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. 

February 22, 2021

Poetic Vibe, February 15

A somewhat more laid back, quieter Monday night with just the open mic, no featured poet, 12 “participants” listed on Zoom but not all of them read.

Our host, D. Colin, started us off with a couple of her own pieces, the first was titled “Nameless” found in a notebook was about running out of hopeful poems, the day drifting away, then “Tuesdays” a COVID poem about what every day since last March has been.

Samuel Maurice began with “Deer in Headlights” an all too-common encounter, then a piece titled “Paper Crane in Oblivion.” 

I also had read 2 poems, the recent “Birthday Poem 2021,” then the much older tribute to jazz pianist Thelonious Monk “Acrostic Jazz.”

Marie Kathleen is here every time I show up, her poem “Dance Exhale Open Take Up Space” was not only a description of dance, but also what needs to be done, while her piece “Momentary Arrangements” was on change as the nature of the universe.

Jeannine Trimboli is also a frequent reader here & read a poem about taking out the garage in Winter from February 2019 “A Poem About Nothing,” then a more recent portrait “She Wants to be Free.”

I missed him when Baba Ngoma was the featured reader at the beginning of the month, but he was here tonight with a couple pieces, beginning with “Epigraph” a rolling stack of imagery, & advice, a tribute to Mohammed Ali (with the refrain “impossible is nothing”), followed by a piece of his history growing up & dressing up in the Jim Crow era “Funny thing Is.” (He also referenced an album tribute to Ali titled Brown Butterfly by Craig Harris.)

Greg Wilder/Slay! the Dragon began with “Hot Girl at Drug at Drug Court” which you can find in his 2020 collection Pink Cloud Poetry: Poems from Early Recovery, then read a long piece of alternative/speculative/reversed history written on Presidents’ Day 2019 “Black Presidents History Day.”

Analysis dialed in from Baltimore where he is associated with the Red Emma’s Bookshop & Coffee House, he said he has been listening to People’s Voice of the History of the United States, began with a quote from Eugene Debs, & read a long sermon on militarism, imperialism, & domestic violence, then a somewhat less heavy & amusing tale of being wakened one cold night to a “popping sound.”

Angelique Palmer introduced herself as a teacher, then shared 2 pieces from her experience,“Ten things to Know When a Hammer Meets a Nail” about confronting problems with “this is not a nail…” or, in racist situations “that’s a nail, hit it,” then a related piece “But It’s Different for the Children” on racist remarks from kids & the opportunity to educate them. 

Danielle ended the night with reading a few Haiku, on COVID, impeachment, & Valentines day, then a marvelous Cento composed, as she does each week, of lines that struck her from tonight’s open mic poets.

You can join the fun every Monday night at 7:30PM — check out the Poetic Vibe Facebook page for information & the link, & bring some poems to read. 

February 21, 2021

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

Valentine’s day, but no requirement that you read love/hate poems, although some did happen. In fact, the theme of the day's discussions before & after the open mic seemed to the COVID vaccine, who got it/where & reactions, chaired by our host Nancy Klepsch. I think I’d rather discuss ex’s.  

I was up first & my first poem was indeed a love poem of sorts, “The Phrasing Must Change” based on a poem by Rumi, then a new piece “Dinner at the Bar” in which both bartenders & undertakers offer a box to go out with/in.

Howard Kogan read a persona poem, as he said, “what passes for a romantic poem” titled “Say Grace” in which a guy hooks up with a former girlfriend who wants him to go to Bible study, then to “New Year’s Day” a piece based on a story told to Howard about the kindness of a child to a grieving adult.

Bob Sharkey’s poem, also a persona piece, was inspired by the writing on the back an old postcard, in the poem a woman takes a trip to Boston. 

It seemed to be a day for persona poems, as Sally Rhoades read an old short story written when her kids were little, in the voice of “old reliable Agnes” contemplating her fate & the changes in her life. 

Both of Tara Kistler’s poems were very short, first the silly “Poem for Valentines Day” then an even shorter poem “Hydrocodone.” There are some poets out there (not at this open mic) who could take important lessons from her.

This was Sydney Allen’s 1st time here & turned me on with a sexy fantasy about a backless dress “The Getup” — I hope she comes back. 

Both of Kate Gillespie’s pieces involved houses, the first titled “The Dream of Home,” the second about a black cat that shows up  in a snowstorm “At the Door.”

Our host Nancy Klepsch read a poem titled “Artifice,” responding to the quote “they clap for the money,” by Susan Sontag, from the Martin Scorsese/Fran Liebowitz Netflix series Pretend It’s a City.

Joel Best read 2 poems from what he called the “alternate universe” he lives in, “Is How to Be Now” ghosts changing sheets, etc. & other weird connections, then “Pick Up Sticks” a title he said he has used many times.

It’s easy to know when this open mic takes place, it’s the 2nd Sunday @ 2 — check out the Facebook page for the link, or email me.

P.S. the next one is on Nancy’s birthday.


February 16, 2021

Writer’s Mic Open Mic, February 10

Poet Jackie Craven is the host of this Zoom open mic held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. This month there were poets “here” from as far away as Philadelphia, PA & Louisville, KY.

From much closer was David Graham who began by reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye from her 2020 book Cast Away (Greenwillow Books), then to his own recent poem set in a cemetery “Surprise Enough.”

I was next on the list & read a seasonal piece written some years ago “Winter Light” then my most recently written poem “Dinner At the Bar” where it was a good thing it was a bartender & not an undertaker.

Susan Jewell is a persistent writer of ekphrastic poems for the ongoing Rattle contest, tonight she showed the image for the poem titled “Witness” her poem mixing images of Viet Nam & all manners of witness (it didn’t win).  

Dan Vollweiler has an acerbic, satiric mind (& pen) & read “Pandumic” (I’m pretty sure that’s what he said) playing on “pan” in all its forms, then, more seriously “July 4th” starting with a Langston Hughes quote, “I will not celebrate today.”

Sarah Chaviano read a memoir of being a kid in a theater seeing “Planet of the Apes” & a recollection of being lost at the beach.

Katherine Zaleski dialed in from Philadelphia to read a piece written over 10 years ago when she first moved to Philly, grim urban images of poverty & shootings titled “America,” then a more recent piece from last Fall “Instrumental” a swirling mixing of images dancing from one to another.

Scott Morehouse’s stories are outrageous, outlandish & always hilarious, tonight he read one set in NYC, “Animal Appetites,” story of a lady afraid of snakes with a mongoose that goes on a killing spree. 

Mary Ann read a memoir poem of childhood “My Father Poses us Before a New Fence” for a photograph. 

Alan Catlin read a piece from a few years ago, short sections strung together, “Reading by the Statue of Robert Burns,” then one titled “The Island of the Oscillating Fans” written to titles from poet John Yau. 

James Quinn got the prize for dialing in from the furthest away, from Louisville KY, read   “Winter 2019” a descriptive piece that could be any winter, & a piece about seeing cop violence while out walking, “Between Classes.”

To link up for the next 2nd Wednesday open mic, look for Writer’s Mic on Facebook, you can be anywhere & so can we!


February 11, 2021

2nd Tuesday in Bennington, February 9

A short Zoom ride across State lines for poetry, spoken word, music, whatever, without getting dressed or going out. Our host Charlie Rossiter has been getting a good crowd here of late on the 2nd Tuesday of the month.

I was up first for the open mic, we did 2 rounds, 1 piece (mostly) each round & I began with “Birthday Poem 2021” — In the 2nd round another birthday poem of sorts, a piece performed in the 3 Guys from Albany repertoire, “To My Penis, On our 45th Birthday,” just to give you some idea how old this poem is.

Jim Madigan has been a regular here, Zooming in from Oak Park, Illinois, in his first round read a assignment from a writing class to write a postcard poem, this about the events of January 6 in the words of the late Ashli Babbitt. — For his 2nd round a description of brothers riding, a poem titled “Five Horsemen” including 2 sung lines from “The Wayfaring Stranger.” 

Tim Verhaegen, who has his own occasional Zoom open mic was next, said he was “raised on Joni Mitchell, Melanie & Carly Simon" did a piece incorporating Carly Simon's lyrics as  “Carly Simon & me 1971” as a 10 year-old in a conflicted family. — For the 2nd round he read a funny, satiric prose poem, inspired by news headlines, about the reincarnation of cats, dogs & celebrities.

Barbara Sarvis, who does live in Vermont, but glad not to have to drive down to Bennington, read a piece from a recent poetry workshop that she attended, an excerpt from a list poem on the topic “What I Miss.” — Her 2nd round poem was a very short take on the events of January 6 “Tarnishes the Soul.”

Tom Nicotera also read a piece about the raid on Congress on January 6, pondering “Do I Need to Buy a Gun?” — Back in December Barbara Sarvis had read a piece about going to confession, & tonight Tom responded with a memoir piece of his 1st confession, his only sin being missing Mass except for Christmas, Palm Sunday & Easter (because his parents were divorced & so did not go to Mass every week).

Katherine Zaleski, formerly of Schenectady & who had shown up for the Tom Nattell Memorial Open Mic last month, Zoomed in from Philadelphia, read an older poem titled “Memories” from 2007, thinking of death & of someone who had been shot. — In the 2nd round she read a more recent poem, also a meditation on loss dated from May 12, 2020, working in images of a watercolor.

Another regular here, Kenn Ash, read “Ode to a TV Horse” which was a litany of the famous, & lesser known, equine companions to 1950s era cowboy (& cowgirl) TV characters. — Then later read about a man who couldn’t sleep, plagued by “Shadows.”

Our host, Charlie Rossiter, took the last slot in each round, & in his 1st round read a remembrance of being in northern Wisconsin “Take Me back to the Tin Hotel…” — Then, at the end, brought us all home with a reprise of the performance piece he did at the Tom Nattell Memorial about the beauty hidden in the everyday, “Ode to a Cake Cover” (which was really a gong).

A congenial group over in Vermont & great to not have to drive (I always prefer to walk, or take the bus, but that would be even worse than driving from Albany). It happens on Zoom on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM (Eastern Time Zone) — email Charlie at charliemrossiter@gmail.com for the link.


Dorothy Alexander, February 4

Oklahoma is not a place I ever thought I would get to know & love, but I did. First brought there by poet Jeanetta Calhoun Mish in 2010 for a 3 Guys from Albany tour with Charlie Rossiter that brought us to Albany, Oklahoma. The trip was timed so that we could participate in the Oklahoma Labor Fest celebrating the words & history of the State. There I met Ken Hada, among many other poets, & I returned the next year on my own to attend the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, an annual event that Ken still runs to this day. I returned every-other year until 2019, a couple times in the company of Albany poet Sally Rhoades.

I actually met Dorothy Alexander on that first trip in 2010 & looked forward to seeing her each time I returned to the Scissortail Festival, & to hearing her read her poetry & stories. One of the many great things about Scissortail is that the poets hang out at the others’ readings, & one could always find Dorothy in the audience with her partner Devey & their little white dog who was always well-behaved.

Dorothy is a poet, activist, lawyer & publisher of others through her Village Books Press. She is feisty, tough, funny & fun to be with. This reading on Zoom was part of the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series at the University of Oklahoma College of Arts & Sciences, Department of English.

There were 51 Zoom “participants,” & there was an open mic with 12 readers, including myself & Sally Rhoades, & former New Yorker Paul Austin, who now lives in Oklahoma.

Dorothy Alexander read poems of memory & elegy, beginning appropriately enough with “The Memory Keeper” & “Where Poems Come From.” There were, among others, poems for her father (“Forgiven”), poems for brothers (“Brother” & “A Man with No Enemies”), a sister (“Real Live Girls Dancing in the Rain”), & for her son (“The Promise 1953 - 1989”). I was personally touched by her elegy to one of my favorite Oklahoma poets, Jim Spurr, “Poets in the Hereafter.” Dorothy now lives in Santa Fe & concluded her set with “Letter to Oklahoma,” clearly a place where her heart is. 

There was a brief Q&A, then she tacked on one more poem, a fitting end, “Honest Work.” With the cold here in upstate New York, snow on the ground, I think I would’ve preferred being in Norman, Oklahoma at OU, but at least I got to hear once again, in her own voice, the poems of the warm Dorothy Alexander.


February 7, 2021

Gloucester Writers Center Open Mic, February 1

Gloucester, as many of my readers know, is a favorite go-to-place, not the least of the reasons for the Gloucester Writers Center. Alas, I have not been there since August — but the wonders of cyberspace makes it possible to “be there” on the first Monday of each month for their open mic. The host is Roger Davis, who has a knack of drawing the readers into conversations about their work, or just about their lives, about such things as wood stoves, how we write, or even how the World changes. 

Virginia McKinon, whom I’ve heard read on many occasions in Gloucester, read a story from a writing assignment about the scissor grinder in Gloucester, inspired by the collection of short pieces by Peter Anastas At the Cut (Dogtown Books, 2002), then on to a poem titled “Nature on the Terrace” which she said was her first poem written recently.  

I read next, an old elegy for Tom Nattell “Chasing Tom”, then to one written very recently “Birthday Poem 2021” as part of my practice of writing a poem on my birthday each year.

Howard Kogan, now living in Massachusetts, said that he’s been reading lately the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s (1903 - 1991) & read a poem titled “On the Royal Road” (i.e., what Freud called dreams) dreaming about Singer’s places. [Did you know that Singer delivered the commencement address at the State University of New York at Albany in 1981?]

Joe Rukeyser read a recent story/personal essay “These Uncertain Times” inspired by going thru a box of articles & finding a scholarly one on A.I., certainly/uncertainly.

Ann Banks said that she was here just listening, then talked about stories for her great grandkids using felt characters; in response to Roger’s questions she said that she was a former kindergarten teacher & started The Bookstore on Main St. that we all know so well.

Elizabeth Enfield read “Cuckoo,” a story/memoir about going to antique shows in the suburbs of Philadelphia many years ago, staying at her boyfriend’s family house, messing with the grandmother’s cuckoo clock.

Roger Davis noted the wind howling tonight & read 2 related poems, “Beech Leaves” hanging on in Winter, in parts named after the months of February, March, & April; then a poem titled “Winds” in its musical language.

This open mic takes place each first Monday of the month, check out the Gloucester Writers Center website for details about it, & much more. Perhaps I’ll see you “there” next time. 

February 2, 2021

Tom Nattell Memorial Open Mic, January 25, 2021

Tom Nattell, Chicago's O'Hare Airport, 1998
Tom Nattell started the poetry open mic at the QE2 in Albany in March 1988 & he is considered by many to be the “grandfather” of the busy poetry scene here. He died of cancer in the early morning hours of January 31, 2005. That evening, which was the last Monday of January, he had been invited to be the featured poet at a new open mic series, Poets Speak Loud!, at the Lark Tavern on Madison Ave., a series that continued up to 2020 when COVID-19 shut us down. This year the annual commemoration of his life took place on Zoom, which ironically made it possible to for many folks, including Tom’s family, who no longer live in Albany, to attend.

I started off the open mic with a reading of a short elegy for Tom “Theology 101,” then on to the open mic.

The first of the open mic readers was Noah Nattell, Tom’s son, who now lives in California, he read poems by Tom, beginning with “Juniper” (Noah’s daughter’s middle name), & “South End” which Tom liked to do as the first poem when the 3 Guys from Albany did poetry workshops in schools.

Bob Sharkey, a frequent Zoomer read a cento composed of lines from local & international poets “Jailed by the Squealing Laughter,” from entries to the international poetry contest he runs each year.

Charlie Rossiter, fellow member of 3 Guy from Albany, debuted a new performance piece inspired by the type of poems Tom would create, “Ode to a Cake Cover” that becomes a gong.

Sally Rhoades, who had been in the Park & was the one who tossed the beret up to the Robert Burns statue, talked about her first meeting Tom at the QE2, then read a poem just written about Joe Biden, “Tears Welled Up,” from watching the Inauguration.

Kathy Zaleski, who had read at the QE2 in the early days, has since moved to Philadelphia, & it was good to hear her read, & she said hasn’t read out since Albany; she read 2 poems she wrote in the Summer, dated not titled, from June 15, 2020, at Washington Square in Philadelphia, a swirl of free-association images, like what I remember her reading in the past back in Albany & Schenectady open mics. 

After some “fiddiddleing around” (an actual expression my mother would use) I eventually got the video & the sound playing for a segment from the 3 Guys from Albany performance of our “Dead Artists Program” recorded on October 9, 1996 at what was then the Rensselaer County Council of the Arts in Troy, 3 tribute pieces Tom wrote, one each for Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa & Franz Kline. Thanks to Charlie & to Jack Rossiter-Munley for making this possible.

Mary Ann Murray is another poet who had been around in the early days of the QE2 when she was a student at SUNY, & is now back in upstate New York; she read an homage that she had meant to read at an earlier memorial, “What I Remember of Tom Nattell,” which led us to a discussion of “what would Tom say…?”

Curt Nehring-Bliss was also around in the early years, left the Albany area in the mid-90s &  is now in the Finger Lakes, read some thoughts he’d written about discovering the QE2 open mic, how Tom’s presence put him at ease, a tender remembrance.

I met Barbara Sarvis via Zoom at Charlie Rossiter’s 2nd Tuesday open mic & was glad she joined even though she had never met Tom, she read a new piece, an activist poem, “Open Your Window, the 5 Senses of Poverty.”

Cheryl Rice certainly was around in Albany in the early poetry scene; she read from her chapbook Moses Parts the Tulips (A.P.D. 2013) “Cranes (for Tom Nattell)” & “Reading at the Q, Memorial Day,” celebrating Albany, the QE2, & Tom.

Christopher Ethan Burton said that this was his 1st Zoom meeting, he began with “A House of Bedlam” a grim description of prison, in terms of the historical Bedlam, then from his recently published chapbook Once Upon a Time in America he read the title poem.

Nancy Klepsch worked with Tom early on particularly with the Poets Action Against AIDS, she read “Letter from a Live Teacher to a Dead Teacher” looking back from this pandemic to a friend who died of AIDS, & “You Know My Mother Was From Corona” (in Queens NY, that is) also written in this pandemic.

Jan Tramontano is still in Florida, & told how she got to know Tom through the NYS Museum education program, Time Tunnel, where Noah & Jan’s daughter went, he then encouraged her to read at the Cafe Web open mic; her poem “For Tom” from her chapbook Woman Sitting in a Cafe and other poems of Paris (JMT Press, 2008) where the birds she hears, & the young couple she sees reminds her  of Tom.

Tim Verhaegen, who does a periodic open mic on Zoom talked about how he went to an AIDS open mic where he first met Tom; tonight he read his poem, ”How I Write a Poem,” a funny stream-of-consciousness about writing this poem with the voices arguing in his head -- as someone said, “a classic Tim poem.”

& then it was time for the finale, I read my poem “Chasing Tom” as I do each year, but now, with the wonders of Zoom I was able to show some pictures of Tom, not as smoothly as I had hoped but something we couldn’t do at the in-person open mic memorials in the past.

Noah wandered his house in California with Tom's artwork on the walls, such as his drawing/poster of Rhinoceros, his poem based on the Eugene Ionesco play. It was like a party ending where people drifted off, we waved, & smiled & hoped for hugs, until the next open mic somewhere, here or there on cyberspace. &, as Tom would say, "May the Muse be with you."