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.

July 15, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, July 11

Now this open mic is an open mic. Nancy Klepsch may have to open the door, but anyone can knock. 2 poems or a short prose piece less than 5 minutes, no “second round.”

I went first, just because, & read a couple old poems “The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas” inspired by reading the Lotus Sutra, then a poem dedicated to Sally Rhoades who once described the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, OK as “The Listening Festival.”

Joel Best began with a poem written this week on faith & belief with images of everyday & of Summer flowers, then a birthday poem in which he thinks back to August 1977, seeing fireflies & feeling his mortality.

Kate Gillsepie was having problems connecting but managed to get in with a couple of short, colorful poems that were written on Martha’s Vineyard.

Our host, Nancy Klepsch, began with a list poem “What I would say,” then one pondering urban land along the River, even with its trash, titled “Everything is Sacred.” 

Julie Lomoe also had a hard time getting in in spite of “a brand new jazzy computer,” but ended up using her husband, Robb’s, computer, read a piece written last night, “Quartet of Elders,” a gathering with her pets, & herself & Robb.

2nd Sunday @ 2 had been at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy at their request for a number of years until the corona virus pandemic shut it down, since then we have persisted on Zoom. We had hoped to return to The Arts Center but they have informed us that they will not be open on Sundays due to funding issues. Nancy is actively exploring other venues in Troy where we can meet in-person & we hope to have an answer soon. Stay tuned.

July 13, 2021

Tim’s “Open mic”, July 8

Well, I’m not so sure what Tim Verhaegen calls this, if anything, this somewhat random Zoom gathering, I mean, is an open mic that’s by invitation an “open mic”? Isn't more an “invitational mic?” Whatever. I’ve been privileged by being invited again now so here I was. Tim likes to do the 2 rounds thing so we each read 1 poem, then the 2nd poem described below was read in the next round.

I was up first (I like to get it out of the way so I can relax & listen), & read a bar/death poem “Dinner at the Bar,” then a piece that has been selected for an exhibit at the Arts Society of Kingston, “Writing Crows,” in which an artist will create a visual arts piece inspired by the poem.

Sally Rhoades has found that writing a poem-a-day from prompts has been useful in expanding her story of her family, read today “Rarely You Were Right” about her wedding, then another from the poem-a-day, “A Cache of Pencilled Scrawls,” reacting to an artist friend who didn’t like her casual drawings.

Bob Sharkey read a dream poem, “Roomie,” about a dead friend from college at a party with grandchildren & dead parents, then a Cento, one of Bob’s ongoing gifts to the world of poetry, what he described as “a quilt of other people’s work,” from the 2019 Best American Poetry, “What Happens Will Go Down in History as Fable” playing on the color blue.

Avery Stempel took a break from cultivating fungi to read a couple of very different poems, “Chit Chat" in rhyme about saying goodbye, then a poem titled “Apophenia’s Shell” using the mathematical Fibonacci sequence, which, although named after a thirteenth century Italian mathematician, actually looks back to much earlier Sanskrit poetry — I’ll let you look up “apophenia”.

Frank Robinson, who is a numismatist (you can look that up too while you're at it), read a catalog entry describing an ancient coin as a poem, then a Valentine poem, based on the great American novel Moby Dick, love as the great quest to fulfill a missing part in one’s life. 

The next reader was new to this open mic & his Zoom caption identified him as “George Grace, Real estate” read first a poem titled “Writing Poetry” with images of birds, then, later, a more abstract, philosophical piece in rhyme “From Suffering to Joy.” 

Our host, Tim Verhaegen, ended each round, in the first with a funny, descriptive critique of the music, dancing, the people “In My Own Way at the Gay Bar;” those of us who have heard Tim read in the past are familiar edgy stories of his late feisty mother, Tim said that he “dreams of her almost every night,” her contradictions, but still, as the poem is titled, “I Love Her.”

So as William Shakespeare wrote in another context, no matter what you call this Zoom gathering of poets & their poems it was just that: poets sharing their poems & great fun at it was.

Let me know if you are interested & I can pass your name on to Tim.


July 11, 2021

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, July 7

A great night of poetry, 3 poets whose work I’ve heard & like a lot, as this venue transitions back to its pre-pandemic format — more on that below. Carol Graser was our host once again. There were about 12 in attendance in-person & many others online for the live stream.

First up was Jackie Craven who hosts Writers Mic open mic on Zoom on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. She introduced her reading by saying that she likes “to write about the impossible,” then read a selection from her book of poems Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2018), based on her mother’s Surrealist paintings. She then turned to some new poems, including some from a series in which the times of the day (e.g., 8:45) are personas who narrate their dilemmas. In fact most of what she read tonight were persona poems, in which the narrators where often objects, or even concepts/ideas. She also included a piece from her award-winning chapbook of fabulist fiction Our Lives Became Unmanageable (Omnidawn), then ended with a poem titled “To My Tongue.” You can find samples of her work at her website jackiecraven.com.

The poet in the middle was Ian Macks, who had frequented the open mic scene in Albany & Troy in the pre-corona virus day. He has book from Bottlecap Press titled A Loss and Gain of Comfort, but tonight read from a new book out soon from recto y verso editions Identity Crisis. That title pretty much sums up the themes of much of what he read tonight. There were personal poems leavened with his fervent & fertile imagination, that also reflected & commented on his experience of being a young black man in an urban setting, including a poem for Ahmaud Arbery (“Vein Popping Inconvenience”), another on the Black Lives Matter protests (“Milk”), & another about being stopped by the Feds while on his way to work. But there was tenderness too, particularly in “A Mother’s Love,” & of course a poem titled “Quarantined.”

I had read with Richard Levine in the past in a program of readings by poets who were military veterans at the Bright Hills Literary Center in Treadwell NY & had featured him at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, a friend & a poet whose work I admire. His Selected Poems is available from FutureCycle Press. Tonight he read primarily from a forth-coming book, & began with a couple of pandemic poems. His poems ranged from a poem for his grandfather (“Immigrant”), to a poem from his experience in Viet Nam (“From the Wild”), to one for a new granddaughter (“Restoration”). He also included an elegy that recently won the 2021 Poetry Award from the Connecticut Poetry Society “Is! - in memoriam, Joe Hayman.” 

You can see the entire reading here at the Caffè Lena YouTube site. Carol announced that on August 4, 2021 for the 1st Wednesday poetry night, there will be a live open mic, then on the 1st Wednesday in September the poetry night will return to its pre-corona virus pandemic format of featured readers & an open mic for community poets. Check the Caffè Lena website for details. 

Stay negative & keep writing.


July 7, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2, June 13

Nancy Klepsch was back on with full steam, a very good thing, because I showed up late & missed a lot (my son Jack was in town to visit his mother & stopped by for a while). 

Susan Jewell was the first I got to hear & she read 2 poems from her attempts to win the big prize from the ongoing Rattle ekphrastic contest, poems titled “There You Are” & “Witness.”  

Bob Sharkey’s prose piece titled “Monaural” was a trip down memory lane inspired by his 50th college reunion with memory of the records he used to play on a little record-player.

If I heard this right, Julie Lomoe said she was going to read a summary of a short story a pandemic era piece about being kicked out of a Zumba class, then, asking for a little more time, a minute or so & spent it rambling. 

I was able to sneak onto the list to read 2 poems “Stardust is Us” & the more recent “Backyard Sutra.”

Sydney Allen was next with what she called “flashbacks,” one titled “Help for Rhonda” after the beach boys song, then an untitled piece also flashing back.

Anthony Farley was the last reader & read a prose response to the motto of the nation Jamaica “Out of Many One People” pointing out the irony in the historic killing off of the native Arawak (Taino) people.

This monthly series started out at the Arts Center on River St. in Troy but, like everyone else, went on Zoom in early 2020. For now, it is still on Zoom, but check the Facebook page, 2nd Sunday @ 2 for any changes. Speaking of Zoom, there are still some poets out there, after a year & a half, who just don’t seem to get it, supposedly smart people otherwise, but clueless & annoying when they sit in front of their computer screen. But let's face it, we will always, like God or our Guardian Angel, have Zoom with us now.