January 30, 2021

Underground Railroad Education Center Coffee House, January 22

This was a fund-raising event for the UREC, with an open mic. Performers were asked to submit a short video of themselves performing music, or reading, & then attend the “Coffee House” on Zoom. If you don’t know about the UREC, based in Albany, NY, check out their website &/or Facebook page. I like to support the work of the center so I made my donation & sent in a video of myself reading “When Donald Trump Farts” since this event was just 2 days after the ex-President was sent scurrying back to Florida.

It was in many ways a family affair with the family members of many of the performers attending, just like an in-person open mic coffee house (I mean, if your friends & relatives don’t show up when you perform, who will?). Zoom said there there 21 “participants” but that means separate Zoom sign-ins, with many couples clearly present, so it was certainly more than 21 attending.

The other performers were Nell Stokes who read the philosophical “Life is a Circle;” Toussaint Santicola Jones singing & playing the intricate piano lines of his tune “Tumbling Down” (which his Mom said is from a forthcoming album titled Gravity Waves; Pat Burke sang “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars to piano accompaniment; Dee Wind had a tale of “Elijah & the Poor Man;” our host for the event was

Brittany Beyus who performed Elton John’s “Your Song;” storyteller Frank Wind’s piece “Old,” inspired by about emails he’s been getting from his son, was about how he, Frank, has lived a long & colorful life (this inspired a remark by Nell Stokes later how “Old” has caught up with her, but old can be your friend); & the most intricate piece a performance of “Colder Weather” by the Zac Brown Band performed by The Colgate Thirteen, in this case 14, an a cappella group, the piece introduced by Francis Criscione (his Mom attending the coffee house).

This evening was another ironic example of the flexibility, & creativity, of artists — of all genres — to respond to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to find ways to get their/our work out to audiences who are hungry, as they have always been, for the messages, the solace, the inspiration that Art has always provided since even before the cave paintings.


January 24, 2021

The Embassy Ball Book Launch/Reading, January 17

This collection of short stories & flash fiction was published on July 4, 2020, but a planned book signing at a local library had to be cancelled for the same reason that everything was cancelled in 2020. But John persisted & here we were but without the customary stack of books to sign & sell. The event was on Jitsi, an online platform that is very similar to Zoom & easy to use. 

John had been a frequent reader at the 2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose Open Mic formerly held at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, & is the author of a number of works of prose fiction. He began his reading with the Preface to the book in which he talked about the power of the word, & how he likes to launch his books on dates of historical significance, thus the July 4 release date.

He described the book as containing 38 stories, &, to a later question, that the earliest was written about 3 years ago, that he likes to capture the inspiration when it arises, rather than engage in a scheduled writing practice. Later he also talked about the value of learning other languages, he is fluent in French & a student of French literature.

The title story, “The Embassy Ball,” is his favorite he said, a short tale of 2 lovers one in the US, the other in Europe, with an ending worthy of O. Henry. Among the other stories he read were “Professor Sneiderman’s Discovery”, a meditation on immortality, & the international fable, arising from John’s interest in international politics, “The Mayor of Strasbourg.” 

The Embassy Ball by John R. Teevan III is available from the usual corporate suspects, but ask you independent bookstore to order it for you. 

January 23, 2021

Tim’s Open Mic, January 14, 2021

Verhaegen, that is, on Zoom, this time on a Thursday night, in his preferred 2 round format, that way if you have to leave early & can get through the 1st round you can at least sample everyone, & they can hear your work.

I ended up leading off again & reacted to the election for President with a poem from a previous election in 2015 “This Is Not Trick or Treat.” 

Howard Kogan’s poem “19 Years Ago,” had an epigraph from Franz Kafka, & was about being in NYC on 9/11/01. 

Bob Sharkey said he’s been digging through old poems & read a piece that starts with a memory of working in Portland, Maine, a descriptive litany/list of stores, sales, etc. along the streets of Portland.

Avery was here to read about his cousin, a recovering homeless heroin/meth addict, “Any Day Now,” & sings, “my life in a bag.” 


Due to the wonders of Zoom Jan Tramontano was able to show up here all the way from Florida, but said that she has not been able to write now so read Sam Hamill’s grim poem dedicated to poet Hayden Carruth “On the Third Anniversary of the Ongoing Iraq War.” 

Host of the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic, Nancy Klepsch, drew a parallel to the current talk about vaccines to the trials for AIDS drugs, & friend who got the placebo, “Letter from a Live Teacher to a Dead Teacher.”  

Tim, our host, read about an encounter at his complex at the trash dumpster, titled “COVID Nights.”    

Sally Rhoades hadn’t been able to connect via Zoom on her phone so was dialing in via FaceTime to Tim, read a poem written when she also wasn’t able to dial in to the open mic on Sunday, a piece titled “The Thugs of America.” 

Back around again for the 2nd round, I was up with another old poem, the seasonal “Winter Light.”

Howard Kogan’s 2nd poem titled “Visiting my Sister” was about seeing her as an old woman (while he, of course, is an old man).

Another from Bob Sharkey’s treasure trove of old poems was from 7 years ago at poetry outdoors with poets Carolee, Nancy, Sylvia, Dan & Don, “After Poem” after mass shootings.

Avery’s 2nd piece was another song/chant “We Fit” building family, joined together, with rhymes.

Jan Tramontano began her 2nd round talking about how tired she has grown of Florida, then read a rant from May 2014, titled “A Ramble is the Price of Love,” with the line “… grief is the price of love.”

In her 2nd round Nancy read her poem based on a poem by Sam Allen, who also wrote as Paul Vesey (1917 - 2015), from a poetry book from her High School years. 

Tim returned for the 2nd round, said he listens to Joni Mitchell & Melanie in troubled times, then reads the lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira.”

Sally Rhoades’ 2nd round piece was a memoir written in May for a dance friend,”I Just Put my Winter Hat away.”

If you are interested in attending Tim’s open mic, contact him at his email address, tverhaegen1@gmail.com, & ask for a Zoom link to his next open mic, you’ll enjoy it.


January 20, 2021

2nd Wednesday Open Mic, January 13, 2021

GPS said “traffic is light” to Schenectady, as it has been for months, but no reason to drive, just Zoom in. Host Jackie Craven welcomed each of us as we showed up, regulars with one new face/voice from Westchester Co. (what would her GPS say?). Jackie recorded us but some opted out -- not me, of course.

I ended up reading first & did selections from Inauguration Raga (A.P.D. 2017), poems I wrote watching the last inauguration in "fear & loathing."

Susan Jewell eventually was able to share the screen with an image from the November Rattle magazine ekphrastic challenge, a photo which looked like whooping cranes or perhaps sandhill cranes, her poem “The Body is Never at Rest” describing the picture.

Alan Catlin also had an ekphrastic piece describing a Cornell-like box a poem titled “Model Ship #19,” then “Florida Death Trip #46” which he described as “a super-spreader party, the wasteland” & “Memory 238” set in 1596 in which he refers to a “catlin”/“catling,” which was a very sharp surgical knife used for amputations at that time.

Scott Morehouse read a very short story, “Home Entertainment,” about brothers Jack & Ralph living in a Church, characteristically quirky & clever.

Sarah Chaviano was the visitor from Westchester Co., not only her 1st time here but also her 1st on Zoom, she read a couple of childhood memoirs, “5 & Dime” about walking to Woolworth’s with her sister, & “Snowball” throwing cat poop in a snowball fight. 

Jackie Craven described her piece “What Aliens Fear” as “silly science fiction poems that have nothing to do with our current political situation” — hmm…

If you are interested in joining this monthly open mic you can get the Zoom link on the Facebook page Writers Mic 



January 17, 2021

2nd Tuesday Open Mic, January 12, 2021

Charlie Rossiter, our host, welcomed us to “Bennington” with his rap-inspired open mic welcome chant, & off we went, doing a round of (mostly) 1 piece each, then back around again. There were 9 of us “here.”

Julie Lomoe reprised her dialogue between “Super Don” & “Baby Don” that she had tried out on Sunday, but she has added more & so it was even longer, rehashing anecdotes from Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump. For the 2nd round, while we took a brief break so Tim & Tom could go to the bathroom (separately), Julie talked about meeting Miles Davis in Milwaukee. 

In my first round I dug up a poem I’d written after Election Day back in 2016 “The Elect Shun Mourning & Celebrate,” then in the 2nd round one written in 2018, looking back to 1971, “Kerouac.”

Tim Verhaegen joined us for the 1st time & entertained us with a piece titled “Heroes,” football from a gay man’s point of view. For the 2nd round he read a lyric by Lauryn Hill, “I Used Love Him,” which Tim said was the story of his past.

Kenn Ash read a piece on dreams then played his trumpet to recorded accompaniment; in the 2nd round he switched to his pocket trumpet.

Laura Elzey’s poem, written last year, titled “The Fullness of the Lack of Motivation” was a meditation about staying in bed. For her 2nd round piece she sang a song in Spanish, the English title was “The Ugly Doll” which was abandoned in the attic.

Barbara Sarvis held up a couple of her illustrations, one like Van Gogh sunflowers, & read  “Mind Painting.” In the 2nd round she read the short & funny “Moonshine Grannie.” 

Tom Nicotera read a piece I’d heard previously about a wild turkey & a mailman “Turkey Love,” nothing wrong with hearing a good poem more than once. His 2nd round piece was one I had also heard him read before, in Poets in the Park in Albany, “Alternate I-80,” about going to Chicago to visit Charlie when he lived in Oak Park, Illinois — ditto what I said.

Continuing an evening of repetitions, Charlie Rossiter read the piece about a catalog of church supplies that he read Sunday at 2nd Sunday @ 2, then in the 2nd round from his 2007 book from FootHills Publishing The Night We Danced With the Raylettes, a poem about white privelege “At the Ocean” — again, “ditto what I said.”

Jim Madigan dialing in from Illinois & another regular here (wherever that may be) read “Rum & Potatoes,” just published in a British publication, about genocide & slavery. & in the last round a memory of being on a train to Chicago (another minor theme tonight), “A Poem for Every Person,” a fine end to a fine night.

One used to have to drive to Vermont to join this open mic, but now, as elsewhere, you can join it in the comfort of your own home, shoes & pants optional, every 2nd Tuesday. Email Charlie at charliemrossiter@gmail.com for the Zoom link.

January 15, 2021

Poetic Vibe, January 11, 2021

D. Colin as always our host started us off, once folks got settled in on Zoom, with a re-write of an earlier version of one of her poems dealing with an assault, that began with a quote from Sister Sonia Sanchez.

Jeanne Johnson from Pittsfiled read a poem about a cat that leaves,“The Dubious Benedictions,” a meditation on fresh snow & love & blessings on election day, then the cat comes back.

One of the charms of these Zoom events is seeing the poets in their home environment, sometimes doing the mundane things of daily life, like Marie Kathleen painting her nails, she read 2 related poems, “Healing is a Practice” trying to do it daily, & “What I Mean When I Say Healing is a Practice,” explaining depression, both brave poems.

I read, again, my most recent poem “My Last Poem” which I expect/hope it’s not.

Rio Riera Arbogast’s poem was a descriptive sonnet, a love poem to the beaches of Miami. 

Luis Pabon pondered what many of us were thinking during the riot last week at the Capitol “If They Were Black,” then a piece titled “Grinder Is” (it’s a term for gay men).

Jacqui read a piece in which she was aching for a way out from what she, we all are going through, but with the realization that we are growing. 

Ngoma read a new piece also on the assault on the Capitol “The Real Amerikakaka,” a flowing, then to a lyrical autobiographical manifesto “I Didn’t Come Here to Tap Dance.”

Jeanne came back with another piece, in rhyme “Word Salad & Other Just Desserts.”

Danielle returned with, as she does each week, a cento composed of phrases, of lines from the open mic, a grand poem in itself looking back at tonight’s poets. 

Tonight’s featured poet was Baub Bidon, Haitian poet from New Haven, CT, ran the spoken word series there Free to Spit. Danielle explained she wanted to have Baub here in January because January 1 is Haitian Independence Day, & January 12 is the anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010. He did his pieces from memory which led to the occasional gap/pause, but like any good performer he persisted. One of the fews piece with a title, or at least the only titles he shared, was his first piece “Born a Woman” an epic tribute to immigrant women. But most of the pieces were about himself, his poetry like “my poetry be digging deep…” what his poetry is & the power of it, all in with a hip hop rhythm, half rhymes, affirmations, “Black like black moons…” energetic strings of words, on religion, in black surrealism. One piece “Beat Box” he began with imitating a didgeridoo in homage to Ngoma who read earlier, a mentor, who often used a didgeridoo in his performances. An energetic, celebratory performance.

In a brief Q&A with Danielle, Baub said his writing happened with a high school crush (sounds oh so familiar), that he had started out doing stand up, even shared some of his impersonations, but was inspired by the voice & rhythms of Ngoma & by his didgeridoo. He also talked of his collaborations with the “Black Out” collective & the production of What Iz, The Wizard of Oz by way of The Wiz.

You can find Poetic Vibe most Mondays on Zoom, get the link from the Poetic Vibe Facebook page.


January 12, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, January 10, 2021

Nancy Klepsch has opened up this on Zoom to everyone so that, as she said, “even the Taliban can get in.” I’ve felt that Zoom is  not much different than having the open mic in a public place; I’ve had street characters wander in at the Social Justice Center, the worst that happened was they were tedious, briefly disruptive, sometimes smelly, usually they just got bored & left. That said, there were still folks who had trouble getting in today; I use my desktop computer & rarely have problems, but I don’t know about dialing in on a cellphone.

Julie Lomoe started us off with a dialogue between “Super Don” & “Baby Don”, a new piece in-progress -- as for me, I always felt that he is always baby Don, although from my experience raising kids he seems more like a spoiled, bratty 10 year-old.

I read 2 pieces written in the last few months of 2020, “Content Advisory,” & a poem that takes on the annoying use of “do” to mean “have” as in “I’ll do the sausage sandwich.”

Charlie Rossiter, host of the 2nd Tuesday Zoom open from Bennington, VT read a funny piece about getting in the mail a catalog of church supplies (maybe they thought he was pastor of the First Church of Poetry in Bennington).

Host Nancy Klepsch began with pondering the beauty of the world (“why is the world so beautiful?”), then read one filled with grim images “Send Me Danger” based on the work of performance artist Chris Burden (1946 - 2015).

Tara Kistler had her phone set so that she appeared to us upside down, which made me dizzy, her poems were short “drive-bys” so I barely had time to take notes, the first titled “The Buddha’s Dilemma,” the other about particles colliding.

Joel Best read a piece titled “There to Remember” a story of waking up, swirling images of the start of his day, a meditation in free association -- you really got to pay attention.

Bob Sharkey read another piece from an assignment in a Bernadette Mayer workshop to “write about your job” & since Bob & I had both worked for the same Department it resonated with me, titled “Overwhelmed.”

Nancy posted the year’s schedule of these open mics, but since it is called “2nd Sunday @ 2,” it’s not difficult to figure out when it happens, check the Facebook page for the link, whether you are a Tally Man or a Taliban.


January 10, 2021

How I Spent New Year’s Eve, Day, 2020 - 2021

New Year’s celebrations are alway problematic for me — New Year’s Eve is “amateur night” while New Year’s Day is my traditional Open House. But this year, in the Year of COVID-19, my problems were solved: nothing was happening anywhere, nothing was "normal", I stayed home all evening & day. It was odd, quiet, but I stayed negative. I immersed myself in 3 over-lapping events, Highlight House Party out of Vermont, the Poetry Project 47th Marathon in NYC, & Perfect Pitch Extravaganza from Kingston, NY, playing in the background while I made dinners, breakfasts, shaved, changed clothes, etc.

Highlight House Party

I was invited to this event, which ran Thursday (December 31, 220) 1:00PM to Friday (January 1, 2021) 1:00AM, by 3 Guys from Albany co-member Charlie Rossiter, who got me a friend-of-the-band discount ticket. Highlight is Burlington’s new virtual New Year’s Eve celebration, produced by Signal Kitchen & Burlington City Arts. The festival brings "Vermont’s leading artists, doers, and thinkers together to showcase our community’s creativity through lively festivities for all to enjoy," thus says the promotional material. Charlie & his son Jack Rossiter-Munley performed as Big Roads at 7PM — more on that below. I put on the program(s) as background to my New Year’s Eve.

The event was on a platform called “Run the World” which is an all-in-one platform to host interactive online events, workshops, masterclasses, shows, and conferences. There were a confusing array of overlapping acts, shows, etc. at once that you could toggle between, music, of course, but also circus acts, cooking shows, yoga, folk music from places suck as Tibet & Madagascar, each lasting 45 minutes to an hour. There was plenty of bad singing & dreamy plaid flannel shirt guitar songs from performers bedrooms & living rooms, sort of like “Wayne’s World” come alive, some folks just doing stupid shit. Many, if not most, of the programs were spoiled by bad or sub-optimum video quality which looked like the bad copies of TV shows my kids used to record on VHS tapes.

Charlie & Jack’s energetic performance as Big Roads was one of the more polished, due largely to Jack’s skilled & practiced guitar-picking, & Charlie’s deep knowledge of the Blues. The tunes they covered were Blues songs made known to the pop music audience by having been covered by bands such as the Rolling Stones, but also an obscure hit from the late 1950’s by Lieber & Stoler about “the terror of Highway 101,” as well as their own “paranoia rock” version of Bob Dylan.

Another refreshing performer was singer-song writer Julia Rose who performed with a variety of stringed instruments & a skilled use of the loop machine; her mother is another poet with an Albany connection, Susan Riback.

One program I enjoyed with my New Year’s Ever Happy Hour martini & spring rolls was a reading from a new book The Essential Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon Press), edited by her granddaughter, the poet Bianca Stone. She was joined by poets Didi Jackson & Gary Margolis, reading Ruth Stone's (1915 - 2011) grim poems of grieving & of Winter, which is to be expected, I guess, from this long-time resident of Vermont.


47th Annual Poetry Project New Year’s Day Marathon

At 11:00PM Thursday night I switched over the the Poetry Project’s Marathon in New York City, which ran for 25 hours to Midnight, January 1/2. In the last hour of 2020 the prosecco was already gone & the music was like “Gloomy Sunday,” that legendary “suicide song,” but at least the quality of the videos was mostly better than that from Vermont. As the name dropping performance of Penny Arcade & others took us into 2021, I was already anticipating that, just like in most New Year’s Eves in the past when I put on corporate TV shows, I was already heading into a string of tedious performances, just in a different way.

At midnight I blew out the candle, my wish is that it’s got to be better, just get the racists out, get Trump into prison. Already I’m going to sleep in 2021 & will wake up in 2021, just like it was in 2020 — more peace vigils, more poetry, & sometime, I hope, more hugs & our words out in the air instead of a corona virus.

Lewis Warsh reading at home of Pierre Joris & Nicole Peyrafitte, May 2000
Tuned back in at 9:30AM, while I made coffee, breakfast (I missed online breakfast crêpes with Nicole Peyrafitte & Pierre Joris), to Rosemary Waldrop, then Don Yorty who said “words are birds” & my parakeets, Uccellini & Aria, agree, on through the day with the words in the background —Sophie Robinson dressed like a Puritan reading “Fucking Up the Rocks,” Edmund Berrigan in a fancy party mask, Rachael Wilson’s quotidian poems, Onotara James & Ricardo Maldonado’s “diptych” of sonnets on 2020/2021 that I really liked. A black & white film from 1978 of Bernadette Mayer reading dream poems, (later during a tribute to Lewis Warsh, he reading from the same event), also home movies of them Bernadette & Lewis, their kids, when Greg Masters read from his memoir It Wasn’t Supposed to be Like This (which is going on my to-read list).

At 2:00 PM I left the Poetry Project for the mid-Hudson Extravaganza (which is described below) & was back to NYC at 8:00 PM, until the end at midnight.

A number of poets shared works by others (often as memorials for those gone this year), which was a respite from the over-arching egos of so much that I’d heard/seen, & evidenced by so much self-conscious costuming. & even though it was from NYC, the home base of so many “famous poets” the work was just like any other open mic running from the sublime to the inane. There was bad singing of bad songs here too, & tedious performance art like listening to other people’s boring, self-indulgent conversations. But ultimately I was glad to actually not be at St. Mark’s for an in-person event, to be at home playing it in the background, actually hear more of it as I move around my house, make breakfast, lunch, dinner, have drinks, go to the bathroom.

There was Anselm Berrigan reading a long poem-in-progress tribute to Lewis Warsh, & later Lydia Cortés’ tribute as well. Others afflicted with “the Bernadette Mayer curse” — writing down every thought that enters your head, everything that you see, or hear, or do, watching a recording of an Alice Notley lecture/poem from 1988 (which was actually one of the gems of the event for me), in which she says “the poetry of everyday life is basically people talking to each other,” & I realize so much of what I was hearing was also “the Alice Notley curse,” that even when a good poet does it even they can sound tedious & frivolous. The day sort of petered out, as most marathon events tend to do, but I was glad I made to the last hour to hear Anna Kreienberg again, who had once lived outside Albany & attended some of the open mics here.

“Perfect Pitch” The Hudson Valley New Years Spoken Word & Performance Extravaganza

At 2:00 PM, Friday, I tuned in to this event streamed in from Green Kill Gallery in Kingston, from 2:00PM to 8:00PM, put together by Bruce Weber, Joanne Pagano Weber & Therese Costa. Apparently it was pre-recorded at the gallery in October & November which made it possible to bring in lots of production values the “live” performances could not. It was also enhanced by the cut-out mobiles, decorative background of the gallery installed by Joanne. Each hour of the 6 there were 6 10 minute segments, individual readers, with a musician or musical duo each hour, & each hour introduced by a mid-Hudson poet, including Bruce Weber, Mikhail Horowitz, Teresa Costa, Sam Truitt, Phillip Levine, & Joanne Pagano Weber.

It was a pleasant mix of poets I’m familiar with, have even featured at the Third Thursday Poetry Night &/or Poets in the Park, & heard at open mics in Woodstock & Kingston, others I was not familiar with, but was to glad to hear. One issue I had was that each hour’s listing of the performers was in alphabetical order, but that was not the order they read in so I had to be careful if I tuned away from a performer I would have to check back in the next few minutes to see who was next.

During the 2:00 to 4:00 segment I heard a short story from Suzanne Bennett, Celia Bland reading from Cherokee Road Kill, poems by Fred Dugan who was new to me, Anne Gorrick read a poem based on Facebook comments, Ken Holland’s fine poems, the humor of Mikhail Horowitz on press release hyperbole (he was the host of the 3:00 - 4:00 hour), Paul McMahon on guitar a better singer than most I’d heard all day, a bass guitar improvisation Abby Travis, Matthew J. Spireng reading poems from his recent book Good Work, poems by Tamas Panitz, Pamela Twining, & Bruce Weber (who was the host of the 2:00 - 3:00 hour).

Teresa Costa, at Albany SJC, August 2017
In the middle segment from 4:00 to 6:00, Teresa Costa hosted the first half & read “The Art of Handwashing,” while Sam Truitt hosted the second half with a hobo jungle chant & drumming, there was Michael Bisio all over his stand-up bass, the quiet, descriptive poems of Robert C. Basher, the rhyming fables of Jennifer Bennett, Andy Clausen’s effusive, ranting catalogs, Guy Reed on sex & love, the humor of Sparrow (who also on Poetry Project), as well as poems by Lily Dunlap, Cate McNider & Sarah Vogill

In the final 6:00 to 8:00 segment host Phillip Levine included some of his short poems written on playing cards, the duo of Sylvie Degiez & Wayne Lopes provided music in the first hour, while the music in the 2nd hour was by another duo Karen Whitman & Rick Pantell, I enjoyed the folksy poems of Richard Comerford about being a farmer & making wine, Laura Hinton read from a book-in-progress The Little Book of Human Violence that I would love to read, Mike Jurkovic reading some favorites from other readings, Allison Koffler on the soul of her dog Cole, Dayl Wise’s poems colored by his experience in Viet Nam, Michael Ruby read his political poems while his niece Abby Travis (see above) accompanied him on electric bass, Joanne Pagano Weber hosted the last hour read a memoir of childhood, there was as well as the poetry of Josepha Gutelius, & Vladimir Nahitchevansky. & a charming piece by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright with puppets for his granddaughter.

Perhaps because this was all pre-recorded, but also certainly because the quality of the work was less ego-driven, more genuine from the heart words & music, this was for me the most consistently pleasant, even inspiring event of the 3 events in this day & a half, moving into the New Year, celebrating creativity, in words & music & community. 

Happy New Year!


January 2, 2021

Tim’s Invitational Open(?) Mic, December 28

Tim Verhaegen sent around invitations to attend this open mic, one of a number he has hosted on Zoom on a periodic, but not regular basis. But it caused me to think, “if it’s by invitation how can it be an ‘open mic’?” Be that as it may, it was a half dozen of some of my own favorite local poets. &, as Tim does, we went around twice, but not quite in the same order.

Bob Sharkey said he had been going through his poetry pile & found this piece, maybe from a Bernadette Mayer workshop, where he turned newspaper headlines into couplets that he titled “Why Isabella Isn’t Afraid of Being Scary.” His 2nd poem was again from that pile “20 Things You Don’t Know About Me” all true, he said, & some I did know about him.

Cheryl Rice began with a poem looking back to the genetics of Polish & Irish that was titled “Broken” about her mother. For the next time around she read a poem from this Summer, “3 Deer on the Road” a meditation on them, & on our presence in their habitat. 

My first poem, inspired by a Blog by Carolee Bennett (more from her below), was the first in what is growing into a series, “Words in the Time of COVID-19: Saxophone,” &, in what is obliquely related, my 2nd round poem was titled “My Last Poem.”

Our host, Tim Verhaegen, read from a novel he has been working on about a gay man in his 20s, this excerpt a flash-back set in 1968 as an 8 year old scanning the pages of True Magazine in the bathroom & stumbling upon the Marlboro Man in an ad & a mystifying, to an 8 year-old, classified ad. His second piece was a revised version of what he apparently read at his last “open mic” (which I missed), a portrait of an 83 year-old Virginia whose 87 year-old husband left her because "he wanted to suck dick” -- if you know Tim you know how funny this was.

For a long time Carolee Bennett didn’t come to in-person open mics, but she has shown up on Zoom; today she read a poem meditating on Time, Aging & Truth titled “The Gingerbread Man” instigated by her sons growing up & larger. I’d already read her 2nd poem on her Blog, Good Universe Next Door, but it was a treat to hear it in her own voice, “Failing to Write a Solstice Poem You insert Youself into the Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn”  

Avery Stempel began with “On the other side of being Overwhelmed” “when … that sigh of relief …” which I think we all understood very well. His new pre-occupation is raising & selling mushrooms & also writing a “comic book on the mushroom thing,” & read the introduction to "Dao Te Mogu" (The Way of the (medicinal) Mushroom).

No matter what you might call such a gathering of poets reading their work — open mic, workshop, invitational, etc. — it was varied, entertaining, even enlightening (with a small “e), we even laughed.

Happy New Year!