April 29, 2021

16th Annual Favorite Poem Project, April 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2021

Writers Mic, April 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 23, 2021

Open Mic out of Bennington, April 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 18, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 14, 2021

Caffe Lena Poetry Night, April 7

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

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

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

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

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

Distinguished Author Lecture: Sapphire, April 6

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

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

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

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