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 & 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.