December 30, 2022

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

A snowy afternoon, but it was early & we all know how to drive in this, right? No problems getting from Albany, thru Troy to Collar City Mushrooms, & by the time we were done, 2nd Avenue & I-787 had been plowed & I was home again. There were 5 of us for the open mic.

First on the sign-up sheet was Kate Crofton, over from Albany, who read 1 extended piece, “Store #224,” apologies to a lover while shopping in the Summer at Price Chopper on Central Ave.

Alexander Perez
was here for the 1st time, also from Albany, began with a poem in the persona of a spider, “The Spinster,” then another with images of insects, bees, “On Bitterness,” then ended with “On War.”

Tim Verhaegen, who has been here often, read an essay about working for the State of New York for 30 years, & the endless meetings interrupted by meetings, “The New York State Division of Blah-Blah-Blah.”

I was the host for the open mic, as my co-host, Nancy Klepsch, hunkered down at home during the storm. I read, as I like to do each Xmas Holiday Season, Enid Dame’s (1943 - 2003) moving “Holiday Poem” with it’s stunning ending, “… we don’t need the solace of bought objects. We need each other’s light.”

The proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, Avery Stempel, began with a poem about crows in Troy mocking him, then moved to images of Albany from the past, “A Trojan Reflects,” then brought us on home with a poem titled “Finding the Globe” captured by the song “The Last Dragon.”

& so that was the last of the year’s open mics at Collar City Mushrooms, but we plan to be back in 2023 each 2nd Sunday @ 2PM — bring your poetry &/or prose & read among the mushrooms. Happy New Year!

December 21, 2022

Invocation of the Muse, December 5

Our host R.M. Engelhardt introduced this night of poetry by invoking the “Muse,” a not-dead-yet poet from Canada, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, you can find some of his poems at his website 

Then on to also living poets in the room who had signed up for the open mic, with me being first, to pay tribute to a recently-dead poet, Bernadette Mayer (1945 - 2022); at many open mics I’ve heard poets introduce a poem by saying, “I wrote this in a poetry workshop with Bernadette Mayer,” & I had my chance this night to say the same thing before reading 2 poems inspired by being in a couple of workshops with Bernadette, “Saturday Hawk” & “Triple Time Jacket” (inspired by Ravel’s Bolero).

Catlin Conlon was new to me; she read “3 Vignettes on Loss” about her mother who she is “mother of,” & a piece titled “Buffalo, New York 2022.” Sierra DeMulder was also new to me, always interested in new voices, new faces; she read a piece about reading Mary Oliver’s poems to her grandmother in hospice, then one about regretting her wedding vows, & what she should have said.

Tonight’s featured poet was Thom Francis, who has a long history in the Albany poetry scene, dating back when he was a high school student reading in the open mics at Border’s in Colonie Center in the mid-1990s. He has been a host of open mics & Slams at various venues in town, was one of the founding members, & President, of Albany Poets, until its merger with the Hudson Valley Writers Guild where he is currently co-President. His skills as an “IT guy” web designer created the invaluable events calendar & dynamic website we all depend upon ( to find out who is reading where. 

He began his reading with a new piece, “Being,” about his head now cleared, then went back to a piece from the past, “Shower,” another recent one written yesterday in Stewarts, “Glazed,” on being sober & it’s struggle,  on a similar theme “I Used to Drink at this Bar on the Corner,” & “Rust in Hope.” Then on to older poems about his parents, about his father living nearby but might as well "be on another planet," & about his mother, “Listerine.” His love poem “Dirt” was about working in a garden, & he ended with the notebook jottings he titles “Time.”

After a short break we returned to the open mic list. Archie Marker said it was his first poetry open mic, read a couple of Limericks on Halloween, & other pieces, “The Modern Performer,” “and You Don’t Understand,” & “Change Your Religion.”

Our host R.M. Engelhardt read poems from his recent poetry books, from the more recent We Rise Like Smoke, published in July, 2021, & from Where There Is No Vision: Poem 2020, from June, 2020, both available from Amazon.

The next poet signed up as “Dan W.” but it wasn’t me, I had already read.; he has read here in the past, tonight, a piece titled “Haiku” (but it didn’t sound like a Haiku), & one titled “Let Go.”

The final poet of the night, Sandra D., read a piece I think was untitled about music playing through the rain drops, & another untitled drug poem.

Invocation of the Muse takes place (usually) on the 1st Monday of the month, but is sometimes moved to another Monday due to a holiday), 7:30 sign-up/8:00PM start, at Lark Hall, on the corner of Lark St. & Hudson Ave., enter on Hudson Ave.

December 9, 2022

Third Thursday Poetry Night: Jan Tramontano, November 17

Things are looking good at the Social Justice Center: the ceiling is up, but there is still more work to be done. Tonight’s featured poet was Jan Tramontano whose new book The Me I Was With You was published by Finishing Line Press late last year. 

Before we got to the poets here, I invoked the night’s muse, the gone poet Wendy Battin (1953 - 2015). I had met Wendy briefly at a poetry festival in Connecticut in June 2009 & my notes indicate I was impressed by the poems I heard. I heard 6 years later that she had died, but could only find a few of her poems online. In September of this year I was browsing in Dogtown Books inn Gloucester & discovered a posthumously published book collecting her poems, some of her essays, & essays & photos about her by folks who knew her. Tonight I read her poem “At Tanglewood” to bless our night of poetry.

Rachel Baum just started writing poetry about 2 years ago, & responding to the poem by Wendy Battin that I just read, read her own poem “Summer Concert,” descriptive & meditative. Joe Krausman (once called "a flinty elf") is habitually here & tonight read a poem in the persona of a wife of a gambler, in rhyme. Sylvia Barnard is another habitual reader here on the third Thursday, read a recently written poem, “First Snow,” as it looked at 3AM, also in rhyme. 

Jan Tramontano
reminded me that she & I first met when I ran the Third Thursday Poetry Night at Cafe Web on Madison Ave. back in the late 1990s. A few years ago she & her husband Ron moved to Florida, but recently they moved back to this area & we are all the better for it. She began with poems from her most recent poetry collection, The Me I Was With You (Finishing Line Press, 2021), starting with the self-portrait, “Woman in a Poppy Dress,” then to a memoir of her father, “Undertow,” then one about her mother in the nursing home, “Solar Eclipse,” & “My Mother’s Silk Scarf.” 

Jan talked briefly about her novel re-titled We’ve Come Undone (formerly What Love Becomes), & her legal struggles with the original publisher, then read a short segment from the main character’s Blog, about the poetic form Landay used by women in Afghanistan & Pakistan (see  I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014).

Then on to a bouquet of new poems, “The Guiding Light,” a childhood memory of her immigrant grandmother watching the soap opera; “Mimosas At the Open Air Cafe,” memories of her father; a couple poems about her recently deceased mother, “Without Her,” & “What Do We Know About Grief?” She finished with poems about herself, “Grandma’s twins: Early Days,” pondering their birth & their future; a list poem, after attending an art class “What I Learned in Art Class;” & “Home,” comparing hearing frogs croak in Florida to bird songs back here in the northeast where she is back home.

After a short break for Jan to sell & sign books, we returned to the open mic & I read my poem for Wendy Battin, “A Ghost,” inspired by her poems in Wendy Battin: on the Life & Work of an American Master (Unsung Masters Series, 2020). Another frequent reader here is Josh-the-Poet who tonight read a new poem titled “Unexpected Love” which is really already inside of you. Marylou Streznewski (who will be the featured poet in March, 2023) talked about the recent Autumn, & likes October, read the richly descriptive “A Day In October,” dreaming in color. 

Sara Wiest
was our last reader of the night, & she read part of a many-year project of poems about Demeter & Persephone “Demeter in Autumn.” 

Join us each Third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY at 7:30PM for a featured reader & an open mic for the rest of us, your generous donation supports the featured reader, poetry events in the area, & the fine work of the Social Justice Center.