October 2, 2022

Spoken Word out of Bennington, September 13

It was good to be “back in Bennington again” — even though this is on Zoom, it still feels like a “place,” not just my house. Still, I got there late while Sheryll was reading, & caught only a snippet of what sounded like a fascinating poem.

Charlie Rossiter, the host of this monthly event, read an “Homage to the Capri Motel,” a place he has stayed in Canada. 

I read 2 Haiku I have collectively titled “Cape Ann Haiku,” one for Rockport, MA, the other for Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester.

Charlie liked to do a 2nd round of one poem each, which is good because I got to hear Jim Madigan (from Oak Park Illinois), whom I missed in the 1st round before I got “there/here”; he read part of longer poem, started with a girl in a tee shirt with a picture of Geronimo, that moved on to a VN vet/Black Panther taking that name.

Tom Nicotera, read about a trip to Roswell, NM 2 short descriptive Haiku-like poems.

Charlie talked about tweaking his old poems & read one for his old buddy, Craig, “In The Days of Old.” 

& I got to go again, this time with another Cape Ann-based poem, this inspired by a painting in the Cape Ann Museum, “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes.”

It’s always a friendly, poetic group each 2nd Wednesday on Zoom, from Bennington, VT. If you are not already on Charlie’s list you can join us by sending him an email at charliemrossiter@gmail.com & ask him for the link.

Third Thursday Poetry Night, September 15

This was another night of wonderfully varied open mic poets & a fabulous featured poet, Sally Rhoades. As always, I invoked the Muse, a gone poet whom we miss, tonight the local writer Sharon Stenson, who left us in December, 2021; I read her poem “High-Heeled Blue Shoes.”

It was great to see Alan Catlin back here again, he always has new work to read, tonight a political piece “Yucatan Medusa,” the title poem of a forthcoming collection of poems. Tom Bonville read about an old character drawing trees in the forest who, perhaps becomes one. 

Sara Wiest was not scared away by last month’s crowd here & returned to read a sonnet, of which she has been writing many lately, “Tedi Makes Paper Shoes.” The next poet was certainly the youngest in the room, Joshua the Poet, to read a poem for all the poets, like the rest of us, on the power of poems. Tom Corrado read from his ongoing poetic series, “Screen Dumps,” this one #647(!), channeling John Ashbery. 

Sally Rhoades has been involved in the poetry scene here since its early days at the open mics at the QE2 rock club, just down the street from the Social Justice Center. She is also a dancer, performance artist & playwright. Her chapbook, Greeted by Wildflowers (A.P.D., 2022), was published in conjunction with her reading this past April at the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. 

She started at her beginning with a note dated 9/2/77 from the 1st of her many journals, then talked about being inspired by Mark Nepo when he taught at the University at Albany, & by the poet Stanley Kunitz to whom she wrote a tribute titled “Non-Pareil;” other tributes she read were the praise poem “My Mother’s Daughter,” then “My Mother Was a Waitress” which was published in conjunction with the Woody Guthrie festival in Okemah, Oklahoma at which she read the poem, then a poem for her father, “My Father’s Slippers.” Her autobiographical poem “Letting Go a Little bit of My Youth” is in Greeted by Wildflowers, & “Riding Shotgun” is familiar to many of us who have heard it & others about Sally’s nonagenarian Aunt Polly. The next poem was about being molested as a youth & was written responding to the prompt “That is the End of my Happiness.”  “Death Hangs on our House Tonight” was for a relative in Cyprus who had died, & she ended on a triumphal note with “Don’t Put Plastic Flowers on my Grave.”

Back to the open mic I read a poem from my stack of “poem cards,” “A Prayer for Superheroes.” Joe Krausman was last month’s featured poet & tonight read the title poem from his next book “My Heart is an Onion.” Joan Goodman read the latest revision of a poem she started in April 2021 titled “Easy to Say No.”

Then the battery in my little recorder ran out & I did’t notice until I got home so I didn’t take any notes about the poems read by the rest of the poets. I apologize for this lacuna to the remaining 4 readers, & to the historian/Grad student of the future reviewing the archives.

For the record, those readers were Catherine Dickert, Sylvia Barnard, Valerie Temple (here for the first time), & Desmond Gonzalez who played his electric guitar 

We continue to be here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month, starting at 7:30PM with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us — your $5.00 donation supports poetry events in the area, & the work of the Social Justice Center. Join us & bring a poem to read.

September 25, 2022

Poetic License - Albany Reading, September 14

Rebecca Schoonmaker
This was the first of 2 readings by poets included in the exhibit Poetic License - Albany which pairs poems & the visual artwork inspired by the poems. The reading was held in the Art Associates Gallery in Albany where the poems & art work are on display. The event included an open mic.

Laura Whalen’s poem, “The Ode to the Blue Milky,” inspired a painting by Deborah Adams, & Laura began her reading with that poem. Then on to other poems, “The Universal Ball” (which she said was “for every dog you’ve ever loved”); “Elegy for E.” (based on Emily Dickinson’s poem #1395) a poem included in an earlier Poetic License at the Poetry Barn; “Marriage” with the image of a roller coaster; & her translation of fragment #2 by Pablo Neruda from a posthumous book of his unpublished fragments.

Brian Liston began with his cinquain, “Rounds,” which inspired Natasha Pernicka to paint. He also read “Synergy,” another cinquain; “The Role We Play,” written on a playing card; “Autistic SuperKid” the title poem of his book; “The Poets’ Ball;” “A New Beginning” for students graduating; a 9/11 poem “Cities Still Standing; “Deal;” “Rebirth”  another cinquain; & “Penny.”

Randall Sutter was the last of the poets included in the exhibit to read & he began with the poem, “Please Wait,” that inspired Rebecca Schoonmaker’s painting; Rebecca is the president of Upstate Artists Guild who had organized the visual art part of the project, including mounting the exhibit at the gallery. His other poems were “Good Medicine;” “Fixed Object;” a couple poems that can be found on the Hudson Valley Writers Guild website, “Eden’s Gardener” & “On Being Remembered;” & a song lyric, “Green Leaves,” for which John Irizarry wrote the music.

Then on to an open mic, & I was up first with 2 poems written about paintings at the former UAG Gallery on Lark St., “The Clever Cleaver” (responding to a painting by Tommy Watkins), & “My Matisse” (responding to a painting by Thomasa Nielsen).

John Irizarry, mentioned above, had driven up with Randall Sutter, he’s a musician, but tonight recited the lyrics to a song he wrote about the murder of students at Sandy Hook Elementary “Who Decides Our Destiny?”

Mary Panza is one of the local poets & artists who worked to make this exhibit happen & has been active in the local poetry scene since she as, well, much younger; her first piece titled “Micro-dosing” was about an encounter with another mother at her daughter’s school; the second piece was untitled, but it began “Water doesn’t judge…” a rant about a reading Mary described as "the bro sausage rant.”

Thom Francis was also instrumental to making this event happen, creating the website, among other things; his first poem was a love poem sharing the joy of gardening, then one that is one my favorites of his “Radio Man” a 9/11 poem.

You can find out more about the Poetic License - Albany exhibit at the website https://www.poeticlicensealbany.com. The event is co-sponsored by the Upstate Artists Guild & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.


September 18, 2022

2nd Sunday @ 2PM: Poetry + Prose, September 11

It seemed like I just doing this & indeed, close enough, I was yesterday only a few blocks from Collar City Mushrooms poets from this very open mic series read at an event called “River Poems” in a benefit for the Lansingburgh Historical Society at the Herman Melville House. Three of the poets reading in the open mic here today also read at River Poems yesterday. 

I headed off the sign-up sheet with a 9/11 poem, “Another Tuesday,” about the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 & about the US-supported coup of the Chilean government in 1973.

A new poetic voice in town was Anthony, recently arrived from Spokane, WA & read a moving, descriptive piece titled “Char Fishing in America” about a fish he caught & killed & his reaction to having done that.

Bob Sharkey read 2 poems connected thematically, “Altar Boy Stories,” about the things he saw, experience as a young altar boy, then “3 Years Later” during the war in Viet Nam.

Laura Ellzey read from a long memoir written by her father, Will, titled “The Ellzey’s of Sand Hill.”

Desmond Gonzalez brought his guitar & performed 2 songs, the first titled “Archie Marry Me,” on similar themes with the same chord changes that ran seamlessly together.

The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, Avery Stempel, arrived back from an event where he had been peddling his wares just in time to be the last reader, & read a poem he had just finished “Puttering Down the Mountain.”

Another 2nd Sunday @ 2PM Open Mic, you might say 2 in a row, except that yesterday was not a Sunday. But we are here each month on — you must have this by now — on the 2nd Sunday @ 2PM, Collar City Mushrooms, 333 Second Ave., Troy, NY, bring a poem to read, & you can buy a variety of mushrooms to bring home.

September 17, 2022

River Poems: a Reading by Poets from the 2nd Sunday @ 2 Open Mic & Special Guests, September 10

This gathering of poets & attentive audience was held on the lawn of the historic Herman Melville house as a benefit for the Lansingburgh Historical Society, & it was fine day for it. The readers were primarily writers who had read previously at 2nd Sunday @2: Open Mic for Poetry + Prose, originally held each month at the Arts Center of the Capital Region & now at Collar City Mushrooms. Nancy Klepsch & I served as tag-team hosts of this event, just as we do each month at the 2nd Sunday @ 2.

Joel Best introduced his poems with a brief description of his writing process; the poems he read included a love poem & a sci-fi narrative, among others.

Carrie introduced a touch of formalism with a Cento composed of lines from the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, then a villanelle.

Bridget Elder, who came over to Troy from Bennington, VT read untitled poems inspired by the natural beauty of her surroundings, including some by the beauty of Costa Rica.

Karen Fabiane read poems on water themes from her chapbook Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011).

Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a variety of pieces, about her “cool” mother, about the River, on teaching, including the chilling “Targets” playing on the word in the context of teaching.

Julie Lomoe read a single poem about the River & it’s place in her life at various times.

Cheryl Rice read her poem that was selected for the Poetic License - Albany exhibit currently up at Art Associates Gallery, 21 Railroad Ave., Albany, NY & which inspired artist Tina Johnston to create a painting in response to the poem.

Rhonda Rosenheck performed one piece, with a hand-out for the audience to join in, “Sin No More! A Biblical Sea Shanty.”

Rebecca Schumejda read poems about the coast, Long Island (“Lobster”), Boston (“Whale Watching”), & Coney Island memories.

Bob Sharkey read one piece, a sequence poem titled “Trains to the Coast.”

Laura Ellzey, another Vermonter, read a piece about exploring & naming the rocks & trees along a river with a young companion.

I read a new poem, then a couple of Haiku written on Cape Ann, & ended with an old, cynical piece about the River titled “Troy.”

The Herman Melville House is the home of the Lansingburgh Historical Society & is located at 2 114th Street, Troy, NY. You can find out more at https://www.lansingburghhistoricalsociety.org

September 7, 2022

Ann Charters at Gloucester Writers Center, August 25

Many of my readers know how much I like Cape Ann, & that I go there throughout the year. I haven’t been there, except for an overnight in April. I was able to book 2 nights at the Good Harbor Beach Inn, then found out that Ann Charters, the 1st biographer of Jack Kerouac, would be giving a lecture for the Gloucester Writers Center on my 2nd night of my stay. The talk was held at the North Shore Arts Association just down the road from the renovated GWC, where Charters was staying as writer-in-residence. 

I was an avid reader & collector of the works of Jack Kerouac from the time I read about him & other writers, such as Allen Ginsberg, in a Look magazine article about 1960, & found a copy of On the Road in the Delmar (NY) Public Library. I remember where I was (in my girlfriend’s dorm) when I heard he had died in 1969. So when Kerouac: A Biography by Ann Charters was published in 1973 I immediately bought a copy, $7.95, hardbound, could not wait for the paperback. I brought my copy with me this night to have it signed by Ann Charters.

Henry Ferrini, Executive Director of the GWC set the stage by reading Allen Ginsberg’s early description of Kerouac’s work, then a passage from Charles Boer’s memoir of the last months of poet Charles Olson, & Olson’s own poem from Maximus III, “I live underneath the light of day…”

Charters said she was testing out a paper she was about to present at an academic conference, the paper titled “Kerouac’s Concept of the Duluoz Legend” & read excerpts. She included a handout which arranges Kerouac’s books by the Duluoz legend (see attached illustration). This is similar to my shelf's chronological arrangement (following Kerouac’s biography) of his books, not by publication date, but where they fit in his life events, i.e., “the Duluoz Legend.” He had hoped to publish his books with the real names of his friends & players & characters in “one long novel.”

This raises a question I have always wondered about, that if Kerouac was writing his books today, with the market being flooded with Memoir, would they be marketed as Memoir, rather than Novels as they were when first published?

Once again I am grateful to the Gloucester Writers Center for having this event, for the lively discussion it opened up, & for the opportunity to meet Ann Charters.

September 6, 2022

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 18

The weekend before our scheduled open mic at the Social Justice Center, the writer Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked on stage at a reading in Chautauqua Institution in Western New York State. On the following Monday, Paul Grondahl, Director of the NYS Writers Institute called me. Paul had interviewed Rushdie back in December, 2019 at a W.I. event that I had attended. You can read about the history of the W.I. with Rushdie in Paul’s article in the Albany Times Union dated August 17, 2022.

Salman Rushdie (left), Paul Grondahl, December 2019
Paul called to say that they wanted to do something as a tribute to Rushdie who was recuperating in the hospital, he said that the only day that would fit the W.I. schedule was Thursday, August 18. They were aware that that was the night of the Third Thursday Poetry Night, moreover at which Joe Krausman would be the featured reader, & they didn’t want to conflict with us, particularly with Joe as the featured reader. He asked if we could combine the events & have the tribute to Salman Rushdie as part of the open mic on the Third Thursday. I enthusiastically embraced the idea, touched by the consideration of the W.I. for our community reading & open mic.

So with only a few days to put out the word, the W.I., with the support of Casey Seiler, Editor & Vice-President of the Times Union, including the aforementioned article by Paul, as well as my own network of email lists & social media, we put out the word that in addition to open mic at the SJC the night would include a tribute to Salman Rushdie. I anticipated a huge crowd & put out every chair available (I usually put out 15 - 20 chairs, which is enough). We had Standing Room Only, & my sign-up sheet had 20 names on it, while it is usually half that number.

It was fitting that the first few readers were folks who were familiar faces/voices to this open mic. Readers could either read their own work or something from Rushdie’s great body of writing. A.C. Everson led off with her characteristically enthusiastic rhymes done from memory. Sylvia Barnard rarely misses a third Thursday here, began by expressing her horror at the attack on Rushdie, & drawing a comparison to the decimation of the Classics Department at SUNY back in 2011 to a form of “cultural book-burning,” then read her poem “Pont du Gard” about seeing recently the old Roman ruins in the South of France. 

Julie Lomoe paraphrased a piece she had left at home & read/sang/rambled “I can hear clearly now…” about getting hearing aids, instigated by wanting to go to a women writers conference. Marylou Streznewski spelled out her name phonetically on the signup sheet, talked about Rushdie’s book for his sons Haroun & the Sea of Stories, read her own poem “Saving Strawberries.” Z. Johnson was a new name to me, was here for the 1st time, talked about Love then read from an anthology of inspirational verse. Kathy O’Brien read a poem about aging & the joy of awakening to the sounds of the morning.

William Kennedy, whose gift many years ago created the NYS Writers Institute, talked about meeting Salman Rushdie in 1988 in London, & invited him to come to Albany. But that visit was delayed by the fatwa, & it wasn't until years later that he was able to make it to Albany. Kennedy quoted Rushdie about story telling, then read the opening chapter from Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children (Random House, 2006). 

Joe Krausman on Bill Kennedy's Cellphone
Tonight’s featured reader, Joe Krausman, has no trouble following an esteemed author, Joe has his own special appeal. He began with a poem for Salman Rushdie, “The Medicine of Words,” then on to an reading based on the theme of “shall I rhyme or shall I not rhyme,” with many of his popular pieces, such a “Houdini on the Death of his Mother,” the related “Deceptions,” the award-winning “The Passionate Accountant to His Love,” & a tale about a man who marries a woman with 2 heads. 

But I like how Casey Seiler captured Joe’s reading in one paragraph in a piece published in the Albany Times Union Sunday, August 21, 2022:

“If Rusdie symbolizes the modern global writer, the 86-year-old Krausman is as New York as the Bowery Boys. A former legislative staffer, he reads a clutch of his wry, frequently laugh-out-loud poems (“I dreamed I had the popcorn concession at Houdini’s grave” was an opening line that made me bark). I would say Krausman’s verbal footnotes to his work were priceless, except that he seemed to have a photographic memory for how much he had been paid for every piece that found a home. He was like a flinty elf.”  

To which I will only add that at the end of his reading when Joe mentioned he had left out a poem that he had intended to read the audience asked him, like a rock-star being called back for an encore (think Leonard Cohen), to read it (titled “Shipwreck”), which this “flinty elf” indeed did.

After a brief break during which I passed “the hat,” generously filled by the lively audience, we returned to the open mic. I invoked the droit de seigneur to read next, or rather recite, my old poem from 1991, “Joe Krausman,” the first of 2 with that title that I have written. Next up was a once-&-future feature here at the SJC, Jan Tramontano who read a brief section from Haroun & the Sea of Stories

Casey Seiler referenced a documentary about Bill Kennedy that he had worked on & Kennedy’s concept of “writers in communion” such as here tonight, then read from the Prologue to Salman Rushdie’s non-fiction Joseph Anton: A Memoir (Random House, 2013), about the immediate days after the fatwa was declared. Paul Grondahl acknowledged the “defenders of free speech & expression” in the audience, described Rushdie as “a gentle, wonderful person,” & read from Quichotte: A Novel (Random House, 2019), a funny take on Don Quixote woven with Rushdie's autobiographical details. Josh the Poet has been coming regularly to open mics of late, read a new, short poem titled “Sinful.” Anthony Bernini goes back to the earliest days of Albany’s poetry scene, tonight joined us to read his poem “The Birds of America, John James Audubon, 1937,” of “the skill of knowing with no need to kill.”

Joan Goodman was back here again, read her poem “Alive,” hearing a bird song as she awakens, the sounds of birds worked into her poem, & “stay alive” their message. Frank Robinson is out & about in Albany's lit scene, read “Sardine” written after seeing a nature documentary on PBS, birds again, this time eating sardines, only part of the “meat chain.” Alexandra Peraza was here for the 1st time, saw the notice about the event on the Writers Institute website, read a recent, moving poem “The Letter I Never Sent to My Mom.” 

While not usually as crowded here as it was this night, we gather each Third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany at 7:30 PM for a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us — your donation supports poetry events & the work of the Social Justice Center, as it did so generously tonight. Join us & help make it more crowded here & share your words.

September 1, 2022

Invocation of the Muse, August 1

This open mic series run by Albany poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt seems to have settled in at Lark Hall, in spite of the rather uncomfortable seating, the limited selections at the bar, & problems with the lights & sounds — but the poetry remains varied & interesting. Tonight there were 2 features, which is not usual here.

Engelhardt started us off with a piece that went on & on with the running refrain “I ascend, I ascend…” (not sure where to?). Then on to the open mic list. When I had arrived there were a lot of poets signed up, but still the #1 slot was open, so that was where I ended up; I read a couple of urban/bus poems, “The Meadow” (what was once there where the Lark St. bus stop is now), & a transcription of the rants on the bus of “The Window Washer.” Pat Williams was surprisingly formal with 2 villanelle, “A Long Weekend” (based around “what a fucking day”) & one titled “Have You Seen Dahlia?” Amanda Alden read about an experience we’ve all had, “I Woke Up Like This.”

Alan Catlin, who was the night's first featured reader, & who has a lot of books out there, read mostly from 5 — count ‘em, 5!new books, with a few other stray poems, including the title poem from the 2021 Sunshine Superman (Cyberwit). Satan’s Kiss (Gutter Snob Books, 2022) follows his 1997 Killer Cocktails as bar stories based on the names of drinks (or the other way around), then a selection from Dead Men Reading Postcards (Replika Press, 2022); a poem about Stephen Crane’s wife, “Cora Crane” from Shadow Play of Life (Iniquity Press, 2022); & 3 from Exterminating Angels (Kelsay Books, 2022), the last in his series of books on film noir titles (not all are real titles). He ended with a poem not in a book titled “Wasted” about a character on Jury Duty.

In contrast, Josh the Poet is a young poet who has recently found his way to some of the area open mics; he recites his poems from memory, tonight pieces titled “My Love,” “Playing Games,” & “Poetic Justice.” Harvey Havel frequents open mics & other literary events, he is primarily a novelist & doesn’t often read but tonight read a gruesome tale titled “Obese” from a collection of short fiction, The Odd & the Strange. Gordon Kindlon read a string of hippy, stoner, preachy advice titled “Poetry Comes to the Rescue.” Austin Houston has been featured in area readings, tonight had 2 pieces “Stallions” neatly combining images of a junked car & horses in a field, then a piece from his experience working in the ER, about the death of a patient “12:04.”

Back when The Low Beat still existed on Central Ave. & was home to the Nitty Gritty Slam & the open mic Getting Down to Brass Tacks, Alyssa Michelle would show up quite frequently to read her poems about relationships. Tonight she was the other featured reader & shared many of those same pieces, some of which seemed to have been gathered in chapbooks. Some of her pieces sounded more like prose, & tended to be preachy, such as “Introvert,” “Solitude Thoughts,” & “Don’t Give Up on Love.” But others effectively used images & language to true poetic effect, such as “Little Mother,” & “Tomorrow” (about death & her youngest daughter), “Sweet Dreams,” & the stunning performance piece “My Melanin.” I had wanted to ask her about her chapbooks & hopefully get a copy, but she slipped out before I had a chance.

Our host, R.M. Engelhardt read a couple poems from his 2019 collection Darklands (Whiskey City Press), “Born Witness” & a piece on civilization & history “Repetition.” Joan Geitz enjoys being in walking distance of open mic venues, she read a poem originally in Spanish “Madre” from 3 years ago, then a piece on freedom from religion. Shannon Grant described what she read as “untitled, unedited bullshit” — I’ll take her at her word. Sam Maurice read pieces from his recent reading at The Fuze Box on Central Ave., short, descriptive urban notes like automatic writing.

Bevan was new here & read her notebook jottings that sound like responses to another, perhaps relationship poems. Juliane also read notebook jottings on her emotions, & an angst-filled “Truth in My Life.” Alex Stokes did a bit of white-boy hipster hip hop rhyming about love, but a better performance than a poem. Amelia McNeil read (a bit too fast) her notebook ramblings from her phone, about getting up in the morning, & a titled piece “Daddy Issues.” Samantha Perry finished off the night with a piece titled “Inadequate” about body issues.

Invocation of the Muse is an open mic for writers with occasional featured poets each 1st Monday of the month at 8:00PM, at Lark Hall, on the corner of Lark St. & Hudson Ave., enter on Hudson Ave. — $5.00. 

August 31, 2022

Poets in the Park, 2022

We had good luck with weather this year, all 3 events were held as planned, although we did have the Social Justice Center as a rain site, which we didn’t have the pleasure of last year when, of course, we were rained out for one of the two events.

July 9

I had invited this year’s 3 winners of the Tom Nattell Peace Poetry Prize to read but none showed up, as has happened in past years as well. For the record, the Albany High Student poets were Aliyah Rivera, Jena Maria Rubi, and Josephine Pobee-Mensah, & I read a poem from each so that they had a presence here.

Naomi Bindman was the other reader, who indeed was there. I’ve become a fan of Naomi’s work over a number of years at both in-person open mics at such venues as the Arts Center of the Capital Region & Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, as well at various Zoom open mics. This night she read a grand variety from her work, of memory, death, nature, relationships, grief & finding her way “back to life” (as she put it) by performing her daughter’s music at Caffè Lena

Her reading included excerpts from her memoir mss. “You’re the Words I Sing: A Memoir of Song, Sorrow, and Solace,” & also more recent poems, such as the defiant “Rebuttal” to a poet with an attitude of using women, & quieter pieces, such as “Earth Rhythms” on foraging ramps, & the “dark nature poem” titled “Invasive Species.” I was particularly pleased to hear again poems she has read in recent months at open mics, “Senescence,” “Imaginal Beings,” & “No Small Thing” about a gift of tulips. "No small thing," indeed, would be a good way to describe Naomi Bindman's reading here at the Robert Burns statue.

July 16

We did have 2 poets for this, another fine night, in Washington Park.

Katrinka Moore read first, she has a new book out, Diminuendo (Pelekinesis, 2022), that she wants folks to know about, & from which she read a substantial selection. She also had a handout containing a couple poems & some quotes in praise, the poems the 1st (“Upon Waking”) & the last (“Meantime”) from the book, both about uncertainty.

She previewed her reading as being “about seeking quietness, responding to the discord & discontent,” with much of that quietness found in theoretical physics, quoting the scientist Carlo Rovelli in a couple poems (“Adagio” & “Upon Waking”), stars, planets (“Tale”, “Late”), & the comet NEOWISE (“Sojourner”). But also in the songs of birds (“Song,” “Why is there so much beauty?”, Diminuendo”), & trees (“Late”). But let’s not forget the witches & wise woman (“Wayward” & “Sensei”). It was a quiet, meditative reading. Her printed texts look like scores with the silences as caesuras & spaces in the midst of the lines to guide her reading, & suggest how we might read her poems.

Jason O’Toole
was born in St. Peter’s Hospital, is a product of Albany, mainly of the music scene as a lyricist & singer with the hard-core punk band Life’s Blood. But my connection precedes that, even his birth — I was as high-school classmate of his mother. I ran into him this Spring at the Rockport (Massachusetts) Poetry Festival, where he gave me copies of his books, Spear of Stars (The Red Salon, 2018) & Poison Moonlight (Blood Pudding Press, 2021); he also has work in a recent anthology from Finishing Line Press, Poets with Masks On: a Pandemic Anthology, edited by Melanie Simms, & includes artwork by Jason’s mother, Christine O’Connor.

Most of his poems were short since, as he said, he was child of punk rock & the Ramones with their short & fast songs, without much talking in between. He has had a lot of his poems published in online zines & has lost count of how many, where, but he was able to give us a generous selection of pieces like descriptive notations from his notebooks, including some from Spear of Stars & from Poison Moonlight. He included some Albany poems, “Summer League,” published in the Boog Lit Baseball online issue, about his little league team with mis-spelled team shirts, “Clearwater” about being on Pete Seeger sloop, & a tender tribute to his grandfather on his mother’s side, “Valor Concealed,“ about finding a picture of him from World War II, & equally the tender pieces about his late son, & a tribute to his step-father. 

July 30

I take pride in finding interesting combination of poet for the annual Poets in the Park series that Tom Nattell gifted to me to continue after his death, such the time I scheduled 2 women poets who were both living on Willett St. at the time, Sylvia Barnard & Carolee Bennett, & the combination of mid-Hudson poet Donald Lev with Albany poet Don Levy. This night it was my first father-daughter team, Lance LeGrys & Alex LeGrys. Both have read in the open mic at the Third Thursday Poetry Night here in Albany, as well as at the Caffè Lena poetry open mic in Saratoga Springs. Whom should I feature here in the Park? Why not both?

Lance LeGrys, who read first, is the author of the poetry collection Views from an Outbuilding (Clare Songbirds Publishing, 2019), from which he read a substantial chunk. I’ve heard Lance read a number of times &, like a concert by the Rolling Stones, I heard once again many pieces I have enjoyed in the past. He began with a couple of short pieces, including one I like about squirrels in a park in Warsaw, Poland. The big, middle chunk of his reading was from the title cycle of his book, he read 13 of the 40 sections, about the why, the wherefore, the who, the what of his writing retreat, drinking beer, talking to the devil. Then on to other poems not in this book, including poems considering what is perception, how we experience it, including one based on a community of deaf/blind folks communicating by touch. He ended with a humorous, satirical social commentary, “Living Among Cannibals” that gets better every time I hear it.

Alex LeGrys attends Bard College, & said she is only here her because of nepotism, “I just knew the right people.”  Then she proceeded to demonstrate that she was here reading at Poets in the Park because she is a poet, which, of course is why I invited her to read in the first place. 

Her reading was all her own, mostly portraits, mostly of women, nearly all drinkers, lots of smoking, grim tales strung together. Her titles were like labels, “The Isolationist,” “The Ethnographer,” “The Hippocampus,” “Co-existence.” Then she brought us to “Plastic Flamingos on a Smoke Break,” “Strumming Through Suburbia” (i.e., Clifton Park), “Mountain of Masks” (not a pandemic poem but about the clash of classes in Dover, VT), & an imagined visit to a dive bar in the Adirondacks “Fake Cowboys” — poetic mini sociological essays as if she were the ethnographer. 

Both poets a fitting finale to this year’s Poets in the Park — thank you to all the community folks who showed up to sit, applaud, & even throw a few bucks in Tom Nattell’s neon hat. See you next July.

August 15, 2022

Spoken Word Night, July 22

This was the first night of a 2-night/2-city poetry extravaganza involving visiting poets associated with Trailer Park Review & Hobo Camp Review, organized by the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. The first event was held at Elixer 16, 45 2nd Street, Troy, & was hosted by James Duncan, editor of Hobo Camp Review.

Local poetry impresario R.M. Engelhardt had a short-lived series here at back in the pre-pandemic days. It’s a long climb from the beer bar to the “performance space” on the 3rd floor, but high enough to get breezes through the big windows on a hot night in July.

First up was Cord Moreski, "a poet from the Jersey shore," who delivered working class narratives, with pop references (e.g., a bar poem with Big Bird) in loud, pressured speech, mostly short stuff. 

J. Lester Allen said he had read in Troy in years past, currently lives in the Finger Lakes Region. He also had some narrative pieces, never sure without seeing the line breaks if it’s “poetry” or “prose,” but then does it matter? One poem about Socrates & Paul Newman meeting in a bar at a horse race sounded like a poem by a local poet who often writes about God hanging out at a bar.

Editor & host James Duncan read a more upbeat poem than what we’ve heard so far, & read for a poet (whose name I missed) who could not be here.

The lone female poet on the night’s bill was Paula Bomer,  with a splash of color, & without the "uniform" who interestingly enough, read mostly from male poets, including the gay narratives of Dennis Cooper, from John Berryman, & then some of the re-writes of the sonnets of Ted Berrigan by Andrea Kneeland The Translations (Sentenia Books, 2015). Paula is the publisher of Sententia Books.

I had seen Dan Provost read some years ago at the Connecticut Poetry Festival where he was part of an informal group that dubbed itself “Da Beards!” awash in testosterone. He included in his reading tonight pieces from Foundations of Cheap Penance released in November 2021 by the local Dead Man’s Press, which mostly publishes the work of the afore mentioned R.M. Engelhardt.

Jason Baldinger, from Pittsburgh, was another unrelenting loud declaimer, which seemed to be common trait among the readers, his poems while declarative & assertively profound, were a bit more descriptive than what we’d heard up to this point.

Victor Clevenger, read pretty much the same, short, angry-man poems, some he called “Haiku” but sounded just like incomplete notebook jottings, also beard, ink, hat uniform.

John Dorsey, co-editor of River Dog Press with Victor Clevenger, former ring-leader of “Da Beards!” at the Connecticut Poetry Festival still has the beard, was still yet tonight another shouter, every piece read in the same style, a loud voice falling in poetry style at the end of the line, short poems more like notes, emotions towards a poem not quite finished.

It was a tedious night with little variety, as can be expected I suppose with folks published by 2 presses that generally take similar material. I have been published by both presses myself, & of course had sent them poems that were on similar themes & styles like those I had read on their Blogs. But to have all of these guys — only 1 woman poet in the locker room room tonight — with their beards, their caps, their ink, & their shouts — all together for 2 hours was a bit overwhelming, & culturally anachronistic. Indeed it seemed that Da Beards! had risen from the swamp tonight, now also Da Hats!, Da Ink! & invaded Troy (if you don’t have the uniform you don’t read).

There was a similar event, including many of the same readers, at The Linda in Albany on the following night, which I missed. This time the single female reader was Albany poet & former Vice-President of Mary Panza. I’m sure she did just fine, for, as some poet once wrote about a different venue down the blocks from The Linda, “When Mary Panza’s curses made cocks fall like dried leaves all along Central Ave…” 


July 31, 2022

Third Thursday Poetry Night, July 21

It wasn’t only the weather that was HOT! so were the Poets! Sadly, we recently lost a poet in the community that often graced us with her work, particularly pantoums, at many of the open mics in the area, Carol H. Jewell (1959 - 2022). So tonight I invoked her presence as our Muse & read “The Embrace” from her collection Hits and Missives (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2017). Our featured reader was Jeffrey Stubits, but first we heard from the open mic poets.

First on the list was Aron, making a rare appearance, reading about his weird dreams lately, being haunted by the various versions of himself. Joe Krausman (responding to my poems titled “Joe Krausman”) read his poem titled “Dan Wilcox” in which we meet in Heaven but return to Earth where the action is.

A new name tonight Alyssa Talanker said she was just back from a 2-week trip to Alaska, talked about the effects of climate change there, read about the native hunters on thin ice, “One Seal Down.” Josh-the-Poet has made himself a regular here & tonight performed from memory "Voice to the World," thinking about his writing & the souls he touches with it.

Joan Goodman slipped in after we started to read her poem set wandering in an Israeli village thinking of her father, of ancestors, & of love. I brought the open mic to a close with a poem about the heat, “At Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago,” for my friend Charlie Rossiter & his son Jack. 

Jeffrey Stubits, tonight’s featured reader, has read at many of the open mic venues in the area & I’ve always enjoyed his performances, a word carefully chosen, as would be expected about someone who is an actor. The poems he read were also evidence that he is also a humorist. While his style is to read fast — eliciting one audience member to ask him to slow down — his diction is crystal clear making the poems easy to follow. He read exclusively (almost) from his self-published collection Lilies for Olivia by Jimmy Wonka; in fact the closest his name appears in the book is for the cover design & book design by a “Jeffrey S. Tubits.” He read the poems in order, there are 71 in all in the book, some like notes to his reactions to the world around him, others imaginative fables, sometimes tiny, sometimes extended jokes playing with tongue-in-cheek metaphors, sometimes effusive, always entertaining. He surprised me by expressing his admiration for the work of the poet Langston Hughes, but it’s there. The last poem he read was “Free to Be Me,” by a friend Travis Regan. After his reading he sold or traded or simply gave away copies of his book, as well as DVDs of some of his monologues, & crystals his gathered in his travels -- a night of goodies.

You never know what kind of ride it will be here at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, with a featured reader from the great pool of local (or regional) poets, & the faithful, & new, poets who show up for the open mic — 7:30 PM, $5.00 donation helps pay the feature, supports poetry events & the work of the Social Justice Center. Join us.

July 27, 2022

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, July 10

We had recently lost another poet to that great Open Mic in the sky (or wherever it is), Carol H. Jewell, who was a frequent reader here, as she was in other venues in the area. A Celebration of her life had been held just yesterday in Albany. My co-host, Nancy Klepsch read Carol’s poem “Nancy Wants Me to Go Deeper,” a pantoum from her 2017 book Hits and Missives (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), sure who the "Nancy" of the title was, but it fit.

First poet on the signup sheet was up & through her dark notebook jottings so quick that I never got my camera up until realized she was done — I hope Amber Lockhart comes back & spends a little more time. Me, I read my poem “Kerouac” which as been accepted for a centenary memorial anthology of poems about that great American poet & novels, then read one of my poem cards “In My Neighborhood.”

Joel Best has been showing up at the 2nd Sunday open mic since we were at the Arts Center down on River St., the poems he read today were titled “As Part of the Equation,” & “On the Porch” which he describe as “a leftover” from a story he was writing. The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, Avery, performed a piece about picking strawberries & eating them in the field.

Bob Sharkey read his Cento composed of lines from the poems that were finalists in this year’s Stephen A. Dibiase Poetry Contest the poem titled “Love Was the Vessel," then a pieces inspired by his re-reading of the 2014 novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, wandering through his home town, the names of streets & places, & the current mass shooting. Kate Crofton read a moving poem in 2 parts, the first about a birth, the 2nd the killing of George Floyd.

Julie Lomoe read a connected series of Haiku titled “Gaia Cries Out for Help” published in the 2022 anthology of Haiku from Moonstone Press of Philadelphia, then “a dead cat poem” titled “Quartet of Elders:” herself, her husband, the dog & the cat. Laura Ellzey read a couple of autobiographical poems, “Parabola” about growing up, singing, traveling, & “The First Move” a sonnet about her first kiss. 

Sally Rhoades read 2 poems about flying, the first about the 1st time we flew to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Oklahoma, the 2nd about coming home, anxious to be with her grandson Cole “I Want to Make Time Go Faster.” Co-host Nancy Klepsch read a political piece with grim images of the Trump era “Attack,” then one titled “Before You Know Gratitude” for Naomi Bindman (who is frequently here).

& there you are, & there we were, as we are each 2nd Sunday @ 2PM with an open mic for poetry + prose, at Collar City Mushrooms 333 Second Ave., Troy — no featured reader, just an open mic — & it’s Free! Join us, even if you haven’t done anything like this before.