November 22, 2021

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose, November 14


Nancy Klepsch & I & a full open mic list of poets were back among the mushrooms once again. There were so many poets (19 on the sign-up sheets) we almost had to ask Avery, the proprietor of Collar City Mushrooms, to put out cots for us, but not quite. 


1st on the list was Sally Rhoades, who was here for her 1st time, but a veteran of the local open mic scene; for those of us who have been to open mics where Sally has read in the past few years, or who are friends on Facebook, we are familiar with her beloved Aunt Polly, a long, loving & tender relationship, & Sally’s 1st poem was a history of Aunt Polly & Sally’s memories of her, then a poem some of us have heard at open mics, “Riding Shotgun,” from a few years back when Aunt Polly was 94 — I never met Aunt Polly but certainly feel I know her — blessings & peace.

Bob Sharkey began by mentioning the annual Stephan A. DiBiase Poetry Contest which is now open for submissions at dibiasepoetry.com  -- do it now before the rush -- then Bob read a short vignette “An American Werewolf in London” — ah whoo! Tara Kisler read a piece titled “The Idiot Box” about TV, of course, but also about Donald Trump. Carol Jewell’s first piece, “Work in Progress," was fittingly short, then on to a poem about the penises of various animals, “The Natural World.” Avery Stempel, our host here at Collar City Mushrooms, has been, as many of us know, renovating for the last 15 years, an old VW bus & today he read about taking it out for the 1st time “Into the Sunset,” then a piece inspired by a painting by John Zoccoli whose are is currently on display here, “Portals & Doors.” 


My partner in poetry in 3 Guys from AlbanyCharlie Rossiter, made it over from Vermont, the first of a bunch of Vermonters creating an Interzone between New York State & Vermont, with his son Jack Rossiter-Munley on guitar, began with a Rossiter classic “Reading Black Snake Solos Listening to Haydn” from his early collection Evening Stones (Ye Olde Font Shoppe, 1999), then a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf “Oak Ridge Cemetery.”

My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read a piece on aging & love, then a mythical praise chant “Holy Crone Holy Spider.” Naomi Bindman is another Vermonter on the Interzone (but then I am a New Yorker on the Interzone), read a seasonal/tree poem “Tending,” then one for Nancy, responding to her Facebook post about an influential teacher, “Ruminations on Teacher Magic.” Vermonter Bridget Elder’s poems were about poems, the 1st about needing for poems to be pulled out of her, then a short, recycled/revised piece. Kelly W. has become a regular here, also read a poem about a John Zoccoli painting from the workshop here last night, “By a Thread.”


Joel Best read another of his “impressionistic” pieces (his word) titled “June 1996.” I followed with a litany recalling my Elders “The Communion of Saints.” Vermonter Laura Ellzey read a piece I like a lot on the joys of knitting, in both English & Spanish. Yet another Vermonter, Kenn Ash, read a piece I’d heard him read this past week on the 2nd Tuesday Zoom from Bennington, “The Nag,” even more funny knowing the punchline this time. 


Therese Broderick’s poem was about problems with her lawn mower “Extension Cord,” then on to a tender tale of married bliss “Why I Get Out of Bed.” Jil Hanifan postulated in her poem that the “Origin of the Universe” is us, then riffed on an overheard remark, “Our Topic was Wheat.” Kate Crofton who found her way here by way of The Holy Local open mic read a poem about gardening advice from her mother “Growing Leggy” that becomes a metaphor for her own self & her journey of discovery.

Nathan Smith was also here for the 1st time, read 2 sad poems, the 1st a break-up poem, like a letter to “you,” titled “Dying Alone, A Love Poem,” then one literally titled “Sad Poem.” Tim Verhaegen finished off the afternoon with 2 pieces in true Tim-Verhaegen fashion, the 1st “1990 Afternoon at The Pines” a near-sociological study of “the guys” at this section of the beach at Fire Island, the 2nd piece tied in yesterday’s ekphrastic poetry workshop here at Collar City Mushrooms on the paintings of John Zoccoli with one of Joni Mitchell’s (a favorite of Tim’s) songs.

It was quite an afternoon of poetry here in Troy on the banks of the mighty Hudson among the mushrooms & John Zoccoli’s paintings. Check out Collar City Mushrooms in-person, or online, & join us, as the title says, on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2:00pm — poetry, prose, even a stray guitar sometimes.

 

November 17, 2021

Writers Mic, November 10

Jackie Craven, our host here at Writers Mic, has developed a stable (& a stable) of reliable readers for this open mic on Zoom on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.

Once again I was 1st on the list, tonight with a couple of political poems with anti-war seasoning on the eve of Veterans/Armistice Day, “Marching Against the War” which uses military-style marching cadences that were used in past peace marches, then an erotic commentary on “Patriotism.”


Sarah Chaviano seemed to follow my lead, at least as far as erotic/humor goes with a prose memoir about adjusting the rabbit ears for better TV reception & an ad for bras, “Lift & Separate.” 

David Graham followed the anti-war theme with his favorite anti-war “At the Un-national Monunment at the Canadian Border” by William Stafford (1914 - 1993), then one of his own, an old poem set in Wisconsin about “the 54th best small town in America,” “Ode to Baraboo.”  


Scott Morehouse had another hilarious tale for us to laugh at, set in the mythological town of Swiss Gasser, Wisconsin (again), with a wedding, a gay political candidate, a man with a duck (not a turkey), titled “Echos of Thanksgiving.”


Jackie Craven read a poem set to come out in the on-line literary magazine Fatal Flaw, a poem about time getting all scrambled up.   


Susan Jewell shared an image of a painting “Rossetta Stone” from the Rattle ekphrastic contest, read her poem in the form of a “duplex,” a form invented by the poet Jericho Brown, “Duplex Rossetta Stone,” that sounded to me like a love poem, then showed another image, that of Maya Angelou, Susan’s poem based on it was titled “The Poet Breaks into Blossom.”


Nathan Smith was new to this gathering, said he found it as a Facebook event & on the Albany Poets website, he read a poem like a letter to a gone love “Broken,” the a more up-beat poem written today, about letting yourself cry & walk with confidence.


I like to think that a good poetry open mic is one that has a number of “regulars” who show up, & that has new poets show up to read as well. Writers Mic seems to be doing that. Do what Nathan did, find it on Facebook, or on AlbanyPoets.com.

 

November 16, 2021

2nd Tuesday All-Genre Open Mic Out of Bennington, November 9

With our host, Charlie Rossiter, this open mic thrives & continues on Zoom, perhaps an example of the yin & yang of experience, any experience, even this COVID-19 pandemic.


I am blessed (or cursed) by a tradition of being “first” on many open mic lists. Historically, this goes back to the late 1980s flowering of the poetry open mic scene in Albany (NY) when there was a reluctance by poets to be Number 1 on the sign-up sheet. I would arrive a little late (but before the reading had started), see that no one had signed up #1 & sign-up. Later I realized, as other poets have told me that they realized too, that when they read early on, then they could relax for the rest of the evening rather than perseverating about what they were going to read, how they would be received, etc., & listen attentively to the other poets. So, again tonight, I was first on this Zoom list, read a poem combining/conflating Halloween & Election Day “This is Not Trick or Treat,” then in the 2nd round a tale from an Old Songs Festival from years past, “Who Lost a Bra … “


Jim Madigan, one of the long-distance Zoomers, in the 1st round read an eco-poem about the ivory billed woodpecker, “Extinction;” later read a poem published in Verse Virtual, “The Father of Hansel & Grettel”


Kenn Ash, who lives somewhere close by, read a poem like a letter to a nagger who turned out to be … (I don’t want to be a spoiler); in the 2nd round he played his trumpet for us.


Barbara Sarvis read in only the 1st round, but it was a joy, a short picture book for children titled The Long Journey about Monarch butterflies going to their Winter home.


Bill Thwing read about his Uncle Billy, an eco-poem in rhyme, about teaching frogs to sing; then in the 2nd round sang & played on his guitar a 1 minute song, “Thank You,” that was put together by kids in a church group.


Our host, Charlie Rossiter, read an old poem in his 1st round about hanging out in DC, “Between Jobs One of the Good Days” then on the 2nd go-around a list poem, “Things to Know About Bear.”


I think this is the first time that Sheryll Bedingfield joined us from Connecticut, & in the 1st round she read a ghost story, “I Dreamed My Husband Returned,” in the 2nd round a letter, “Dear Mother,” remembering funny stories of her & singing together.


Tom Nicotera was also Zooming in from Connecticut, a regular here, in his 1st round read a dream poem from 2016 about getting older, “Not Enough to End the Drought,” that contains lines from a John Prine song; then in the 2nd round one titled “Thanksgiving Poem at Great Pond,” geese & honks between rival flocks then give thanks.


Poor Mark W. O’Brien had problems with his country internet connection, muted, frozen, but persevered to read “The Old Write There (for Paul Amidon)” about cutting up an old school desk for fire wood; in round 2, a strange fragment he found in his notebooks “Fragmented Childhood.”


This pleasant gathering of poets is open to poets who can Zoom in on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, at 7:00PM, from anywhere in the world. Send an email to Charlie Rossiter at charliemrossiter@gmail.com to ask for the link — tell him Dan sent you.

 

November 15, 2021

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, November 3

Tonight’s featured poet, Jessica Cuello, had been a feature here before which is when I became a fan of her poetry, but I also came here tonight for the grand variety of local poets who come here to read in the open mic. It was a full sign-up sheet, over 20 open mic poets.

Our host, Carol Graser, started us off, as she is wont to do with, as they say, an OPP (i.e. other person’s poem), this by Vasko Popa, “The Admirers of Little Boxes.” Click this link to read it. 


Then on to tonight's featured poet, Jessica Cuello, who was live-streamed & captured forever on YouTube which you can watch here. She read poems from her new book from Barrow Street Press, Liar, which was the winner of the Barrow Street Poetry Book Prize. Listen to the poems then buy the book. It is this kind of thing that makes my Blog unnecessary — except that the record of the open mic exists nowhere but here (like the header says, “it ain’t the truth but it’s pretty darn close”).  Her poems were frequently persona poems in the voice of a young girl; she also read one of her poems based on mis-spellings by her students, “Hungur;” the title of the book is based on another mis-spelling poem, “Liyer.” Jessica did what all good community poets do, brought her family & friends to her reading, because after all if you don’t, who will show up? I, for one, was glad to be there & to take Liar home with me.


Carol Graser started off the open mic with her loving poem “Prayer for the Sorrowful Brain.” Rachel Baum began with a tribute to her dog, then on to the recently revised family memoir “How I Learned to Smoke.” Marilyn McCabe who has been a featured poet on this stage read a poem beginning “Some which some where…,” another about a physics course. David Graham addressed a dreaded subject in his poem “Ode to Pandemic Hair.”


Amanda Blodgett introduced herself as being in a 12-step program, & read 2 related poems, “To My Soulmate” (whom she hasn’t yet met), & “Finding a Sponsor.” Effy Redman is one of my favorite of these North Country open mic  poets, she read a piece that might have been titled “Anemone” a loving memory of being on a beach in Wales. 


Zoe Epizon’s poem “Balsam Pillow” was a letter to a memory of one she loved, from a poetry manuscript that she hopes to publish. Elaine Kenyon read a painfully descriptive piece titled “7 Teeth Out,” then one about a less painful experience in a poetry workshop “She Gave us 5 Words.” My poems were an automatic writing exercise turned into a prose poem “Ferrini Ginsberg Blake & Me,” then the much more concise text-message-poem “for Amanda.” Jeannine Laverty is a story-teller, read a piece about farming “Savory October Days.”

James Knippen was here from Utica, he read a Halloween poem that he said was based on a World War I tune “Hearse Song.” More death from Elizabeth Threadgill, but this of a house, a piece titled “Dementia.” Heidi Woolever said it was her 1st time here at Caffè Lena, her 1st poem was titled “Set it Down” & sounded like a dream poem to me, then a play on words “Bark.” 


Barbara Ungar also used word play in her poem “Self Diagnosis 2,” which she described as “a not-perfect pandemic poem.” Stu Bartow had a Halloween Haiku about a witch ringing doorbells, then read “Looking for the Leonids” which I have heard before & is in one of his recent collections. Randee Renzi began with a sexy love poem titled “Each Time He Flows” (his rap makes her “flow”), then to “Collateral Fallout” (or starving). Rodney Parrott said the poem he read about “human flying” was an “end poem,” fitting with the recurring themes tonight of death & Halloween. 


It was good to see the poet James Schlett back here, he read a cluster of Haiku about his 6 year-old daughter, a proud Papa. Jeff Stubits was another poet I hadn’t seen since even before the pandemic, he likes to season his poems with humor & tonight was true to form, “Exploring New Options” with origami boats, & “Buddha.” Ishan Sumaner read a seasonal piece “The Trees Are Blushing,” then an untitled piece about the inscriptions on our bodies of our experiences. Lâle Davidson was announced by Carol as a “future feature” & read 2 poems with Biblical connections, “Lilith Confesses” & the ekphrastic “Rodin’s ‘Eve After the Fall’.” The final poet of the night was Alex Bell with 2 poems with provocative titles “One Long Struggle in the Dark” & “Emancipated for Thought.”


The Caffè Lena Poetry Night is back with an in-person open mic & an in-person & live-streamed featured poet on the 1st Wednesday of each month, starts at 7:00PM, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY.




November 7, 2021

Invocation (of the Muse), November 1

The Fuze Box on Albany’s Central Ave. was recently purchased by a former employee from years back & has “reopened” — sort of — no liquor license yet so no booze, just water & bad coffee in styrofoam cups. 


The history of The Fuze Box goes back to 1997 when the building was the QE2 & The Fuze Box was across Townsend Park on Washington Ave. where it was the back room dance hall of a bar called The Power Company. & back in February 1999 a young poet started a poetry open mic there, that poet was the host of this night’s poetry open mic, R.M. Engelhardt. After the QE2 closed in January 1999, & The Fuze Box moved into the building sometime in 2000, there was an open mic hosted by Don Levy for a while. Then in mid-2005 Rob brought his School of Night open mic series to The Fuze Box when he left doing poetry open mics at Valentines. & now he’s back here again.

This night there were a mix of old-timers who had read at not only The Fuze Box but also the QE2, & folks who weren’t even born when swing dancers were twirling on the floor of the original Fuze Box on Washington Ave. Rob got us started with a reading of poem by Alan Kaufman, editor of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, an anaphoric piece “Let us …”


Then I ended up 1st on the sign-up sheet to read 2 poems, “This Is Not Trick or Treat” combining a black cat with Election Day, & the an older poem I wrote back in the time of the open mic at the QE2 about the false prophets (aka bullshit artists) some mistake for beat characters. Sally Rhoades is one (of many) who first read her poetry out to an audience at the QE2 on Central Ave., & continues to read at various poetry open mics in the area, tonight reading the celebratory “I have Danced with the Druids,” then a consideration of life after the pandemic titled “What is the Answer?”


Joe Krausman has also been around for awhile, in life as in the poetry scene, & received a round of applause making for it to the stage, to read 2 of his popular poems, “Specialist” & “Gratitude” which address where we come from, sort of. Austin Houston is a more recent poet on the scene, reading at open mics & even featured in Poets in the Park, the first poem he read, “Corporate Greed,” is in his recent self-published book Existence: Chaos in Our Own Backyard, then read a new poem about those who deny the riot on “January 6, 2021.”


Sami Ring, the first poet of a string of new voices here, began with a break-up poem, then read one pondering the question “what is the true me?” titled “Identity Rusts MRI.” Our host, R.M. Engelhardt, was next up, took up donations to “go to the bar,” read poems from his new book, We Rise Like Smoke, the poems titled “A Hundred Thousand Poets” & the other titled “Epitaph.” 


Billy Stanley has also been to many open mics in the area, tends to do his poems with humor, in his distinctive New Orleans accent, & from memory as he did tonight, the first an apocalyptic piece about “strolling on the streets of madness” confronting the dental hygienists of America (seriously (or not)), then an outrageous rant about ranting in a toilet. Sydney has also read at other venues in the area, such as Poetic Vibe & a couple venues in Albany, began with an angry poem about “shitty guys,” then one about her need to apologize to her “great boss” the poem titled “Sorry Sorry Sorry.”


I also recognized John as someone who had read at pre-pandemic open mics in Albany, both poems tonight in a style that used a bewildering string of images, the first one titled “The Same Thing Many Times” & the second one I missed the title but had images of gulls in a poplar tree. 


El, the final poet of the night, had also read out in the pre-pandemic days & began with a the last poem she “wrote about a year & a half ago” about doing the best we can, then  one about her family talking together in Spanish about each other.


So this new series, Invocation, was off to a good start, at least as far as the poetry goes, but the venue itself needs some work, like getting a liquor license, & adding some chairs. Check back next month on the 1st Monday of the month, at The Fuze Box, 12 Central Ave., 7:30 sign-up, 8:00 start; don’t get there too early, the doors might be locked.

November 4, 2021

The Holy Local, October 27

Back for our 2nd event here at the High Ethic Stalwarts Gallery, & I was gratified not only to have some repeat readers from last month but also new readers here. Our evening’s Muse was the great, gone poet, Jack Hirschman, as I read his poem “Jack Kerouac: a Meditation” on Poetry! from All That’s Left (City Lights Foundation, 2008). 

First up on the sign-up list was a true “Holy Local,” Sylvia Barnard who lives only a few blocks away, to read 2 poems for her deceased friend, Brian, one she read last month here, then a newer poem seeing a vision of her friend out her window.


A new face/voice not just to this reading but to the area, Kate Crofton, read a poem about going home, mixed with childhood memories of borrowing a cup of sugar, “US Route 6.”

Tom Bonville said he was pleased to be out reading in person again, & read his poems “The Hidden Word,” & one mixing in a childhood memory of his family of immigrants “To Like What I Don’t.” 


Tamara Gray came back again this month, started off with a short, but intricate poem, then another about “auctioning off” her days, also short & trenchant.  The Reverend Nadine Morsch, who had been known to read at the open mic at The Low Beat read an excerpt from a long, multi-part meditative poem, “The Naropa Echo.”


Tim Verhaegen, another habitué of open mics, read a Halloween poem set in1969, “It’s Halloween Everyday at Our House.”  


Christian Ortega read from his 2014 self-published chapbook Red Poems, 2 pieces, “Factotum LTD,” & the longer rant “Red Roses Roman.”

I read an older poem that mashed up Halloween & Election Day, “This is Not Trick or Treat.”  Our last reader signed up as ZaZa, but we knew her when she was a reader at open mics at the Lionheart & the original Fuze Box on Washington Ave., she read a breakup poem, “Nicky,” & one about her mother, “Mom,” from her notebook.


The Holy Local is an open mic for the written & spoken word at the High Ethic Stalwarts Gallery, 345 Myrtle Ave., Albany, NY, each last Wednesday of the month (except this November), sign-up at 7:30PM, 8:00 start, $3.00 donation. Hope to see you in December.

October 30, 2021

Compass: A Chapbook in Film, October 23



This was the premier screening of a collaborative project between poet Mary Kathryn Jablonski & filmmaker Laura Frare, at the Saratoga Arts Center. The project was funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, & had originally been scheduled to be screened at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, but has been cancelled three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, until Saratoga Arts opened up their space for this event.

I have known both these artists for many years. Laura Frare did the cover art for my 1st book, Meditations of a Survivor (A.P.D., 1991), & I published Mary Kathryn Jablonski’s book of poems To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008). I have also seen some of their prior video poems at the Hyde Collection, & at the University at Albany Art Gallery.


Compass: A Chapbook in Film consists of 9 short pieces, poems read (or sung) by Jablonski, at times accompanied by traditional &/or original music. Local musicians Mark Tolstrup & Dan Hubbs provided some of the musical backing. The run time is about 35 minutes, but viewing it seemed outside time. As one audience members commented, “it was a transcendental experience.” The combination of the often dreamy videos, bending & twisting images of birds in trees, or wandering in a cemetery, the tide washing over sand, with the words of the poet spoken quietly, & the music, sometimes familiar, sometimes new, had me drifting. While I’m glad to not have the text of the poems to distract me, the experience begs to be repeated. There is in the piece titled “So Many Mothers” an almost abstract image of a close-up of a sewing machine (this filmed by Jablonski) that I realized with a shock was actually run in reverse, the machine un-sewing, so to speak. In “Two Roads/One Road” the image is of driving on a deserted country road, but without seeing the vehicle, so that it was like what we see sometimes in a dream, an empty road twisting & turning, going where? We don’t know.


The theme of Compass is, in the broadest terms, death, the reminder of mortality, as some of the titles suggest (“Flowers named for our dead,” “All Souls,” “Death in Winter”) but more specifically that of a close relative, a brother. One could say that death is all around us until it touches us directly. Five of the poems in the film have been published in Tupelo Quarterly or Atticus Review. But reading them, as masterful as they are in print, is not the experience of seeing the film, where all the elements — words, images, music, sound effects — blend & circle around each other, evoking that “transcendence.”


One can hope that Compass, A Chapbook in Film, will be shown in other venues, perhaps even at the Saratoga Springs Public Library as originally planned, in other libraries in the Region, or other arts/entertainment venues. I certainly would love to see it again.