October 14, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, October 10

The mushrooms keep growing, the poems keep being written, & the poets keep showing up for the open mic. & Nancy Klepsch & I keep on being the co-hosts.

First on the open mic list was Rhonda Rosenheck, who read one of her “crime” poems as she did last month, sounding more like a “revenge poem,” in rhyme with Biblical references “Hoarding Death,” then an old, untitled poem she recently uncovered. Cheryl A. Rice made the drive up from Kingston with her partner Michael, her first poem, according to my less-than-adequate notes, was about “fish — as fish?” then a love poem about when she met Michael years ago during one of the Albany Word Fests, “Morning Has a Life of Its Own.” 

Our host here in Collar City Mushrooms, Avery Stempel, read a poem titled “A Single Crow” that he intends to paint in an upcoming workshop here, then a poem just written, “Thursday,” about all the things not done when Thursday comes around again.  Sue Oringel was glad to be back out at an IPR (in-person reading), read “Dirt” an ode, then a pantoum playing on the differences/inferences of “May Day.” Joel Best read only one piece, an intricate word-mix about forgetting titled “Last in Series.”

Tina Mazula returned, said she was reading some random notebook jottings from thinking about writing, then stopped to read a more finished piece, “Words,” a list poem of modifiers to the word “word,” then returned to her original jottings. My co-host Nancy Klepsch began with a draft rant about “America …” sounding a lot like Allen Ginsberg’s poem of that title, then one about art (& the lack of renumeration), based on a Fran Leibowitz bon mot “Artifice, or they Clap for the Money.” & I followed with a Halloween piece “Zombie Gourd,” then a short riff on “Troy.”

Julie Lomoe read a couple of seasonal pieces, an eco-poem titled “Abnormal Autumn,” & one about scaring away the neighborhood kids “Halloween Crone.” Therese Broderick began with a descriptive piece about “Rest Stop Near Exit 34,” then one titled “Gatha for the Cat.” Tim Verhaegen joined us this month with a tender piece about a conversation with his long-term boyfriend just before he died “My Bones,” then an effusive celebration of football “Heroes.”

Laura Ellzey drove over from Vermont & brought with her a couple of her “calligraphy poems,” Dumpster Kitten” written for her mother’s cat, & one written to tabulate how much of her life has been filled with poetry, “Poetry Entered In.” One could tell that Linda was the youngest poet on the sign-up sheet since she read her poems from her phone, the first about walking in the snow & thinking of depression, & another untitled one about her love of thunderstorms.

The poet who signed in as Za Za said that it has been 8 years since she read her poetry out, indeed I remember her from the early 2000s at open mics in Albany, she read an August poem “Tree Rat,” then a tender, nostalgic, untitled piece about not having any photos of her with a past lover. Naomi Bindman also made the trip from Vermont, began with a short poem, “Pendent,” inspired by Avery’s poem, then an excerpt titled “Circle of Healing,” mixing in images of her daughter’s childhood, her own hypnosis session, & her daughter’s fatal car accident in the rain, from a longer memoir.

Phew! a grand mix of styles, genres, moods, modes — the variety that makes community open mics so exhilarating. We gather here among the mushrooms at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 2nd Ave., Troy, NY, on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2:00PM, open to the public, free (but donations appreciated for the mushroom themed snacks).

October 10, 2021

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, October 6

Caffè Lena has gone back to In Person Readings & to the famed open mic for local poets. They had persisted during the pandemic with live-streams of featured poets, then in-person readings, but no open mic, & have finally been comfortable enough to have the open mic. The host was, is tonight, Carol Graser.

This night the featured reader was Catherine Arra, whose reading was live-streamed & on YouTube. She is a sensitive poet who is a retired teacher from the public school system. As such her poetry is grounded in the “real world,” eschewing theoretical “poetic” techniques. 

She began with poems from her latest book, Deer Love (Dos Madres Press, 2021), about a relationship she established with a doe, that she named Forest, who visited her back yard, read the poems “Ode to Forest,” “Estrus” (a deer sex poem), & “Some Sweet.” The book includes the poet’s photos of Forest & other deer. I admit to not being a fan of animal poems, but these pieces, largely descriptive, are emotionally sensitive & avoid the sentimentality of similar work without making me gag.

For some of those same reasons I am a fan of Cathy’s Her Landscape: Poems Based on the Life of Mileva Marić Einstein (Finishing Line Press, 2020). She read “Mileva,” (Mileva was the first wife of Einstein, a partner in mathematics & the mother of his 2 sons), “Lieb,” “Corseted,” & “Old World.”

From her 2019 (Women in Parentheses) she read “Transparent Pants” about a student with “a boner” from her years of experience teaching. She ended with a poem from a manuscript “about being in corona solitude,” a persona poem based on the Tarot deck “The Moon.” I admit to being a fan of her work & had booked her to read in the Poets in the Park series in Albany in July 2016.

Then on to the open mic, which historically has drawn poets not only from the Saratoga Springs community, including students from Skidmore College, but also from the larger, upstate region. It was good to see that pattern continuing tonight. Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with the meditative, descriptive poem “Maybe Six Robins.”

Rachel Baum was the 1st of the night’s 1st time readers (i.e., poetry “virgins”), she read a piece titled “Montana 1975,” then one about being in Synagogue as a kid, “We Did Not Think About Prayer.” I followed with a couple of my “poem cards,” a poem from a reading right here at Caffè Lena “The Poet Listening,” then a recent one from a visit to Good Harbor Beach, “Beach Sutra.” James Niven read 2 poems from a forthcoming book, the 1st about tinnitus “The Sound of Injured Rabbits,” then “Moon” built on surrealist sounds & images.

The second of the night’s poetry “virgins” was Fiona Lacey, a young Skidmore student, with a moving, tender piece titled “Today I Hit a Trash Can,” diary entries addressed to her deceased mother about her own struggles. Amanda Blodgett read from her journal, what she called her “morning pages,” an entry titled “God,” then one about her 2nd-hand car “Charlie.” Elaine Kenyon’s 1st piece was an excerpt from a longer poem about herself, “I Am E,” then one titled “What Is This That Rises You Out of Bed?” — a very good question.

Apparently Ishan has read here in the recently re-opened open mic, tonight he read a couple of recently written untitled pieces, about longing & rain & thunderstorms. Jan Tramontano is a well-known poet & novelist from the area who had re-located to Florida, & now is back off-&-on in the area, she read from her new book The Me I Was With You (Finishing Line Press, 2021) a poem about her father “Undertow,” then a new poem, also a memoir, this about her grandmother watching TV, “The Guiding Light.” The final poet of the night, Judith Prest, read 2 poems from her book Geography of Loss (Finishing Line Press, 2021), “In the Apple Barrel Parking Lot,” & “Father” about the surprising results of a DNA test. Judith had also provided the cover art for Jan’s The Me I Was With You, the way the poetry community here intersects with each other.

While Caffè Lena has been able to persist with its acclaimed music & poetry programming during the pandemic it is most gratifying to see the return of poetry open mic with its diversity & range of writers. I guess the message is Keep Writing.

The Caffè Lena poetry night takes place on the 1st Wednesday of each month at Caffè Lena, Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY, 7:00PM, featured poet(s) & an open mic for community poets.

Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library Readings

Back in the pre-pandemic days, the FFAPL ran weekly book reviews & readings on Tuesdays at Noon at the Washington Ave. branch of the APL. The events were well attended & presented a wide variety of literary genres, including novels, non-fiction on a plethora of topics, even poetry. I have been blessed over the years by not only attending these sessions but also to be asked to present book reviews of poetry anthologies & biographies of poets.

Of course the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. As more & more people have been vaccinated things have opened up somewhat in the Albany Library system. One favored site has been the Bach Branch on New Scotland Ave., which, happily is only about 2 blocks from where I live.

Miki Conn

On September 9 I walked over to hear poet & author Miki Conn talk about & read from her books. She began by talking about the topic & the book by the title Integrating Delmar 1957: The Story of a Friendship (2011 & 2020), by Margaret B. Cunningham & Arlen R. Westbrook, & edited by Miki Conn. It chronicles a middle class African American family’s search for housing during the summer of 1957 and the results of the decision by a white couple to rent their house to them. The lasting friendship that developed is an important part of their story. The book is based on private journals kept by the two women, neither knowing that the other also kept a journal. 

She followed that discussion with a reading of her poems from Out of My Mind: A Quirky Look at Life through Poetry (2019), poems spanning from the 1970s to 2017, illustrated by her original artwork. Then on to her children’s book The Story of a House (2020) inspired by her own fascination with abandoned houses. 

You can find her books online & at local bookstores.

Eugene Mirabelli

October 2 was a beautiful Fall day with apples falling from the tree in the Bach Branch courtyard. This was a book-signing & reading by one of this year’s Literary Legends Gene Mirabelli (the other is Lydia Davis) to promote his novel Renato! (McPherson & Company, 2020). The publisher, Bruce McPherson, began by reading from the Introduction to the novel by Douglas Glover, “… Mirabelli has reinvented the peculiarly Italian, extravagantly melodramatic and often comic vision — the opera — in the novel form.”

Renato! brings together in over 500 pages Mirabeli’s 3 earlier novels, the earliest parts which were written in 1975. Mirabelli read from the beginning chapters of the first book The Goddess in Love with Horse, starting with the provocative first sentence, then briefly from Chapter 2, & a more extensive reading from the 3rd Chapter that begins the multi-generational saga that began in the 1860s at the time of Garibaldi’s unification of what was to become modern Italy.

Back when I was a student at what was then SUNY Albany I took a course with Eugene Mirabelli on 20th Century British poets. I think I would have enjoyed more a course with him on 19th Century Italian history. 

On October 16, 2021 Mirabelli & Lydia Davis will be (or have been) honored as the 2021 Literary Legends. Visit the website of the FFAPL to find out more about the continuing work they do promoting the stellar writers in this region. 

October 8, 2021

The Holy Local, September 29

With the Social Justice Center being closed during the pandemic then subsequently due to structural repairs, I’ve been thinking about starting another spoken/written word open mic mainly to get us back together in the same room, an IPR if you will (i.e., In Person Reading). Quite by chance, at a Friends of the Albany Public Library reading by Micki Conn, I met Mokka, a young woman who said that she has an art gallery in her home on Myrtle Ave., around the corner from Albany Medical Center. I visited the gallery a few days later, met her husband Ebu, & found the space to be the kind of small, community setting I had been thinking of, filled with art, some of it wearable, & filled with messages of peace, social justice & community. The High Ethic Stalwarts Gallery is on 345 Myrtle Ave., Albany, NY, just a few houses off New Scotland Ave.

“The Holy Local” is a phrase taken from Vincent Ferrini (1913 - 2007) one of the great poets of Gloucester, MA, so it was only appropriate for me to invoke him as this inaugural evening’s Muse by reading his poem “The Gold,” short enough to quote in its entirety:

The Gold 

The suddenness flowers have

startle the air

with their fire and ether

as we do with what is ours

because we are

the gardeners of each other.

First up on the open mic list was a regular at the Third Thursday Poetry Night, as well as other literary events in the area, Joe Krausman, with a couple of poems of sex & humor, “Two-Part Invention,” & “Sunnyside Egg.” I’m always pleased when a new face/new voice shows up at open mics & here we were for the first time here & the new face/new voice of Tamara Grey with 2 descriptive pieces, one written this Summer, another about the wind.

Sylvia Barnard

The next 3 poets are, like Joe, regulars at the Third Thursday readings as we await the re-opening of the Social Justice Center. Sylvia Barnard’s 2 poems were for a friend who had died, “Green Man” invoking the mythical British figure, then another about teaching at Doane Stuart School & thinking of her friend. Sally Rhoades said her poem that she read about the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland reflects on being often wrong, sometimes right, then on to a poem about dancers (“I dance…”) “We Are the Village.” Anthony Bernini, said he was glad to be back in person, philosophized about the meaning of “Old Fences,” then a piece entitled “Social Studies Note.”

Anthony Bernini

Joan Geist has recently relocated to the city streets of Albany, making it easier for her to get to open mics as they open up to IPRs, she hadn’t planned to read but ended up reading OPP (other people’s poetry), a poem about apartheid, & another titled “I Am Music” by that prolific poet Anonymous.

I finished out the night with a poem about open mics that I wrote when the Third Thursday Poetry Night was at Changing Spaces Gallery on Hudson Ave., “One Poem.”

The Holy Local will be back each last Wednesday (except for November this year), 7:30 signup/8:00 start, at the High Ethic Stalwarts Gallery, 345 Myrtle Ave., Albany, NY. Keep writing.

October 3, 2021

NYS Writers Institute Fall Schedule

One of the great advantages of living in Albany (or in the larger Capital District region of New York State) is access to the Writers Institute programming at the University at Albany. Now, I am an alum of the (formerly known as) SUNY Albany (BA English, 1969), but this is not some mis-guided loyalty to “my school,” but an appreciation to the years (since 1984) of free programming the WI has made available to anyone who could get here (& I’m only about 17 minutes away). Nothing like this existed when I was a student here (when there were no poetry readings & no bagels). Credit is due to author William Kennedy who used funds from his MacArthur grant to get this rolling, & to the staff & administrators over the years since that keep it going.

The program flyer for this semester lists readings, craft talks, films, conversations, even a book festival, up through November 30, with more to come in the Spring semester. The Director is Paul Grondahl whose roots both in Albany, & the larger community, are very deep; it shows in his commitment to support the larger (i.e., non-academic) literary community of the Region.

Randall Horton, September 14

On September 14 poet & formerly incarcerated person Randall Horton participated in a craft talk with poet & professor Sarah Giragosian, & later a reading & Q&A. PEN America described Horton as “the only person in the United States with seven felony convictions and academic tenure.” When he was a Ph.D candidate in English at UAlbany he read in July 2009 at Poets in the Park (his interviewer Sarah Giragosian has also read at many local venues, including The Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, & Poets in the Park).

Randall’s books include the 2020 {#289-128} Poems, Hook: A Memoir (Augury Books, 2015), The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street (Main Street Rag, 2009), & The Definition of Place (Main Street Rag, (2006). In response to Sarah’s question about how he found his way to writing, Randall explained that initially when he was in jail he got into a writing program to help reduce his time. One of his teachers asked him to “promise me you won’t stop writing.” Then he discovered the poetry of E. Ethelbert Miller & began a correspondence with him, but when he discovered the work of poet Patricia Smith it “changed everything.”

In his role as Editor-in-Chief for Willow Books, founded in 200, he works to bring the work of emerging writers to our attention. As he said at one point, writing makes him feel good about himself. Check out his website & his books. While you’re at it, check the work of Sarah Giragosian as well. 

New York State Author & Poet Award Ceremony, September 24

I’ve attended most of these award ceremonies since 1986, presenting the best of what New York State has to offer. This year the NYS Author is Ayad Akhtar, the NYS Poet Willie Perdomo

There was also an additional award this year, the Bruce Piasecki & Andrea Masters Award on Business and Society Writing, celebrating “young writers embarking on their careers who aim to ignite positive social change fueled by their writing." The award went to Daniel Sherrell. His book Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World (Penguin Random House, 2021), was described as “… a memoir, a love letter, and an eclectic work of criticism…” In the brief excerpt he read he quoted Dan Berrigan quoting Dorothy Day — what’s not to love about it?

The Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (aka, the NYS Author) was presented to Ayad Akhtar “whose work explores the immigrant experience, Muslim American identity and the world of high finance” & who read from his novel Homeland Elegies (Little, Brown and Company, 2020). The write up in the program said that “Barack Obama named it one of his favorite books of 2020.”

The Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (aka, the NYS Poet) was presented to Willie Perdomo “who examines and celebrates the Nuyorican and Afro-Latino experience, primarily in his home neighborhood of Spanish Harlem.” He read from his book of poems The Crazy Bunch (Penguin Books, 2019). He talked about being a poet so that he could read at construction sites, barber shops, community centers, that “sometimes a poet will stand up when you can’t.”

If you are not on the Writers Institute email/real mail lists, visit their website & sign up. 

September 26, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2, September 12

We (Nancy Klepsch, the open mic poets & I) were back at Collar City Mushrooms, in Troy, for this Sunday open mic that had started out at the Arts Center further downtown.

1st on the open mic list was Kelly who was here for the 1st time last month, I guess we didn’t scare her off, with an untitled confrontational piece complete with a musical soundtrack, then to a lighter piece with funny rhymes titled “Back to School.” Avery Stempel, who as the proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms is our host here, read a couple pieces written, he said last year, “Drifting,” & one from his experience as a landlord, “What Do You Leave Behind?”

Only 1 day off the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I read a commissioned poem titled “Another Tuesday” that recalled another September 11 — that of 1973 — when the democratically elected government of Chile was violently overthrown by a USA-supported coup, then read a brief piece titled “At EMPAC.”  My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, brought her guitar today & began with a piece about words colliding that channeled the protest songs of Patti Smith, then the lighter piece “Why Is The World So Beautiful?”

John Teevan read for the 1st time in public from what he described as a sequel to his previously published spy thriller Deception, Love and Espionage, a dialogue between the 2 main characters Valentina & Diego, a sequence titled “Revenge.” He was followed by Brenda whose 1st piece began “Just think how…” then a play on words beginning “Cut on the dotted lines…”

Julie Lomoe also debuted a piece reading “Ghazal for the Earth” for the 1st time, then the provocative (& frightening imagined) “Dance Nude in the Backyard.” Our last reader, Rhonda Rosenheck, read for the 1st time at the 2nd Sunday @ 2, the list poem “Things I Used to Have,” another for the New Year, & from a series of “crime poems” a sestina titled “The Woman.”

Our 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic has a pleasant, hospitable new home at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 2nd Ave., Troy, NY, with even some new readers joining us — there’s always room for more.

September 24, 2021

Writers’ Mic, September 8

This is another of those open mics whose origins are pre-pandemic & has survived on Zoom, poet Jackie Craven is the host.

With the proximity of the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, I read my poem noting another September 11 — 1973 & the US-backed coup that toppled the elected government of Chile -- “Another Tuesday, then read “Writing Crows” which had been in the recent art/poetry exhibit, Poetic License, in Kingston, NY.

David Graham said that he has not been finishing poems lately but has been writing everyday; he read “Next Time Time You See Her” about a friend’s death & read at the funeral.

Susan Jewell read her latest rejection by Rattle magazine, “There Will Be Birds” with birds as messengers, then a poem just accepted to an anthology by Ironhorse Press (& a $50 prize), “A Herd by the Side of the Road Listen to Yeats.” 

You can always count on Scott Morehouse to inject a healthy bit of humor into an open mic, tonight he read “A Xmas Letter” putting a happy face on a dysfunctional family, with a break up & a new basset hound.

Marty McGuire said this was the 1st time she had done any thing like this, said she was a school counselor but wanted to be a stewardess, her poem “Tears on My Window” about being on a plane,” then the brief “Dust Bunnies.”

Jackie Craven read 2 sci-fi poems from a recently accepted chapbook, both inspired by her memories of her father’s garden, “Frankenstein’s Garden,” the other about his roses.

Tim Verhaegen showed up a little late, read again his tender poem about his Mom, “I Love Her,” & shared his screen with a photo of himself with his Mom, then read “Sex” a memory of his gay sex now that he is growing older.

This Zoom event takes place on the 2nd Wednesday of each month & you can find the Zoom link on the Facebook site Writers Mic

September 22, 2021

Poetic License, Part 2, August 28

This was an In-Person Reading at The Poetry Barn, in West Hurley, NY, as part of the Poetic License exhibit at the Arts Society of Kingston. See my previous Blog posted August 7 for a report on the earlier Zoom reading.  This reading, held on the eve of the closing of the exhibit, included a number of poets — & a few of the artists who created visual art based on the poems — in the exhibit this year (& one from last year’s exhibit). I was pleased & honored to be one of the readers as one of of the poets who had inspired a painting in the exhibit.

Co-founder/coordinator of Poetic License, Lissa Kiernan, served as host & M/C; Lissa is also the founder of the Poetry Barn. She described the project, pointing out that about 100 poems had been submitted & about 36 were selected to be submitted to the ASK gallery for selection & inspiration by their members, then introduced her co-conspirator in the project, poet Tina Barry, as the first reader who read her moving poem on the death of her mother, “Come Back.” Another poet who read later, Will Nixon, contributed the multi-media art, a photograph & a hospital gown on which he had written lines of poetry, about which he spoke later when other artists commented on their process in responding to the poems.

Norma Ketzis Bernstock read her poem “Cemetery” to which Barbara Esmack contributed “Cemetery.”

Margaret Cliggett read “Invisible Needlework” to which Kirsten Doyle had contributed an untitled painting.

Will Nixon’s poem “4am Friend” was enhanced by Kristin Reimer’s “Enchanged Managerie.”

Matthew J. Spireng read his poem “Driftwood” to which Marcia Sank contributed one of the few 3-dimensional pieces in the exhibit, “Driftwood Reflections.”

I read my poem “Writing Crows,” & the artist known as SL Rika responded with a painting titled “The Crow Flies” — how often do we (living, breathing) poets find out we inspire a new work of art by another (living, breathing) artist? It’s the first time for me in my many, many odd years, so of course I had to buy the painting, that now looks quite at home on the wall of my dining room.

Mary Ann Murray, who had been a student in Albany during the earliest years of the Albany poetry scene & now lives in Athens, NY read her poem “color theory” artist & artist Camille (Cami) Fischer responded appropriately with the colorful “Little New Paltz Village.” 

One of last year’s poets was also here, Phyllis Capello, to read her poem “Mythology News.”

Lissa Kiernan read her poem “Keeper of the Robes” which had inspired Renee Zhang to paint “Ephemeral Layers.” Lissa also had art work in the exhibit inspired by the poem “Agnes” by Maureen Alsop.  

Some of the artists were also in the room. Sharon Ascher talked about working in paisley designs & her painting which was a response to Laura Whalen’s poem “Elegy for E” (as in Emily Dickinson), & Lissa read Laura’s poem. 

Lissa also read Juan Mobili’s poem “Victoria” about which the artist, Victoria Perry, spoke about being drawn to the poem by the coincidence of her name. &, as mentioned above, the poet/artist Will Nixon talked about his visual artistic response to Tina Barry’s poem.

I have always liked having poetry readings in art galleries & this project took that a step further, in addition to turning the more traditional "ekphrastic" poetry on its head, by encouraging visual artists to respond to the written word. I am looking forward to next year's edition of Poetic License as well as perhaps seeing this concept expanded to other venues, other cities. In any event, to the poets & artists: Keep at it!

Update: here is a link to the poets & poems that were read -- https://youtu.be/uvrXBK2t_98

September 4, 2021

Poets at the Arboretum, August 13

Just when you thought Zoom was everywhere, another new/old IPR (In-Person Reading) popped up, this a re-birth/re-vamp of the pre-pandemic series the poet Alan Casline ran at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands. In fact, things have changed at Pine Hollow, with the reading today held in the new Visitors Center on Pine Hollow Road. It was originally scheduled to be outside among the trees but it was over 90 degrees so was moved inside to a most-pleasant, spacious room facing windows looking out at the trees. 

Gabby Sant’Angelo, the Executive Director of the Arboretum, welcomed us to the space then read a poem by the late Dr. John Abbuhl, the creator of this space, who was a regular reader for many years at this open mic’s earlier incarnation; the poem was titled “Natures Speaks to Us to See If We Have the Nature to Be.”

Tom Corrado has been writing & publishing his “Screen Dumps” for years, announced that he is closing in on #600, read a long one, then a short one dedicated to his wife Didi.

Some of the poets here tonight I hadn’t seen since prior to the pandemic shutdown. Philomena Moriarty is one of them. She read 3 poems, “Weightless,” “Baggage” with a quote from James Baldwin, on the past, & a peaceful meditation “The Hudson” with a visit from eagles.

Julie Lomoe read a rambling memoir written at a workshop presented by the International Women Writers Guild about the blackout in NYC in 1965 & hearing the Beatles’ song “Yesterday” (I once organized a panty raid at an IWWG retreat, but the women were all asleep).

I read from my series of poem cards (printed on 3x5 cards) that I give out free to random citizens & workers, including my most “popular” poem “A Prayer for Super Heroes.” At this point a loud rain through the trees started, but we had sound.

I hadn’t seen Paul Amidon either since before the pandemic & he read 3 poems, apologizing that “some poems we may have heard before” but then 1) who would remember, & 2) if we did remember it would mean we liked it & would enjoy hearing them again. “A Death in the Family” was a memoir of an old tree, “Ding-a-Ling” was about that Summer assault of ice cream trucks, & the humorous “I Want to be a Leftover.”

Tom Bonville got through 1/3 of his poems before the lights, & the sound equipment, went off. He was able to get through a memoir, “My Old Man,” then part-way through “Getting a Shot,” & read “Silence” as Didi Corrado held her cellphone light on his pages.

I actually hadn’t seen Edie Abrams since way before the pandemic hit, & here she was for this grand reunion of in-person poets. Her first poem responded to a poem by Tom Bonville about a lover, then she read “Regret” about young people struggling with gum at a solemn memorial service. Meanwhile Didi’s battery continued to do its job illuminating the poems.

Our M/C, Alan Casline, was the last reader as the storm still raged, with 3 poems, “Want the Warrior Not the Wound,” “Fungus Will Take Over,” ending appropriately enough with a meditation in a storm “Across the Churchyard.”

One can hope that this is just the beginning of the re-birth of the series that Alan previously ran at the Arboretum. We will just have to stay tuned.


August 18, 2021

Writers Mic, August 11

This open mic, now on Zoom, is the granddaughter of the open mic formerly at Schenectady venues, Arthur’s Market & C.R.E.A.T.E. Space. The host is poet Jackie Craven. Tonight there were only a handful of poets reading, but with poetry, as with sex, you don’t have to have a lot for it to be good, even memorable.

I read 1st with my own “personal” experience of the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Japan, an in-utero poem “August 1945,” then a brand new piece only days old referencing the Space Pen (remember them?) “Technology.”

David Graham has been a regular here (wherever that is on Zoom) tonight read a “new-ish” poem inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s poem “A Supermarket in California” David’s poem titled “Lament for K-Mart,” then what he called “a really old poem” a translation of a poem by Su Tung Po (also known as Su Shih, 1037 - 1101) “On the Birth of his Son.”

Susan Jewell said she has been “preoccupied with laundry,” read her poem “Now that the Children Have Grown” about her father putting up a clothes line, written in response to an image in Rattle magazine in its ongoing ekphrastic contest.

Our host, Jackie Craven, said she has been doing surreal writing, where times of the day are personas or characters in the poem as in the one she read, “3PM” with the intriguing line “we are replicas too” — anything/anyone can be a persona.

It’s too bad this went by so quickly, since anyone, anywhere can attend via Zoom. It’s on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM Eastern time. Find the link on the Writers Mic Facebook page & join us to share your poems.


August 15, 2021

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington, August 10

This open mic has done much better since the pandemic forced it to Zoom. The host is poet Charlie Rossiter, who likes go around twice, one piece/performance each round.

Bridget Elder had been at the in-person version of this event, but this was her 1st time joining us on Zoom, & she jumped right in to read with “Give us Your Trees.” She stayed on theme (maybe it’s a Vermont thing) in the 2nd round with a descriptive piece about being in the woods.

Tom Nicotera’s 1st round piece was titled “Picking Up Trash,” scattered by a bear in the woods behind his house; in the 2nd round he read about a bar out in the sticks of Pennsylvania, “At Michael B’s.” 

Tim Verhaegen only did the 1st round, a tender dream poem about his mother that he’s read before simply titled “I Love Her.”

I pointed out that Friday had been the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan & read Tom Nattell’s poem “Hiroshima” written years ago for the 40th anniversary of the bombing; in the 2nd round I read a brand-new bar poem typed up on a 3x5 card “Technology.”

By far the youngest poet to read in this series was Helena Bushee who in both rounds read short, funny poems in rhyme; I hope all us old farts didn’t scare her off from coming back again.

Our host Charlie Rossiter read a new poem that sounded like a surrealist dream poem, but he said it was for real, “Going Places that Don’t Exist.” In the 2nd round his poem “We Bought It All” was about the post-WWII aspiration to achieve the American dream.

In his 1st round Kenn Ash read from a book he was writing, this excerpt was about a survivor on a lifeboat in a storm. In round 2 he read a love song “Fairy Tale Love” filled with references to nursery rhymes & fairy tales.

Jim Madigan dialed in from Oak Park, IL (where Charlie had run an open mic) with a new poem in the 1st round, riffing on Whitman’s “I contain multitudes,” about the result of a DNA test that showed he’s “a mutt” (as he said). In the 2nd round he referenced Homer’s Odyssey, with “Sirens” about wanting to be tied to the mast.

Bill Thwing’s 1st round poem was from his book Search With Your Eyes, a meditation prompted by a panhandler “The Land of the Brave & the Free.” His 2nd round poem, “Paleo-Man’s Dilemma,” finished up the night, & he said it was based on a dream that led him to activism.

So no matter the weather in Bennington, or future lock-downs, or traffic, you can stay safe where you are & join the 2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington on Zoom. If you’re not on Charlie’s list for the link, email him at charliemrossiter@gmail.com & ask for the link. Hope to see you there.

August 11, 2021

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

After a year & a half of Zoom gatherings on the 2nd Sunday, it/we were back with an In Person Reading, but no longer at the Arts Center of the Capital Region where we started out 11 years ago. Instead, we gathered at Collar City Mushrooms up in North Troy, which is run by local poet Avery Stempel. The location is a renovated used car dealership, & includes a gallery of paintings by local artists on the walls throughout the building. Nancy Klepsch & I were the tag-team co-hosts for the readings, the audience including not only the readers but partners/friends, traveling from as far away as Kingston, NY & Bennington, VT.

Appropriately enough, the 1st reader was the proprietor, Avery Stempel with a couple of mushroom poems, including one on the healing powers of the wonderful fungi. Later in a “coda” he returned with one of his kirtan-like pieces, this one about opening up.

Today was between the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6 & the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, I performed Tom Nattell’s poem “Hiroshima” which he had written for the 40th anniversary of the bombings, then, staying on the nuke topic read the much lighter (& lascivious) "Nukes for Piece."

Cheryl Rice had driven up from Kingston, NY & read just one poem, titled simply “Paradise.” 

Laura Ellzey, here from Vermont, read an older piece titled “What River is That?” (while we gathered literally on the bank of the Hudson River), then later in the coda a poem titled “Laura’s Walls” about her work as a painter (of rooms).

Maria Diotte talked briefly about not having written much this past year & a half, read a new poem composed recently outside one night, beginning “The buzz is of the night…” then a meditative chant “Everything is No Thing.” Later, an inspirational quote.

Nancy Klepsch paid homage to our host here among the mushrooms with a poem titled “Kvetsch,” a pastiche of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” about shoppers at the Troy Farmer’s Market picking over the mushrooms. Her coda piece was a chant “The Woman Speaks of the River.”

Kelly Wescott said this was her first time reading in public (i.e., a “virgin”) & began with an inspirational quote (that she got from a book of quotes) then her own, brave, poem “Prison Set Me Free.” Later, in the coda, read a collection of quotes she liked.

At this point we had come to the last of the sign-up sheet & Nancy asked if there was anyone else who wanted to read who hadn’t & lo & behold! there were.

John responded to Kelly’s poem with his own poem written in prison, & shared the companion drawing in stark black & white, the poem a meditation in rhyme about war, hate & peace. Later, in the coda read the famous poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley (1849 - 1903).

Tina Mazula also stepped up (& was also a 1st timer) with poem about kneeling & working in her garden.

Then yet another 1st timer, inspired by the other readers & 1st timers, Avery’s aunt, Sandra Stempel, read a very brief poem — but the important thing was she got up to read it!

The 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose has found a new home among the mushrooms (there’s something symbolic in that!) & we will be back every 2nd Sunday, at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 Second Ave., Troy, NY — on the banks of the mighty Hudson that flows both ways.

In the meantime check out the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Facebook page as well as Collar City Mushrooms, which is also doing other programming. Support your local fungi.

August 7, 2021

Poetic License, Zoom Reading August 7

The Poetry Barn of West Hurley & the Arts Society of Kingston have collaborated in creating an exhibit, with readings, of poetry & visual art which is on display at the ASK Galleries, 97 Broadway, Kingston, NY until August 29. A virtual opening was held August 7 & began with a brief overview by Brent Felkner, ASK's Executive Director, of the August Spotlight Exhibition Dennis Connors: A Retrospective, an artist & active member of ASK who passed away in 2019. This was followed by a reading of 14 poets, with online viewing of the visual art their poems inspired from the Poetic License show. Another reading, this one live, in-person, by different poets & artists will be held on August 28 at The Poetry Barn with digital displays of the visual art, I will be one of the readers at that event

The poems were selected by co-curators Lissa Kiernan & Tina Barry; artist/members of ASK picked out poems to inspire them to create a piece, or, in some cases, pieces of visual art in a variety of media. I was honored to have one of my poems, “Writing Crows,” selected for the exhibit & was thrilled to see the visual response by SL Rika, "The Crow Flies." The art work & the poems are on display now at the ASK galleries until August 29, & I am certainly planning on a trip to see it in person. But in the meantime I & you can view Poetic License, & hear recordings of the poets, including me, reading their poems & view the art at the ASK website 

The poems are short, like vignettes, or, indeed, brief pictures, & the art inspired by these poems are in a variety of styles, mostly very colorful, many representational, but not always an “illustration” but certainly ekphrastic — one art form inspired by a work, or works, in another art form. & if you are moved by any of the pieces you can purchase the art at the ASK website.

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.