May 30, 2022

Next Year’s Words: a New Paltz Readers Forum, May 18

Another night of stellar featured readers & the always eclectic, sometimes provocative, open mic poets. Host Susan Chute introduces each of the featured poets with her effusive commentary salted with quotes from the poets. There were about 16 folks in attendance on Zoom.

Melanie Klein, who said her reading would be “a trifle Gothic…” got us off to a good start with poems about cows (“The Dream I can’t Remember”), poems about The Big Tomato” diner in Poughkeepsie, one about fishing, a motel, conversations with artists, poems inspired by her students, things she has found “Looking at the Ground,” movies, & more. This was the first time I’ve heard her work & it makes me want to hear/read more.

The open mic poets here are interspersed with the features, so the first open mic poet was Amanda Russell with a pandemic pantoum “Things I heard from my son’s teachers & therapist…” 

Leslie Gerber is a long-time habitué of the mid-Hudson poetry scene so I’ve enjoyed his work over the years, after 1st being introduced to his voice many years ago from his show about the classical piano on pubic radio. He read a couple poems each from his 3 books, Lies of the Poets, The Edge of Sleep, & Losing Tara: An Alzheimer’s Journey, his most recent. He also read some more recent unpublished poems, including a trio of “modern psalms” 

He was followed by open mic poets Ken Chute, Susan's cousin,  with a poem titled “Fourth Mountain;” & me with a short, snarky piece, “Cambridge Bicyclists,” from an early chapbooks of poems about Ireland & England.

The final featured reader was Nirmala Nataraj who read 2 personal prose pieces, from “26 Selections on Home,” thinking of her native Indian culture, wanting to be an American, & from an unfinished piece “The First 40 Years,” moving through the years, thoughts on politics, the environmental movement, the stuff of those years.

After a short break it was back to the rest of the open mic list.

Greg Correll read a bit of surrealism, piling up images, like a narrative but not, beginning “I climb to where geometry gives up …”

Judith Kerman read a new poem “Standing Stone” found in a West Virginia river.

Timothy Brennan’s poem was on target, “Air Still Quivers Between Archer & target.”  

Our effusive host, Susan Chute, read a very recent poem titled “Eclipsed” from news about the Supreme Court leak, & other bad news.

Check out the Next Year’s Words Facebook page for information (& the link) for the next Next Year’s Words. 

May 27, 2022

Writers Mic, May 11

You can get a feel for the health of an open mic, even when it is on Zoom, not necessarily by the “regulars” but by the new voices/faces that show up, such as tonight.

I read 3 poems, “Whistler 2001” about not skiing & wearing a skiers vest; a poem, “Cambridge Bicyclists,” from my 1995 chapbook Ireland: Poems, & a recent haiku written at the ocean  “Rockport Haiku.”

Spades was the first of the brand new voices here & shared a couple of rhyming poems, “Footprints in the Snow” written as a teenager about a stranger with words of wisdom, & “Our Father” a hip hop piece.

David Graham has been here many times before, tonight reading a new poem “Fury & Surprise,” musicians on stage, & a cat with a marble; then a poem about looking at his baby pictures & thinking of other “David Grahams” titled “More & More Daves.”

Alan Catlin read from his "real stories series" about a woman taking a job at an old guys bar, then a poem about a Stewarts store “Grand Re-Opening,” & a real short one about his neighbor feeding the ducks.

Victoria Twomey was “here” for the first time, a regular at the Caffè Lena monthly poetry open mic, read about taking someone to a doctor “Still Here,” then a piece titled “Glimpse” pondering a dead animal on the side of the road.

Susan Jewell shared an image from the March Rattle magazine ekphrastic project titled “In the Waiting Room” & read her poetic response examining “War,” talking about medical examinations, her own existence, “war is a woman…” 

Naomi Bindman read 3 pieces, a philosophical piece “Imaginal Being, “No Small Thing” about a surprise gift of tulips from a friend, & one about being at peace vigil “No More War” (Amen to that!)  

Scott Morehouse had some issues with his microphone, but thankfully got it resolved & read a humorous story, “Improbable Participants,” about 2 couples wandering in their sleep & having sex at a yard sale. 

Our host, Jackie Craven, read abut a river falling for the Moon, & the changes, as it ever does, of the Moon.

This always entertaining, relaxed, open mic takes place on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7:30PM, Eastern time, & you can dial in on Zoom from anywhere, the link can be found on the Writers Mic Facebook page.  

May 19, 2022

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, May 8

The Mothers Day edition, & my co-host Nancy Klepsch was back in her usual form. 

The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms where we were, Avery Stempel, started off the open mic with a piece inspired by recent performances of Maria Diotto, right here, “The Wind’s Heart Beat,” musical, with a regular beat & a recurring “do you hear it?”

Tim Verhaegen showed up with copies of his new (& first) chapbook, Visiting the Art Gallery When You’re Seven, from Tom Corrado’s swimming in happenstance press; today he did something he doesn’t usually do at readings, he played a recording of music behind his performance which he did from memory of a piece about his mother, how hearing the sound of geese overhead reminds him of his boyhood. If you want a copy of Tim’s chapbook, ask him about it the next time you see him at a reading.

Ray Reuter was new here & read 2 personal pieces, the first a short essay about nightmares & dreams, then reflections about being in a sepia-colored world.

Nancy Klepsch built her poem “The Story of a Working Class Lesbian” around images of a heart, then a poem I enjoyed hearing again “My Mom Was Effortlessly Cool.”

It was fitting that I followed Nancy, I read an anti-war piece “Mothers Day Meditation” (Mothers Day was conceived as an observance for Peace), then a poem that was short enough to become one of my “Poem Cards” about seeing a sad person in the Park “Whose Mom is That?”

Rhonda Rosenheck read a piece titled “I will” playing on grammar & being in the Now, then talked about her crime fiction poems that are usually revenge snapshots using various forms, read one using the Fibonacci sequence for the number of syllables in the lines.

Laura Ellzey read “My Blue Heron” a rhyming sonnet about a painting, then stayed on that image with “The Herony” a description of a next of herons.

Julie Lomoe read a piece on the abortion issue, her personal experience in 1973, gets interrupted by a phone call from her daughter, the very one she was reading about — strange things happen sometimes at poetry readings, but then it was Mothers Day.

Come join us among the mushrooms in Troy at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 2nd Ave, on the 2nd Sunday of the month at 2:00PM for this open mic, poetry + prose — surely we don’t know where the line breaks are. 

May 17, 2022

Calling All Poets Series, May 6

I started this Blog back in 2007 to document the poetry readings I had been attending in the greater Albany/Capital Region area for years & had been recording in a variety of spiral notebooks & on film. The move to a digital platform also caused me to up-grade to a digital camera to be able to post photos on the Blog. The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic & the use of Zoom, or other online platforms, created more changes in how I attended & documented poetry events. The purpose of the Blogs, from the beginning, has been to establish an archive of the many literary events in this poetry/spoken word/reading rich area. Of late I have provided links in my Blogs to other sources, including YouTube channels, poets’ webpages, etc. for a broader view to what is out there.

For some events, such as the Caffe Lena Poetry Night, only the featured reader, not the open mic, is live-streamed, but the the link is available ever-after online. Some Zoom readings are recorded, but the link is not shared, & some, like CAPS, the link is available on their website &/or Facebook or other social media. 

Since the folks at CAPS have shared their link to this reading I am including the link below, & will simply summarize the event from my notes. You can see the entire reading by following the link.

The hosts were Mike Jurkovic & Greg Correll. The reading began with the 3 featured poets.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera: Poems Texas Review Press (2021) winner of the TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Prize, and the chapbook Visionware, published by Finishing Line Press as part of its New Women's Voices Series. She explained that “tortillera” means a female maker of tortillas & is Cuban slang for a Lesbian. Her poems were largely about her Cuban immigrant family.

Mary Panza was the 2nd featured poet to read & is well-know (notorious?) in the Albany poetry scene since it began in 1988. She included in her reading a COVID poem &, of course, poems about growing up in South Troy, NY.

The 3rd featured reader was William Seaton who read a variety of poems, including love poems, descriptive pieces, some translations from the ancient Chinese poets, & a sound poem playing on the music of the syllables, like something out of the Dadaists he is so fond of.

Following the featured readers there was a string of 18 open mic poets, including myself. There was an announced time-limit of 5 minutes which many of the readers took to mean a time frame to be filled, rather than a maximum time not to exceed, thus instead of reading 1 or 2 compelling poems, they filled their time with a mish-mash of whatever poems were in their reach.

You can find the link to the entire 2 hours, plus at the CAPS Facebook page. You can also find information about the variety of regular occurring readings & open mics falling under the CAPS banner at their website.

May 16, 2022

Caffè Lena Poetry Night, May 4

Always a good turnout of local poets for the open mic here, as well it should be — it’s the longest lasting poetry open mic in Saratoga County, perhaps in the entire North Country, &, correct me if I’m wrong, the only one. & our host Carol Graser always books stellar featured poets, from the local poets or poets in the Region. Tonight she started us off with a poem, “The Workshop,” by the gone poet Donald Lev (1936 - 2018), whom I first encountered in the mid-1970s in NYC in the East Village.

The pattern now at Caffè Lena is to have the featured poet perform at 7:00PM & live-stream it, then go on to the open mic. Tonight’s feature poet was James Henry Knippen who read 10 poems from his collection of poems Would We Still Be (Western Michigan University, 2021). I caught James read in the open mic here back in November 2021, & enjoyed his relaxed, nicely stacked reading tonight. You too can enjoy his entire reading here on the Caffè Lena YouTube channel. 

On to the open mic, with a local poet, a regular here, Rachel Baum the 1st up, to read “Absolute” that played on the meanings of the word, then one titled “The Gift.” Michael Carroll at some point in the night slipped me a copy of his self-published book of poems Scotch Sympathy, of which I recognized one that he read “Masquerade Mandate,” the other poem didn’t seem to be in the book & my notes say “An Advertisement for Elvis,” & on further research I realized I’d hear him read in the open mic here back in January.

Terri Lynn said it was her first time reading here, she read her own poem “Love Compost“ then a poem by her husband (don’t know if he was in the audience). Todd Fabozzi has been out of the picture for a while, said he has just produced Volume 4 of his series Poems & Anti-Poems (with a nod to Chilean poet Nicanor Parra) & read a piece from it “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Elaine Kenyon was a returning open mic reader with a poem about her wishes & regrets “A Wonder How.”

Elizabeth Threadgill was another returning reader & read a piece about “generational violence,” then one with the provocative title “The Air Between Us.” I missed the April reading here so brought a couple of Earth Day poems, the recent “2 Dreams” & the old “chestnut” from 3 Guys from Albany performances “Message from Space.” Victoria Twomey, an painter as well as a poet, & now a regular here, remembered a friend with “Flutter & Glow,” & a poet about seeing a dead animal on the side of the road “Glimpse.”

Effie Redman has been a welcome sight here for years, tonight did a piece meditating on leaves, gravity, & pain with the messaged to not look back. Nora read a short piece about Spring (finally here). Elissa read poems for the Ukraine women in the style of contemporary Afghanistan woman, a 2-line form called a “landay” (cf. I Am the Beggar of the World, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)). The final poet, Carlo read a piece titled “The Bird & the Stone.”

[Once again, I apologize to those who read if I have incorrectly reported your name; I tried to get a look at the sign-up sheet at the end of the reading to verify names but it was spirited away into the Caffe Lena backrooms; any errors about the titles/subject of the poems that were read are purely my own. You are free to send me corrections to either, which I will then edit this report, at] 

This long-going/ongoing poetry open mic at Caffè Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY takes place on the 1st Wednesday of the month, 7:00PM, sign-up at 6:30PM, $5.00, featured poet & a community open mic. 

May 15, 2022

Invocation of the Muse, May 2

This reading/open mic series started out in November at the re-opened Fuze Box on Central Ave., but it was a bumpy start. Last month it moved to this new performance venue, Lark Hall, in an historic Albany building. Long-time Albany residents remember it as the home of Maud Baum’s eba dance studio. It was built in 1916 as a meeting place for the Order of the Eastern Star, a lady’s auxiliary of sorts of the Masons. 

The host is R.M. Engelhardt, long-time impresario of poetry open mics in Albany & Troy. This space seems to be a great choice, but tonight there were issues with the lights. The stage has  apparently been set up with a lighting system for music performance & theater production (which I haven’t seen here), with moving, rotating lights, but didn’t seem to have a spot for a center stage performer (or at least the staff, a bar-tender, didn’t seem to know how to turn it on). I read early on the sign-up sheet & had to keep shifting my position to catch enough light to read from the pages I brought. This problem with the lighting was eventually settled by turning up the house lights (poetry open mics are not rock shows) & stopping the stage lights from constant movement. Thankfully, Rob has been around long enough to be able to give management a clear idea of what is needed for a smooth-running poetry open mic.

Rob invoked the Muse by reading the lyrics of (still-living) Nick Cave’s lyrics “The Moon is in the Gutter” & “Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow).” The I read, a Winter tale of skiing "Whistler 2001." I was followed by Maurice, who has been a consistent follower of Invocation of the Muse, who read pieces titled “The Weather Reports is the Same Distance from Me as the Therapies” & “A Poem Left from Last Nigh,” edgy poems perfect for this venue.

This was the first time reading for Joshua Wald (aka, Josh the Poet), with energetic hip-hop infused readings of  “Lend Me Your Soul” & “Missed Calls.” This was also Vincent’s 1st time (although it was also my first time here), he read from from his phone (which had distinct advantages with the uncertain light situation), booze infused poems “Whiskey Redemption” & “Secret in Liquor.” Patrick Williams had read back in the Fuze Box recently, tonight began with a working class poem, “Drip” the details of fixing a pipe, then a rhyming piece playing on the names & details of trees.

The night’s featured reader was an itinerant poet, K.R. Morrison from the Left Coast on a tour promoting her chapbook cauldrons (paper press, 2021). She is also a drummer in a rock band, a high school teacher, & the only person I know who could use (in her bio) the word “curations” twice in the same sentence. But the poems were intriguing forays into the world of mothers/daughters in the world, as people as artists. From cauldrons she read “Her Burden” (“In one week a woman can …”), “Charlotte Anne” a tribute to her mother who died in 2015, “One Nature Under Murder” for the COVID years, “Silver Lining” (“Silver lining is us, skylines of poets …”). She read 2 other poems not in the book, one written recently while on tour about her family, & one about the line of women ancestors in her “War Woman.” Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t sentimental memoirs, but edgy pieces playing on language, with chant-like repetitions.

Back to the open mic, R.M. Engelhardt read from his new book, the independently published Of Spirit, Ash & Bone — Poems Parables, which he said was “something entirely different & new,” but I didn’t hear that in the 2 pieces he read, in fact the piece “Scriptures” was reminiscent of his earlier work where he speaks directly to the reader in a preachy tone. Austin Houston read “A Prayer for Ukraine” (with a curse on Putin), then the philosophical conversation “The Talk with Father Time.” Joan Geitz also read a piece about Ukraine, a long political rant “Let Us Be Honest.”

Stepping into a long tradition of open mics in bars, tonight’s bartender, Leila, read 2 poems, a list of dreams beginning “I wish…,” then a love poem someone wrote for her. Rebecca Schoonmaker, one of the founders of the Upstate Artists Guild, trotted out her literary talents with 3 Haiku for Spring. Thom Francis read an untitled love poem written recently, then his poem about stirring up memories from the things in his pocket, glad to hear it again.

& that was it for this month. Invocation of the Muse now takes place in Lark Hall, on the corner of Lark St. & Hudson Ave., entrance on Hudson Ave., on the 1st Monday of the month, 7:30PM sign up, 8:00PM start, $5.00 (or more) payable at the door -- featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us.

May 11, 2022

Rockport Poetry Festival, April 24

As many of you know, I’m a great fan of Cape Ann, MA & when I saw on the Gloucester Writers Center weekly newsletter about this event I decided to go. The date was a Sunday, & since I had tickets for the Albany Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday night, I drove over Sunday morning. I got a later start than I had wished & so missed a “Bard’s Brunch” & the “Poetry at the Pond” at the Millbrook Meadow Park in Rockport. 

When I go to Cape Ann I always stay in Gloucester which is a 365-day working city, while Rockport is more of a Summer destination. But for years I had seen the Bearskin Neck Motor Lodge almost to the end of Bearskin neck, busy in the tourist season with its shops, art galleries & all the kinds of things that draws tourist in the Summer, & had always wondered what it would be like to spend the night there with its backside facing Sandy Bay. I booked a room for 2 nights. My room was perfect, a porch facing the bay, watching the tides & the gull & ducks.

After checking in I walked to the Rockport Public Library for “Global Voices,” not sure what was what. It turns out this was an international Zoom event, with a slowly building local audience in the Library auditorium. I didn’t know anyone there & most were what I’m now calling “grey-haired contemporaries,” &, course, there were the usual glitches with setting up a Zoom connection & the connection to the big screen TV for those in the live audience to see the readers on Zoom. But the problems were resolved & we settled in for short segments from poets from Dubai, from Palestine, South Africa, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark & elsewhere. This was followed by a segment of readings by poets from the U.S.

Later there was a reception at Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main St. where there was a nice spread of light food & a cash bar. I talked with Roger Davis who is the host of the Open Mic out of the Gloucester Writers Center on the 1st Monday of each month, & he introduced me to Bob Whalen who had been the host of the “Global Voices” event at the Library. Then later I ran into a poet from Albany (we’re Everywhere!), or at least one who had been in the Albany poetry/music scene in the past, Jason O’Toole, who gave me copies of his work, Spear of Stars (The Red Salon, 2018), & a proof copy of Poison Moonlight (Blood Pudding Press, 2021). His mother, whom I was in high school with in a journalism class, still lives in the Capital District. As a result, Jason will be reading in the 2022 Poets in the Park series in July. 

Back to my room by the bay to dial in to a Zoom Open Mic, the finale of this one-day Rockport Poetry Festival. There were about 20 folks signed in & a dizzy array of poets & styles of poems.

Dan & Angela were the most performance oriented, as Angela rang a gong while Dan read a piece playing off Kerouac’s “Old Angel Midnight,” then Angela read her poems. 

Pamela Bailey read selections from her book. 

Barrie Levine read “Ukraine Haiku.” 

Muriel read some simple philosophy. 

Sandra Williams’ “Brothers” was from a picture of Christ & the Buddha. 

Amy Seabrook read about planetary music. 

Jorgelina Zeoli’s poems were on friendship. 

Nancy Hewitt has a new book of memoirs from Finishing Line Press

Jon Wesick breathlessly read a couple of clever, hyped up satiric pieces. 

James Inman’s piece about how folks around the world celebrate Easter was also humor, as was Franz's political piece.

Jennie Meyer shared some sci-fi based on Mary Oliver. 

I read a couple of my poem cards, they’re short. 

Kevin Perrin read pieces about Cape Ann & Holyoke.

Then my phone rang & by the time the call was over so was the open mic, & for that matter the Rockport Poetry Festival.

If you are interested in more information about poetry in Rockport, email; & be sure to check out the activities of the Gloucester Writers Center . 

May 7, 2022

Earth Day Reading, April 22

Once again the Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library (FFAPL) held a reading by local writers & activists on eco-themes to mark Earth Day; this year it was held on a crisp & breezy, but sunny day, in Albany’s Washington Park, at the Robert Burns statue. It was organized by Amy Forando, & the host was Alexis Bhagat, Executive Director of FFAPL, who acknowledged the presence of the first people on this land, & our responsibility to blessing their memory. 

The readings were divided into 5 section/topics.

First Reading: A Reading for the Land and the City

The first reader was the Honorable Kathy Sheehan, the Mayor of Albany, who expressed an interest in introducing poetry to open official City of Albany events, appropriate to hear at the foot of a statue of Scots poet Robert Burns.

Poet Allie Middleton dramatically read a selection of her poems.

Second Reading: A Reading for the River and the Waters

Pippa Bartollotti read selections from her novel The Symmetries (Vanguard Press, 2022), the first novel of a “cli-fi” trilogy.

I read from my poems, one titled “Water” included in Ghost Fishing: an Eco-Justice Anthology (The University of Georgia Press, 2018) & ended with a performance of the late Albany poet & environmental activist Tom Nattell’s poem “Save It.”

Third Reading: A Reading for the People and the Animals

Sarah Giragosian read poems from her poetry collections Queer Fish (Dream Horse Press, 2017) & The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, 2020).

Barbara Chepaitis brought in a moment of levity with “dog poems” written by her pet after it ate a book of poems.

Cara Benson read a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Dog,” from his legendary A Coney Island of the Mind (City Lights Books, 1955) & introduced us to the “Kindship” series by David Abram.

Albany Literary Legend Elisa Albert read “The Layer,” a poem by Stanley Kunitz.

Fourth Reading: A Reading for the Wind and the Air

Alexis Bhagat read from a series of poems, facts, & lectures.

Douglas Rothschild did a free-form ramble on wind & politics, & poems on “air” & “wind” without which we wouldn’t be able to hear him.

Fifth Reading: A Reading for the Future

Appropriately enough, the last reader was literally part of the future, Rose, a poised & confident 8th grade student who read poems by Mary Oliver & Jo Harjo. 

As we continue the fight against pollution & the corporate exploitation & degradation of the environment, resistance against which was waged by earlier generations of environmental activists, so we, the current activists, must mentor, encourage, & pass on the work to the next generation, but hand-in-hand for as long as we, the Elders, last.

May 6, 2022

Third Thursday Poetry Night, April 21

At the Social Justice Center — Tonight’s featured poet, David Graham, had been scheduled 3 times in the first month’s of 2020 as the uncertainly of the pandemic spread faster than the virus itself. But here we were, alive & in-person, 1 poem each for the open mic. But first the traditional Invocation of the Muse, tonight the gone poet, former co-editor of Beloit Poetry Journal, Lee Sharkey (1945 - 2020), I read her poem “Cloth” a deceptively simple poem of memory.

Then a bit of the open mic. Jackie Craven, host of Writers Mic on Facebook on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, read from her new chapbook Cyborg Sister (Headmistress Press) about a not-quite-human sister, a poem titled “She Tries to Hide the Oily Scent of Her Maturation.” Tom Bonville read a poem about his father drifting away from him every new day, telling him he loves him. Catherine Dickert was here for the 1st time & read a poem about slipping away from a basement apartment at night to go down to the beach, a quietly descriptive, subtle narrative.

Leslie Gerber made a rare trip to Albany for the open mic read his poem “The Hospital for Permanent Adults,” a grim place to be. Joe Krausman has been a regular here, both pre-pandemic & now in our recovery phase, read his humorous take on getting older “Coming of Age.” Tom Corrado read one of the latest of his hundreds of Screen Dumps, this #621, the arrival of Spring in his characteristically random & unpredictable lines.

David Graham, our featured reader, spent many years in Wisconsin but is now back in New York’s North Country. He read mostly from his latest book The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books, 2019) & talked about editing (with Tom Montag) Local News: Poetry About Small Towns from which he read Charlie Rossiter’s “Car Hendge.” Then on to his own poems “Ode to Baraboo, Wisconsin,” then a poem about a sign seen while driving the Interstate “How Would Jesus Drive?,” “Vinegar and Fizz” & (an elegy & tribute to his mother). He paused to read “The Gift” from another poet from the small town anthology. Then ended with one last poem from his book, “Most of the Time We Live Through the Night” (a quote from Robert Bly), a good note to end on.

After a short break to take up the collection to help pay the poet, support other poetry events, & support the work of the SJC, we continued on with with the remainder of the open mic list. I read a recent poem for Earth Day about the proliferation of ink-jet cartridges, “2 Dreams.” Austin Houston took us back to the earlier theme & read a piece titled “Death’s Waiting Room.” 

Sylvia Barnard found this unfinished poem in her computer this morning, completed the line, & read it tonight, about remembering a gone friend who helped her buy her first computer, another time watching him from her window. Dana Crawford was another first timer here & he read 2 really small poems including lines from Whitman, & about a visit to the dermatologist. Anthony Bernini was our final poet to read “Beneath the Bridge” a memoir piece about living nearly beneath the Manhattan Bridge, near a market for chickens.

We’ve been back since January, on the third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:00PM sign-up & 7:30 start, with a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us — $5.00 donation. Join us, bring a poem (or other piece of writing, we can't tell where the line breaks are).

May 4, 2022

Writers Mic, April 13

The host, poet Jackie Craven, has been running this open mic on Zoom with a regular, returning stable of poets, mostly, but not entirely, from New York State, on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.

David Graham read from his most recent book The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books, 2019), a persona poem in the voice of Queen Elizabeth, inspired by a newspaper headline “Crab Lobsters, Monkfish, Conger Eels, & Squid.“

Sue Oringel read a short personal essay, “Poetry in the Kitchen” making mango smoothies in her new machine. 

Nathan Smith read a memory piece written on a train along the Hudson, then another written last night at midnight, a happy poem imagining a future relationship. 

Susan Jewell read 2 deer poems, the first, “The Deer” compared their visual acuity with on her more narrow viewing, & “Of Couples” observing couples at the Cheesecake Factory & deer shit. 

Naomi Bindman, the Vermonter in the room, read “Imaginal Being” with images of a butterfly remembering life before changes, then the self-affirmative “Reminder.”  

For National Poetry Month (but, In Albany, Everyday is National Poetry Month) I read my poem “Believe, Believe” an homage to the poem with the same title by Bob Kaufman, then from my “poem cards” a poem-joke for Poem in Your Pocket Day, “April 29.”

Alan Catlin read pieces from a series of real stories, the first at age 28 as a bar man & guys wanting him to write stories from Attica, & another bar poem about a drunk cop.

Scott Morehouse, the resident humorist here read a piece titled “Stars in Their Eyes,” the story of a woman whose husband had become addicted to musicals (wink, wink), & the disintegration of their marriage. 

Bob Sharkey was back “here” again to read “Ground Hog Day” a descriptive poem with  robins eating berries, cedar waxwings in trees, & the poet looks for an omen, then from an entry in the Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Contest by Catherine Field “St. Francis After Receiving the Stigmata,” & you can find the poem & the list of winners at the website.  

Kate McNairy brought us back to the deer poem theme with “To a Stag,” then “My Wolf”  that gets her out of bed, both poems from her chapbook My Wolf (Finishing Line Press, 2021).

Jackie Craven brought the night to a close with an “ode/anti-ode to technology” “Customer Service Has Put Me on Hold.”

& that was it for this 2nd Wednesday Writers Mic, but you can join this monthly Zoom open mic by finding the link on Facebook.

May 3, 2022

What Do You Say to a Poet About to Read?

We all know the expression “Break a leg” that is said to an actor about to take the stage. The equivalent for a ballet dancer is, translated, “Shit on the beach” (in French, equally graphic, it sounds to our English-speaking ears more elegant, exotic).

But what does one say to a poet about to give a reading? The expressions above (e.g., break a leg) are based on the magical premise that to wish someone “good luck” will actually bring bad luck. Thus to wish the opposite, “shit on the beach,” will bring a clean performance. What is the equivalent for a modern reader/poet?

At the recent Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, Oklahoma this came up as I wished encouragement for a reader about to take the stage & I wondered if “break a leg” would be appropriate. Someone suggested an alternative, “Don’t piss on the mic.” But according to magical theory that would cause the poet to actually piss on the mic, which of course one would not want for many reasons, electrical being only a very obvious one. Which then engendered the suggestion, “Piss on the mic.” 

How elegant. How obvious. How French. Piss on the Mic.

So, to all you open mic poets out there, or readers of fiction/non-fiction prose, or whatever you call it when we can’t see the line breaks, the next time one of your colleagues is about to take the stage & you want to wish them luck for their reading, don’t say “Break a leg”  —  be a poet, say “Piss on the mic!” They will thank you.

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic out of Bennington, April 12

It’s not a bad drive from my house to Bennington, VT, about an hour & quite pleasant in good weather. But with this open mic being on Zoom I can stay home in my jammies, & help the environment too. Moreover the attendance here has been good, tonight 10 on the open mic list. Our host, Charlie Rossiter, likes to do the 2-round thing, which is reflected in my writeup. 

Both of my poems were linked to the month of April. In the first round I read an eco-poem for the upcoming Earth Day, “2 Dreams,” on over-production & the inability to make some things more easily reusable; in my 2nd round I read a poem for National Poetry Month’s “Poem in Your Pocket Day” my poem/joke “April 29.”

Elaina Barrett only read in the 1st round, a descriptive piece about watching a hen teaching her young to fly, “Turkey Vulture View.”  

Naomi Bindman’s poem “Offerings” was written 10 years ago & is about Spring beauties, hepatica opening; for her 2nd round she read a chapter titled “Milkweed” from her memoir, this excerpt about being in 1st grade in NYC, learning to read & learning to write small letters.

Laura Ellzey also began with a Spring in Vermont poem, a descriptive piece about being with her dogs “A Bit Off the Beaten Path;” her 2nd round piece “The Swing” a joyful poem about a girl with her father & learning to ride the swing.

Our host, Charlie Rossiter’s 1st round poem was about driving home in the Winter after an oud concert; in his 2nd round he read a prose piece about being at a poetry therapy group, then remembering taking care of a big dog, like free-flow memory.

Nancy Klepsch in the 1st round also read a memoir poem, thinking about growing old, remembering her "effortlessly cool" mother in Brooklyn; then the 2nd time around random thoughts strung together, how the “Moscow-its” go for us poets first.

Bridget Elder had thoughts of Spring, on the the phoebes returning; in the 2nd round thoughts of Sunday in the town in Cost Rica where she grew up.

Jim Madigan was, as he usual, the poet dialing in from the furthest (i.e., Oak Park, IL); for his 1st round read “Maria of the Ocean” a moment in time in a bank line when a pregnant teller breaks her water, references to the Virgin of Guadalupe; in the 2nd round, a COVID poem titled “Come Spring” on the flowers of Spring & testing positive after going to the Green Mill in Chicago (a jazz joint & home of the poetry Slam).

Julie Lomoe repeated her reading at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 in Troy, NY -- in the 1st round “Gaia Cries Out for Help” 5 Haiku; in the 2nd round, her poem “Invading my Home Terrain” about hearing planes overhead while walking her dog, making her think of the invasion of Ukraine.

Tom Nicotera bounced around on the list due to problems with his internet connection; 

his poem “South West Wind in April in New England” was an effusive homage to the wind from the West; then another Spring poem “Weariness” hearing the sounds of a screech owl.

We don’t all have to be in the same room to share our poetry. This (all genre) open mic is doing just fine on Zoom. It takes place on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 7:00PM Eastern time. If you’re not already on the list & you want to join us, email Charlie Rossiter at & ask for the link. Hope to see you the next time.


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

I was flying solo as the host this Sunday at Collar City Mushrooms in Troy, NY, my co-host recovering from that teacher-malady, grading fatigue. No problem.

But no one had signed up in the #1 slot so to be gracious I took it, read my poem “Baghdad/Albany” bringing it up-to-date with references to the invasion of Ukraine.

Tom Bonville read a site-specific piece titled “Mushrooms” a memoir poem about hunting them in the woods. 

The Queen of Pantoums, Carol Jewell, actually inspired me to write my one pantoum once upon a time; today she read her poem, part pantoum, part cento, & part her own words, “Survival” published in The Pine Cone Review

Bob Sharkey read a couple of poems, “The Slap” by a Jesuit high school teacher (back when they could get away with it), & “The Scam” on the phone & poetry too; he also summarized the results of the 2022 Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, a complete list can be found the website. 

Tom Corrado has been cranking out his stream-of-consciousness “screen-dumps” for years now & today read 2, #619(!) contemplating gaps in the clouds, & #617 mixing time, song-birds & green tea.

Avery Stempel, the head mushroom here at Collar City Mushrooms, read a narrative piece that mixed in some exuberant lyricism, a tale of a group of friends being on a golf course when the sprinkler system came on that began “We were walking…” repeating that phrase as a refrain.

Elaina’s descriptive poem, “No River Road,” was inspired by a road sign, & as the poem said, “you can’t follow no River Road.”

Julie Lomoe’s first piece was made up of 5 Haiku which she was submitting to the Moonstone Press call for Haiku, then a topical piece for Ukraine “Invading My Home Terrain.”

Laura Ellzey’s piece was an humorous essay “Thoughts on Measuring,” explaining the markings on automobile tires, that mix metric & imperial systems — more than I ever need to know, & quite entertaining in the process.

Tim Verhaegen read a poem about the fisherman in his family, “Men of the Sea,” that begins with a line his father would say about his wife, “there is a rage coming after the calm.”

You can join us in person each 2nd Sunday @ 2 for an open mic for poetry & prose at Collar City Mushrooms, 333 Second Ave., Troy, NY -- find us on Facebook. The venue also hosts other poetry & arts events, including yoga & meditation, check their website for details.