendall Hoeft was here from far, far away & read 2 poems of her own, “The Star,” an ekphrastic piece after Edgar Degas’ painting of a dancer, “L’Etoile,” then one titled “Liberation Song,” both poems filled with the rich details of a poet’s eye.


Joel Best also read 2 poems, “Malconto” which he described as “just the thoughts clanging around in my head” which could also accurately describe his 2nd poem “The King Particles.”


Bob Sharkey read a poem written while digging a hole in his yard “Dig It Some No Place” (which is a quote from Bernadette Mayer) descriptive of his property, the birds there, what he finds in the dirt, etc., a rambling, poetic description.


I was so pleased to see Joe Krausman “here” today, I guess he finally figured out Zoom, he read 2 poems also, “Therapeutic Touch” about an old couple’s intimate moment, & “Gratitude” a funny rhyme about his being given life by his parents; I was glad to hear these "old chestnuts" again.


Julie Lomoe said she was reading prose “for a change” a piece titled “Spring Awakening” a long ramble about the details of her life, & crying over a sick cat.


Cheryl Rice read what she called “2 new ones,” “Salmon Run” imagining herself as the fish, & “Imagine Your House is On Fire” inspired by an anthology of poems using that prompt, about what she would you take with her.


Nancy Klepsch asked, “does this poem make sense” about her first, meditative piece, which I took as a love poem, then one she read last month, “Home is the Place that Flies” mushrooms, & her place, & good to hear this piece again.


Sydney Allen read poems written by her father, “Mid-Western Memories” about family members & details of the family, in Ohio in a neighborhood wiped out by I-71, then “Uncut Seasons” about hearing children play & recalling memories of Ohio.


Kathleen Gillespie read from what she wrote at a fiction writers workshop, a persona piece about heading out on the open road “’Tis the Season.”


& that was that for this month. You can find the Zoom link & other information about this monthly open mic on the Facebook group page 2nd Sunday @ 2 — please join us, from wherever you are.

 

April 14, 2021

Caffe Lena Poetry Night, April 7


1st Wednesday of the month poetry night, formerly with an open mic, but now with only featured readers. Tonight’s readers were Rana Bitar & Robert Bensen. Stuart Bartow had originally been included but that was not to be the case. The host was our traditional host & founder Carol Graser.


Rana Bitar read first. She is a physician practicing in hematology & oncology, & is originally from Syria. She has published her poetry in a variety journals & her poetry chapbook, A Loaf of Bread, is from  Unsolicited Press, 2019. She read poems from a manuscript titled “Corona & Cancer,” on the impact of the pandemic on everyday life, her parents & her patients. She followed with a moving, un-polemical poem about the death of George Floyd, & ended with a tender love poem, “Savoring.”


Robert Bensen is a well-published poet who has taught at SUNY-Oneonta among other places, & conducted poetry workshops at Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell, NY. He began with Rana Bitar still on stage to join in a reading of a translation of “Lesson in Drawing” by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani (1923 - 1998), with Rana reading the Arabic, the poem a moving conversation, a question & answer really, between the poet & his son. It was a treat to hear the words in the poet’s own language, not just the Englishe version. From there Robert went on to a series of his own poems, that went from music, the rain forest of St. Lucia, home repairs, memory of Little League, & what happens “Before You Know It.”


In pre-pandemic times there would be an open mic, but, alas, no more, but at least on this night there was a small audience in attendance as Caffe Lena has been able to open up to in-person audiences — see their website for details. 


But with the pandemic there is frequently a dark cloud & a silver lining, which in this case the silver lining is that these readings are recorded & available on YouTube. Check out this link for a recording of the night’s reading https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zHDNg7SSrk


Distinguished Author Lecture: Sapphire, April 6


The Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library (FFAPL) presented the noted novelist & poet Sapphire as the Distinguished Author Lecture during National Library Week in a Zoom reading on April 6, 2021. 


Roger Green, from FFAPL, served as our host & the introduction to Sapphire was done by staff person Seyvion. Sapphire is best known as the author of the novels Push and The Kid, with Push having been made into the film Precious, but I recall first discovering her poems in poetry journals & zines years before that.


Sapphire began her reading with a short essay on the ruins of the pandemic titled “One Ventilator & 3 Patients, a Meditation on COVID-19 from Downtown Brooklyn,” then on to read some short early poems, & ended with a meditative look-back at Push on the 25th anniversary of its publication. As always, powerful confrontations with, against racism.


FFAPL also sponsors monthly “online literary salons” with the 2020 Literary Legend Elisa Albert — check the APL website for the events calendar of this & all APL events, & their Facebook pages.

March 30, 2021

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


We all have our favorite age, today was our host Nancy Klepsch’s 29th birthday, so she said. A gathering of mostly regulars for this monthly open mic, now on Zoom.

I was first on the sign-up sheet, did 2 related poems for St. Paddy’s Day, “Brigid,” & “The Sheila-na-gig.”


Julie Lomoe referenced a book edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, More Truly and More Strange: 100 Contemporary Self-Portrait Poems, which inspired her to write “Self-Portrait thru The Eyes of my Cat Lunestra,” which was actually a persona poem in the cat’s voice, so technically not a self-portrait, unless it was of Lunestra. 


Tara Kistler read a Haiku in Spanish, & then a a love poem sonnet. 


Bob Sharkey read a memoir piece about buying a copy of Ferlinghetti’s A  Coney Island of the Mind, in 1970, then, from 2002 at the NYC St Patrick’s Day parade in front of the Met with Earl, “Parade 241.” 


John Teevan from his new book, The Spy’s White Dress, the short story “Crumbling the Constitution & Bending the Rules,” a thriller.

 

Mary Anne Murray read a couple of seasonal pieces, “Late Winter Snow” & “Vanishing Landscape.”  


Nancy Klepsch's piece titled “Home is the Place that Flies” described her home, the space, her place in it, & the importance of the old buildings in the city. 


Sydney Allen said that her untitled piece was “between a draft & ramblings,” about conversations on the phone with her mother.


& that was it for this month. But find us again on the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Facebook page for the link to join us on Zoom. Always free & open.





 

March 27, 2021

Writers Mic, March 10


Once upon a time, I would drive up early to Schenectady to have dinner, somewhere, before the open mic, now I cook my own meal, but at least I don’t have to drive. Jackie Craven is still our host.


I was first on the list & started with a couple of “seasonal” i.e., St. Patrick’s Day themed poems, “Brigit” from my 1975 chapbook Ireland, then an unpublished piece, "Sheela-na-gig," & ended with a COVID-themed “Vaccine Haiku,” me & Dolly Parton.


Alan Catlin read a poem for his son & wife, “Epithalalium,” a tender piece about true love, then the working class tale in 2 parts “Storm Story.” 


David Graham dialed-in to read 2 new ones, unpublished & maybe unfinished, he said, the first about a clerk at the Post Office who greats everyone as “Honey,” then the elegy/tribute to a recently gone great American poet “Ferlinghetti’s Dead.” 


Susan Kress used her poem, “What I Cannot Tell You,” to call back the memory of a friend dying in Covent Gardens. 


Daniel Sennis read a couple of new poems, “Go Hawk Eyes” about a trip to Iowa to visit family, & “From Oy to Joy” on the anger of his parents & growing up.  

Scott Morehouse gave a funny theatrical reading of a piece titled “So You Want to Be a Star” about a character named Tony hiring a “clapper” for a store.


Our host Jackie Craven read a surrealistic, political piece, responding to the killings of George Floyd & others, “Surveillance Video Shows Suitcases Resisting Arrest.” 


Kate Gillespie read “Notes from a Book Fair” about people reading poetry to others, much as we were doing, hopeful of moving on.


Susan Jewell, having trouble with her eyes, & unable to share the image she had intended, just reads the poem, which was inspired by a picture of a bucket. 


You can find the link for this open mic held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month on the Facebook page Writers Mic — people reading their poems & short prose works to others.




March 18, 2021

Bennington Open Mic, March 9


Traffic is light. It will take 59 min. to arrive, the GPS lady tells me, with an Irish accent, but I didn’t even put shoes on, since this gathering was on Zoom, as it has been for the last year. Our host, Charlie Rossiter, opened the festivities with his introductory chant that he created while hosting poetry events in Chicago. We did 2 rounds, 1 poem in each.


I was first on the open mic list with a new poem, “Chocolate Croissant,” which you can find on the NYS Writers Institute website.  In the 2nd go-around I read about me & Dolly Parton,  my “Vaccine Haiku.”


Mark O’Brien said he was reading his “annual birthday baseball poem” “Sonnet #60.1” which can be found on his Blog spontaneous/sonnets in which at Mass, celebrated by Father Joe DiMaggio, the host turns into a baseball. His second round poem, “Spontaneous Sonnet # 55,” about what position you want to be placed in your casket (unless you plan on being cremated) is also on his Blog.


Laura Ellzey read what she said was her 1st rhyming poem, “I’m Going to Knit Now,” about how it makes her feel peaceful, written in both Spanish & English. In the 2nd round she read her “only Spring poem” about being a small creature under the leaves “A Bit Off the Beaten Path” with references to the film Honey I Shrunk the Kids.


Tom Nicotera, dialing in from Connecticut, read the sequel to the poem he read last month, this one titled “Confessional: The Sequel, Alone or With Others” about his anxiety about his confirmation. His 2nd round was out of order due to losing his internet connection but when he did he read from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind poem #9, a morning-after poem.


Jack Rossiter-Munley was upstairs for his first round, played the traditional Appalachian folk tune “Shady Grove” on his guitar, & later (see below) came downstairs.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read a loving memoir, “Along the Oregon Coast,” about having oysters with his wife Mary Ellen on a spur-of-the-moment trip. Then in the 2nd round the afore-said Jack backed up Charlie on guitar on as Charlie did his stirring old poem I’d heard in our 3 Guys from Albany performances, “Sweet Home Chicago.”


Elaine Frankonis was around in the early days of before the Albany poetry scene was getting going, read “The Gravity of Gardens” and the lushness of flowers. On the 2nd time around she read a sexy story of a former love “Legacies” — good to see her out reading again.


Anthony Bernini’s first round poem was about the constellations, “When the World Turns Upside Down,” then when he read the 2nd time one about a snapping turtle on his lawn, “Turtle Eggs.” 


Barbara Sarvis looked back to younger years in her 1st round poem “Twice Seduced.”  Then, later, a piece titled “Just Be” describing this message as orbs bouncing around in her brain — good advice, I think.


Julie Lomoe was the last poet in both rounds, grossing us out with a just written piece, “Barfing Zoloft,” her history with psycho-tropic pills. & she ended the night with a dark piece from her “subdural project” about getting stung by “Garden Yellow Jackets.” 


It was another night of varied pieces, in prose, poetry & music in Bennington, or wherever the poets were, apparently just throughout the Northeast this night. Every 2nd Tuesday on Zoom, at 7PM, contact Charlie Rossiter, charliemrossiter@gmail.com, for the link.

 

March 7, 2021

Poetic Vibe, March 1


“Traffic is light. It will take 19 min. to arrive,” so said the GPS lady, but it was even faster on Zoom.


D.Colin, our host, warmed us up for the open mic with a poem from a recent workshop intensive, a descriptive piece about her grandmother’s house being cleared out by robbers.


I read 2 related pieces, 1 by me “Believe, Believe” a tribute to Bob Kaufman’s (1925 - 1986) poem, “Believe, Believe,” using his lines & phrases, then read Kaufman’s poem. 


Luis Pabon read 2 poems, the good advice of “How to Let Yourself Be Happy,” & “Struggle Love.”  (Note: Luis has a new book out titled Earth’s Bad Mouth, which you can find on Amazon.)


Adam also read 2 poems, “I Wish” a break-up piece about their last meeting, & “Walls” which he described as a song in progress, for everyone with hurts.


Jessica Rae read 2 from How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton (BOA Editions Ltd., 2020). (I have marvelous photos of Lucille Clifton (1936 - 2010) when she read at Sage College in Troy in 2004, you can find them on my Flickr site)


Samuel Maurice’s poem “You Could be Someone Else” was about a stranger he saw through a store window.


D. Colin read her “Happy Poem” written just yesterday, filled with childhood memories.


Marie Kathleen, after re-arranging her desk & walking about her apartment with her tablet, all of which we could see because she left her video on, read 2 short poems “After Dance” (in NYC) & “Study Bliss.” 


D. put the cap on the open mic with her Cento, as she does each week, composed of lines from tonight’s open mic, but minus lines from her own poem.


Elizag, aka Elizabeth K. Gordon, wore her tee shirt from National Poetry Slam in 2012 in which she was a member of the Nitty Gritty Slam Team representing Albany, NY. Her poems often mix humor & politics, which were elements present in what she read tonight. She began with a piece on the “stereotype thread,” a way of thinking that that can be best countered by being yourself, then she too read a poem Lucille Clifton, “Blessing the Boats at St. Mary’s.” In a different vein she read her piece about old folks giving away their stuff, “Lightening the Load,” then a poem written after the “Unite the Right” riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 “To the Mothers of the Neo-Nazi White Supremacists.” Taking on a equally grim topic, but this time with a seasoning of humor was the parody “An Assembly on Gun Violence Grade 4 thru 6,” then on to a few Haiku, & her piece “On Receiving My 1st Social Security Check.” She ended with a poem by Danusha Leméris (a poet whose work I recently stumbled across in American Poetry Review), “Small Kindnesses.” 


Then on to a brief Q&A with D. Colin in which Elizag was asked about her teaching a literature course at Northampton Community College, in Pennsylvania, & her Slam experience. You can get Elizag’s book, Love Cohoes (2014) at Market Block Books in Troy.


It’s not hard to know when Poetic Vibe takes place: it’s every Monday, 7:30PM, find the link on the Poetic Vibe Facebook page.


March 5, 2021

6th Annual Peoples’ Poetry Fest, February 25 — February 27


America is the land of poetry festivals — among the ones that I’ve attended are Split This Rock Poetry Festival, Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Albany Word Fest, The Day of the Poet, & festivals in Rensselaerville, Voorheesville, Woodstock, & Brooklyn. One that did come under my radar was the People’s Poetry Festival in Corpus Christi, Texas, at Texas A&M University. This year one of my poetry buddies out that way sent me an email about it, & I happily joined in without having the bother of a hotel reservation or plane ticket. Like everything else these days, it was on Zoom. The Festival was held from the evening of Thursday, February 25 through Saturday, February 27.


Thursday, February 25


The opening night included the induction of the poet Tom Murphy as the 3rd Official Poet Laureate of Corpus Christi. He was introduced by the out-going Poet Laureate, Juan Perez, & Corpus Christi Mayor, Paulette Guajardo, read the Official Proclamation.

I had met Tom a few years back when he was one of the readers at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, most recently in 2019. Tom is also one of the originators of the People’s Poetry Festival back in 2016. After all the official stuff was done Tom read 3 poems, “Telling the Bees” with lots plays on word sounds, “Terry Martin” a long memoir of childhood friend, & a villanelle, “Living Teaching Near the Water” a COVID poem.


Friday, February 26


There were 3 panels on Friday afternoon & evening, each lasting about an hour with breaks in between, & a late night open mic (late night for me, since I’m here in the Eastern Time Zone). “Panels” is the term they used, but each event was essentially readings by 4 poets & a moderator. 


Word-Image/Image-Word Panel

This was chaired by Joshua Hamilton & included work that used visual images that engaged with text to a greater or lesser degree, including Natalia Treviño’s ekphrastic poems responding to images of the Virgin, complex drawings by Octavio Quintanilla & related poems, & 3-D posters of art & text by Andrea Hempstead.


Rising Poets Panel

Poet & senior at TAMUCC, Dylan Lopez, was the chair of this reading by student poets, Crystal Garcia, Raven Reese, a stunning found text/cut-up by Zoe Ramos, & quarantine poems by Nicole Bren.


Poetry in Translation Panel

The chair of this session was poet & president of the Latin American Foundation for the Arts Rossy Lima de Padilla, & the panel paired poets with their translators for readings in Spanish & English, including Juan Armando Rojas Joo with translator Jeniffer Rathbun, Christopher Carmona with translator Gerald Padilla, & Carolina Sanchez with translator Ariel Francisco


Open Mic at Revolve One

The final panel in the late evening was an open mic hosted by Crystal Garcia with her brother Rudy, who run a local Corpus Christi multi-genre podcast Revolve One (I found it on Spotify). While the PPF website encouraged poets to sign up prior to the event, poets kept popping up & jumping in; I think the total may have been about 21 readers. & as to be expected there was a refreshing variety in the themes & styles of the of the poems read, & the list even included a poet reading at her first open mic, Danielle Johnson. I had picked out a variety of poems to read, wanting to get a feel for what folks were reading, but the political poems read by Michelle Excellente Steveran inspired me to read “When Donald Trump Farts.” Other political/social justice pieces included Charity McCoy’s “Adoration” on black history, Robin Carstensen’s #White House Rodeo, & a piece by Alan Berecka on the January 6 attack on the Capitol. I was pleased to be in the poetic company of the poets of Corpus Christi & beyond.


Saturday, February 27


Hope Panel

I had been especially drawn to the Festival by this reading that included 3 poets I had met at Scissortail Festivals, 2 of whom I was able to get for readings here in Albany. The theme of the session was “Hope.”


The Chair of the panel was Alan Berecka, who grew up in the Utica area & in July 2011, when he was back East visiting family, I was able to book him for Poets in the Park. He began with a brand new piece about the Winter storms ravishing Texas “To Build a Fire” using books to start the fire to keep warm, then “Home for the Holidays” & a poem responding to Emily Dickinson’s famous line, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers —” (#254).


Alex Salinas, who now lives in San Antonio, Texas, was the one poet in this session with whom I was not familiar; he read selections from his 2 books, Warbles, & Dreamt, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox (both from Hekate Publishing), including “Connect Four” a childhood memory of growing up in Corpus playing the game with his Spanish-speaking grandma, “Salt” about his family name (which he said was his 1st published poem), & a moving list poem “The Great Thing about Sometimes Being Hispanic” with the repeating refrain “the part about …but not the part…” There were others, & he included some new poems, notably a couple in a form of his invention what he is calling an “Hispanic sonnet” in 15 lines. So glad to have been introduced to the work of Alex Salinas by this panel.


Ken Hada, who runs the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, is the other poet on this panel who has read in the Capital Region, in Albany, in Saratoga Springs, & in Woodstock; he has a weekly podcast, The Sunday Poems with Ken Hada, that I listen to while making my Sunday breakfast each week. He began with a brand new poem “Morning,” then read from 2 of his books that I don't have in my collection, Not Quite Pilgrims (Strawberry Hedgehog, 2019) & Sunlight & Cedar (Strawberry Hedgehog, 2020). Check out his website at www.kenhada.org


Dorothy Alexander is another of the fabulous poets I enjoy seeing again each time I can get to Scissortail Creative Writing Festival. She & her life partner, Devey Napier, run Village Books Press, which has won 5 grand prizes from Oklahoma Books Awards. She read a selection of poems from her poetry collections, including a story that brings tears to my eyes (I've heard her read it before), “Hope from the Heart of a Horse,” a true story of her taking in a 9-year old girl, Rhonda, & the horse that helped her grow, & a tender love poem to Devey,  “Celebrating Resurrection.”


Switchgrass Review Panel

The last reading I was able to attend was by contributors to Switchgrass Review: Literary Journal of Health & Transformation, chaired by Robin Carstensen. The readers included Cindy Huyser, Regina Jamison, Roxana Cazan, & Odilia Galván Rodriguez. You can find out more about Switchgrass Review at their website http://switchgrassreview.org.


You can see the full schedule of the Festival, including a list of all the poets with links for their books & their websites at https://www.peoplespoetryfest.com 


I am seriously considering of actually going to Corpus Christi next February to attend the People’s Poetry Festival in person, providing we all get vaccinated & rid us all of COVID-19.



February 28, 2021

Tim’s Open Mic, February 18

Tim Verhaegen, our host, likes to do the 2 round thing & everyone seemed to have 2 poems tonight.

I started off the sign-up list with a couple of older pieces, in the 1st round “Henry Rollins” about a late night phone call, then in the 2nd round one based on a listener’s reaction to one of my lines at a 3 Guys from Albany performance, “Said Again,” about living long enough to recycle your love poems.


Katherine Zaleski, dialing in from Philadelphia, PA read 2 poems from 2020 &, of course, the quarantine, both on lost love, on the 1st go-around one from May titled “Remember,” then on the next round, from July, “City” a descriptive piece about walking her dog, thinking of London.


Avery Stemple’s 1st round piece was titled “Tell Me the Story“ about a high school friend who o.d.’d on heroin, then on the 2nd round an homage to the William K Sanford Library in Colonie (& all Libraries) & about the joys of reading.


Our host, Tim Verhaegen, in his 1st round read a very new, very explicit “Wrestling Anthony Pagatino” about being a 15 years old “pussy” on his school’s wrestling team, then later a revised version of “Carly Simon & Me 1971” which he has read before, about figuring things out in his dysfunctional family.


Bob Sharkey likes to write Centos on poems from in The Best American Poetry anthology & read the recent “Cento Forming an Idealized Notion of my Mother,” then in the 2nd round, a poem from his head last night, thinking about the poetry submissions from Nigeria to the Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Contest that he coordinates, trying to reconstruct the poem now, what they write about (he said that 1/4 of the submissions this year were from Nigeria).


Mary Panza
read a poem based on a conversation with her daughter, “She Asked Me How We Walk in High Heals” remembering having mono in high school, her father as "a complete bastard," a weaving of the past & now, then in the 2nd round one titled  “Parked Cars” about growing up  in South Troy, a boy watches her, what was to come, years later he commits suicide. 


Sally Rhoades’ 1st round poem was an old piece “I Contain Multitudes,” then in the 2nd round one from around 2000 at the  Dodge Poetry Festival “In the Year 2525 (for Gerald Stern)” remembering playing spin the bottle.


Both of the poems that Cheryl Rice read were from her Ziegfield Follies series, in the first round one written today, still in her handwriting, “A Pretty Girl” (“… is like a melody”), then in the 2nd round she concluded the open mic with one titled “Garden of Dreams.”


If you are not on Tim’s list (much better than Santa’s list!) for this open mic & want to be (why not?), send him an email at tverhaegen1@gmail.com — tell him I sent you.